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Stasis (Chapter 8) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

Is it me, or is it a little unnerving to find the words, “United States” inside a UFO?

With two time-frozen men in hoods.

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Generations ago, Ojiichan saw a Japanese boy in a black hood flying a Zero toward Pearl Harbor.

That same Sunday a second-generation Japanese-American guy named Daniel took offence to the bombing of his island.

He dropped school and quit his job to become eligible for the Army, but got classified 4-C…

Enemy Alien.

He never gave up trying to get in, and finally, under the novel influence of logic and reason, D.C. allowed 4-C’s to fight.

Shortly thereafter, Daniel met a strange warrior.

In this photo, the phenotype is evident in his right eye, forever determined.

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“If you must give your life, do so with honor,” Daniel’s father told him.

In combat, Daniel became a legend. Near the end of his fighting career he found himself prying a live grenade from his own nerve-dead right hand and lobbing it at the enemy with the accuracy of his left.

Then, after an insane one-man charge, right arm useless and dangling, gut shot with an exit wound near the spine, propped against a tree to take pressure off the bullet in his leg, Daniel noticed his men catching up, thinking to carry him from the field before he bled to death.

“Nobody called off the war,” he growled, and ordered them back.

These things are documented. All the witnesses from the Japanese-American 442nd Regiment recounted the details of his bulletproof confidence, the innate tactical genius, the deadly absence of fear. One of my own relatives fought in the 442nd.

Daniel lost his arm, but not before delivering the message of Samurai DNA…

“Honor alone defeats the sociopath.”

Thirty-three of Hitler’s hardened troops saw the signature in the cell that day.

Later, when Daniel became Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and found himself in the heated Iran-Contra hearings where a US President was accused of unconstitutional behavior, our elected Samurai said…

“[There exists] a shadowy government with its own air force, its own navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of the national interest, free from all checks and balances and free from the law itself.”

Until now I refused to connect those words to President Eisenhower’s warning of 1961…

“The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment… and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet… we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.”

A black triangle in near space…

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US Government policy dictated by an unelected elite?

Rule of thumb – (can I say this in a novel, Talmage?) – Don’t be shocked by UFO’s, just chew before swallowing.

Classified defense contracts are logical in a world that generates Hitlers.

But if we’re hiding zero-point energy from starving kids, perhaps we have a sociopathic technological elite making our biggest decisions.

My mind still resists that notion as I sit on an ancient Indian carpet in space and stare at a triangle that I’ve heard called the TR-3B.

TR-3B

In front of it, a time-frozen corkscrew mist stretches out for six hundred yards into space. It looks like the “camera-shutter artifact” captured on reentry of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003, just before she exploded. God rest their souls.

Here’s that “artifact,” from a video documentary…

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Despite two punctate stars (forget the circular pointer), NASA says that this photo “suggests” a jiggle in the camera’s shutter. I can’t imagine they believed that, but the cloudless ionospheric lightning theory would have flown.

No?

“What in the world is that purple trail?” I ask Vedanshi who’s in cobra pose to my right. Always yoga.

“Looks like smoke from an unbalanced missile, but I don’t know,” she says. “The chemistry’s buried in phase shift.”

The Ganga’s orb touches the triangle and dims as it moves into the hull.

“They’re ghosts,” Vedanshi says.

The Ganga takes us closer, then eases us slowly through the hull and into an ethereal cockpit. The top halves of the two men come up through the carpet behind us as we study the control panel with our bodies leaning through the backs of the bucket seats.

I notice a clipboard beside the Chief of Staff’s chair. On it there’s a memo from “Paul Adolph Volker, Jr., Chairman of The Federal Reserve Board.” It’s dated, August 21, 1984, and says…

“The economically disruptive nature of zero-point technology demands it be kept from the public. Your ongoing cooperation is imperative. I would remind you that all conversations are monitored.”

“Does The Ganga run on zero-point?” I ask Vedanshi.

“Yes, but she prefers zero-point gravity over the electromagnetic spectrum. She claims it’s the taste, but I think it’s pride.” Vedanshi winks at the carpet beside her. “She has the most advanced technology in recorded history… At least the parts of history that a sixteen-year-old was allowed to read.”

“Did other ships from your era survive the asteroids?” Maxwell asks.

“Probably. But not in stasis. I don’t think anyone but my mom’s techs could rig a ship for controlled quantum stasis. And even they botched it. To do the job right you need a pyramid.”

The Sea of Tranquility peers down from the moon. I could imagine a well-stocked ship going there to miss an asteroid storm. Or maybe they’d go to Mars. A photo of a pyramidal mountain on Mars pops into my head…

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“Wait,” I say to her, “you mean the pyramids were used for suspended animation?”

“Among other things,” Vedanshi says. “Most pyramids had multiple talents. My favorite thing was mood enhancement.”

There’s a piece of white paper under the foot of the hooded Chief of Staff.  The name on his lapel badge has no vowels.

“Mood?” Maxwell asks, forgetting to close his mouth.

Vedanshi nods. “Some pyramids were resonant. You could hear them for miles. The Builders made them in sets of three to produce a haunting minor chord. They sang every seventh day. If you sat and breathed slowly, the sound brought new enthusiasm. Spiritual technology. I miss that sound more than… even the garden in my bedroom.”

“You had a garden in your bedroom?” James asks.

She nods wistfully. “You know, this science-spirit dichotomy of your era is bogus.”

James just stares at her – an unusual response from him.

“Have you seen the pyramids at Giza?” I ask and put my forehead against the deck to see if anything’s legible on the paper under the Chief’s statuesque foot.

“I’ve seen images,” she says and leans over to see what I’m squinting at. “You want to go check ’em out in person?” There’s the child in her voice again.

James straightens up his lotus position. “To Giza KFC,” he says solemnly, and raises an index finger. “Make it so.” As his hand falls, I see Captain Picard in my head…

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“Let’s do it,” I say as frozen words from 1984 shift in and out of focus, most of the message probably hidden under a wide boot:

“All international bank debt will henceforth be transferred to taxpayers through the International Monitory Fund. Breakaway civilization is re-established.”

The pages of a book I skimmed in an eight-year-old pout, The Creature From Jekyll Island, appear again. Since I was thirty-three days shy of my fourth birthday, I’ve been able to read faster than I can turn pages. I’ve always been able to re-read from memory at least ten times faster than I can read from a book. Bottom line on Jekyll Island?

The Fed is inconceivably evil.

Thomas Jefferson might have agreed…

I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt

The Earth spins beneath us as we descend. The enormous African Continent fills the horizons. Everything becomes a tan blur, but before I can worry that we’re about to crash, we’re looking through double glass doors at the tops of the Giza Pyramids…

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“Yesssss!” James hisses. “I’m so hungry I could cry!”

“In a minute I shall cry,” I say, channeling Scarlett O’Hara.

James chuckles, looks at me and shakes his head. “Man, you sound just like her… Hey, anybody got some Benjamins?”

I shake my head, Maxwell checks his pockets and Vedanshi unzips her purse. She pulls out a crisp fifty dollar bill as the glass doors in front of us burst open and a large man walks straight through me at full tilt, stops at the counter behind us and seems to be placing an order in the local tongue.

My heart pounds at the horror of being a ghost. I’m not dead, though, so it shouldn’t be a big deal, right?

James starts chanting, “I’ve never seen a man eat so many chicken wings,” repeating it with increasing anger as Vedanshi smiles at him and giggles.

Now I ask you, how could she get that joke? It’s a spoof on Korn, for heaven sake! She’s never heard of Korn.

Has she?

Maxwell is leaning back on his right elbow managing not to look startled by our first encounter with lunch traffic.

“Tourist info,” Vedanshi says. “The Ganga informs me that there used to be a library under the right paw of The Great Dog. She says there’s a statue similar to it in the very same spot… Called the Sphinx?” She looks at me and smiles broadly. “You want to…”

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“We’re eating first,” James says and pounds the rug.

Maxwell holds out his right first, and the boys bump knuckles.

M. Talmage Moorehead

This in-progress story starts here.

Join my email group here and download my e-book, “Writing Meaningful Page-turners.” Sounds boring, but if you’ve never read a book on fiction writing, this will be the best one ever! For you. So far. If you’ve read one before, my obnoxious unpublished attitude will carry the day. Do not fear.

If you have a close friend who doesn’t roll her eyes at sf stuff, please send her (or him) my blog address: http://www.storiform.com.

Personal note to fiction writers:

Sweet, that chapter was shorter. Still too long, but next chapter I’ll try to add some conflict and make it yet shorter. I realize conflict is probably the second most important part of energy flow in a story (from book to reader, vs the opposite), so why is my story lacking conflict?

First, it’s early and I’m hoping to build. But let’s be honest, it’s not that early.

OK… plot twists with conflict are best designed to highlight your characters’ strengths, weaknesses and especially big motivational changes. When I manage to do things that way, I don’t feel arbitrary or manipulative. But writing plot conflict in general is energy-consuming because “working memory” is pegged out quickly (at my age) when I put characters in complex grave dangers that leave only a less-than-obvious (but logical) way of escape. Writing in pegged-out mode is exhausting and challenging. I try not to be lazy, but it requires all kinds of self-control and exercise of free will to build meaningful conflict into the plot.

Plus conflict is risky, and I’m somewhat afraid of it. I might get one of my characters killed. I would deeply hate that experience! Yeah, I know that attitude is unprofessional – what would you call it? “Sentimentalism?” But hey, it’s me. Your humble and yet infallible hack. We must all go with what we are, facing our limitations and striving to overcome and work around them.

At least I realize I need conflict to salvage the energy flow of this story. Otherwise it’s going to be boring. I’ll try harder next chapter. You do the same, maybe. With your talent, you could blow the doors off any complex plot issue. Don’t hold back.

Keep going. Stay pumped!

Talmage


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Tampering (Chapter 7) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

As I’m pressing a cold green cylinder to my forehead, my North Star, Barbara McClintock, comes to mind.

Here she is, my life-long idol, standing next to her brother, across from a brave dog that she’s teaching by example, confident energy. “Relax and stop shaking,” her body language says.

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Barbara’s life sends me confidence, too. She single-handedly discovered genetic regulation in 1951, but to this day the quagmire of Biased Science refuses to credit her with the earth-shaking advance.

Why?

Her work was too complex for other geneticists. To them, any notion that genes were regulated by stress implied a layer of control that smacked of intelligence. It wasn’t that Barbara McClintock intended to say anything about intelligent design, or God. She just reported the complexity she’d uncovered in her breathtaking work. But the facts themselves were heresy to the mainstream who knew that only simple static genes could fit their model. That model had become a “fact” in the strange fundamentalist-style thinking of the time.

