Tag Archives: Yani

The Storyline for Out of Time

Yesterday and today I started mapping out the storyline for Out of Time. I’m not saying it’s written in stone or that I won’t insert more points in between some of the points I’ve plotted on the storyline so far. Although there are a few points I’m keeping to myself to spring on you down the road a ways, I’ve generally tried to be transparent in my writing process so that you can see for yourselves how a story is constructed.

If you want, you may offer me your comments and suggestions while it’s still malleable.

So without further ado, here is the

Storyline

Part 1: All Quiet on the Sapien Front

  1. Cadmus is flying an old fashioned solar sail ship from his native moon’s orbit to Draco.763.3a, the only habitable moon orbiting Draco.753.3. Cadmus’ co-pilot was his trusty dagu, “Lonesome”. Lonesome couldn’t really pilot the ship. He wasn’t really able to do much of anything besides pant with his tongue hanging out of his mouth and generally look friendly.
  2. Cadmus shuttles down to the surface of 3a with Lonesome.
  3. Cadmus and Lonesome explore the open fields and forest in the vicinity of his shuttle.
  4. Cadmus and Lonesome meet Yani in the forest. Yani is a Rat (Rational). She invites them to her cave overlooking a lush verdant valley.
  5. Yani introduces Cadmus to Lem, her husband.
  6. Although Cadmus is a Sapien, he knows nothing about the Rats on this moon or the history of the Saps (Sapiens) on Draco.763.3b, the dark-as-cinder moon he passed before approaching 3a. Lem and Yani answer Cadmus’ questions about the Rats and the local Saps.
  7. Cadmus is skeptical but curious about the special capabilities of the Rats, but the more time he spends around them, the less skeptical he becomes. Lem and Yani also are curious about Cadmus.
  8. Cadmus prepares to return to his home moon, Draco.763.4g with Lonesome. Lem gives Cadmus an STU (Secure Telecommunication Unit) in case they want to talk to each other. The STU contains a small QEB (Q-bit Entanglement Box) inside it to provide an instantaneous channel between them. Cadmus fires up the shuttle and they roar through the clouds to dock with his sail ship.
  9. Cadmus and Lonesome return home. The voyage between 3a and 4g was about 270 days each way. All in all, he had been gone almost 600 days.
  10. Cadmus and Lonesome putter around his house and go about their daily routines.
  11. One day Cadmus receives a call on the STU from Lem who says they must talk. Cadmus offers to come to Lem but Lem says no, it’ll take 9 months. Lem will come to Cadmus instead.
  12. Lem appears on 4g as soon as Cadmus hangs up his STU.

Part 2: The Rat Warning

  1. Lem explains to Cadmus that the Rats have “observers” (robotic perceivers connected with trailing Q-bit Entanglement Boxes) throughout the universe. The observers allow the Rats to observe the universe in each of the eleven dimensions all the way to each event horizon.
  2. Lem says that they are observing major multi-hyper-cubes near the horizon disappearing. They were there and suddenly they were not anymore. The size of each multi-hyper-cubic section was roughly the size of a galaxy containing a hundred billion stars. These cubes have been disappearing at an alarming rate.
  3. Cadmus asks Lem why he should be concerned. After all, the universe was awfully big. Wouldn’t it take a long time for their galaxy (Draco) to disappear?
  4. Lem explains that although these disappearances were occurring in the far future, major sections of our future were also disappearing at an alarming rate. We may run out of future before we run out of space.
  5. Lem tells Cadmus that some of the Rats think that the hyper-cubic disappearances are naturally occurring phenomena, that there is something fundamentally wrong with our universe, while other Rats think that the disappearances might be caused by an alien civilization possessing an advanced technology that they’ve weaponized. If the second conjecture proves to be correct, we may be up against a force far greater even than us. Let’s call them Future Rationals (Frats) for the sake of discussion. These Frats might very well come from the center of our universe where the Big Bang occurred.
  6. Lem returns home to 3a.

Part 3: Frats Out of Time

  1. Lem calls Cadmus on the STU and tells him the second conjecture was proven correct. The Rat observers had tracked the hyper-cubic disappearances. At first they had seemed to occur in random locations. After extensive mathematical analysis, the Rats determined that the sequence of locations was pseudo-random. There was no doubt among the Rationals that the sequence of locations of disappearances could only be driven by an intelligent algorithm. The Rats were in the process of determining that algorithm.
  2. The Rats might be able to predict where the disappearances will occur and how long they had before Draco disappears or they run out of time, but they had serious doubts about their ability to stop the inexorable Frat onslaught on Draco.
  3. Unless, Lem says, they can attack the Frats where they live at the center of the universe.
  4. Cadmus asks Lem why the Frats should want to attack our universe if they themselves live at the center of it. Good question, Lem says. Maybe they are suicidal. Cadmus asks how they could be suicidal if they are so rational.
  5. Lem tells Cadmus that the Rats need his help. Why me? Cadmus asks incredulously. What could I possibly have to offer that would be of value to you? Lem answers that we need you for your questions. Rationals only have answers and they may not be the right answers for engaging the Frats. Will you come along with us? Cadmus agrees as long as Lonesome is allowed to come along too.
  6. The Rat ship picks up Cadmus from 4g and heads toward the center of the universe.
  7. When they arrive they find nothing as far as their instruments can see.
  8. They hear a voice in their minds. The voice says to them you have come a long way. Welcome home. We are what you have been calling the Frats. Put your weapons away. They are of no use against us. It is over before it starts. It always has been. But let us explain.
  9. We have no name. We are nothing, nothing but truth. But you refer to us as Frats because you must refer to something.
  10. Why are you attacking us? Why are you attacking our universe? Why are you destroying yourselves along with us? Cadmus asked the voice.
  11. And the voice answered …
  12. The Rats around Cadmus began to disappear. Lem was turning transparent. Cadmus felt his stomach and lungs beginning to disintegrate. He felt his brain was exploding. He tried to reach for the red button on the panel in front of Lem but his arm and the panel stretched out toward infinity.
  13. Lonesome lunges at the red button hitting it with his soft black nose.

