It suddenly rousted in the air, and glided into the caramel. Aji chided the LifeRaft®: “Chow the cloud!”; was, apparently, her take on PacMan. She noticed he was clinging to the armrest of the podchair, improving white knuckles with flat feet, flat, in fact, upon the nearby wall; advising him: “Just hold on a little.”
It was not reassuring. “Hydra programs the LifeRaft®. It is set to explore, and well – to love to explore.”
He cheerfully called the pod, the LifeRaft®, “a glass canoe,” enduring as it meandered purposefully like a young child hiking dreamily in a tall field of chrysanthemum, nimble, petrifying, with east, west zigzags in a tunnel of mammoth garnet wickets, an all-consuming canvas of alternating gold and blinding dark, it was a sea of butterscotch staples, of giant molars, solitaire in the flaming sky.
It was a just a happy paradox the LifeRaft® achieved light-speed, and didn’t seem to move afterward, but for the revelation, and to them alone, of distant chromas, the artist’s dashes, or gigantic mistakes, — the rote spilling of marbles from a youngster’s hands, white stars in the night. The orb arose quite abruptly. It overwhelmed the pod’s shield with a giant cardinal hue, and they could see nothing but bright orange blackened spots.
Aji gleamed. “It’s a galaxy. A resplendent galaxy emerging from infancy.”
She turned the captain’s chair from the pod’s shield, the window fore into space, and added empathetically, “This is so much easier to show you. And you’ll be fine. It’ll take care of you.”
He nodded, and nodded. She pointed to the shield’s upper left quadrant, where immense white, yellow forms, vast misplaced parentheses, resembling wickets in croquet, were growing in size as they passed underneath in the orange bluster. “Easier now if we pull away,” Aji said, and she moved a lever.
The pod dijected north and reversed, providing a broader view of phenomena. He saw a white orb, a haze, actually, without any real mass; it yellowed into diverse shades varying by the view point, and seemed to be “cooked,” she quipped, by glowing waves in circles, great tidal waves commencing around it, and bursting in the sky.
“Those exit the corona at a million miles an hour,” Aji said. “They brush the Milky Way as far as Neptune.” She reconnoitered, with a quick, “That’s it, let’s move!”
He shrugged, and privately rued the offer, hours ago in New York, to join her “errand.”
Aji escorted him on this mysterious path, imbibing virtually all blushes of color cascade enveloping the LifeRaft®. Light-speed, or travel at the speed of light, routinely tossed him into the straps of the passenger chair, where she placed him for this part of the ride, counseling him that “dijection,” a scientific name for their travel in Aji’s day, 2544 A.D., may be “a bit swift.”
Regaining a little composure, he asked, “Was that some kind of gale?”
Aji said, “Sure. We monitor the wind speeds, the rates of the gales. The gale rate actually tracks Pio. It’s called the gale force. Pio is more interesting.”
“Pio,” she repeated, visiting the abstract, as if everybody knew what Pio was.
The journey was to İo, one of the four Galilean moons in Jupiter’s orbit, and it was now in sight. He relaxed, and studied the front panel of the LifeRaft®. “What was Bud like?” he asked. “Bud Adorjan.”
She invited him to join her at the dash. Aji reflected, “Bud was a very quiet, and reserved man. He hardly ever spoke. He would smile a lot, yes. He had these blue eyes. How they twinkled. He was constantly writing on the walls of his mind, always giant steps ahead of everyone else.”
“Invented it,” she replied, with a slight grimace. “I wonder sometimes. I say, despite it all. Bud’s great rescue of Hydra. His many innovations, if well, maybe. He was certainly more valuable alive, and not as some kind of a savior, a martyr.”
“So, you’re his siren,” he observed. “You’re smitten.”
“No,” she exhaled, dissuading. “I was a much older woman then.”
It quieted the topic. The LifeRaft® veered again to the earlier course, and she resounded, “My attitude, generally, my attitude is far more reflective. I feel like the poet Tynan. Katherine Tynan, yes, like that.”
“That’s kind of remote,” he said. “You’ve heard of Tynan. Hundreds of years ago.”