Stranger still, that model rules all scientific thought today. We are frozen in an 1859 view of biology that ignores the clear implications of modern genetics.

Under academic pressure to produce nothing that would question the simplistic Darwinian model of life, Barbara stopped publishing her work at the peak of her genius in 1953.

In 1959 two men uncovered the lac operon – an on-off gene switch. Its simplicity buffered the emotional trauma to the paradigm fundamentalists. Genetic regulation now existed, despite the impossibility of it. But since it was so simple, perhaps no one had to panic. Unfortunately, Barbara’s old papers popped up in the archives. It must have been humiliating to the academics who’d shut her up in 1953.

I hope so.

A belated Nobel Prize came to her in 1983, but not for the discovery of genetic regulation. That would have been an admission of guilt from the zealots of mainstream origins mythology.

Instead, the Nobel committee repeated the mind-boggling abuse dealt to Einstein. They gave Barbara a Prize for a lessor breakthrough, hoping to obscure her status in history as the Founder of Genetic Regulation.

Make no mistake: Barbara McClintock is the Founder of Genetic Regulation!

And she’s my hero.

Here’s how she sounded in 1973 — twenty years after the academic thought police bullied her out of their journals, and ten years before her Nobel Prize:

“Over the years I have found that it is difficult if not impossible to bring to consciousness of another person the nature of his tacit assumptions when, by some special experiences, I have been made aware of them. This became painfully evident to me in my attempts during the 1950’s to convince geneticists that the action of genes had to be and was controlled. It is now equally painful to recognize the fixity of assumptions that many persons hold on the nature of controlling elements in maize and the manners of their operation. One must await the right time for conceptual change.”

It’s time…

Intelligent design glows like the moon in DNA’s hypercomplexity. The first set of tiny machines to replicate DNA and carry out its complex commands didn’t come from DNA because DNA needed those machines to do the work. Without them, DNA can do nothing.

Intelligence must have constructed the first set of cytoplasmic machines. We have a model for this today in human construction of computerized robots and their software.

So far, intelligent design is the best model to explain how DNA got started. Ironically, to reject it requires fundamentalist thinking – holding to old emotional beliefs despite new information.

Scientific fundamentalism shuns all notions of a higher intelligence, both the possibility of a God who transcends space and time, and the notion of other planets with intelligent life far enough ahead of us to arrive in our skies.

True science is open to all possibilities, bar none, especially when some fringe idea explains or predicts weird data, as happened to Barbara MaClintock, Albert Einstein and now Stephen Meyer.

I hear The Grudge in my head, Tool’s message to rigid Nobel committees and to all scientists married to their assumptions…

Clutch it like a cornerstone.

Otherwise it all comes down.

Justify denials and

Grip ’em to the lonesome end…

Terrified of being wrong…

Wear your grudge like a crown.

Desperate to control.

I’m not shivering now. “This works,” I say to Vedanshi as tiny symbols appear on the cylinder.

“Let me try,” James says. He takes it and pretends to shave. Excellent sound effects. “Feels kind of weird,” he says and hands it back to Vedanshi.

“The old woman’s already in Nazca,” Vedanshi says. “We better go. We can eat later.”

James moans.

We follow Vedanshi back to The Ganga, get in and take our places. The granite room becomes an underwater landscape for a split second, followed by a shrinking triangular island, then the coast of South America. Peru expands until the Nazca Lines bring a sense of the ancient high-tech past.

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“Looks like an old airport,” James says.

“Like a giant etch-a-sketch,” Maxwell says.

“The old woman’s got light-bending tech.” Vedanshi shakes her head in pity. “Look right there.” She points at the far end of a tapering runway-like thing…

Nazca

As I squint at the “religious artwork” of an extinct “primitive” tribe, The Ganga inserts a yellow filter and a UFO appears near the ground in the morning sun about a mile away. It looks like a Cuban cigar, but metallic and gray with longitudinal seams. A broad blue laser beam glares down from the near end onto the Nazca “runway” and steam rises where it hits.

“Looks like a Maui Bazooka,” James mumbles and bursts into song, “I take a toke and all my cares go up in smoke.”

“I didn’t realize this was a musical,” I tell him as an inverted funnel descends from the belly of the craft to draw in the steam. The laser creeps toward us along the runway, matching its increasing width.

“Coherent field electromagnetics,” Vedanshi says. “You dial the wavelength to the molecular bond force of whatever you’re mining. Iridium in this case.”

“Phase shifting from solid to gas?” I’ve seen a patent on this.

Vedanshi nods. “At ambient temp.”

“Did they soften rocks this way, too?” I ask, picturing the great wall at Ollantaytambo

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“Some had to,” Vedanshi says. “But the great Builders preserved the natural grain of rocks. You lose that in molds.”

“What’s wrong with wood and steel?” Maxwell asks.

“Stone spares the oxygen producers, avoids toxic hydrocarbons and gives you unlimited building materials. But the main thing is longevity. Anything that didn’t last twenty thousand years was a failure to the Builders. Iron alloys break down.”

“What was your average life span?” Maxwell asks.

“It varied. The stretch heads lived the longest. During the Reshaping, one of their families gained power and began editing their genes. A few of them survived for eighty thousand years, but in the process of tampering, they created hundreds of new diseases. Each one had to be fixed, and most of the fixes had bad side effects unless they restored the original sequences. Which they were usually too proud to do.” She shakes her head. “Average people lived only a thousand years, but without much disease.”

“How long will you live?” James asks.

“If I had my mother’s technicians, I’d be here for ten thousand years at least. But with the equipment I’ve got, I don’t know, maybe a thousand. Too much radiation gets through the Earth’s magnetic field now.”

An Aurora from a recent coronal mass ejection flashes to mind…

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“I won’t live a tenth as long as you,” James says mournfully.

“Don’t worry, I won’t let you die of old age before I do.” She smiles and takes the jade cylinder out of her purse. “This doesn’t look like much, but…” Her brow furrows as she reads it. Then she looks up wide-eyed at James. “Never in my wildest dreams… You’re a poet! The real ones were all cured.”

“Huh?” James says.

“No, I don’t me cured… In my day the poets were legends. We had your music, your stories, your magic… but mostly we had the vacuum you created when you all left us. When depression was cured.” She twists the cylinder. “You have a rare music locus.”

I wish I had my phone so I could play James’ ringtones. Maybe The Ganga can access his website. I close my eyes for a second and translate www.skullcage.com into ones and zeros, but it’s ASCII, not the machine language of consciousness.

Vedanshi stares at James. “I don’t want to change you,” she says. “Do you ever feel like killing yourself… ever?”

He gazes out at the long slender craft with its laser beam mining an ancient Nazca Line for prehistoric fuel.

“Let it out,” Maxwell says to him, “I’m a psychologist and both these women know more about it than I ever will. Let the truth fly.”

James looks at Vedanshi. “You’re putting me on the spot here, but yeah, I get bummed. Like this morning I was kind of… I don’t know.” He looks at me and runs a hand over the top of his head. “Ready to fade out.”

“Really?” She leans toward him with concern. I lean back to give her room. “I don’t know what to do,” she says. “I could ask your hypothalamus to make more orexin, but you’d probably never feel like composing music again. And you’d always be hungry. Struggling to cut weight.”

“I don’t think he needs brain surgery this early in the morning,” Maxwell says and chuckles. He looks at James. “I could show you some coping strategies.”

“Like what?” James asks.

“It all starts with yoga,” Maxwell says, “but Vedanshi’s the expert.” He glances at her legs, crossed and locked in lotus position. “Right?”

She nods. “I’ll teach you, James. We’ll wake your prefrontal cortex. Stabilize your limbic system. Help you choose your mood instead of settling for whatever comes along.”

“Sweet. When do we start?”James says.

She straightens her posture. “For survival, the brain always protects the area controlling respiration. Normally it’s the brainstem, but when you breathe deliberately it’s the prefrontal cortex, the area of volition where prime causes enter the Universe from outside. Blood shunts to this area when you hold your breath or decide how and when to take each portion of a slow breath. Mood elevates because the left prefrontal cortex acts as a pleasure center. It also stops the limbic system’s loops of misery. The rumination circuits.”

“What about this stuff you’re doing with your legs?” James asks. “I’m pretty flexible from martial arts, but I could never do that.”

“The pain of stretching stops emotional pain. It lets endorphins reach opiate receptors. But all stimulation of the opiate receptors is habit-forming, so watch out. I can’t have you checking out like a cutter.” She holds out her left anterior forearm with a row of parallel knife scars. “I was a cutter, myself. Pretty scars on a foolish girl.” She bows her head as she withdraws her arm.

Wow. I never would have picked her out as a cutter. James, maybe. But if yoga works for him, I’m going to be the happiest person on Earth. Which reminds me…

“I’m worried about that autistic boy,” I whisper to Vedanshi and begin searching for Maxwell’s phone in his coat on the carpet between us. I find it and can’t believe it has two bars. I punch in the old woman’s number and put her on speaker.

She answers. “I almost threw this thing away.”

“What’s your name, Ma’am?”

“I was afraid you’d drowned,” she says. “Yes, yes, my name. I’m vaarShagaNiipútro. Please call me Vaar.”

Vedanshi puts a hand over her mouth.

“I’m not with Frameshift,” Vaar says, “but I need you in my laboratory. I wasn’t expecting to get old just yet. My mind is fading.”

One of James’ songs plays to me: “Get home. I just want to make you young. You used to be so alive.”

“What’s your autism study about?” I ask.

“Just a second, dear, I’m double parked.”

Her cigar-shaped craft shoots up from the ground. The Ganga follows, and in seconds we’re stationary in near space with no bars on Maxwell’s phone. But I still hear her voice.

“The world is overrun by sociopaths,” she says. “I’m exploring the genetics of empathy, using the autism spectrum to isolate phenotype. I plan to heal sociopaths from the DNA up.”

“That’s ambitions.”

“I’ve been correlating loci to behavior for a long while,” she says, “but it’s gotten complex. I’m not the chess player I once was. And I’ve never had your gift for The Language.”

“Vaar, you’re infecting children. Why would anyone help you?”

“This is bigger than all of us. If humanity doesn’t move beyond war, we’ll soon be vestigial.”

“I have no argument with that, but…”

“I have contact with three sociopaths who happen to run nuclear nations. One of these men in particular would welcome the complete annihilation of our species. It might be worth eliminating him, but beneath him are endless layers of similar minds eager to seize power at the drop of a pulse. Someone has to re-write the genes of war.”