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Chapter 60: The Big Five

He was five years old today. This year they were going to celebrate his birthday in the clearing of the forest so that Yggdrasil could participate too. He had such a droll sense of humor.

 

Ellen’s maternal instincts had finally kicked into play. She was only human. She had resisted the temptation to undergo the operation that Lem had performed on the boy five years ago.

The little boy walked hand in hand with her the whole way from the cave to the clearing. He wanted to make sure Ellen didn’t get lost along the hyper-dimensional paths and junctions. His head came up  just a little above Ellen’s waist.

He skipped beside her the whole way, a complicated mathematical skipping, not just the two right feet then two left feet that normal human children skipped, but Fibonacci numbers – one right, one left, three right, five left, eight right, and so forth. He would ask her to guess what series he was skipping to and when she couldn’t guess, he’d tell her the answer and then try something easier. He started skipping again and, after some time, he asked Ellen to guess. “I have absolutely no idea,” she said.

“Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor, silly,” he giggled.

“Father,” Lem said from behind them, “stop showing off. It’s making Ellen self-conscious.” Yani looked at Lem and smiled.

Now he was doing the cha-cha. Ellen figured that one out and cha cha’ed alongside him.

Finally they reached the clearing. Everyone was there — the Tin Man, Vitruvius, Thort and Evanor, Cori, Sam, and Yggdrasil. Lem unfolded a large blanket and spread it on the ground for everybody to sit on cross-legged. Yani passed out plates and cups to everyone, and placed bowls of fruit and vegetables and breads in the center. Evanor opened the basket beside her and took out the cake. It had a big five made of yellow icing on top of it.

“Oh good!” the little boy exclaimed clapping his hands together. “That’s my favorite number!”

Thort lit each of the five candles that Evanor had placed around the big five on top of the birthday cake.

Since there was no sense in making a wish, the little boy filled up his rosy cheeks with air and blew all the candles out.

A leaf flitted down from one of Yggdrasil’s upper branches, meandering through the air until it landed in front of the boy.

He looked up at the tall canopy of over-arching trees above them. A tear trickled down his cheek.

 

That night, after they had returned with Lem and Yani to the cave and the couples had gone to their respective bedrooms, Ellen and the little boy lay together in bed quietly listening to each other’s thoughts.

“Let’s just hold each other closely tonight,” Ellen whispered to him.

He said nothing but moved in closer to her and wrapped his arm around her waist, holding on to her for dear life. His ear pressed against her breast and he heard and felt her heartbeat. It soothed him until he fell asleep.

Ellen felt his head heavy against her breast and also fell asleep.

 

Time wove their dreams, but the whirlpool would not be sated until it had swallowed their worlds and their dreams.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 59: I Can Walk

Yani sat with Ellen in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking. Ellen still wasn’t sure about what was going on with “her boy” but every day she hated Lem and Yani a bit less. Now Ellen was more confused than angry. Yani had tried to explain everything to Ellen and to answer all her questions, but Yani’s answers were not answers that Ellen could relate to.

“I understand that Lem destroyed his amy – amyg,” Ellen had trouble remembering that word.

“Amygdalae,” Yani offered.

“Amygdalae,” Ellen parroted, “whatever that does, and now they have to reconnect all the nerves that were connected to the amygdalae to other nerve cells in his cerebral cortex and his cerebellum. Frankly I don’t understand all these explanations and I don’t care about them.” She continued, “What worries me is the part about logic replacing his emotions. Will he still love me?”

“Can you conceive of a universe in which he doesn’t love you?” Yani asked.

“No,” Ellen whispered. “I suppose not.”

“Neither can I,” Yani said. “Lem loves me and he doesn’t have functioning amygdalae.”

“Yes, well …” Ellen didn’t really believe that Lem’s and Yani’s love for each other could be much more than friendship or comradery.

“You couldn’t be more wrong,” Yani said, reading Ellen’s thoughts. “We have loved each other since we were children. When he saw me, I knew he was the one and he knew I was his one. We were one. He can see every one of my thoughts and desires the moment I have them. I see his thoughts and desires and they are mine. He is inside me and I am inside him always and forever.”

“I – I had no idea Yani,” Ellen looked down, aware that Yani had bared her soul to Ellen for the first time since they had met. Now Ellen envied them their love for each other.

“I know you are having difficulty conceiving of the love I’m talking about,” Yani continued, “but the more you conceive of love, the more there is.”

“Thanks Lem,” the young boy said. “I think I have the hang of it now. I can do the rest by myself.”

Lem and the boy had been working on the massive reprogramming of the boy’s white matter constantly for the better part of a week. The first task was to divert the dead-ended sensory inputs to the cerebral cortex and then the personal and social memory networks. Next they began the laborious task of diverting the motor response network, beginning with the basal ganglia and moving on to the facial musculature.

And that was just the first day.

The boy could roll over by himself in bed. If Lem propped him up against the pillow backed by the headboard of the bed, then he could eat soup and drink water, as long as someone put it in his mouth.

He wasn’t as quick as Lem. As a matter of fact, the boy’s responses were thirty percent slower than Lem’s, but the boy knew what had to be done better than Lem. After all, the boy was human and Lem was not. Besides, he feared that if he started out with Lem’s programming, Ellen would feel more alienated from him.

And he wanted to make her love him like he loved her.

Are you sure Father? There is still so much work to do. Together we could accomplish it much faster.

Yes, I’m certain. Thank you for fulfilling my wish. I never imagined it could be like this. I need to do the rest by myself. By myself, but with Ellen’s help. She needs me to be dependent on her for a while. It’s time for you to be with Yani. Go with my love and appreciation.

Father, I …

Go Lem.

Ellen asked if you were to request of me to kill you, would I? I would. Is that wrong?

