Chapter One: Pilate Pangea
What is the truth, mother earth?
Towards the year 3030, man had become one with technology and rolled back the frontiers of the possible. To capture the essence of the advancement, man had become almost a spiritual machine. Teleportation posed a serious contender for replacing conventional modes developed in the dying years of the last century. Man and machine had melded to become inseparable. Bioengineering was extending life and redefining it altogether. For all he had become and achieved, man still could not escape the madness of his existence and the stifling feeling of being trapped on a plain, earthly and spiritually, unable to escape the confines of his environment and unable to build a future that he considered liberated. The population on earth had exploded beyond measure and countries had resorted to microchiping for social control. This, in turn, had led to all sorts of inventions, uses and manipulations. For the initiate, the shackles of the intellect was stifling. For the vulgar, even the boundaries had become a construct and many were now aware of the ceiling of existence.
Although poverty had been eradicated and petty crime almost non-existent, humanity was greatly troubled by a sense of impending doom and its singular inability to physically and mentally transcend the prison of earth and engage in manned interstellar explorations. It appeared the ancient rumors of earth’s quarantine was more real than mythical. This meant that all attempts to colonize other worlds became the exclusive preserve, real, of machines. This limitation negated manned crafts to M-Class planets in favor of humanoid robots to prepare a new home that would, one day, be a cradle for a humanity’s new and extended frontier and interstellar collaboration.
In this frame of mind, the great religions and ideologies turned on themselves and embarked on a prolonged and fruitless navel-gazing in an attempt to re-interpret and re-understand their faith in light of new realities. Atheists found, in this frenzy, a justification for their abstinence and the profane found reason to be mellow. The grip of this sense of foreboding could be measured by all scales known to man and things were no longer at ease.
Man was entering a period that philosophers called Pilate Pangea or search for the truth and the religious institutions, seeing that all they ever taught and thought could no longer be sustained, sought answers to their plethora of questions by merging and melding their beliefs and philosophies, finding common grounds of doctrine and wallowing in ecclesiastical escapism. Collaboration offered temporary hope and the hubris of control meant there was enough blame to go around.
They were not alone. The scientific community all but imploded on itself. As the one institution left with any sliver of credibility, it assumed the role of guarantor of security and an instrument of the state. But it was without general consensus and point of reference. The ensuing god-complex it generated amongst those with authority meant that different views prevailed and the rights of technology to freely innovate became the new religion. With the advent of the cashless society, the path was now open for scientific cooperation on a scale hitherto unknown. This generated many benefits. It also had one disturbing result – it created a false sense of security and a re-evaluation of the standard beliefs. The collective, as humanity came to be called, started functioning as one but with dire consequences. It wallowed in a collective deception. Devoid of the institutions that arrogated to themselves custody of its moral fabric, degeneration was a foregone conclusion if forestalled by ubiquitous technology and widespread fear of the impending vacuum.
It is the nature of man to love and fear his God. It is given to the machine to understand and serve his maker. A clash is brewing.
The year is 3033 and is the beginning of the period dubbed the transita tempora. During this time, earth undergoes massive changes unprecedented and with repercussions neither articulated nor expected by design. This was a period that saw the rise of machines, the end of man and the return of man in a blaze of glory that was guaranteed by the machines and sustained by a refined and very visible symbiotic relationship between man and his creative creators.
In transita tempora, man is king. The machine is the servant king. Man is feeble by virtue of his physique in comparison but since he has always been supreme amongst the beasts of the field, his control was never in doubt…until now. Life has been prolonged by the use of bio-engineering. This meant that not only was life expectancy tremendously prolonged but also that many of the debilitating diseases that had plagued humanity had been eradicated. Much that was in existence had been genetically modified or engineered. It wasn’t just man that lived with augmented reality. The environment had also been altered, plants and animals modified and offending genes suppressed or removed altogether.
During the period in question, nothing that earth had been through before in all its history could compare with the events leading up to the period. The faithful believers had been waiting for the second coming and although much had happened as the prophesied precursors to the event, the expected messiah tarried. Rapture was postponed indefinitely. Hope was mitigated and aspirations dashed. The churches were left with no fig leaf to mask their exposure and ideology stood on its head.