“But I think you’d have to be a sociopath yourself to treat children the way you do.”

“No. I’m not one of them,” she says. “I’ll admit I can’t remember the last time I had an honest emotion. But I’m not a sociopath. I conduct my affairs on principle, not some dark desire. And the damage I do is reversible.”

“In lab mice maybe, but not in children. Don’t you see the emotional scars you’re leaving?”

“Sometimes the lessor of two evils is all we have, dear.”

Vedanshi closes her eyes and suddenly we’re inside the ancient ship, hovering near the cavernous front, looking down at an old woman alone at a large desk with a holographic monitor showing the blue Earth surrounded by orbiting debris. She stands, scratches her head and looks in our direction but doesn’t seem to see us. Her baggy gray pants ride high, held up by a brown leather belt, the likes of which I’ve passed over in thrift shops. Her sweater hangs uneven and yellowed by age. A large safety-pin holds it together in front. Stringy gray hair spills out beneath a green skull-cap to reach her shoulders. The back of her head is…

“She’s a stretch head,” Vedanshi whispers.

A chill touches my spine.

“Vaar, if I should decide to help you, I would be in charge, not you.”

“That’s acceptable.”

“You’d have to follow my instructions like a rookie, in fact, beginning with the autistic children. Your first job would be to cure them.”

“You want me to pull the plug on seventy-five years of research,” she says. “I’m struggling to find any sense in that.”

“Of course you are. Wisdom requires logic and emotion. A person without empathy shouldn’t try to lead. There’s a rule of thumb for those who lack empathy: the end never justifies the means.”

“We both know that isn’t true.” She switches the phone to her right ear. “You’re not a child, why would you expect me to think like one?”

“To break the rule safely would require excellent judgement. You’ve proven you’re not capable of average judgement. It’s blunt, but I’m telling you the truth.”

“I suppose you might be.” Her shoulders slump. “I’ll comply with your orders.” She looks at the floor.

I feel adrenalin corrupting me.

“I won’t rule another human being,” I tell her, struggling against the euphoric seduction of power. I’ve read about it, but I haven’t experienced it since childhood. “If you have any free will or personhood left inside you, you’ll transform yourself into a trustworthy human being, starting with the autism you’ve created. Reverse it. Every child.”

“That shouldn’t take long.”

“How many kids are we talking about?” I ask.

“Six,” she says.

“Sociopaths always fear the truth. Even when it would help them. Lies are more comfortable. More controlling. You claim you’re not a sociopath, but you behave like one. Becoming trustworthy will be the toughest thing you’ve ever attempted.”

“Eighty-nine,” she says.

“That’s believable. I suggest you get to work, then.”

Vedanshi leans over and whispers in my ear. “We’ve broken her encryption. She’s infected eighty-nine children.”

“Does this mean you’ll help me?” Vaar asks.

“We’ll see. Hang on to your phone and I’ll call you when I’m convinced you’re capable of change.”

I hang up and watch her face. A look of resolve comes over it. She squares her shoulders, takes off the skullcap and winds her hair around her elongated head.

The Ganga exits her craft and moves away.

“Something’s cloaked down there,” Vedanshi says. The outside colors shift toward purple. “Whatever it is, it’s tapping zero point.” The colors change again. “There.” She points at a black triangle…

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“Let’s send out a foo fighter,” she says and chuckles.

“You’ve read about World War II?” I ask. “Were those things real?”

“Yes, it seems obvious under the circumstances. The real question is, where did they come from?”

A ball of blue-gray light flies out from beneath our feet and heads for the triangle. We move closer and suddenly we have MRI vision. Two people are inside, standing like statues behind their chairs. One of them holds an index finger in the face of the other, frozen in argument.

“Time dilation,” Vedanshi says. “They’ve been slowed to a standstill. I must have looked about like that… for a number of millennia.”

I had suspected the triangle over Arizona was not alien.

“They look like skeletons,” James says. “You sure they’re alive?”

“Yes,” Vedanshi says. “If we sat here for twenty years, The Ganga would eventually detect a slight eyelid movement. Part of a blink.”

“Are they from your era?” I ask her.

“I’m not sure,” she says.

We move around the triangle to see into it from various perspectives. On the back of the left chair there’s a round design with a star. I have to squint to be sure I’m seeing words. Several of them form a circle. In English!

“Chief of Staff — United States Air Force.”

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M. Talmage Moorehead

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Scars (Chapter 6) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

The Ganga stops within inches of the face of a vertical cliff.

Offended fish scatter, small and blue, yellow and rare: the Femininus wrasses.

9349015868_22abe07eba_b

I can’t tell if Vedanshi is reckless or if non-local buffers and gravity lifts are designed to jar the nerves. At least there’s no whiplash.

Vedanshi closes her eyes. In a silent click we’re hovering inside a large granite chamber with geometric rock walls that have the odd nubbins I’ve seen in pictures of ancient Peruvian ruins.

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They remind me of the nubbins on the Pyramid of Menkaure in Egypt. Drain hole artifacts from molds, I would guess.

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I wonder if people realize the staggering complexity of designing random block sizes into a high tolerance structure.

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Water drips from The Ganga and splashes thirty feet below onto a dark floor. The room is the size of my old high school auditorium on Oahu.

There’s a picture in my head of a small platform somewhere on Easter Island.

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The blockwork is similar to the walls that surround us now.

Here’s another platform on Easter Island…

ahu-tahira-vinapu-rock-wall-fitting

Here’s a close up of an ancient wall in Peru. The trapezoid is about the size of a finger and extends completely through the wall.

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“How was this rock work done?” I ask Vedanshi.

She gazes across the room at the opposite wall. “Molten hot granite cement poured into heat-resistant molds of cloned spiderweb. Black widow, probably.”

OK, I was basically right. “Tell me about quantum stasis.”

Her fingers move horizontally across her forehead. “I’ve been in 2015 for four months,” she says. “Alone.” There’s a quiver in her voice. “I’m at the age where pilots start hearing the river. The first day the asteroids were spotted, my mother’s techs gave me a crash course in consciousness – basically how to let a bunch of ones and zeros connect with the machine language.”

“So the brain has a machine language,” I say.

“Sort of,” she says. “It’s a five-dimensional hologram, analogous to the river of consciousness itself. It resembles the physical structure of the universe.”

A deep image of my universe comes to mind.

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It resembles the cultured hippocampal neurons I sometimes work with in the genetics lab at OHSU…

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“Like most things,” Vedanshi says, “our machine language seems to be an analog process at first glance, but ultimately it’s digital. Everything is digital this side of space-time.”

“Which five dimensions are we talking about?” I ask.

“There’s the usual four of galactic space and time,” she says, “and then there’s a fifth that curls outside of ordinary space.”

“That figures. Free will needs some sort of foothold outside causal space.”

Vedanshi nods thoughtfully. “The old woman’s back in her ship, by the way. Trying to find her burner phone.”

“I’ve been seeing ones and zeros all morning when I blink,” I tell Vedanshi.

“Really?” her face brightens. “You could be a pilot in the rough! Try this… close your eyes and slow your breathing.”

I close my eyes but can’t stop breathing fast. It’s the fever. I’m still shaky. Too hot or freezing cold in this robe.

“Let the ones and zeros come into your head and rest on the base of your skull, right on the pterygoid processes of the sphenoid.”

I open my eyes and Maxwell and James are staring at me.

Vedanshi sees them. “We’d better do this later. In private.”

James is blinking and covering his eyes.

“You seeing ones and zeros?” I ask him.

“Not for sure,” he says, closing his eyes again.

“Anyway,” Vedanshi says, “The stretch heads – they were the ones who really understood the quintic manifold. Mother told them to rig a buffer glitch that would scoot me and The Ganga forty years ahead – so there’d be vegetation again, and hopefully other survivors. But the buffers overshot and took us to February 3, 2015.”

“Millennia off course,” I say. And it dawns on me that she was abducted into an essentially alien culture while inside her own UFO. That’s backwards, isn’t it?

I want to ask her about the “stretch heads,” but now’s probably not the time. A picture from old Egypt comes to mind…

Nefertiti-berlin-mus

 

I sneak a glance at the back of Vedanshi’s head to see if she’s normal. Strange relief.

The many elongate skulls that the experts brush aside seem to have a higher average volume than today’s average, though significant numbers probably don’t exist. Some of the elongate skulls lack major sutures. I’m wondering if all this was really due to head binding. Bigger question: does binding affect the mind?

elongated-skull-france

“Six to twelve millennia, according to The Ganga,” Vedanshi says and pats the deck. “I was in stationary orbit for 29 hours after the first asteroid hit. It felt like forever. Then the buffers finally wobbled and everything went from chaos to calm quick as a sneeze. The polar ice caps were tiny. All the colors of Earth had faded. But without complaint, The Ganga isolated a signal from your internet and started teaching me American English. Thousands of years – gone in less than a millisecond.”

James moves his lips silently. I recognize the words. A dark Manson song jumps from his head to mine…

“I can tell you what they say in space. That our Earth is too gray.

But when the spirit is so digital, the body acts this way.

That world was killing me…

Disassociative…

I can never get out of here.

I don’t want to explode in fear.

A dead astronaut in space.”

“The old woman’s dialing your cop friend,” Vedanshi says.

“Losing your whole family in one fell swoop,” Maxwell says to Vedanshi. “I’d be in a permanent funk. How do you stay positive?”

She presses her lips together and pulls her head back away from her knees. “I had a near death experience when I was thirteen,” she says. “What I saw there changed me. My heart went from superstition to absolute knowledge. I started looking for the good in things. Even terrible things.” She clenches her eyes shut for a moment. “Mother and Daddy were good rulers. They stayed on the ground with the common people. The ones who couldn’t use time dilation or space for an escape.”

I want to ask what she saw, but some near death survivors feel a need to keep the details private. I should be patient.

“So you were their only child,” James says.

“How can you tell?” She’s defensive. “You think I’m spoiled rotten?”

James turns both palms up. “No. I don’t think that.” He shakes his head and looks into her eyes.

“I know,” she says. “It’s just that…”

“Not rotten,” James says. “Not completely rotten, anyways.” He laughs.

She smirks and takes The Ganga down to a black obsidian floor with a purple crack that branches like lightning and runs its full length, about two hundred feet.