I will never ask that of you.

Lem entered the kitchen and sat down at the table with Yani and Ellen. “Ellen,” Lem said softly. “He wants to see you.”

Ellen was amazed at the pace of the progress. Every day he did something he couldn’t do the day before. One day when she sat beside him on the bed, he told her to lean close to him so that he could tell her a secret. She smiled and bent over him to hear the secret and he reached up and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her down to him.

Within a month the young boy was able to prop himself up in bed and feed himself. He could also drink water by himself, only spilling a little of it on himself.

At the end of two months, he asked Ellen to help him stand up. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and sat upright. Ellen sat down beside him and slipped her arm around his back. Together they leaned forward and stood up shakily at first. After he got his knees to stop wobbling, he took a tentative step forward. He dragged his other foot forward and waited again for his knees to stop their wobbling. Ellen shadowed his steps. He took two more hesitant steps and then shook himself free of Ellen’s supporting arm. He raised his index finger towards Ellen to warn her that she must let him do this by himself now. He slid his left foot forward and then slid his right.

Lem and Yani were standing in the doorway.

He took two more steps and said “I can walk. Ellen! I can walk again. Lem! The ground is solid under my feet … and if it weren’t, then I would know it just in time! Yani! Can you see me?”

That night when they were alone in bed, their naked bodies pressed against each other, Ellen felt him inside her and she was filled with him and every cell in her body tingled.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 58: What Have You Done to Him?

The boy fell back onto the bed, his whole body twitching violently.

“What have you done to him?” Ellen shrieked. She held the boy’s head and upper torso in her naked arms, keening and rocking back and forth, “What have they done to you, my love, what have they done?”

You understand what has happened to you, don’t you?

Ellen looked from Lem to Yani and back to Lem. They stood next to the bed so calmly as though nothing had happened. All of a sudden an over-powering hatred welled up, taking over, and she leaped at Lem from the bed, pummeling him in his face with her clenched fists. “What did you do?” she screamed at them.

Yes, I understand. Bear with me … I haven’t got the hang of thinking like this … so that I hear you and you hear me.

Lem held Ellen’s wrists while she resisted, kicking wherever she could. “Why did you do this?” she pleaded. “You monsters … both of you!”

“Ellen please!” Lem held Ellen close so that she could not maneuver or kick, but he was careful not to hurt her. “He asked me to do it. I couldn’t refuse Father’s request.”

Ellen spit out her next words piercing everyone’s heart, “And if he had asked you to kill him, would you have done it?” She hung limply, suddenly exhausted in Lem’s arms.

Lem released his hold on Ellen and guided her gently to the bed. “I can fix Father up but it will take a little time. Please let us think. He can’t talk yet but he can think.

How is it that I can think but I can’t talk or move?

Thoughts don’t have any moving parts at least not any that are real. Talking and moving are another matter, literally another matter. You need to reprogram your associative memory, your white matter. You don’t have much time left to do it, so I will help you reassociate.

“How can you two stand there doing nothing when he is having a seizure like this?” Ellen asked incredulously. “Do something!”

Ellen my love, please, for my sake, trust Lem and Yani. I’ll be ok. Just this once I need to be alone with Lem so he can help me get back on my feet. I’ll be as good as new. I just need absolute quiet. I need everything around me not to move.

Ellen looked around her, from Yani to Lem and back again. Then she looked at the boy twitching in bed beside her and her eyes widened.

Yani put a robe around Ellen’s shivering shoulders. “Yes, Ellen, that was Father thinking,” Yani said softly to Ellen. “Come with me. I’ll make you some hot cocoa and we’ll sit in the kitchen. I promise to explain everything to you.”

Yani put her arm around Ellen, who was so fragile at that point that she could have shattered like glass, and guided her gently out of the bedroom to the kitchen.

 

Now where do we start?

I think we should start with stopping my epileptic seizure. I might hurt myself.

Alright. Can you feel me inside you now?

Yes.

I’m going to detach your corpus callosum temporarily so that the seizure will stop.

The boy no longer twitched. He lay still in his bed, his eyes looking at the high ceiling.

Thanks. That’s a lot better.

Your right and left brain hemispheres are going to start thinking independently of each other, because the corpus callosum is detached. Don’t be disconcerted.

Maybe I can have the two hemispheres communicate with each other like you and I are communicating.

It doesn’t work that way. Both hemispheres think they are you.

That’s stupid. Who constructed it that way?

Nobody. Let’s continue. What next?

I think we have to take all the neurons that were attached to my amygdala, detach them and reattach them to neural pathways in the neuronal axons in my cerebral cortex. That’s going to take an awfully long time, isn’t it?

Don’t worry about it Father. There is a higher dimension in which I am replicated in multiple spaces at the same time. Do you remember how I engaged the entire Sap army? Nobody else at the Refuge offered to do it, so I volunteered.

Yes, I remember. It’s like that? How will you know what to attach to what?

I’ll copy my own neural programming, more or less. You’ll start out like me but you’ll end up pretty quickly like you as your experiences change your neural patterns.

What about my feelings toward Ellen?

I won’t touch your memories or your judgment, but your emotions will be replaced by your logic.

How will love survive that?

Love has its own logic.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 57: I Can See

One morning after breakfast, the young boy joined Lem for a walk in the dappled orchards in the valley. Lem’s strides were rapid and long, and the boy had to double step and sometimes skip in order to keep up with him.

After some time they stopped at the creek meandering along their path and bent down on their knees to drink the cold refreshing water. Then they sat for a while with their backs propped against a couple of angular trees. Three warblers sang from the top branches.

Lem seemed preoccupied with his thoughts.

“Lem,” the boy broke the fragile silence.

“Yes, Father?” Lem responded.

“There’s one thing I’d really like to do before I reach the beginning of my time,” the boy spoke softly.

“What’s that Father?” Lem asked, knowing fully what his creator was going to ask.

“I’d like you to teach me how to see like you see,” the boy said.

