The life of space is nature. Of course, a flood is a calamity; but his grandfather felt nature had good reasons, and reserved any judgment. Another hunch of his lifetime chronicle had been floated in the first war by a European gent, who eventually felt the need to embellish it, and bequeathed to us a Howard Miller Chiming Hourglass. The adamantine charmer was made by hands, in Zeeland, in longcase, with panel glass, and with weathered wood, and endures, alluringly, in an upstairs flat in Coney Island, New York, where the iron with Ava Maria chimes ages gracefully through humdrum nights, wide, and sometimes tall, heirlooms once nourished by his elder kin; among these was the secret to the universe, the “Great Secret,” not misplaced in the timeless mire of his recovery from heart failure. He concealed the Great Secret, except to a Florida neighbor, inexplicably, and he still wondered if perhaps he had just mentioned it to a crane; besides, why tell some graying, retired eighteen-wheeler, or a football coach, the Great Secret, and no one else. It was the sandhill crane, who was glaring in the screen porch, and began this account, in pencil, on a legal pad. He had joked to Red in Coney Island how one day the Howard Miller chimer would record the moment the Great Secret became Higher Law. He jotted in the lines of his sun-bleached yellow page, in the dimming light of a progressive disease: The Great Secret, the answer to the cosmos, was gales.
People in the field of education field are not infrequently stimulated by the most bizarre theories; not merely bizarre, the most bizarre. The Great Secret, thus, was commonplace; and the community could rely upon him, especially in New York, to devote days out-of-doors in any weather awaiting further genius; awash in the drift of CHF, the acronym for “congestive heart failure,” and meandering, he possessed many hours in the environs of West 6th Street to promulgate this vision, even poll aimless New Yorkers with asimilar fates how gales remained disguised from fame by common meteorology. Gales rose from nowhere to continuously gentleman the process of the other inductees into nature’s hall of fame; humble, transparent, and friendly, yet with substance, like “a parent,” his grandfather would yarn, like a fly, fungo ball, — “like a parent rushing to a bus stop with a child’s forgot lunch.” (He became a teacher to repair that kind of sentence.) He did Google gales, unable to mass a constituency for them in the Big Apple. Ah, gales. A “surface wind” exceeding thirty knots. Many do equations in their minds, and they memorize poems, and compile tasks or schedules, and set casserole recipes to Rap. He like to puzzle the exotic, the theory, and the man, the happily unknown, such as why the old man gave him rubrics to chew in the first place. No matter. He could study gales in the Deep Vast, in the void between Brooklyn and Bootes Void, with a not unattractive woman. His guide, and fellow traveler, was Aji, a regarded member of the American Legion, whom, as we know, was born in Sombrero, the galaxy, not Tierra Del Fuego, neither in New York or the eastern time zone, a struggling colony in the constellation Virgo.
The prospects of the Deep Vast steadied his heart in the range between curiosity and elation, strange as an adventure for rehabilitation. He figured if all was about to end with the percussion of his own beating chimer, well, then, it was not a lifetime of waiting. It was intrepid, the wanderlust, perhaps cavalier. If the time of his life was no longer folding currency, but pocket change, it was worth the fare. He climbed aboard the LifeRaft® at a secluded point, north of Central Park, as Aji instructed him, ready to “diject,” as she told him, foggy with new medication. But content “everything was clear,” which is to say, “Okay,” as she liked to say, – okay, a word, and a promise, a length of arms separating terror from the facts mundane.
He first saw a lifetime of rarity in the topsy-nilly of a falling holly leaf. This was still New York. He watched as it escaped from the limb of an Ilex, drifting which-way past the reach of the LifeRaft®, the “L.R.”; it was one of thousands of flowering Ilex, evergreen and petal-four, and white, and growing from the Earth’s laurel forests, decorated with red berries, fatal, if consumed, safe to survey. The leaf glided bound to disappear, in the gravity, in the air. It was physics, man’s eminence grise, replete and gentle to the edge, comforting, like the easy breath of the sea, or gales; lively, like thunder; common as a forty-dollar surrey on the shelf: cryptic, as a red sky, or the angry, violet jigsaw Florida clouds on the ocean shore in the morning, and echoes of light. He could not write the diary, and stay in his chair. He sat on the floor. Magical skies fell into the same place with cosmopolitan musings, polite, but unknown. He remarked, “There are no more tumbling dice.” There are no solutions, no dilemmas in the shade of trees. We can resolve, mindful, as he was fond of telling his university class, “Eternity is a very long time.”