The ceiling glows with a bright design that reminds me of an exploding chambered nautilus with her Fibonacci numbers coming out as Chinese fireworks, and her “more stately mansions” becoming the wings of birds.

faux_water_color_fractal_by_fractamonium-d5pvvhx

 

 

“Your parents don’t sound like people who’d save only one of their kids,” James says, then softens his tone. “So you must have been their only one.”

She looks over at him. “I am kind of spoiled, though… I plan to get over it.” She puts her hair behind her ears. “I felt victimized by the stretch heads for a while. Their blunder with the buffers. But I’ve done some reading and I’m glad I didn’t spend my life in the proximate shadow of an apocalypse.”

“Heck no,” James says, “that could put a damper on the whole evening.” He starts a grim-reaper portrayal but abandons it. “You know, you throw around some big words, Vedanshi… The Role of the Knowledge.”

“The Sacred Knowledge,” she says.

“I bet you’re way smart like Johanna.” James looks at me and does a coke-bottle glasses, buck-tooth geek impression, then grins so enthusiastically I can’t help laughing.

I had an awkward stage as a child. Took me a while to grow into my front teeth. James and I love to laugh at our old pictures.

Vedanshi pats my right leg. “I wish I were in your league,” she says to me, then looks at Maxwell. “My parents wouldn’t have made it. I would have watched our renown pyramid builders turn into stone stackers.” Her eyes move gently from Maxwell to James and then to me. “I’m lucky to be here with the three of you. Nothing could make me happier.”

I should probably tell her about my leukemia before she gets her heart set on having the three of us around forever.

“The cop’s telling the old woman everything,” Vedanshi says. She steps out of The Ganga onto the cracked floor and stretches her arms. I’d say she’s five-seven in bare feet.

“I’ve been exploring here for four months,” she says. “Doubt I’ve seen half the rooms yet.”

I think she wants us to follow her, but I kind of like the safety of The Ganga. I’m fairly sure we’re under water in a room with a seriously cracked floor.

Vedanshi reaches into her purse and pulls out a credit-card made of what looks like South African Desert Rose granite. She raises an eyebrow at Maxwell’s shirt pocket, and he hands over her mirror with a trace of reluctance. She sets the granite card on her left forearm, blows on it, and the hair on her head stands on end for an instant, twirls and pops with static, then falls and covers her in Royal Egyptian splendor. Something like this ancient statue I’ve seen, but without the jewel on the forehead…

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“Whoa!” James says.

“Thank you.” She glances at herself in her tiny mirror. “They left several styles in the river archives.”

Out of the blue she looks at me and says, “The Ganga thinks capitalism is responsible for the enormous quantity of food in America. But I suspect it’s the work ethic.”

“It was Boston switching from tea to coffee,” I tell her with a straight face.

She leans inside the ship and puts a firm grip on James’ left arm. “Let’s roll some grapes down your esophagus.”

“Tight,” he says and starts to get up. “I’m dying.” His upper body passes freely through the place where Maxwell’s head met The Ganga’s ceiling in Honolulu.

Vedanshi holds James’ arm as he steps out.

“Capitalism’s the reason everybody’s so poor,” he says.

“Don’t parrot your high school friends,” I tell him and wish like anything I hadn’t said it.

He fences the air. “Douchette.”

Yeah, I earned that. “Your band friends listen to you,” I tell him. “That’s the way is should be.”

I want you to know, I never acted like a jerk with him while Mom was alive. Not sure what’s wrong with me now.

Vedanshi beckons us with a hand gesture.

“What’s the cop telling the old woman now?” I ask.

Vedanshi puts her left hand to her mouth and says something in an unfamiliar language, puts the palm to her left ear to listen, then says, “They haven’t figured out who the masked girl in Honolulu was.”

“Is the old woman angry with the guy?” I ask.

“She hasn’t made plans to hurt him,” Vedanshi says, “but her mind’s not in a planning mode with all the expletives. I think she’s mad at the masked girl, but doesn’t know it was you.”

Maxwell checks for The Ganga’s ceiling but can’t find it. We stand, step off the edge of the Indian carpet and onto the floor, hopefully clearing the edge of the UFO. The carpet vanishes for an instant then the ship decloaks beside us.

If ever there was a graceful flying saucer, this is it. I reach out and touch her soft, giving surface and wish I could thank her for helping Maxwell and Vedanshi rescue me.

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The four of us walk side by side through a large arched opening into a wide granite hallway that curves to the right and eases down into a 20 degree slope. In this area the volcanic glass floor is crosshatched to resemble snakeskin. There’s a purple hue when the light’s right.

“This place was built about a thousand years before the asteroids fell,” Vedanshi says. “Its location in the ocean beside an island must have saved it.” She’s still holding James’ arm. “The Ganga has all the old maps and keeps begging me to take her exploring, but I’ve been too busy here.”

“Asteroids,” James says. “Why didn’t your parents fly out and nuke ’em?”

“Every non-local buffer that could survive in space was out there, along with some who knew they wouldn’t make it. The Ganga, herself, diverted two large metallic asteroids and a dozen smaller ones. But hundreds of them kept showing up and closing in. Faster than typical meteors, my daddy said. From the first sighting to the first impact was barely three days.”

“Must of sucked,” James says.

“Indeed it did,” Vedanshi says, then looks over at me and adds, “totally,” with a glow.

I notice an old hubcap on the wall, then realize it’s the tri-lobed disk from ancient Egypt. I put my head against the wall and look at it from the side. Unlike the one under glass in the Cairo Museum, this one is symmetrical. Everybody has a theory about what this thing was. Finally I’m going to find out!

disk_Cairo222_Museum (1)

“What on Earth is this incense burner really for?” I ask Vedanshi.

“Right now it marks the door of the library,” she says and grins.

James chuckles.

As far as I can tell, there’s no door here. Just a massive rock wall that should have been imported from ancient Peru if the world made sense. As I stare at the wall looking for evidence of a door, several Sanskrit words appear sparkling a millimeter off the surface of the granite wall. I haven’t studied Sanskrit, but I once read an English version of the great Mahabharata and glanced at the Sanskrit as I went along. I can tell you this for sure, the letters on the wall are identical to what I saw at the end of the Mahabharata. It was translated, loosely I would think, as this…

“Here words end like thought.”

“It’s a museum piece,” Vedanshi says, “from the middle third of my era. They stuck it on a titanium shaft and spun it at specific speeds to create sonic vibrations to match the resonant frequency of a quartz platform beneath it – used for transporting heavy things. The platform and just about anything on it could be tuned to vibrate like a snake’s tail and slide across a smooth surface as if weightless.”

“I love the way you talk,” James says.

She smiles at him, glances back at me then fixes her eyes on him and says, “In the Builder’s religion, a person’s soul was weighed on a scale in judgement for the afterlife. This device became a symbol of pardon, making the soul lighter in the balances. Analogous to the Christian Messiah that The Ganga is so fascinated with… a man who takes permanent scars into the afterlife so free will’s integrity is preserved, despite the absence of emotional scars on the others living there.”

“Dude,” James says to her. “You’re not like, super religious or anything, are you?”

“And what if I am?” she says.

He looks her up and down. “You know, honestly? You’re hot enough to pull it off, but…” He laughs. “Just don’t tell me you’re all into boy bands. That’s where I draw the line.”

She looks puzzled.

I cringe and remind myself he’s barely sixteen. If you think about it, though, he’s at least being open and honest.

You know, Vedanshi’s pretty bright. I’ve only met one other person in my life who could grasp the concept that once you’re in the afterlife looking back, free will didn’t exist if no consequences remain. Logic demands an eternal scar. I tried to make the point once in Sabbath School when I was seven.

Vedanshi puts her left hand over her left ear again, listens, then says, “The Ganga says the old woman’s heading to Nazca. I bet her ship uses iridium. What an antique!” She laughs, then looks at me with mischief in her eyes. “You want to go snoop on her?”

“Holy Vishnu,” Maxwell mumbles.

“We probably should,” I tell her. I need to fix the mess I’ve made for that guy’s autistic son. I pretty much dunked my soul in tar lying the way I did. “Anybody got an Advil?”

Maxwell checks his pockets. James shakes his head. Vedanshi opens her little square purse and pulls out a small jade cylinder.

JS10-2

M. Talmage Moorehead

Yo…

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Rage (Chapter 5) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

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The moon’s size and distance were selected so that its silhouette would precisely cover the sun during an eclipse, at least sometimes.

Call it blind luck. But what are the odds?

If the duck billed platypus were known only as a drawing in Egypt…

Could science tolerate more than a “myth” about a mammal who laid eggs, offered milk but no nipples to her hatchlings, hunted under water with eyes and ears closed using electroreception unknown to other mammals, stabbing her victims with poisonous spikes on her hind legs, then grinding her food with rocks in a toothless duck bill only to swallow it into a GI tract with no stomach?

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These uncomfortable facts caused the skeptical elite of yesterday to insist that she was a hoax.

Just as we assume the bird-man of ancient Egypt was religious fiction.

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But what if we are wrong?

The inconvenient truth about the platypus is that she screams of intelligent design. Not only of the original coding of a supreme mind but also of genetic tampering.

When new research pulls back the curtains on this duckish mosaic with in-tact blocks of DNA spliced from diverse species – who will hold the robes of the outraged thought police as they stone the young heretics, boycott the journal that published their work and fire its editor?

I refuse.

Rage, like denial, is a decision, but only if free will exists. Otherwise the Queen of Hearts was temperate in shouting, “Off with their heads!”

It’s fifteen feet down to the street. Not much traffic. My lips are sticky with brine.

When that man below us kicked my brother to the ground I wanted blood, but now the words that Nietzsche hated come to mind:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

The Nazarene.

A certain Buddhist Priest also haunts me:

A

nymph

in pale feet

rides the opera

to a spiral staircase.

Lightning hair, dark voices

strike within her yielding gall.

Silk jinn brass restrains the lip strings

 beneath her tears that fall and glare inside

a secret box.

My girl of Utsuro-bune.

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Ojiichan wrote this at a recital where I sang “Un bel di vedremo.” My father translated it from the Japanese. That was three days before the accident on the Pali. Forget that now.

In the legend of Utsuro-bune, a red-headed woman landed in Japan in 1803 inside a “boat” that resembled a rice cooker with windows and strange writing on the walls inside. She spoke no Japanese, clutched a wooden box, and as the story’s living soul, she showed respect to the Japanese fishermen.

This is why her legend survives.

In this opaque neo-infinity, science is forever young and speculative. To forget this would be disrespectful and short-sighted.

“Remote viewing of long-term goals” would be a dissertation worth defending.

But ruling elites say the average human chooses short-term pleasure over long-term riches. Thus we need laws against natural selection. A childproof world.