“What do you mean?” Lem asked.

“What I mean,” the boy said, “is that I’d like to be able to see all the dimensions and structures of reality, not just the three dimensions that I can see now.”

“Why?” Lem asked.

“Would you ask a blind man why he would want to see?” the boy asked. “Because it’s there.”

“It’s not something you can learn to do,” Lem said. He knew his answer wasn’t an explanation that would satisfy his father. “It’s something you must unlearn. You don’t see because of the way you are programmed to think. You have to dismantle your beliefs, your assumptions.”

“What do you mean?” the boy asked.

“You see only three dimensions,” Lem explained, “because of your assumption that that’s all that exist in reality.”

“Can’t I just unassume that?” the boy asked.

“It’s not that easy,” Lem answered. “Every time you take another step you assume the ground underneath your feet is solid.”

“Isn’t it?” the boy asked.

“It may or it may not be,” Lem answered, “but you’d be unable to walk if you had to decide that for every step you take.”

“So how are you able to walk, and so quickly, I might add?” the boy wondered.

“My programming decides for me,” Lem answered.

The boy was quiet for a while, trying to absorb what Lem had told him.

“Does this have something to do with why I can’t read other people’s minds?” he asked.

“Yes,” Lem smiled uncharacteristically. “You assume that they think like you do.”

“What should I assume?” the boy asked.

“You shouldn’t assume that they think like you,” Lem said simply.

“How do I change my programming?” the boy asked after a few moments.

“You couldn’t do it yourself,” Lem explained. “Somebody would have to do it for you.”

“Do what?” the boy asked.

“Detach your amygdala,” Lem answered. “It’s the part of your brain’s limbic system that is responsible for the association of events with emotion. We evolved without a functioning amygdala.”

“Can I live without it?” the boy asked.

“I don’t know,” Lem answered.

 

Lem and his father rose to their feet and started walking back to the cave. When they reached the steps leading up to Lem’s row of caves, the boy asked him “Can you detach my amygdala?”

“Yes,” Lem answered.

“Will you have to cut open my head with a knife?” the boy asked.

“No,” Lem said, “nothing like that.”

“How would you do it?” he asked.

“I’d reach into your head and pinch it until it stopped functioning,” Lem said.

“Would this be one of those hyper-dimensional reaches?” he asked.

“Yes,” Lem said.

“I thought so,” the boy said.

They were almost at the entrance to the cave.

“Would I survive this operation?” the boy asked.

“I don’t know,” Lem answered.

“Do it,” the boy said decisively. “Just do it.”

Lem put his hand on the glass and they entered the cave. Yani and Ellen had just laid out lunch on the table.

 

That night Lem and Yani entered their father’s bedroom noiselessly. Ellen and the boy lay sprawled across the bed in each other’s arms, separately dreaming of each other. Lem reached across the bed through one of the upper dimensions into his father’s head and pinched his amygdala until it turned from blue to black. Lem pulled his hand out of his father’s head and listened to his breathing.

Is Father alright? Yani thought to Lem.

I think so, Lem thought back.

How do you know? she thought.

We’re still here, aren’t we? he thought.

Let’s sit with them awhile just to make sure.

Alright.

 

The next morning Ellen woke first. She propped herself up on her elbow over the young boy and kissed him gently on his lips. She was unaware of Lem and Yani sitting on the chairs beside the bed. The boy opened his eyes, slightly at first, and then he sat up wide-eyed.

 

I can see! he thought.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 56: Birthday Party

This time he decided he would celebrate his birthday with his loved ones. After all, it was his tenth birthday. He looked around the table. Almost everyone was there: Ellen, Lem and Yani, of course, but also the Tin Man, Vitruvius, Thort and Evanor, Cori, and even Sam. Only Yggdrasil was missing. The boy looked at Ellen across the table lovingly and winked at her. They would make a brave heart of it no matter what lay ahead of them. Ellen did the honors this time. She sliced the cake Yani had made and made sure everyone received a respectable wedge of it.

After the cake the boy opened up all his presents. There was a mess of wrapping paper on the floor beside his chair. Sam had given him a shiny new shot-blaster. It looked almost real. The boy turned it over and over in his hand, admiring the weight of it. He had received a present from everyone, except for Ellen. He was crestfallen. He looked across the table at Ellen and she silently mouthed the words “I will give you your gift later.” Suddenly he was happy again, so much so that he could scarcely contain himself. Everyone at the table laughed at his transparency.

 

After the party, when everyone except for Lem and Yani had left, the presents had been stowed away, and the trash had been sterilized or recycled and returned to the cabinets, Ellen and the boy went for a walk in the valley by the creek, enjoying the cool night air. The top of the boy’s head only reached Ellen’s shoulder. She still leaned against him when they walked, a single shadow, but she was careful not to topple him with her weight.

 

They undressed in the dark and slipped into bed. They lay together, wrapped in each other’s arms and legs. It felt to him like every part of their bodies was pressed together. He felt the throbbing of her breasts against his ribcage and the dampness between her legs near his groin. It thrilled him so much he thought he would burst.

 

But he was prepubescent.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 52: Birthday Party

It was Ellen’s fortieth birthday party. Yani made a three-layer chocolate cake with a happy face composed of slices of juicy prange on top. Lem composed his own face to look just like the prange face. At the head of the table sat a gangly thin teenage boy with the faintest shadow of a mustache over his sensitive mouth.

“Father, please do the honors,” Yani passed the knife to the boy so that he could slice the cake for everyone.

The boy sliced a piece of cake for Ellen and handed it to her. After all, she was the party girl. Then he sliced a piece for Lem and Yani. Finally, he cut a piece for himself. It was the largest piece of all, and everyone at the table laughed at that.

At forty Ellen had a few strands of white and grey in her thick black hair, and two or three almost imperceptible laugh lines at the corners of her eyes, but she was still a beauty. There was no question about that in anybody’s mind.