She said, “There’s times I’ve hummed her verses in my head all day. Are you skeptical? Aeronauts only know about algebra, and tool boxes.”
He said, “It was just long ago. She seems old to me.”
Aji poured coffee, and spoke enigmatically, “’There is, literally, music in my heart all day, / I hear it late and early /’.”
He objected, about the pod’s course. “I thought we were going to İo. Why not a nice, long journey in the blue space.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t control everything,” Aji said. “Hydra does. The technical data pays the freight, which, in this case, is you.”
The LifeRaft® resumed a brief, but powerful swerve, backward, and then around; it could tack in any of the four directions as if it was forward, peeving ahead, irrespective of anything else what all; an array of stars loomed in the shield now, and surrounded them as a necklace; then it was a browning form in the twilight. She amused. He likened it to “New Jersey, or is it fried dough.”
Aji hastily tapped with the fingers of her right hand on the board calculator, more enthralled, and informed him, “We’re almost to the molecular cloud.”
His attitude toward students was “cathedral.” No gesture, harsh words, the lewd, or the leering were permitted in the collegian realm, his classroom, nothing salacious, unless it was otherwise proper beyond the bricks, and the mortar, of a church. He did not honor the clamor of the body temple like some of his colleagues, traversing at dawn, and ensconced in the rush of protein from a power shake, taking five-mile jogs through the streets of lower Manhattan. He wondered mirthfully what they were trying to catch, watching his class intently complete a final essay before Christmas break. He wasn’t really staring at a junior, a pale, brunette Catholic woman, who was scribbling her essay non-stop in her bluebook, probably without the happy repose of a comma, or period. His decent intent was concealed by a lengthy gaze at her in the front row; it was a daydream, really, a glassy daydream, in the room’s quiet disquiet, about one of his high school sweethearts in Coney Island. His heart surged in a pleasant heave; he thought of the high school girl; she was smiling warmly at him, in the haze of his memory, content, if they had married, they’d be totally awry, content, fleetingly, about her dawning, strange Greek beau, and their ensuing three kids. The mental pix margined him toward reality. He revisited the fresh aura of the too-young co-ed politely, and occasioned the clock on the window facade.
The mind, and the body can peruse different pathways. The most vexing aspect of heart failure, of CHF, – the elder brother of Heart Disease, the “long-term” parallel in the genre, where a “heart attack” is “acute,” – was trying to determine the onset of it, the “cause of action,” the tipping point, and hence a clearer viewpoint. The murmur of nature is perfectly audible, but it is a nuance, a notion, a whisper, not a bang. The gauge of CHF, which is one of the “silent killers,” is imperceptible, and the cause, famously unknown. His family physician, Dr. Rhys, constructed two categories of Malady, in general. He said “ninety percent of health is a man’s lifestyle, and the rest is litigious.” His mother claimed people must make their “own diagnosis” before any doctor. She said this was “crucial,” typically after absorbing Made-for-TV movies which depicted the dreadful state of anybody in “post-op.”
His mind skipped to Christmas break, and the stirrings of his reminiscing heart. Twelve days before at Wal–Mart McDonald’s, where he governed Sundays with the jogging troupe, he grabbed a smart watch with a heart monitor from a display to read the package, for something to read, and noted the rolled-back price of $15.83. Heart monitors report systolic, and diastolic levels of a person’s blood pressure; systolic is the pulse, at work or play; diastolic is the resting pulse. The hallmark of “Heart Healthy” is a blood pressure of 120/80. That is halftime. The fifty-yard line. 120/80. Dr. Rhys said blood pressure was like the Hot-Cold gauge of an auto dashboard, showing if the engine may overheat, or not start; the red zones of blood pressure are easily treated today. He didn’t know his blood pressure, or the 50-yard line. Dr. Rhys’ pet peeve was everybody should notice their blood pressure, “every day.” True enough. He could have checked it every day. He could also have won the lottery. He had been the star of the Christmas Party at the office of the Dean the past Friday. His blood pressure was a whisper, like the somber breeze of the heat from the ancient furnace in the college halls before Christmas break; nothing could relate the “over-under” of his furtive, beating heart, it was normal, and engaging, but it was not actually enjoying the romantic season; it was singularly exploring the metabolism, and venturing within this enclave toward the ungood, and Nearly Fatal, the dangerous level of 50/30. It became a familiar neighborhood for these years, and visited it frequently, persisting there until a ventricle was flooded with blood, and the situation terminal. It told him so more directly, another Friday morning, now five years away, and announced a brand new trek, with a cough; all-in-all, it would rather be in Mexico City. The metabolism visited a new, and lower pulse rate, complete with the bells and whistles of roaming, wandering blood clots and otherwise, unsure he would want to go, unilaterally deposited the sluggard unplayfully on his Coney Island carpet. His heart wanted to venture First Class in the new flight, and dispensed with the chores of oxygen, and breathing; recalling it, Dr. Rhys frowned.