None of the other major religions had seen their expected version of the rapture materialize either and the idea of nirvana was now transposed into the hands of men to bring about its coming or the movement of the people to that promised land[B1] . Since religion had failed to deliver the expectations and hopes of the people, it was now up to man to find a meaning to his existence and escape the stagnation.
Transita tempora was a period of great expectations and dashed hopes. It was also a time of dumbfounding developments. Man had advanced so much that nothing was new anymore or more correctly, newness was[B2] expected all the time and this was the new normal. There was a constant state of flux that crowned technological anarchy and tyranny.
Yet, the feeling of desperate apprehension and terrors unprecedented in history filled the air and pervaded life. The deepest concern was not about safety or crime but of helplessness in the face of the unknown, hopeless in facing the future. The underlying current of terrifying newness, of an expected event that no one could quite explain or express prevailed and undermined all attempts at normalcy.
Science and technology had dominated our way of life and great advances had been made in the way we lived, worked, played, travelled and related to one another. We had arrived at a period in our evolution when we had advanced so much that we became prisoners of our own advancement. This is because in spite of our advancement, we were desperate to escape our planet and colonize other worlds. An invisible umbra one million[B3] miles around earth meant that no craft built, occupied and powered by man could get out. All our efforts had failed miserably and with it, our confidence. Through it all, however, we had developed some astounding technology and made advances that were truly remarkable and enhanced our quality of life.
Through this maze of wonder and creativity, humanity had turned to itself to find the answers to its salvation and escape. In this highly charged introspection and navel-gazing, they had begun to sow the seeds of a new future that would take it to the brink of oblivion and beyond and to a restoration point that, forever, altered what it has always believed itself to be.
[B1]In other words, since religion had failed to deliver the hopes of the people, man had to take it upon himself to find a meaning to his existence and lead himself out the stagnation.
[B2]It became necessary to invent things constantly because the threshold for boredom was very low.
[B3]There is a pseudo-scientific diatribe that earth was quarantined by forces or powers unknown and thus, the people of earth cannot travel beyond the moon or asteroid belt. That we can send probes and machines is evident but thus far, no human, for all the scientific reasons, has traveled beyond.
Chapter Two…Enter the Brilliant Dr. Bryson
It was approaching twilight. The hot summer’s day was winding down as the sun began its downward journey to the west. The mask of dusk was beginning to show only the tentative shadows across the horizon and darkness was slowly descending over the landscape.
It had been an unusual day in many respects. The sun had been up high above. Temperatures had soared to record heights and the environmental controls had been working flat out. Yet, the wind had been uncharacteristically fierce for this time of year. It wasn’t strong enough to be called a hurricane but it certainly packed enough turbulence to upset the equilibrium of the day.
Now, as the dusk descended, all was calm and it was hard to accept that all this was happening the same day,
Dr. Brysen Horatio sat facing the window of her office as she stared at the rain forest outside. She had that distant look on her face that disarmed the curiosity of any observer and made them agape with wondering thoughts.
Dr. Horatio looked straight ahead without blinking, as if expectant. There was no discernible expression on her gaunt but intelligent face. The pipe dangled from her lips and seemed just as absent-minded. The day had cooled considerably and the chilled air in her spacious and tastefully furnished office did not allow for any perspiration. Yet, Dr. Brysen had a seemingly reluctant line of sweat on her brow and moist skin with the receding damp feel of residual excitement.
A man that looks on glass, on it may stay his eyes or, if he pleases, through it pass and then the heavens espy…’
Dr. Brysen Horatio often looked in the direction of the rain forest. There, in the captivation of her gaze and the solitude of her thoughts, she often escaped into a world as mysterious as any and from which she always emerged enlightened if, somewhat, troubled. There, through the tunnels of adventure and visions beyond the comprehension of humanity, she saw things, she heard things, she thought things.
Through the mist of the rain forest, nothing stirred…at least, nothing that had any discernible motion. Nothing that disturbed time and space as we know it. Nothing that stirred the great barrier or upset the equilibrium inherent in the continuum.