The boy and Ellen were the same height. He was much thinner, of course, but her body was still attractively packaged.

The boy had decided about four years ago that nobody should celebrate his birthdays. He just didn’t feel like celebrating them. Birthdays signified another step towards non-existence. It didn’t really matter whether you were going forwards or backwards in time. Maybe the reason Ellen chose to celebrate her birthdays and the boy didn’t was that he knew how much time he had left and she didn’t.

He hoped she’d live forever, somehow independent of his mind, until he thought about it rationally. None of his creations, none of the artifacts of his mind, would survive the cessation of his existence. All his creatures were rational. They all would know exactly how much time they’d have left. He wondered how they could all deal with the same fate so differently.

Ellen understood what was happening. She saw with her own eyes, day after day, night after night. Sometimes, though, she couldn’t help but look at him through other eyes. If only her family and friends could see her, Ellen, a forty-year old woman gallivanting around arm-in-arm with a sixteen year old boy, they’d tell her she’d lost her head and her dignity. They’d think differently, however, if they knew him the way she knew him. He might have looked like a boy but he had the depth of experience and wisdom of a seventy year old. Ellen knew she’d stay beside him to the bitter end. She hadn’t mentioned it to him but she had resolved years ago that she would even carry him in her womb if that would prolong his life for a few more months. Ellen couldn’t imagine life without him.

 

After they had finished the cake, the boy got up from the table, took Ellen’s hand, and told Lem and Yani not to wait up for them. Ellen and the boy walked out into the crisp night air, turned to their left, and walked up the path toward the strand of trees.

 

They reached a promontory overlooking the valley of shadow with dimly lit caves on the hillsides stretching away as far as their eyes cared to see.

The boy glanced to his left at the strand of nearby trees. There was a gap between the trees. He took a folding knife from his pocket, opened it up, and made two parallel notches on the bark of one of the trees bordering the gap. In the starlight he saw a pale path. They turned to walk toward it. The boy made two more parallel notches on a tree beside the path. The trees were dense and over-arching so that they could not see even a sliver of the night sky above them. They walked slowly along the path, hand in hand. Often they had to duck their heads to avoid the low hanging branches and out-reaching brambles.

They came to a wall of branches with thorns and discovered that the path turned to their right. He made another two notches on a tree at the turn. They followed the new path for some time until they came into a clearing lit palely by the weak starlight from above. The boy double-notched the tree at the entrance to the clearing.

There was a more-or-less flat boulder half sunk in the middle of the clearing. They sat down on it for a few moments just to catch their bearings.

“Where are we going?” Ellen asked the boy.

He put his arm around her, drawing her toward him, kissing her fragrant hair. “We are going to face my fears,” the boy said softly.

There was a sound, barely discernible, of unlubricated metal against unlubricated metal. He walked to the edge of the clearing and strained his ears to hear better, but he no longer heard it. Then he heard it again. They both heard it now: “Over here…”

There was a path at the edge of the clearing. He called out in a trembling voice barely audible, “Keep speaking so I can find you.” He double-notched the tree next to the path and Ellen rose to join him.

“Over here … over here … over here-errrrrr,” the disembodied voice continued through the darkness.

They saw a glint of metal in the weak starlight.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 50: The Next Day

They tangled and untangled themselves, in each other’s waking moments and in each other’s dreams, hungrier and thirstier for each other than for food or water.

The light through the glass door was beginning to wane. The sofa and table made long grey shadows against the walls of the cave. He sat on the chair across from her, watching Ellen intently as she slept.

Ellen opened her eyes and looked at him silently for a few minutes. “What are you doing over there, so far away from me?”

“Watching you,” he said, “making sure nothing about you changes.”

She was quiet for some time and then said, “I was afraid I dreamed all of this, and now I’d wake up and find that …”

“And if it were a dream,” he said, “I’d wish I’d never wake up.”

 

“We really must get up and do something with ourselves,” Ellen stood and stretched her beautiful body.

“Come,” the young man said, getting up from his chair. “I’ll take you to my room. We can shower and change our clothes there.”

He took her hand and they walked through the labyrinth of the cave. They passed the kitchen and Lem’s and Yani’s  bedroom. Lem and Yani were nowhere to be found. They came to the young man’s bedroom and the ambient lighting switched on.

“It looks like Yani laid out some fresh clothing for us to wear,” he said.

“Who gets to shower first?” Ellen asked.

“I was hoping we could shower together,” he smiled.

“Whose dream is this anyway?” Ellen winked at him.

“Yes, that is the question,” he said.

 

After their shower they dressed in the clothes Yani had set out for them. The clothes were simple and unassuming, but fresh with the smell of sunlight.

They found their way to the kitchen. “I’m ravenous,” Ellen said.

The young man opened and closed drawers and pantry doors looking for a reasonable facsimile of coffee. He opened jars, one after the other, sniffing for that special smell of roast coffee beans. He found some pranges and other things that looked like fruit in a bowl on the counter. He put the bowl on the table in front of Ellen. He found some oval white things that looked like they might be eggs. He took a few out of a box and laid them carefully on the counter.

Then he looked for a stove or oven. Unfortunately he did not see anything that looked like one of those things.

Suddenly Yani popped her head into the kitchen. “Do you need any help?” she asked.

“We’re hungry and I don’t know what to do,” he said, somewhat embarrassed.

“Don’t worry,” Yani laughed. She walked over to the counter, picked up the oval white things, and put them back in the box in the cabinet. “These are not what you think they are.”

Yani opened another cabinet and pulled out a large glass jar. She scooped out some powder and put it in four bowls. She waved her hand over the counter in front of her and the surface turned black with red rings. She put a bowl on each ring and waved her hand over them again. After a few minutes Lem walked into the kitchen and said, “I smell something good to eat.”

Yani set the piping hot bowls on the table in front of Ellen and the young man. Then she set two more bowls on the table for Lem and her, and sat down.