“You liked Bud?”
Aji said, “Bud Adorjan met his destiny as a hero, bless him. He sacrificed his life to save the first colonists who were landing on Hydra. It’s now a legend. His work on Pio was promising. Dijection. He could have stayed with that. He never spoke without the answer, the quotient.” Aji was studying Enceladus, a Goldilocks moon of Saturn; the blue sky, mountains and lakes were once nearly as lush as Earth. The Milky Way became Aji’s hobby thereafter, voyaging from the time sphere of Sombrero, where she was born, “in the back seat of a pod.”
“What is Pio?” he asked. “You didn’t say.”
She explained “Pio” was the short-name for a scientific process known as Pioneer Theory. She hailed it as the natural “photosynthesis of the cosmos,” whither a gentle breeze, or a colossal storm. Aji was the type who could alibi a hurricane for a drought. Adorjan named it “Pio,” in his middle-aged days as an aeronaut, and began to measure the phenomenon in a journal. Pio was superior to terraformation, and other man-made efforts to create “normal ecology,” because it was natural. “Pio” became like “pi,” in mathematics, and a popular phrase.
He was not completely given to the walnut rooms of Galileo, or even sundials. “How about ‘Pio for Dummies?’”
“Pio is slow,” Aji commented. “Pioneer theory. It is still a mystery how the natural photosynthesis occurs in the cosmos. People see plants, – life, really, — grow spontaneously, with just the help of sun, and water. That’s not enough for scientists, of course. They trace the bacteria, or pollination. Heat is the key ingredient for Pio, and the ‘charging particles.’ Our terms are labels, though, just words, really. We don’t know half of what we know.”
“Photosynthesis,” he said.
Aji said, “Do you remember chlorophyll? Life anywhere forms from essentially three things: water, which may or may not be present everywhere; two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. The energy from light, which cannot be dismissed; particles charged with energy; and a form of gas from the air.”
“Gales,” he chuckled, inaudibly.
“Still, Bud knew those arcane bits of trivia about Pio could lead to our origins,” Aji said, straightening her back, and issuing a labored smile. “We’re all made of stars is not specific. What stuff, from where? And how. Maybe Pio.”
The scale of color snapped away in the LifeRaft®, and enveloped them in a dazzling white glow. Aji tried to soothe him, “If we tip to one side, then the other, we could see every color.” She couldn’t help, but to laugh. “Want to see?”
“It’s not my fault! It’s Hydra.”
She relented, adding, “Let me finish what I was saying – it’s important, to me at least. There is a difference between the events of almost ten billion years. There is a window there.”
He responded. “You lost me.” He fortunately did not hear Aji describe the next sequence as “the tiger ride at Disney,” and it engaged seemingly on its own, and it tipped the pod comfortably to each side. He closed his eyes. The chamber was no longer strangely engulfed in the shade of a “disco ball.” They emerged in a red sky, the air flaming in coral, and salmon pastel.
He opened his eyes. Aji said, “We’re could stop back on Earth, if you want, on the way out.”
“Where are we?”
“You don’t know?” she asked, rhetorically. “You must know.”
“Not a clue. Neptune?”
“Not even close,” Aji corrected. “The winds, the gale, sometimes reach Neptune. That was the Sun.”
“We travelled through the Sun,” he repeated.
“That was the Sun!” he said. The image returned in his mind from a few hours ago of the fading, amber colors of the Sun setting in Brooklyn over the skyline of New York.