Complex problems rarely have such simple solutions. Here’s the picture of that principle…

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Dr. Seung’s crowd-sourcing of neuroscience recruits us to map the soul. With our help, every microscopic neuronal connection will be recorded in three dimensions, someday re-created and reanimated.

The handshake of science and religion has always been immortality.

And we thought the ancient Egyptians were primitive with their mummies, that silly religious talk and all the “incidental” preservation of royal DNA.

Who looks silly today?

So if natural selection brings genetic wisdom, why hamper it with childproof laws? Do the secular elites know something they’re not telling?

Plenty.

Perhaps a hand full of them have even noticed that logic requires a Prime Source of our genetic commands, a foundation for trust, and access beyond space to allow a fleeting choice of love over hate.

This choice comes to me now…

To spare this guy who’s kicking my brother, or to fight him.

The way I’m feeling, I would crush him easily.

That’s not logical, I’ll admit. Strange things happen to me when I get angry.

I fought Moody and thought I had defeated an enemy. Instead, I murdered James’ closest childhood friend and lost my innocence on a kitchen floor covered with my own blood.

The carpet is damp beneath me. I’m shivering and sweating. It’s a fever.

Vedanshi shifts and sits on her heels again. “If they recognize your face, the old woman will wonder how you got here from Washington. You need a disguise.” She reaches into the deck and pulls out a bra, then a dangling sock which she hands to me. “You should put this over your head, I think.”

I put it on quickly. It smashes my nose but I can see through it.

“If the man has a gun, The Ganga can disable it,” she says. “Theoretically, I mean… We’ve never actually done it.”

Maxwell rises to one knee and encounters a UFO’s ceiling with his head. “I got your six.”

“No,” I tell him. “Better if you stay here. You’ll scare the guy.”

“So you’re not going to hurt him?” he asks.

“Not if I don’t have to.”

“Good,” Vedanshi says. “There’s a break in the traffic. Scoot under a car so no one sees any decloaking.”

The Ganga dips to street level. I crawl out of its cloak and roll under the car that’s parallel parked behind the Prius. I reach out to see if my hand disappears. It doesn’t, so I scoot out into the street, stand and move between the cop and my brother.

The man steps back and pulls a gun clumsily. “What’s with the mask?” There’s a wedding band on his left ring finger and cowboy boots below a sagging uniform that fits a larger man.

“Tell me why she’s cursing the dumb Haole in the cop suit,” I say.

His jaw falls.

I glance behind at my brother. “Did she say to break his knees?”

“She sent you?” he asks.

I nod, fold my arms then shake my head at him. “No one can reason with her when she gets like this. You’re a family man, so I’ll try to get you off the island before she snaps. No reason you should die.” I look at his boots. “What is it, Texas?”

“I’m from…”

“Shut up. Let me think.”

He purses his lips.

I stare at him for a moment. “Here’s your plan. Fly home, get your family and disappear. That’s your best chance.”

His eyes open white all around. “She’s that mad?”

“I haven’t seen her like this before. I’ll take the kid. You need to vanish.”

“How was I supposed to know he’d go straight to the cops?”

“You’re right. There’s no way anyone could have predicted that. But listen, whining won’t help you.” I reach up and fasten a button on his uniform.

His shoulders slump and he tucks his gun away.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Maybe there’s something good I can tell her about you. Got anything?”

He stutters.

I tap his chest with my fingers and hold a palm up. “Cuffs?”

He takes a key from his pocket, gives it to me, then ducks into the driver’s seat of the Prius. “Tell her thank you. My son’s showing signs of empathy.” Tears well up in his eyes.

“Empathy’s good. I’ll give her your message word-for-word. Is your boy getting the I.M. injections?”

“No, I.V. Some DNA thing. I never get it right… Menthol Asian?”

“DNA demethylation,” I suggest.

“Yeah, that’s it.” He squints up trying to find my eyes. “Look, tell her she’s welcome to kill me. Tell her I’ll do it myself, in fact… If she’ll just please, please keep treating my son. That’s all I want.”

“Hey, don’t think like that. It only makes things worse. For the rest of your son’s life.” I can’t believe I wanted to hurt this poor guy. “Give me your phone number.”

He reads a number off the back of his cell phone.

“Go home,” I tell him. “Get packed. Get ready to run, but wait for my call. I will call you. Whether I can cool her down or not.”

“Thank you so much.” He reaches out, squeezes my wrist, pushes a button on the car’s dashboard, then rolls a few feet away before the gas engine comes to life and takes him out into the morning traffic.

I turn to James. “Cameras are watching. You don’t know me.”

He chuckles. “You look like a bank robber.”

He seems stable on his feet. “Can you walk?” I ask him.

“Sure. The guy kicks like a girl.”

“Why does that dumb remark make me want to hug you?” I move behind him and push him along the sidewalk ahead of me. We walk south for about forty seconds, then take a left into an alley and come out behind the buildings into a parking lot that looks big enough for The Ganga. Ojiichan’s Ford sits behind the police station two buildings to the left. I take the cuffs off James and try to say that we’re about to meet an invisible thinking machine, but he’s not listening.

“You were going to drown yourself,” he says. “I got that feeling back. Where you basically don’t want to be alive.”

“I’m sorry, but you don’t have my permission to kill yourself. You’ve got to put Skullcage on the map and carry on the Fujiwara name.”

“Yeah, I know. I really do know. But it’s just that sometimes…” he looks down, “I really don’t care.”

I gently slap his face. “I don’t want to hear the demons right now.”

He’s a little startled but doesn’t say anything.

“Maxwell and a girl named Vedanshi fished me out of the ocean. They don’t know about my leukemia.”

“There’s got to be some kind of treatment for that,” James says.

“There’s not,” I tell him.

His face is so lost. But only for a moment. Suddenly he’s himself again.

“What just happened there?” I ask him. “In you head.”

He looks up and to his left. “I don’t know.”

“Whatever you just did, it’s the secret to a good life. Try to remember it.”

I tug on his left arm and get him to crouch next to me out of camera’s view beside a parked car. We get flat on our stomachs, just to be sure. Vedanshi’s face appears inches off the ground in the parking space beside us. Her head is detached and floating upside-down with her hair on the asphalt.

“Coast is clear,” she says and vanishes, chin first, hair last.

“That’s Vedanshi,” I say.

“OK, that just happened. We both saw it.” He goes into a dense calm and then comes out of it rubbing his eyes. “She’s hot, isn’t she?”

“Yeah. And she’s inside an invisible machine. We’re going to crawl into it now. Parts of your body will disappear on the way in. No big deal, right?”

“Disappear? Nah… really?”

“Don’t freak out on me. Just go. And don’t stand up for the cameras.”

I push him. He moves forward and disappears as if crawling through invisible UFO hulls was routine to him. Complete confidence. That’s James 24/7. Unless he happens to call you late at night from jail. I follow after him and take my place by Vedanshi. James sits on the other side of Maxwell.

“Tight,” James says looking around at the acorn patterns on the Indian rug. He reaches in front of Maxwell and me to shake Vedanshi’s hand. “I’m James. It’s beyond amazing to meet you. You’re absolutely gorgeous, you know.”

“Thank you.” She blushes and shakes his hand. “I’m Vedanshi, The Role of the Sacred Knowledge.”

“The role of… That’s the meaning of Vedanshi?”

“Yes.”

“That’s got to be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” James glances at me then thumps Maxwell on the back with an open palm. “Thank you, dude. You look just like your Facebook pictures.” He looks at Vedanshi again. “Thank you both for getting Johanna here to save my ass. I owe you guys… my life, probably. That was one unhappy cop.” James looks at me. “How’d you do that?”

“I don’t know, it’s the first time I’ve done anything that deceitful. I feel like I need to wash my mouth out and take a shower.” I peel the sock off my face, pull it up and off my head, then look at Vedanshi. “What do you make of that DNA demethylation? Could you hear him at all?”

“Every word – in the river,” she says. “The old woman likes to mull over the language of a virus that causes Autism. It methylates DNA. Epigenetics, you could say.” The Ganga rises ten feet with no tells on Vedanshi’s face. “Would all of you like to stay at my place tonight? It’s not really mine, but… Well, it sort of is now.” She smiles but her eyes are distant.

“Definitely,” James says.

Maxwell nods and I say I’ll do anything that doesn’t involve the old woman. But actually I’m worried about the guy I sent home. And his autistic son. What have I done? I should probably call the lady and fix this.

“I don’t guess we can do a noodle run in this thing,” James says. “I’m starving.”

“I’ve got veggies in the garden,” Vedanshi says. “Things are growing.” She notices the bra on the rug beside her legs and sneaks it through the deck beyond the edge of the carpet. “James,” she says with a glint, “lean forward as far as you can and look down.”

“Don’t do it,” I tell him.

He leans forward and as the parking lot shrinks out of sight and the Hawaiian Islands zip down to dots in the Pacific Ocean, he calmly says, “Jeepers, Mrs. Cleaver.”

I shake my head.

“You were supposed to be startled and impressed,” Vedanshi says.

“I am.” He draws a deep breath and lets it out with a whisper, “God, I hope this isn’t a dream.”

“It’s not,” Maxwell says, as South America rushes toward us and an island off the coast of Chile and Peru comes closer.

easter_island_map

“Rapa Nui,” I say as the island’s triangular shape evolves beneath a flock of small cumulus clouds.

isla-de-pascua (1)

I know Vedanshi is not Mahani Teave, but why is she taking us to Easter Island?

We descend and the ancient Moai give us palpable respect as though they’d been waiting eons to greet us.

Moai_Statues_Easter_Island_10

The southern end of the island comes close, but we move past it, beyond the two tiny rock islands and into the crystal water. With the hull cloaked we’re gliding forward under the ocean in a saucer-shaped bubble. Visibility is sixty-five feet plus.

“Vedanshi,” James says, “I’m sixteen. How old are you?”

“Sixteen,” she says, “not counting quantum stasis.”

James grins at Maxwell, “If this is a dream, buddy, I’m going to be pissed at you.”

They both laugh as we head straight at a rock wall without slowing down.

M. Talmage Moorehead

Yo…

If you want, please read this story from page one (beginning with Johanna’s unorthodox prologue). It starts here.

If you like my fiction and want to be notified when each of my novels is done (possibly before the next ice age) please join my list here. (No spam or sharing of your info – ever.) Although you can download my free e-book (on writing fiction) by joining my list, I’d prefer you joined the list only if you like my fiction. My e-book’s fairly decent, I guess, but my reasoning is, I’m trying to do what the “How To Conquer the World as an Indie Writer” type books tell us, and gather email addresses from people who specifically like my fiction (as opposed to people who only like my non-fiction). I want to be a fiction writer when I grow up. Writing non-fiction is fun, but writing fiction goes far beyond fun for me. So thanks for taking that into consideration.