The young man could not believe his eyes or his nose. Everyone had something different in their bowls. The young man’s bowl was filled with scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, and strips of bacon. Ellen’s bowl had carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cream. Lem’s bowl had pranges, some other fruit, and fresh bread. Yani had some sort of steaming noodles and vegetables. When the young man tasted his scrambled eggs and then the bacon, he could not believe his taste buds either.

“This is delicious Yani!” he exclaimed with his mouth full of food.

“Yes,” Ellen said, “it’s quite tasty, just like from our garden when I was a little girl.”

“But how did you do it?” he asked. “I saw you just scoop some powder into each of our bowls. This doesn’t taste synthesized. It tastes natural.”

“It’s really easy to do,” Yani answered between bites. “The powder is made of stem cells and I just put it in each person’s bowl and let everyone think what he wants to eat.”

“Isn’t she great?” Lem asked everyone and no one in particular between mouthfuls.

The young man was forlorn, looking down into his bowl. “I guess I’m going to starve here.”

“Don’t worry Father,” Yani smiled. “I’ll cook for you.”

 

After they all finished eating the young man asked Lem and Yani, “what time is it?”

“It’s nearly dusk,” Lem said.

“You slept all night,” added Yani, “and most of the day.”

The young man looked furtively at Ellen. “We didn’t sleep all that much.”

Yani smiled at Lem and said, “Yes, we know.”

The young man asked Ellen, “Would you like to go for a small walk?”

She looked into his eyes and said yes.

“Don’t get lost,” Lem warned.

 

Taking Lem’s advice they walked together in the valley between the fields and orchards. The dying light crowned the hilltops with deep purples and blues. There were few stars in the darkening sky in this galaxy and no meteors to wish on.

A slight breeze wafted through the tree tops in the orchard. Ellen leaned against the young man against the slight chill in the air as they walked. Their eyes adjusted to the dark shadow that carpeted the valley. To their right was a faint murmuring of a creek and a glint of light played on the wavering surface.

The hills on either side of them were bejeweled with the artificial lights from the caves. “It’s so peaceful,” Ellen said.

He put his arm around her waist and felt the reality of her skin underneath her shirt, and it thrilled him.

They walked along the creek lost in each other’s thoughts.

“Are we still in a story?” Ellen asked him in a whisper.

“Probably yes,” he answered, “but not in a story of mine.”

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 49: The Interview

The dawn light entered the cave stealthily before awareness. Ellen could see the caves across the valley etched into the rocky hills.

Suddenly the silhouette of Lem supporting a young man with one arm appeared.

“Father!” Yani rushed toward them. “What have you done to yourself?”

“He’ll be alright,” Lem said. “He’s just injured himself a little. We need to get him washed and patched up, and then he’ll be as good as new.”

“Who is he?” Ellen asked them both.

“Don’t you recognize him?” Lem asked.

She reached for the photocopy of the news clipping pressed between the pages of her notepad. Ellen looked at his picture in the clipping and back at the face of the man standing next to Lem, and back at the clipping. He looked like a much younger version of the man in the clipping. What kind of game were they playing with her?

“Let us get him fixed up and then all your questions will be answered,” Yani said to Ellen, thinking to Lem a lot of good that will do her.

Yani took the young man back to his bedroom and began to undress him.

“Thanks Yani,” he blushed. “I can do that myself.”

“Alright,” Yani said, “but you wash yourself thoroughly, especially that nasty gash on the left side of your head just above your ear. Call me when you are ready and I’ll patch you up.”

His limbs were stiff and sore. He removed his clothes slowly, careful not to increase the level of pain he felt. He stepped into the shower, turned the handle, and let the cool water flow over his body. He placed his hands against the rock walls to maintain his balance and closed his eyes, meeting the streaming quanta head-on. “That was Ellen sitting on the sofa in the living room!” he said out loud to himself incredulously.

He opened his eyes, turned the handle to stop the water, and dried himself quickly but carefully. He found a clean pair of pants, shirt, and shoes. As soon as he had dressed himself, Yani came into his room, looked him over carefully, and opened a small bottle of clear viscous tincture of something he had no inkling what. She put some on the palm of her hand and pressed her hand against the gash on the side of his head. There was a pleasant tingling sensation as the two sides of the open wound closed up.

“There,” Yani said, looking at her work. “Good as new. Do you have any place else on your body that hurts?”

“Well, my left shoulder and ribs hurt,” he said.

Yani opened the buttons of his shirt, put a couple drops of the tincture on her palm, and gently rubbed his shoulder and ribs. The tingling sensation warmed the left side of his body. She rebuttoned his shirt. “Are you ready for the interview?” she asked with a wink.

“Let’s go,” he said, kissing her hand.

They walked into the living room. Yani sat down next to Lem. The young man sat down on the sofa next to Ellen, but not too close … not just yet.

“Are you …?” She said his name, although she still could not believe it was possible. It had to be him.

“I … I don’t know who I am,” he said. “I’ve never had a name … never had a need for one.”

“Everyone has a name,” she said hesitantly. “Everyone needs a name … How would they … ?”

“I only give names to the characters in my head,” he said after some thought. “I make up stories, but … I’ve … never … written any books. Who would read them?”

Ellen looked at Lem and Yani for some sort of explanation. “What does he mean, he doesn’t have a name?” she asked them. “What is he called beside Father?”

Lem looked at Yani and then at Ellen. “Father is a term of endearment. It’s not really a name. He doesn’t need a name like everybody else does.”

“Why doesn’t he need a name?” Ellen asked.

“Because everyone knows who he is,” Yani answered matter-of-factly. “The fact is that you know who he is too.”

“Yes, I do,” she said, “but I’m not so sure. Look at him. He’s so young.”

“That’s because he is moving backwards in time,” Lem answered, “relative to us.”

Ellen was quiet for some time. Then she asked Yani, “Forgive me for prying into your personal affairs, but are you and Lem married or are you brother and sister?”