There was still eternity. He railed in nasty, desperate whispers about the nonsense of sirens in New York City in the shadows of the middle of the night. The graffiti sirens of Coney Island, another after another, the last before the next; tragedy is a fad, if misery loves company. He did not sleep for days. The sirens were west of Coney Island in the wee hours, somewhere in the Bronx. There were no sirens on the “free way”; the freeway was quiet. His adventure was a rare, because otherwise his life-threatening condition, congestive heart failure, generally preferred the couch, and permitted only activity it didn’t notice; his state was actually stabler on the free way, given the marvels of nigh science. Aji said the “free way” was supposed to be two words, despite the affectation, unlike “freeway,” like the Los Angeles freeways. He wrote, approaching İo, – pronounced “eye-oh,” which he frequently printed as “io” – cynically, it would one day be quelled, and the beautiful, prismatic row would have compact cars, and roaring flat-beds. He chided his temper; cynicism could become a “goal.” Heart failure, CHF, truly admires auld lang synes. He wrote, “Insomnia.” Maybe he could sleep from brooding, and staring out the window, – amazed he was awake, amazed no one else was awake, but, awake still, opted to count the seconds between sirens in the Bronx, like thunder, and lightning. He might die; his cynicism would not. There was no actual pattern to sirens at four-forty-four, he knew, now, and boosted his chest. The first advice people give someone with CHF, and edema, – the bloat of fluid waiting at tollbooths in the tunnels of the body, — is to put their feet up, make sure they’re higher than the rest of the body. People are innocent, but they are dangerous: The goal was to keep the fluid from drowning the heart; in a perfect world, he should stoop, and do a jig. He rose from the couch, and stooped, at four-fifty-one. He was still not asleep, but neither was he dearly departed. Gosh. The End. Aji wasn’t given to political cant, or insight. The free way, he said, glancing at her uniform, and her, managing the control panel of the LifeRaft®. Who would bring anyone like him on a journey through space? Her arrival from Sombrero wavered from credulity; but, whatever else, they were going to İo. She told him point-blankly if he did sleep, he might die, and he believed in God again. That is, his heart would enlarge with all of the dilatory fluid it was unable to process as efficiently, and he would, essentially, “drown,” become one of those, “plump, pale fat bodies, in the morgue.” It was what no one wanted to say, especially the physicians, who pay high rates for insurance, and maddeningly didn’t tell him. “Okay,” he said, contented about it. It was CHF. Just another King Kong, in New York City, a great city, with very great peoples, and disregarded some of the sirens. They plagued his effort to sleep no more. It was the fourth day. Home, alone, unhappy; awake except for sixty, or ninety minutes a night, ninja pills first-responding, racing to the unmedicated dearths of flooded organs. The sirens could wait. He could wait, for the sirens. They would…keep him awake.
He confided to someone in the utter boredom at the hospital wing, – Mare Ligeia? – “Life changes are not tragic. You can just move retirement up a little, start new.”
It was Mare, who was not a nice lady. observed, “You’re too young to retire.”
People just don’t get it. He nodded warily. “Not re-tire, ahh.”
He mulled the sirens, friending them in the confines of his confines. The police, the fire, the ambulance sirens of New York in the dead of the night were not frantic, like the sirens of Kristallnacht, or bombing of London in the second world war. People excel in a state of alarm. Now he wanted to return to the whooshing orbit of İo. He was content with the sirens, too. He sat up, contentedly, in a sitting position on his couch. The bed was flat. He would never lie flat in the bed. He would call Wayfair. What is the proper stance for CHF? And no senseless dawn would ever illuminate reality, and not today; what did people miss? No lives gambled in the offing to sirens meant to capture their hearts, and a town, containing them in the siren, a terrible siren, the last siren, like the sirens of Poland in the first minutes of blitzkrieg, the very instant the motorcycles crossed the line of the border: now it was a war? The ancient Greeks had sirens, yes; but those were beautiful women. He took pills, now, and shrugged, a dozen of them; before his prognosis, it was just a sinus pill, which was a kind of me-too ism. Oooh, a nice sedative, or cool pain-killer could sedate him. Mmm. He might not wake up. Ah. The Big Sleep. No, really. His eyes watered in the “midlight” of six-fourteen, and he wandered into the kitchen in a hapless fog, unable to the able.