She was a woman preoccupied with her thoughts and the demons of her daydreams. A scientist so taken by the unseen images on her mind and the unspoken thoughts in her head that she sat motionless and absorbed. To the untrained eye, here was a statue regaled in her favorite seat and decorated with her pipe in this morbid expression of adorable absent-mindedness and stately abandonment. Breath was suspended and the rhythm of the dual chambers that ferried the red liquid appeared to be in stasis. Dr. Horatio appeared dead.
Except she wasn’t. She was simply frozen in time. In stasis. She was a troubled soul with a deep sense of foreboding and a fleeting grasp of the impending doom. A woman terrified of the hums of her past life and haunted by shadows emerging from the wreckage of it all. Something was about to happen. Something that had been brewing for a very long time. Something she had started and which seemed determined to claim her head, or, at the very least, use her as a conduit to a secret so terrifying that it forbids repeating. The madness of the ordeal encrypted into her silent journeys and the tyranny of the messages composed into an ever-recurring symphony of disjointed visions and hair-raising thoughts.
She held her gaze at the window, undisturbed by the low growls of Brass, her German shepherd dog. Patterns began to emerge beyond the tinted glass. They grew steadily and gradually turned into a swirl. Small, at first. They grew in size slowly, with deliberate speed, by the minute. Then, they congealed and exploded into a fiery ball. Suddenly and intensely, it also grew immeasurably in size. The spin of the ball increased as it emerged into an oversized ill-formed shape. The dusk tint of the window gave the wake of the distant swirl and the raging fireball a burnt brick twilight look.
As the speed of the ball increased, several different images began to diverge and take shape. They were not definitive but instead, appeared as a string meld until, ultimately, they merged with the whirling wind and emerged with a cone whoosh on the other side of the window. It was like a funnel with its extreme on the other side of the window and its apex riveted, like a suction cup, against it. It seemed like a gaping. A tunnel of sorts. It wasn’t very big or wide but was certainly wide enough to allow a curious person through. The shape undulated as a formless shape would. It filled with a crimson mist daring any would-be adventurer to enter. A tunnel just hanging there, whistling and bellowing with a piercing unearthly sound as if several jet engines had been connected together in series. The noise was whooshing low with piercing intensity resonating at a frequency unbearably unsettling to the human ear. But not to Dr. Brysen Dario Horatio.
Dr. Horatio was in a trance. She bolted out of her chair and with the gait and elegance of a bio-engineered body and the alacrity of a person in a trance, she moved, with remarkable and unmistakable agility towards the window. She paused at the point of contact almost as if waiting to be introduced and then, with a deliberate stride, walked through the glass wall that was her window. Once through the wall, Dr. Horatio appeared to float although she still walked. It was as though she was on a conveyor belt that carried her further and faster than her strides would suggest. Dr. Horatio was absent. Dr. Brysen Horatio was enmeshed with the ball and the swirl.
She walked, gingerly and without labor, through the narrow hallway on a path of cobblestones. Brightly lit but with no visible light sources, the hallway was enlivened with music, distant and expressionless, distinct but unknown. The thudding of her footsteps against the stones broke the eerie silence of the hallway and echoed through the distant unseen chambers. And for all the cobblestones, she only swayed with the prudery of a terrified stranger in a strange place managing the posture of one lost in wonder. Bright light. Golden light with a hint of blue. Brilliant. Breathtaking. Cleansing. Both the Dr. and the hallway were bathed in the sublime glamor of an unwitnessed pageant. The swirling undulating dance of crimson colors casting strange tall shadows across the walls and into the distance. No one stirred. No one else was around. Just the gliding silhouette of Dr. Horatio and the seemingly eternal but humming silence of the unseen eyes.
At last, the hallway abruptly ended without fanfare like a reluctant conveyor belt. Dr. Horatio half expected to see a turn either left or right. She also half expected an entrance at the end of the hallway. But, nothing – just the huge wall with no door. It led nowhere. The music hums stopped and she turned around to face where she’d just come from. The long and narrow hallway was now shorter and wider. The brilliant lights lingered. It appeared she had simply moved from one end of a wall to the other. The silence was deafening. Unsettling. Nothing stirred. Nothing moved for what seemed like an eternity.