Yani smiled at the question. “We are married.”

“Whose father is he?” Ellen asked Yani.

“Both of us,” Yani answered.

“He created both of us,” Lem said, “just like he created you.”

“What do you mean he created us?” Ellen’s voice trembled.

“He thinks, therefore we exist.” Lem said.

“Here,” the young man continued, “let me tell you the story I was thinking about just before you arrived … please … don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you and I’m not crazy … at least I don’t think I am.”

Ellen felt rather dizzy.

The story is about me, I suppose, but it’s not a true story … at least I don’t think it is. I’m in this cabin … but now I’m in this cave … I usually am in this cabin and there is a faint knock on the door. I open the door and you’re standing there in the doorway. I say what I said to you or what Lem and Yani said to you and you respond the way you responded. I ask you to sit down and I tell you this story.

You claim you don’t recognize me. You probably don’t. There’s no reason why you would in this god-forsaken universe. But I know you. I’ve always known you … the last time … the time before that … and the time before that too. And every time I am hopelessly … but wait … I’m getting ahead of myself.

I continue with the story. You listen to the end. I’ll say that for you. You always do. You say how flattered you are to be the heroine in my story, but then you begin to look around you for the door, the window. There is doubt and the beginning of fear in your eyes. I can’t stand it, that I’m causing it, and I look away. Would you like a cup of coffee, I ask. Sometimes you say yes, sometimes no. This time you said yes. I walk over to the coffee pot, light the fire under it, spoon the grounds into two cups, and stare at the mirror, wondering whether you will still be in your chair or on the sofa by the time I return with the two coffee cups. You’re there or you’re not. If you’re not, then you are just outside the cabin or the cave walking slowly towards the cliff and I catch up with you and tell you there’s an easier, safer way to get down the mountain to the town. I’ll show you the way, I say, although now I’m not so sure I know the way down or up or sideways anymore. You remember the difficulty coming up the mountain and agree reluctantly to be guided by me. We walk without words until we reach the edge overlooking the gently sloping path meandering down the grassy mountain side. A breeze wafts up the slope, carrying the pungency of fallen leaves and over-ripe fruit. You become aware of the clicking of cicadas in a distant strand of trees and turn your lovely face in that direction. My arms ache to enclose you within them, as though they were wings folded around you. But …

But sometimes you stay in your chair. I set the coffee cup on the side table beside you. I sit down on my chair opposite you but this time I sit next to you, and try to keep my coffee cup from trembling. We sip at our coffees in silence. Would you like to hear more, I ask. More of what, you ask. More of the story, I answer. Go on, you say.

I jump to the end of the story. There’s not much more time. Time for what? Time for you to fall in love with me. Time for me to fall in love with you? It always comes as such a shock to you … more than anything else I say to you today.

You don’t waste much time, you say. You always say that. What should I expect? You’re half my age but now I’m younger than you. You’re lovely, you’re bright, and you’ve got your … These things take time to unfold, to evolve. You search your mind for every pertinent platitude you’ve ever learned, as though it were your wisdom, as though it could somehow extricate us from the terrible spiraling involution we are stuck in. You can’t rush these things, you continue saying. I feel dizzy, you say, and reach for your coffee cup but your hand brushes the side of the cup at the wrong angle. The cup is pushed over the edge of the table, spilling the coffee on the ground.

Don’t worry about it, I say. It’s interesting how every time, some details change and some remain constant. The coffee cup is always pushed over the edge. Do you want me to make you another cup of coffee, I ask. No, you say. Your eyes dart around the room, the door, the window. I hate that. I know, I’ve said it before. I still hate that moment.

You run out of platitudes to say. You run out of words to say. You have no feelings for me. Empty. Empty Dempty sat on a wall. Empty Dempty had a great fall. I don’t know when it happens or if it happens. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I never know. What happens, you ask. You begin to fall in love with me. Why do I fall in love with you, you ask. I don’t know. I never do. I ask you each time it happens why you fall in love with me. Why do you ask? So that I can use it next time to make you love me quicker, I explain sadly. Why is it so important to you for me to love you quicker, you ask. Because there’s so little time left for us to be in love, I answer.

Why is there so little time for us to be in love, you ask. But now we have all the time in this world because Lem reached out his arm and pulled you out of that loopy little dimension through the door, and rescued you and rescued me in the process. Now you don’t have to fall in love with me before dawn tomorrow morning. You can take your time, as long as you love me sometime because I couldn’t bear the weight of life without you.

Do you make me love you quicker each time, you ask. No, I answer. Every time the reason is different.

By now the light in the cave had thinned into evening shadow. They were unaware that Lem and Yani had quietly left the room for them to be alone together.

In a moment the artificial lighting will turn on. Is that alright with you? You haven’t said a word for some time now. Can we get you anything? You must be famished. When did you last eat? Please say something … anything. I could drink some water, my mouth is so dry. What about you?

I’m still here.

Yes, you are. I can’t believe my good luck. Can I –

Just shush for a moment. Let me process.

Do you want –

Don’t ask me. Just bring me what you know I need. I need for us to be silent for a little while.

The artificial lighting kicked on and the shadows leaped through the glass door into the engulfing night. The giant world rose over the black mountain range on the horizon. He rose from the sofa through the exhaustion that had surrounded him while he was telling her the story. He picked up the empty cups and walked into the kitchen to rinse them out. He ground some coffee and put the grounds into the metal pot which he filled with fresh water. He returned to the kitchen, lit the thermal unit, and put the pot inside. He found some bread that looked fresh and a few eggs which he put in a pan and fried on the stove. He rummaged around the drawers until he found a couple plates and eating utensils. He carried the steaming eggs and coffee out to the table.

They ate without speaking. He looked down at his eggs and fried bread, but he felt her staring at him. She looked away when he raised his eyes. He watched her drink down the coffee. He drank his silently.

She stood up from the table and walked over to the door.

His heart sank.

She turned around waiting for him.