He typed into his laptop on the table about the Greek sirens. “They were seductive,” he wrote. “The Romans didn’t care for them. Roman poets claimed the sirens were women who lived on a deserted island. There were three sirens, three women, partly women and partly birds. They were revered by Greeks, who claimed many, many more Sirens than just three. They said the Sirens warned sailors with their fetching muses to avoid ruin upon the stony shoals of the islands. The Greeks possibly agreed the Sirens were occasionally treacherous. They didn’t warn everybody, and from time to time used their ‘enchanting voices’ to seduce mariners to shipwreck.”
Making more conversation, Aji said, “Mythology’s a trip.”
“Yeah,” he said, an alert passenger. He wondered why he was not terrified, or rather, cryogenic; that would make sense. “Don’t you want to freeze me, or something? A stand-up pod for centuries, until there is a cure?”
“Nah,” she replied, distracted by paperwork. “What you really need is a bog myrtle.”
“Damn,” he responded. She had a grandfather, to0.
She grinned absently about his absent faculty, and continued to press a number of latch buttons, and he dozed shortly afterwards in the polysynthetic chair. He remembered her explaining how a bog myrtle was said to possess great medicinal properties on İo, one of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons. He rued absently bog myrtles were “an old wives’ tale of wives who weren’t born yet,” lost in the syntax. He asked Aji if she heard sirens from the Grand Lumineres. She loved to talk Grand Lumineres.
He heard part of her answer. “I haven’t been to the Grand Lumineres yet. It’s a goal, yes. Their existence is still a theory. There are actually fables about Sirens in space. Maybe on Orison.”
Aji clicked levers in a precise sequence, and marked it down. “The idea of the Grand Lumineres derives from the Big Bang, in a sort of dialectical way. The Big Bang, the explosion, was the beginning of time. That was that. The beginning of time. But it’s not natural to people to leave well-enough alone. They decided it was not the beginning of time, just our universe, just Laniakea. Time, and physics, – the way space asserts itself as nature, as natural ‘laws,’ – might be unique. There could simply be more than one universe. Every generation wants a new adventure.”
“And the Grand Lumineres?” he had asked.
She said, “The explosion of the Big Bang could not have taken place in a vacuum, they said. They started saying anybody who tried to sell us on the idea of a vacuum should sell them. Such is the adage, yes.”
They veered to one side, signaling a change of course for the LifeRaft®. He tipped his plastic cup to see if the computer would know it was empty. It discharged decaf in a new cup, in the dark, abiding peace of the Deep Vast. “What happened to the great Ships?” he asked, more studiously. “The…Enterprise?”
“The Enterprise,” Aji smiled, watching the board, righting the balance of their chosen path. “We cleared the pull of Jupiter. It’s clear to İo. Love İo. Very few travel to the Milky Way anymore, but the pull of gravity is weak near İo, and you go anywhere. You almost have to go through İo. The Enterprise. It’s a decent question. It will help you. The big ships, after Hydra, the debacle, the whole Bud Adorjan drama, they fell way out of favor. And they were, – no pun intended, – astronomically expensive. They couldn’t be repaired, there were no parts. They could never be extruded. They were just too big to be practical.” Aji glanced with one eye, “Soon we can diject.”
It was now about magnetics, and dijection, she said. The L.R., short for LifeRaft®, was the trade name for the maglev, a “magnetic levitation” device. Aji said, “A universal project began in the 2300’s after the failure of the Hydra landing, to resolve the problem of ‘celestial hopscotch.’ Which was to say, once we got there, quote unquote, then what? No supply lines. This was dramatic. How do we get to the next place? And when? The pioneers had to raise generations of more pioneers to survive, sometimes en route to somewhere else. It was hopscotch. Understand, the exhilaration about exploring space was at a peak. Unstoppable. The amount of cooperation might never be paralleled. They decided to establish Dijection Depots, and they sprung up everywhere, anywhere there was settled land. They were simple, and basically easy to build, glorified rail stops. All of the space colonies were enlisted by Hydra, the commerce center. They saw great trade potential, and gave huge credits to any place there was a magnetic depot. It was like the railroad. There were some complaints. A Virgo Senator proclaimed the depots, I remember, ‘the penultimate bridge to nowhere.’ He worried about ‘outlaws everywhere,’ which was not especially new. See, the maglev depots had no origin, no physical connection, to anything except time. The concept was easy: If colonies just built solitary maglev depots, it would form a grid in space. ‘A matter of time,’ they said, – a truly great advertising slogan: ‘It’s a matter of time’. But it was. They said it could be years, light years, many generations. Nope. It was seconds. The theory was that maglevs from any time, or future age would suddenly appear at these depots. It was comically simple.” She added quotes with her fingers. “’Cosmically simple.’”