The energy was intense, consuming and overwhelming. The atmosphere was electric and pulsated with the dizzying sacred essence of life. But no one appeared to be around except the unmistakable presence of life that enveloped everywhere.
An aperture began to open up to her right breaking the tension of the silence. She saw it through her peripheral vision and slowly turned around with an inquisitive but deliberate gaze. Music returned. This time, starting softly, then dramatic, bold, almost deafening and in quick tempo. It was an adagio for strings and oboe arranged in E flat minor. It was mournful, haunting and seductive. It started like a gentle waterfall and traversed a landscape of expectant arid desert, meandering through the wetlands of abundance, passed through the needle of misery and pain and finally, emerged through the turbulence and majesty of a waterfall. The crescendo was incredible and seemed to hold time at a standstill. Dr. Horatio spun on her heels, slowly and girlishly, letting both her hair and her robe swirl around her as she undulated to the music. Apparently, totally oblivious, for a few moments, of her environment.
The aperture grew larger, vertically, until it became a door. A large two leafed door, in fact, the size of the entrance to a public building. Ornate, rich and decorated in classical gold and crimson colors with a scarlet robe draped across atop it. Crimson against a backdrop of radiating brilliant white light!
Somewhat intimidated, Dr. Horatio shrunk back at the sight, jolting back to a construct reality. The robe parted with a sound precision as in the closing of elevator doors.
Beckoned or rather, prompted into the room, the images were a haze to her. Dr. Horatio floated in slowly but with such energy that she felt young again. The place, whatever it was, was energizing.
The room was draped in brilliant lights the color of dazzling blueish gold. The rich tapestry of the room appeared to come alive with each step she took further in. It was oval-shaped that showed no exit doors or furniture. The same light source provided intensely bright illumination but the source was very absent.
Three unearthly beings appeared from three different directions and a fourth manifested itself in the middle of the room. He was the tallest of the four and seemed to be in charge. He was dressed in the most exquisite brilliant blue robe seamlessly woven and with tassels that wound like a gorgeous serpentine. He was adorned with a headgear that sparkled with a single mid-centered diamond. He carried a walking stick which looked more like a device than a support.
The other three gathered close to him but allowed enough space for their guest to hang around and be a useful witness and observer. Although they had no facial coverings, Dr. Horatio could not make out their features nor could she make eye contact with any of them. They conversed amongst themselves in a language that was strange as any she had ever heard. Although they spoke in low tones, she heard them in her head and with such clarity she could not explain. The one in the brilliant blue robe did not speak but seemed to listen to the others, nodding in deep understanding. Human gestures, she thought. Yet, they appeared to defer to him with their gestures and body language. Their faces were not discernible and neither did they appear to move their lips. But they spoke. All too clearly and with much articulation.
Pointing to her direction, the one dressed in the brilliant blue beckoned to the other three and shifted on his seat. Dr. Horatio then realized that these beings were taller than she had imagined. By her reckoning, no less than about 25 feet tall. They appeared to be suspended between the very high ceiling that went on into infinity and the floor which seemed to be dancing in swirls – the same swirls she had seen by her office window as she gazed, absent-mindedly, into the rainforest.
She cast her eyes upwards and tilted her head all the way backward in an attempt to make out the faces of the people before her. At that point, there appeared to be an adjustment in her height and although the robed ones still towered above, she had become, mercifully, sufficiently tall not to break her neck in taking in the view. She looked down to see her feet and quickly elevated her sight. Dr. Horatio was averse to heights.
Their words were humming in her head and the strange language they spoke was clearly unknown in every way. Dr. Horatio, the linguist, amongst other skills, spoke a dozen languages including some dead ones. This one, however, completely had the better of her.