Ka-Pwing!

By the way, if you like my stuff, please tell a friend or two about it. Maybe in an email, a post or on Facebook or Twitter? Thanks, I appreciate your kind and generous help a lot! :)

Talmage


River of Consciousness (Chapter 4) “Hapa Girl DNA”

I’m shivering inside a UFO.

The ceiling slopes down like a Chinese rice hat to the floor. A red band encircles the room where the ceiling meets the deck. The three of us look awkward – Maxwell, me and the girl who could almost be Mahani Teave.

I missed her name when she said it.

I see codes of consciousness when I blink. Ones and zeros.

I know them as doubly-even self-dual linear binary error-correcting block codes.

They were discovered by a theoretical physicist: S. James Gates, Jr., Ph.D.

S. JAMES GATES JR.

This is my favorite picture of him: The founding father and pilgrim of string theory’s DNA. History will place him beside Einstein if rational minds prevail.

Biological DNA also has error correction: A higher mind showing cells how to build nanotech machines to fix DNA screwups. Things like replication errors and the mutations we worshiped in undergrad bio.

But the “illusion of consciousness” is the delusion of flatlanders. Conscious awareness is central to digital physics and independently real.

We are not alone.

We’re side by side on a soft Indian rug. The girl’s legs are crossed yoga style now with the tops of her toes flat against the opposite thighs.

“I didn’t hear your name,” I confess to her.

“I am Vedanshi,” she says, beaming. “The Role of the Sacred Knowledge.” Her expression reminds me of Luciano Pavarotti after an aria.

pavarotti

I was twelve when God’s angel died. I will always love him.

Maxwell’s face is blank. He risked everything for me.

“You both saved my life,” I tell them and lean against Maxwell’s wet shoulder. “Thank you.”

Even if leukemia has its way now.

“Cloaking,” Vedanshi whispers, and the red band fades from around us, the walls vanish, and we’re floating on a rug twenty feet above the ocean.

I see my boots on the jetty next to Maxwell’s jacket. I should feel the sea air, but I don’t. The ocean butts the jetty and climbs its rough boulders, but I can’t hear it.

“I need a mirror,” Maxwell mumbles.

“No you don’t. You look marvelous.” I fake an Italian accent, “Shake your hair, darling… such as it is.”

His eyebrows may have moved. I’m not sure.

“Don’t panic,” I tell him. “All your great pianists fly UFO’s.”

Vedanshi grins and the sun breaks. An orange bead on a hilltop.

Maxwell’s vacant eyes find me. He says nothing.

“I heard the phone call,” Vedanshi says. “I know what the old woman is doing.”

“Purchasing my soul?” I suggest.

Vedanshi nods. “Let’s get your things.”

The Jetty is beneath us but I didn’t feel us move. My boots are inches from my feet. I lean forward and reach but my knuckles hit an invisible deck.

“Sorry,” Vedanshi says crinkling her nose. “Try again.”

I reach down and pick up Ojiichan’s chopsticks, grab my boots, then get Maxwell’s jacket and lay it in midair beside his wet legs that stick out past the edge of the carpet and rest on nothing. A little reluctantly, I snag his ugly climbing shoes, bring them in and smell the rubber.

He watches from a trance.

“Snap out of it,” I tell him. “You seem shroomed.”

“It’s a psychotic break,” he mumbles.

“You haven’t turned idiot,” Vedanshi assures him. “There’s a small mirror I can loan you, but I want it back.” She reaches into the side pocket of the purple robe she gave me, pulls out a square purse, opens it and extracts a round mirror the size of a silver dollar. On the back is an engraving of a woman’s face. Lazar quality. She’s wearing a crown and triangular earrings that float beside her earlobes.

Vivid dreamers know how mirror images lag in dreamland. Maxwell is probably a gifted dreamer and wants to test the reality of this place. I can’t blame him. It’s weird.

In the past I’ve tested with mirrors, but I’ve found they’re harder to track down than bathrooms – in dreams, I mean.

Rule of thumb: If there’s a mirror, you’re not dreaming. You’re totally sitting in a classroom naked.

“We should leave,” Vedanshi says. “She’s coming. I don’t want her to discover me.”

With the sun up, Vedanshi’s white blouse is orange and short. It leaves an inch of skin above tiny-waisted harem pants. She either works out or never eats… or has issues with her thyroid.

“You two may want to close your eyes,” she says as the Jetty drops and the mouth of the Columbia River shrinks into a falling coastline.

The horizon rounds down and the Earth becomes smooth and blue to white on the sun’s side.

There was no lurch of engines, no whiplash, not even a hiss of wind.

I glance at the sun and get dots following my eyes. Canada is endless. The overhead is black and radiant with stars. The swath of glowing velvet is an edge-on look across a spiral galaxy.

This is the “near space” I’ve read about, but it feels nearer to Heaven. I’m overcome with affection for our magnificent little round home. She’s cute, miraculously great but humble. Wise and still innocent.

This is warmth I’d never imagined.

I grip it the way James’ therapist says – holding bliss in a 30-second headlock to myelinate the neurons of joy.

Listen now. Happiness is a skill, like training your fingers to do three-against-four on Chopin’s Fantasy Impromptu in C# minor. Or figuring out how to sing with vibrato as a child, then spending the rest of your life trying to forget.

Craning at the most numerous Seven Sisters in captivity, I lose my balance and grab the front of the carpet to avoid Revelation’s fall from Heaven to Earth.

M45, the Pleiades Cluster (92mm 5DII)

“My ship believes she’s twelve thousand years old,” Vedanshi says. “Her name is The Ganga.” Vedanshi looks at the rug and seems to talk to it. “Anyone can speculate about axial precession.”

Maxwell touches the mirror’s edges only, holding them with thumb and finger. He seems dissociative the way he’s checked out.

“So you’re from Earth?” I ask Vedanshi.

“Of course.”

“Well, you never know. You crashed the party in a UFO.”

“Yes,” she says, but shakes her head, no. “I’ve seen UFO’s on your internet but I don’t know if they’re real. We didn’t have them in my day, and I was never old enough for the talk.” She taps her knees to put quotation marks around, “the talk.”

“What’s ‘the talk’?”

Her brow furrows at Maxwell spinning her mirror, but she lets it go. “In my day, when you turned 18 you got ‘the talk’ from your parents. It was about free will – or so they said. But I could tell there was more. When I was in pyramid triage for the river – a test to identify pilots – I made friends with a girl whose big sister got ‘the talk’ and then started whispering to shooting stars. She wasn’t loopy before that, supposedly.”

Below us to the south, bright sheets of white flash over Mexico and red sprites blink over the clouds.

116914main_burning_tree_lg(1)

“What would make anyone whisper to a meteor?” I ask.

“Aliens?” Vedanshi shrugs. “We heard strange voices in the river before the asteroids hit. I still wonder if they were real – you know – literal words that The Ganga somehow couldn’t interpret. It’s doubtful. Her linguistics are advanced. But why would anyone subvocalize nonsense in the river?”

 Glossolalia, I don’t know. I look at Maxwell. “This is no ordinary UFO!”

No response.

Vedanshi nods solemnly. “The Ganga taught me English – which didn’t exist for us four months ago.”

Maxwell is mouth breathing. That’s the last straw. I lean over and kiss the side of his face. It’s salty. “Buck up, soldier. You’re making me worry.”

“Sorry,” he says and shakes the cobwebs.

That was the first time I’ve kissed a guy. True, I was raped once, but no kissing. I was eleven.

“You’re from Earth,” I remind Vedanshi. “So where did you get this thinking machine?”

“They did it on purpose,” she says, then draws an expansive breath. “I should back up. The very oldest ships had accidents. Their non-locality buffers got out of sync with the gravity lifts sometimes. So for an instant you had movement during the nonlocal swap.”

I nod.

Maxwell leans back on his hands. “You lost me.”

“Anything using quantum non-locality has to be nailed down,” she says. “So it’s motionless to the buffers. But the primitive ships shifted structurally – at nearly the speed of light if it happened with the horizons burning.” She searches Maxwell’s face. “Nonlocal point swapping horizons?”

He squints. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“High subluminal velocities turn nanoseconds into thousands of years,” she explains.

“It’s special relativity’s version of stasis,” I tell him. “Slows your clock.”

Maxwell smirks.

“You’re never heard from again,” Vedanshi says. “Unless you’re lucky enough to wind up in this post-cataclysmic dystopia.” She looks down at the Earth with a half-smile. “The old woman came from the first part of my era, I think. I finally saw her vehicle. It’s phallic, which is retro. And it has to be early because every thought gets out.”

“Every thought? What do you mean?” I ask.

“The river?” Vedanshi asks me back.

Maxwell and I shake our heads. I hate to admit when I’m lost.

“The fundamental unit of reality is consciousness,” she says, “not matter, energy or space. They’re derivative. Pilots use the river of consciousness to communicate with ships and other pilots. I don’t know why we call it a river, it’s more like a sea, or the pixels of an infinite hologram.”

“Now that I can understand,” I tell her.

“In the earliest vessels privacy filters didn’t exist. The old woman’s ship must be dangerously ancient because I hear every word she thinks. I’ve even seen a few cortical images from her occipital lobes.”

I feel my heart racing. This is the mother lode everyone dreams of. I wish I had longer to live.

“A few months ago,” Vedanshi says, “I heard the woman thinking about a young geneticist who manipulates terabytes of base-pair language in her head with no implants. Totally impossible. My mother’s best women with cortical enhancements couldn’t hold a ten-thousandth of that in working memory, let alone juggle it. So I had to meet you, Johanna. Because, as you say, you never know.” She puts her hands together yoga style and bows her head like Ojiichan did in his Temple. “This morning I heard the woman threatening to kidnap your brother. Then you went off to drown yourself. I sort of panicked trying to find you.”

“So… you can hear phone calls?” Maxwell asks.

“The woman was inside her ship,” Vedanshi says.

“Yeah, she was in her ship, Max. Keep up.” I scowl warmly.

He gives me a hint of a grin.

“You have to master the river of consciousness before you pilot,” Vedanshi says. “Pilots are born with an extra gyrus on their parietal lobes, but the phenotype is no guarantee you’ll make it.”

Einstein had a parietal lobe anomaly. Suddenly I want an MRI.