He commented, “It worked.”
“Exactly,” Aji said, with pride. “It took thirteen minutes. The first L.R. appeared at the main Hydra depot almost instantly. They were still holding the big scissors! The tape was on the ground! No time. Then thousands appeared from everywhere. A scientific miracle. Thirteen minutes. The first maglev was an extruded L.R. train – a classic machine! It chugs into Hydra with produce – fresh lettuce – from 2632! Amazing. It’s now a universal holiday.”
She continued, “We realized after the Coda anomaly that, in a perfect sphere, and with low-gravity, we could diject about anywhere, if there was a depot. And they’re working on that, to see if they really need one. It’s a perfect convex. The idea of dijection, in physics, is a depot in one time, just one era, and a course plotted to a different time, or era, where there is a depot, traveling in time and space.”
“Nn-not really,” she said. “‘Wormholes’ became derogatory word after a while, and mean something else, not man-made. These are nice, clean digital paths. We create them, they don’t just show in an infrared study. They’re pathways. The free way.”
He said, following her, “Now you’re trying to find another universe, – the Grand Lumineres?”
Aji said, “I believe in the Grand Lumineres, but that’s just my generation. It couldn’t have all began with the explosion of the Big Bang. Every thesis means another one, and a synthesis.”
He said, “There had to be something before it.”
“Right,” she said. “We’re bored with Orison, and flares old sailors claim to see, but can never document in anything, except whiskey bottles, all the places discounted by physics, that mathematically can’t exist, the amber rings in the dark.”
“Isn’t it always dark, like night,” he observed, admiring the cosmos.
“There are messages in a bottle,” Aji said. “Remember, what you see out right now is infinitely prehistoric. The light is millions, and millions of years old. Those places, those lights, are probably gone.”
He said, “Gone.”
Aji said, “The Big Bang never really ends. Laniakea expands, and expands. It will keep going until we reach a point that is called, ‘Dark, at Night.’ The stars may still be there, but expand too far away for any of us to see. Like they go out.”
“Everything has a place in U.T., in Ultra Turio. For romantics, maybe even Orison, for romantics. U.T. is like Anno Domini, A.D. It’s a map of it all.”
“A map of it all.”
They continued in the free way on a luminous path through light in prisms, and time, in an L.R., called a LifeRaft®. Aji had dijected to Coney Island. “Dijection” was derived originally from part of the Field Theory of Albert Einstein. It implied one could theoretically use fixed points in time and space, and travel to them, to a different point in time and space, a century before, or after, or billions of light years away.
He sat upright suddenly in the overstuffed chair, awake. His legs were raised, and they shouldn’t be raised, in his mind, despite the advice of everyone, and qualified health professionals, all of whom were, incidentally, asleep by now. Fluid should flow away from the heart, simply put, and not towards his chest. It was seven. The sirens apparently noticed his shift in the chair, and blared at him from the east of the borough. He grasped a pillow slowly, and partly closed his eyes. A siren is a Hail Mary; it may be the end of peace, time, youth, of ways of life. They mean life-changing life changes. He was not the first person who ever heard sirens. The final siren at the blitzkrieg; it was hard to articulate. Hope exists, and it surely did happen, it was a final bid of hope, say, a last hurrah. There would be no more sirens; because no one possibly knew these times, the next moment. ◊
∼ part two appears Saturday, December 1 ∼
¤ JUKE BOX ¤
Theme, (Episode 1 Part One): “Paradise,” Bruce Springsteen, and The E Street Band | playlist, “Flea Markets, Nos. 1-50,” a myopic vaile (No. 20).
“The Echo By Seas” is one of three works by SODA TOM.
Selections from volume I have appeared on
Created by Soda Tom