Her mind was abuzz with questions and strange imaginations. Stupefying thoughts and terror seized her. She very quickly determined that this was clearly not the mythical heaven she learned about in Sunday school or read about in religious books. That version of heaven, she had long concluded, had been contrived as a place paved with gold and a construct of an overactive imagination. Not quite sure if this place confirmed or confounded that. There was no gold to be seen here. The feeling of peace was manifest, however, and the beauty of the place was certainly beyond anything she had imagined. Yet, it wasn’t opulence or anything remotely akin to it. It was elegant in its simplicity and pure in its refinement.
It wasn’t hell either. There were no demons and the lakes of fire were nowhere to be found. She had been borne on the wings of a fiery ball and a snaking hissing whirlwind. But this was no hell – well, not one she could articulate based on her previous dogmatic teachings anyway.
Yet, something about this place was both unsettling and enveloping. A feeling of laid-back urgency and unhurried speed pervaded the place.
She felt no great need to fear or run as far and as fast as she could. But then again, she did not feel she belonged here or that she should stay. As far as she could see, she had overstayed her welcome and had intruded on what seemed a very private and confidential meeting. Yet, somehow, this scene appeared to have been created for her benefit. She was not only invited, she was summoned. She was brought here even though she couldn’t tell how or by whom.
She started to tiptoe backward hoping to reach the doors through which she had advanced. The room seemed to anticipate her movement and shifted in size and direction as she walked. Unable and unwilling to turn her back on the august audience or take her eyes from them, she continued her backward steps, extending her hands behind her in hopes of breaking her fall as she hoped to bump into something or someone. The robed ones continued to converse, occasionally pointing in her direction but otherwise, totally ignoring her. She could still hear the low deliberate tone of their voices in full conversation in her head.
Suddenly, she heard her name. Dario! The voice was gentle yet powerful and clear. It was beautiful. It was terrifying. It was like the sound of the piercing swirl she heard earlier in her office, only, more beautiful and purer.
At first, she thought it was her mother’s voice. The voice had called out her middle name and in her mother’s voice. No one ever called her by that name except her mother. It was tender and gracious as her mother always was whenever she had reason to address her in that name.
Dr. Horatio, jolted by the force of that voice and the terrifying gentleness of its tone, stopped dead in her tracks. Unable to contain the ensuing stupor of thoughts, she lost her balance before she had time to adjust her now considerable height.
The voices, though briefly interrupted by the call of her name, never stopped. She realized the need for the exercise of some self-discipline in order to understand any message being conveyed through the voices. Strange, she thought. Here, she was in this strange place. Yet, she had her faculties intact.
She stopped wriggling. Lying in the heap of her fall, she struggled to stretch out, prostrate, face down and arms and feet outstretched. Without being quite aware of it, she was making obeisance. Burying her face in the now soft and comfortable floor, she began to identify the language. It was not one she was familiar with nor was she aware it was spoken anywhere on earth. But she began to understand what was being discussed amongst the robed ones. It was about her. It was about the future. It was a shot at personal redemption but it was confusing.
Then, Dr. Horatio felt a light touch on her elbow. It was firm and warm. It was a gentle touch as if to lead and shield her. It was someone but she never saw the face nor, indeed, a person. She was being awakened from her stupor and lifted to her feet. The one in the brilliant blue robe pointed her to a door that had now appeared and motioned to her to follow it. Dr. Horatio moved with considered deferential agility towards the door. It swung gently open without a sound and just as slowly shut as she stepped outside of it with a lingering scarred look back at where she just came from. She thought she detected the ripples of a faint smile on his face but….he was gone. They were all gone as if they were never there. The room changed in size and, in fact, was no longer there. The door closed firmly and then, disappeared. No time for silence.
Then, the swirling started again as she walked down the narrow path of cobblestone through the hallway along which she had come.
Caught in a whirlwind of considerable intensity, she rode a funnel finely balanced on a cone of the tempest into an expanse bright green light with such intense brilliance that nothing existed within it.
For all the ferocity of the swirl, there was silence except for a piercing swooshing shrill of high-velocity wind trapped in a narrow orifice. It shrilled at a pitch much higher than any human ear can hear or bear and a pierce that shattered veins and split arteries on the human body.