“You said 2015 is a post-cataclysmic dystopia,” Maxwell says.

Vedanshi nods. “We’re probably six to twelve thousand years into it. There are four in recorded history.” She pats the rug beside her.

“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” I hear myself saying, and the verses open in my mind.

“Your unique feature is the loss of ancient records,” Vedanshi says. “From what I’ve read, your scholars get things backwards. The Grand Canyon took millions of years and the pyramids took twenty. I don’t see how anyone with eyes could believe that.”

“What ended your era, a comet? A flood?”

“A series of asteroids,” Vedanshi says. “The small stragglers landed near Madagascar and left beautiful deposits.”

The Earth rotates beneath us. Africa comes around with Madagascar to the east.

“This is the best one,” she says, pointing down. “See the feathers? It’s like a bird’s wing.”

MadChevrons 2

I’ve seen these before. To me it’s like someone dumped soapy water in the dirt. This one’s several miles long.

“Geologists say these were made by the wind,” I tell her.

“Not true.”

“What, then?”

“This is a piece of the Earth that broke free when one of the smaller asteroids hit. I saw it happen. It flew through the air at thousands of miles an hour. It came from the seabed over there.” She points east to a spot in the Indian Ocean where I’ve read there’s a crater. “This piece flew out at a low angle, glowing like lava with a tail of smoke and steam. The trees exploded when it hit. It was fluid, colloidal, and flowed into this nice winglike shape. A small tsunami crept up a bit later but couldn’t wash it away. Unlike the previous day’s waves that razed everything.”

“The asteroids didn’t hit in one day?” I ask.

“No. The big ones came on the first day. A few smaller ones hit that night, and the tiny one that did this artwork touched down at sunrise. It might have been the last one, but…”

“So… Wait now. Are you saying the bigger asteroids made tsunamis that washed away their own impact deposits?”

“Yes, on day one. But I don’t think you’d call them tsunamis. They weren’t like Japan’s waves on the internet.”

“What was different?”

“They were huge. They moved like life forms – boiling over the continents without slowing down. Each one would start as part of an impact explosion and spread out in a circle with the circumference increasing until it matched the circumference of the Earth. Then it moved on around and the circumference shrank, keeping its power about the same until it narrowed down to a point and crashed into itself on the opposite side of the Earth. There was lightning and the loudest thunder. Water and debris shot up miles into the air. The big ones smoothed out everything in their paths, including their own ejection deposits. Later when things settled down and the small asteroids began to land, their water action looked more like Japan’s tsunamis. They were too weak to clear their deposits for the most part.” She looks down at the ground. “But if you really look, you can see shadows where some of them were washed away, too. Over there.” She points inland. “It’s like a stain.”

The Ganga moves closer.

chevron tilt

I kind of see what she’s talking about in the distance. But the wing chevron is impressive down here.

“Max, I’ve read that it’s six hundred feet thick at the edges.” I point to the wingtip.

“Looks pretty flat.” He tilts his head to look down my arm, and I point again. His buzz cut brushes my temple. His collar is wet.

“Take off that shirt and put your coat on,” I tell him.

He grunts.

The Ganga moves lower, as if to show us the height of the wingtips. Maxwell whistles when we come down over the lip and really see one of these things edge-on.

Ancient Mysteries

He’s twenty-five. When we first met a few months ago he introduced himself as an aging surfer. So he’s probably not cold at all in his wet clothes. The bum.

I jab at him with an elbow.

He ignores it.

A cell phone starts a weak rendition of “Surfer Girl” and Maxwell digs it out of his coat, sees the number, then hands it to me. “It’s James,” he says.

I put it on speaker by habit. “James, are you alright?”

“That guy I rammed was a cop. I don’t know where they’re planning to take me, but he’s filling out a bunch of paperwork and sounds extremely pissed off. He’s got handcuffs. I hate those things.”

“Where are you?”

“He’s taking… He took my phone.” The connection goes dead.

I look at Vedanshi. “A cop in a Prius? I doubt it.”

She takes Maxwell’s phone, places it on the rug in front of her. The Earth drops like a lead ball from a bomb bay. We streak through white haze and across a blur of blue ocean. A glimpse of land flashes by and our impossible speed turns to a dead stop without making us even bob our heads. We’re fifteen feet off the ground in front of a police station in Honolulu.

James stumbles out with his hands cuffed back and the Haole pseudo-cop shoving him. The man kicks James’ legs and knocks him off the curve to the ground.

“Let me out,” I tell Vedanshi. “I’m going to hurt that man.” I feel the cold DNA of my ancestor, Shinmen Musashi-no-Kami Fujiwara no Genshin, the greatest and by far the deadliest samurai who ever walked the Earth.

I was eleven when I strangled a male adolescent chimpanzee with my bare hands. It’s the same feeling now.

M. Talmage Moorehead

Yo…

If you want, please read this story from page one (beginning with Johanna’s unorthodox prologue). It starts here.

If you like my fiction and want to be notified when each of my novels is done (possibly before the next ice age) please join my list here. (No spam or sharing of your info – ever.) Although you can download my free e-book (on writing fiction) by joining my list, I’d prefer you joined the list only if you like my fiction. My e-book’s fairly decent, I guess, but my reasoning is, I’m trying to do what the “How To Conquer the World as an Indie Writer” type books tell us, and gather email addresses from people who specifically like my fiction (as opposed to people who only like my non-fiction). I want to be a fiction writer when I grow up. Writing non-fiction is fun, but writing fiction goes far beyond fun for me. So thanks for taking that into consideration.

Ka-Pwing!

By the way, if you like my stuff, please tell a friend or two about it. Maybe in an email, a post or on Facebook or Twitter? Thanks, I appreciate your kind and generous help a lot! :)

Talmage


Buoyancy (Chapter 3) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

I’m standing on the spine of the South Jetty as the tide goes out. I’m far enough from the shore that I won’t be able to swim in if I have second thoughts about suicide.

To the west the ocean horizon is cloudless but vague in the pre-dawn twilight. To the south the beach stretches on forever and the inland hills merge with a blue-gray hydrocarbon haze. The waves below are immature things that belch up abruptly from the black depths and spit white foam across the dark volcanic boulders that form the steep sides of the jetty.

I keep starting to write in my buoyancy journal. In my head, of course. Everything’s there. Every word I’ve ever read or written, the reams of base-pair sequences from work, and every detail of every day I’ve breathed air since I was 23 months old.

When things get me down I make a list of the reasons why they shouldn’t.

First off, I shouldn’t feel bad about what I’m doing here because I’m defending James. That’s honorable. Second, I won’t be lying in a hospital bed with tubes in my veins and everyone feeling guilty for not dropping everything and sitting bored stiff with me until I die.

My buoyancy lists are never long, but they’re powerful against depression. I read them slowly, one word at a time, over and over until my subconscious mind, the big math wizard who hardly speaks English, understands. And I feel better. It’s like magic. I want you to try it.

I’m going to leave my boots on, I guess. But I really love these things. They’re size five, extra wide. Hard to find. I better take them off so someone else can use them.

I almost forgot, Ojiichan’s chopsticks are still in my hair. They’re antiques, engraved with the Japanese character for poison – I don’t know why. I pull them out of my hair, take off my boots and then lay the chopsticks sideways across the toes. I hope no one steps on them.

It’s fifteen feet down to the busy water – surging and receding. I’m not afraid of heights, but I’ve always been chicken about jumping off high-dives. It’s the falling. I hate that feeling. Plus I’m a terrible swimmer. My body is too dense. I’m not all that skinny, so it really doesn’t make sense.

OK, just go. Jump in.

My knees are bent. This is it.

I’m holding my breath… Not sure why I’d be doing that. It’s kind of the opposite of why I’m here.

Now I’m over-thinking.

A truck’s coming on Jetty Road. I should do this before it gets here.

Come on, Johanna. Now!

It’s not a truck, it’s a Hummer. No, it can’t be Maxwell.

I told James about him last week. A guy I met at work. A child psychologist who deals exclusively with depressed kids. Once or twice a month Maxwell shows up at work as early as I do and corners me for small talk.

I suck at small talk.

“How ’bout those Seahawks!”

Forget it.

How ’bout Max Planck? Energy only comes in small digital packets: Planck’s constant. If that’s not weird to you – if that doesn’t turn your world upside-down, I’m afraid we’re different.

Earth: Eggheads and Jocks.

Maxwell’s both. So is James in his own way. I’m just an egghead. Though I do push weights and use the treadmill. And I can lift a tall stack of books, let me tell you.

Talmage thinks I do too much telling and not enough showing. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

The sky is neuromancer-gray now, light enough to show the color of the Hummer which is Army Green. That means it is him. It’s fricking Maxwell Mason. Doing a hundred miles an hour on that tiny road. His life’s probably in more danger than mine at the moment.

Slow down, Max!

It’s a pretty straight road. No traffic at all since that Harley. Max should be fine.

No, I don’t believe that either.

He’s slowing down a little. This is good. Now he’s skidding through the parking lot. This is bad. Dust everywhere. His front tires bunny hop a log and finally he stops.

Man, this is going to be embarrassing if I don’t even have the nerve to jump. People are going to say I was trying to get attention. I hate it when people say that about girls who try to kill themselves and fail.

Nobody’s going to say that about me.

I jump.

I take a breath on the way down and feel like a hypocrite for it.

For a split second it’s good to hit the water because it stops that lost-viscera feeling of falling. But under the water the world is black and colder than anything I’ve ever felt.

My arms and legs are kicking on their own. I try to stop them but they won’t stop. I try to make myself breath water but my head is pounding with the cold. It’s like a cluster headache or a good poke in the skull with a screwdriver. I can’t think of much else.

My head breaks the surface. The jetty rocks are three feet away and covered with white barnacles and brown mussels that look like dead incisors. I move away from them, not wanting to be a shredded mess at my funeral.

My arms are weakening from the cold. I finally make them stop paddling, and then force my legs to stop flailing.

I sink.

I blow all my air out and prepare to inhale. The salt water will flow into my lungs. Osmosis will do terrible things to my red cells. My coughing and gag reflexes will be overwhelmed.

I want to breathe. The desire is growing with every heartbeat. It’s just that I don’t want to breathe water.

Yes, breathe water.

Something grabs my arm and pulls. I’m on my back looking up at the sky with an arm across my chest. It’s a thick arm with Maxwell’s watch on the wrist. I gasp for air and it fills my lungs with the greatest joy I’ve ever known.