He walked towards her unsteadily. They put their hands on the glass and it disappeared.

The night breeze whispered through their hair like breathing. Otherwise there was only silence. The light was pale and ghostly underneath the huge world around which they rotated.

She reached for his hand.

Why?

Shush.

They walked the ghostly path almost to the edge of the cliff and looked down across the valley to the lit caves on the other side and the black sky behind the hills. She felt a sudden chill and put her arm inside his arm, so that he could feel the pulse of her breast against his arm.

“Let’s go back to the cave. There is a slight chill in the breeze.”

“Yes,” he remembered, “we’d better get back before the earth goes down. The darkness is absolute.”

They walked back up the path hand in hand.

They could see the light from the third cave thinning into the night. He placed his hand on the glass and they walked into the light.

She sat down on the sofa.

“Do you want some more coffee?”

“What do I usually say?”

“You usually say yes.”

“Then why do you ask?”

“I always do.”

“Then go make me another cup of coffee,” she smiled charmingly.

He walked over to the stove with the two empty cups, set the water in the pot to boil, rinsed out the cups, and refilled them with coffee. He walked back out with the two cups brimming, set one down beside her, and stood beside the sofa sipping his own coffee pensively.

He sat down beside her. Ellen kicked off her shoes, bent her long legs underneath her, and nestled into the crook of his arm. His wings folded around her and his arms no longer ached.

Her breathing became soft and even.

Soon he too was asleep.

He woke up suddenly. She was still asleep, her head warm against his chest. Her hair smelled like summer wheat from his childhood. He inhaled the smell of her hair deeply, recording it for future memory.

Ellen must have sensed his return to consciousness because she also stirred. In the darkness they searched for and found each other’s lips. In a few moments flesh also found flesh in the darkness. In a time which was not time they stretched out against each other, entangled one within the other, a single being.

He tried with all his will and might to stop time, to stretch it out to eternity. He tried to accelerate his senses to multiply them.

Ellen fell asleep again deep in the knowledge of being utterly loved, in the exhaustion of innocence. He opened his eyes wide against the night but at some point he fell backwards into a deep dream.

Birdsong entered his consciousness, calling him from his dream. The dawn sunlight pierced his closed eyelids, voluminous and insistent. He pulled her into him and she was still alive.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 48: Meanwhile Back at the Cave

Lem and Yani guided Ellen to their home, one of the caves she had seen from the cliff. When they reached the third cave, Lem stopped and put his hand on the glass wall. The glass wall dissolved. They passed through the entrance into the cave, after which the glass reformed. Lem pointed to a sofa and asked Ellen to make herself comfortable. Lem sat down on a chair opposite her.

Yani offered Lem and Ellen a cup of water and a plate of fresh fruit. The young woman raised the cup to her lips and drank down the cool thirst-quenching liquid in a few gulps. She eyed the fruit with desire and curiosity. Lem smiled, reached over to the plate, picked up a prange, and popped it into his mouth. “You really should try the prange,” Lem said amiably with his mouth full of the tart pulp, “it’s fresh from our garden. Yani picked it just before you arrived.” Ellen picked up a prange from the plate and bit off a tip of the fruit. The tangy taste seemed to explode in her mouth. She ate the rest of it and reached for another piece of fruit.

Yani sat down on the sofa beside Ellen. She turned to see her better. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so blue,” she said.

“Our parents were light beige colored like you,” Yani answered. “We are genetic adaptations to a certain environment.”

Ellen hesitated, “mutations? I mean …”. She immediately regretted using that word.

Yani smiled and looked at Lem. “I suppose you could use that term.”

 

“Look,” Ellen cast about, looking for a way to launch into the reason she had come to the cabin, “I’ve come all the way from … well, it doesn’t matter where I came from … you’ve probably never heard of it … I’ve come all this way just to interview him …”

“Why would you want to do that?” Lem asked.

“Because I’m a journalist,” she shot back, “and a damned good one at that!” Ellen had a strange feeling after saying that so vehemently, like she had said it before.

“No,” he said, “I meant why would you want to interview Father?”

“I want to understand how and why he writes what he writes,” she attempted to justify her existence to Lem, like she remembered having to do on her first day in the introductory journalism class when she had to stand up before the professor in the packed lecture hall and explain why she wanted to take that pretentious bastard’s course. “His books,” she stammered, “I’ve read every one of them …”

“He wouldn’t know about that,” Lem answered. “He’s just a young man. He hasn’t written any books yet.”

“I … I don’t understand,” Ellen stammered. “What’s going on here? Where is he?”

“He’s …” Lem looked at Yani and back at Ellen. “I have to bring him back here.”

Lem got up, walked through the glass door, and was out of sight.

 

The young man got up and ran out of the clearing crashing through the thorny branches. He smashed against a tree but kept on running. He ran into another wall of branches and down the path to his right. He came into the clearing and slowed down when he came to a flat boulder. He sat down on it and examined his surroundings. He saw the Tin Man sitting on the tree trunk. The Tin Man raised three metal fingers and a familiar voice called out “Father … Father! Please Father!”

 

Little by little his consciousness shifted into something more familiar. He looked up at the starless night and recognized the cobalt outlines of Lem’s face above him.

“Father, are you alright?” Lem asked. “Please answer me.”

A wet pain throbbed on the left side of his head. “I suppose so,” he said.

“What am I going to do with you,” Lem feigned exasperation.

“I just wanted to go for a short walk,” he said, struggling to sit up. “I had no idea I’d get myself lost in this damned forest.” He tried to stand up. His legs were still wobbly.

Lem put an arm around his father to support his weight. “You must be more careful here,” Lem told his young father. “You are blind in more dimensions than those in which you can see.”

“You really know how to make a guy feel good,” he said sarcastically.

“Wait til you get home,” Lem smiled.

 

They walked arm in arm in silence until they reached the cliff overlooking the caves in the valley. The far mountain tops turned golden in the blush of dawn.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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