There’s a surface beneath us. It rises and lifts us out of the water. I’m on hands and knees looking over the edge of a round, silent thing that’s exactly the color of the sky and the texture of the stingray I touched at Maui Ocean Center on my ninth birthday. A circular opening appears beside me and a female voice with the vaguest Indian accent says, “Come inside quickly, both of you. I’ve never been so worried in my life.” A human hand reaches out and touches the skin on my left forearm and rubs it briskly. “You must be freezing. Let’s get you warmed up.” I lean over the edge of the opening and look down to see her face. I’m startled. It’s Mahani Teave, the renowned concert pianist of Easter Island.

Mahani Teave

 

My first thought, stupid as this sounds, is to ask for her autograph. I own all Mahani’s CD’s. She’s amazing. I’m a pianist myself.

The pictures on her CD’s flash by and I make comparisons. This girl’s freckles are in the wrong places.

“Who are you?” I ask and start coughing so loud and hard I can’t hear her answer.

 

M. Talmage Moorehead

Yo…

If you want, please read this story from page one (beginning with Johanna’s unorthodox prologue). It starts here.

If you like my fiction and want to be notified when each of my novels is done (possibly before the next ice age) please join my list here. (No spam or sharing of your info – ever.) Although you can download my free e-book (on writing fiction) by joining my list, I’d prefer you joined the list only if you like my fiction. My e-book’s fairly decent, I guess, but my reasoning is, I’m trying to do what the “How To Conquer the World as an Indie Writer” type books tell us, and gather email addresses from people who specifically like my fiction (as opposed to people who only like my non-fiction). I want to be a fiction writer when I grow up. Writing non-fiction is fun, but writing fiction goes far beyond fun for me. So thanks for taking that into consideration.

Ka-Pwing!

By the way, if you like my stuff, please tell a friend or two about it. Maybe in an email, a post or on Facebook or Twitter? Thanks, I appreciate your kind and generous help a lot! :)

Talmage


Brittle Beliefs (Chapter 2) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

IMG_1226

I’m in the Prius heading for the South Jetty to drown myself.  And calling James.

He answers, “Yeah.”

I clear my voice and try to wake up a few extra neurons with a neurofeedback technique I learned in a lab at Yale. “You need to get in your car and drive to the police station as fast as you can. Someone’s trying to kidnap you.”

“For real?”

“Yes. Go! Right now, while we’re talking.”

“I got to find my keys.”

“Check the floor by the foot of your bed.”

“They won’t be there.”

“Just do it. Hurry.” My peripheral vision is weird now. The trees and signs swish by on the sides of the road and hold my awareness as if they were in the center. It’s odd. They’re in the center of attention as much as anything I’m looking at directly.

“They’re here,” James says. “How do you do that?”

“Luck,” I tell him. “Go out the front door and get in your car. Run!”

I hear his feet on the old wooden floor of Grandfather’s house. We actually called our grandfather, “Ojiichan,” not Grandfather, but it means the same thing. I hear the car door shut. The engine starts.

“Yo,” my brother says. “You still there?”

“Drive straight to the police station. You know the way, don’t you?”

“Take a wild guess.”

“Busted for drinking beer at Starbucks in broad daylight. Yeah, I’m not saying you’re a moron, but now that you mention it… God, I love you, James.”

“Ditto, but don’t get mushy, nobody’s nabbed me yet. I didn’t think they kidnapped teenagers.”

“Keep an eye on the road behind you. Somebody could be following.” I slow down for a pair of crows in the road, pass them and watch them fly away in the rear view mirror. They must have amazing immune systems to eat road kill and not croak.

“Nothing’s back there now,” James says.

“The kidnappers are probably from the Frameshift Corporation. They’re trying to recruit me.”

“Like into the Army?”

“Same idea.” Should I tell him? No. Not while he’s driving. “You shouldn’t drive and talk on a cellphone, you know.”

“Shut up,” he says, “you do the same thing. All the time.”

“I got a hands-free setup. That’s legal. I’m driving right now, in fact. Heading for the South Jetty.” A motorcycle’s coming toward me in the other lane. It passes and I feel the infrasound of an old Harley with a thick back tire and chrome everywhere. I was hoping to try to ride one of those before I died. I wonder if I would be big enough to reach the handlebars.

“Some of us drive Ojiichan’s old Ford, you know. What’s the South Jetty?”

I shouldn’t have brought it up. “Does that thing still smell like the beach?”

“I don’t smell nothing. What’s the South Jetty?”

“Are you taking showers every day?”

“Not really.”

“That’s why you can’t smell the Ford. You smell just like it. Your olfactory buds are habituated to the secretions of a certain staphylococcal bacteria.”

“Watch your language. You get one local boy. What’s da kine Jetty, already?”

He’s just being funny. I’ve got him weaned off Hawaiian Pidgin English. I hope.

“Take a shower every day,” I tell him for the tenth time.

“It’s a waste of time. What’s the…?”

“It’s a long rock wall that juts out into the water between the ocean and the place where the Columbia River dumps in. On the south side. When are you moving in with the Hadano’s? That was supposed to go down three months ago.”

“I don’t know, pretty soon. I told the social worker I’m living there now. I think she talked to them and they told her, yeah, I’ve officially moved in.”

“The Hadano’s are good people. Don’t make them lie… So how close are you to the police station now?”

“Almost there. I’m looking for a place to park… Holy Jesus, I think I got a tail. Like you said.”

“What?”

“There’s this Haole guy in a rental car following me. I think. I’ll find out.”

“What type of car is it?”

“Yeah, he’s tailing me for reals. I just turned into an alley and he’s turning in behind me. It looks like that thing you drive. At least from the pictures you posted.”

“Good. When you get out of the alley, turn right, go about 20 feet and stop. Put it in reverse. You’re going to ram him the second you see him. Aim for his right front tire. You want to mess it up good so it won’t turn anymore when he moves the steering wheel. Then drive away from him as quick as you can.”

“Won’t that screw up my car?”

“No. Ojiichan’s car is a tank compared to a Prius.”

“OK, I’ve got it in reverse. Here goes.”

There’s a crunch.

“I did it. The Ford still runs, no problem. I’m driving away from the dude, no prob.”

“Good man. When you get to the cop station, don’t park, just drive right up to the front, jump out, leave the car in the street and run inside as fast as you can.”

“Do they let you park out front? I don’t want to get a ticket.”

“Use you head! Kidnappers are killers. Do exactly what I tell you for God’s sake!”

“OK. I was just asking.”

There’s quiet on the line now.

Any expression of anger was a sin in our family. It didn’t matter if you were saving someone’s life or destroying the world, anger meant you were evil. Things would get quiet. “Where are you? Talk to me.”

“I’m in front of the cop building. In the middle of the road. Now I’m leaving the car here, like you said.”

The car door slams. The sound brings memories of Ojiichan. He was the first Buddhist Priest on Oahu. After he died I took his alter back to Okinawa and learned that he was famous among the Buddhists there. They called him, “One of The Five.” I don’t speak Japanese and my translator didn’t speak much English, so I wasn’t able to figure out who “The Five” were.

“I’m at the front doors now,” James says. “OK, I’m in.”

“Find a cop. Fast.”

“There’s a lady here, but she don’t look like a cop.”

“Give her the phone.”

“OK.”

I hear him saying something about his sister. The woman says she’s busy and tells him to take a seat. I’m ready to reach through the phone and strangle her.

“She’s too busy,” James says.

“Tell her somebody’s trying to kidnap you.”

He tells her and she gets on the line. “This young man tells me he’s the victim of a kidnapping attempt and you’re his older sister. Is this information correct?”

“Yes.”

I give her my name and the highlights of the morning, trying not to sound like the teenager I still am.

“I see,” she says.

“I need you to protect him,” I say. “Will you do that?”

“Yes, of course. Do you believe the threat is substantial?”

“I know it is. It’s coming from the Frameshift Corporation or one of its competitors.”

A squirrel darts out into the road and I swerve to miss it. I shouldn’t be doing seventy on this narrow thing.

“And how do you know this?” she asks.

“I’m a genetics researcher. The conversation I had with them made it fairly clear.”

The phone reception gets sketchy as I drive into the parking lot near the South Jetty. It’s gravel with logs outlining the perimeter and a dirt slope down to the river beach. I could drive down there and get stuck, but I’ll park and walk.

“When did this conversation take place?” the woman asks.

“About ten minutes ago. Ma’am, my phone’s dropping out. I need to talk to James before I lose this connection. Could you put him back on for a minute?”

“Certainly.”

James comes back. “Hey.”

“Listen, I’ve got leukemia.”

“What’s that?”

“Cancer of the blood. Odds are, it’s going to kill me soon. But here’s what you need to understand. The kidnappers are actually after me, not so much you. They only want you so they can force me to work for them. But I’m not going to do that. I figure I haven’t got long to live anyway, so… if I kill myself, I won’t have to work for those evil people. I can’t stand what they’re doing to the world. I don’t want any part of it. But James, I’m not killing myself to keep them from kidnapping you. None of this is about you. Remember that. If we’re lucky, they’ll leave you alone after I’m gone. You won’t be valuable to them when I’m in heaven.”

“You’re not going to kill yourself really. You can’t do that.”

“I’m dying soon, one way or the other.”

“Don’t they have drugs for this thing?”

“Not for M5b. Not really. The five-year stats are dismal. The chemo makes you sick as a goose. Your hair falls out. I’m not doing it.”

“But you got to try.”

“No. You’ve got to try. Try not to get depressed after I’m gone. Try to find something to believe in so you’ll be a decent influence on the world when you’re famous. All this stuff about no God, no good and no evil. Forget it. You’ve got to believe in something. Find something that’s not so brittle it breaks when the aliens land. Atheism and fundamentalism are brittle. They’re both going to break when the facts come out.”

“What?”

“You’ve got heavy responsibility on your shoulders. Nobody has more influence than a rock star, and that’s what you were born to be. You’re like John Lennon. You’re a genius with melody, James. You’ve always made me so proud. I’ll be listening to all your songs and watching you – probably from the moon, I think.”

“The moon? Who’s going to be the only friend I have in this world? Who’s going to make sure I don’t party too much? Who’s going to bail me out of jail? My new psychiatrist says…” The phone cuts out.

I try to call back but the battery’s dead.

I’m beyond tears. Numb.

And scared a little.

I’m just going to breathe water. It can’t be that difficult. Drowning is the least embarrassing way to kill yourself. Believe me, I’ve thought a little about this.

 

M. Talmage Moorehead

Yo…

If you want, please read this story from page one (beginning with Johanna’s unorthodox prologue). It starts here.

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