Aji addled, “Solar wind. The Big Giant is breathing life into the Milky Way. The core is a convex of nuclear fusion. It is – hot.”
They hypersped into yet another Hue, a veil nebulae, more shades of deeper blue in the pod shield, the sky approached black. They verged towards a bright, round disk, it was beige in the empty sky, and closer, it possessed a tint of brown, and more peaceful skies.
“I could just own fashion, like these are dress designs,” Aji said, rhetorically, pointing to a cavalcade of images in a sub-camera now photographing the vast.
He said, “Those look like crullers, doughnuts.”
Aji pointed at the looming beige disk. “Okay, you know what that is.” He shrugged. “Saturn.”
They continued to zipline towards darker and darker spheres en İo. The path was steady, more durable.
He googled “gales” into a search engine of the LifeRaft®, amusing his ardent reputation for trivia, as a professional eccentric. The LifeRaft® reported in a language brand, Circa, which disallowed any advanced data, but gave him a window for Wikipedia, and The Weather Window. He read, pedantically, “a gale in meteorology is a gust of wind from 39 to 54 miles per hour, or 28 knots, from the Old Norse gala, ‘to sing, or chant,’ and galinn, – ‘enchanted, bewitched; stark calm.’”
Aji watched benignly, and commented, “We’re still on the same wave length, you know. You don’t realize it.”
“How? This is for my class.”
She said, “You are actually trying to figure out Pio, like Bud. It is fascinating. Look at this on Earth.” She worked the screen to display detail of algae and moss, the lava flows in Hawaii, and pictures of orchids in clay.
“What are you trying to say? These came from other planets? Nature uses some kind of wireless.”
“They weren’t planted.”
“Nah,” he said.
It was perplexing to translate Aji’s world to New York. He said, “There seem be a lot of answers, without any real question. What is the question?”
Stars. Moss. Photosynthesis. But it was better than astrology, better than crosswords. He viewed the pale, blue dot, Earth, in passing, suspicious if he was hallucinating a pharmaceutical midlight, or actually departing from Central Park to İo. He suppressed a grin wondering if the mail was already delivered to his rectangle box on the wall, downstairs in Coney Island. “I can’t tell from here.”
Aji said, “Much easier to show you,” and paused to relate, “This is – right where we are – 7.6 billion years in the past.”
I guess not, he thought.
Aji said, before the immersion, “We have to go this far, but we will diject through it. It’ll be cool. This is a molecular cloud, as I was saying. It existed before the Sun formed. I want to see it. The gas, hydrogen, helium, – these existed ten minutes after the Big Bang. We’re going through the photosphere.”
“Really,” he said, drolly.
Aji grinned, “It’s just another yellow, middle-aged dwarf. Chill out.”
“There is a before,” she insisted, but knew he wouldn’t understand, or object.
The blank shield was deluged with a dramatic, cratering show of more giant wickets, they were huge, inverted ‘U’s,’ plucked from the mercurial surface of the Sun, a gold molten wave of random forms, rolling like grain ablow in a tornado. “The photosphere,” she said. “We’re beyond it. We’re back four billion years.”
He relented, “For the sake of research.”
Aji said, “It’s the same point in time, we’re in the same time-space. The pod is dijecting to ago seven billion. The Grand Lumineres. We’re at four billion years. Not this time.”
The LifeRaft® was taking photographs of Hawaii. Aji said, “Hawaii is six hours behind New York. No? No. That was a joke, yes.”
“Oh,” he said, mordantly.
He noticed Aji studying him more intently than usual. She had the landscape of Oahu on the computer board, like a Google Map. Earth, visible in the shield of the LifeRaft®, was an old address, a street, in passing, where he lived at one time. Repetition was a brain function, like “save,” for a person in modest rapture.
She said, “I hate to compare Earth to The Ponds, the yin, and the yang. One day solar wind will taketh away,” she added, then ominously, ghoulishly, accentuated with her arms, and hands, “The Sun vill visit Earth, and it vill vont to stay! One great barbecue. All gone!”
He raised a brow. Aji continued with less animation, “I guess that’s too much. Gale force tracks the planets, the orbs, as they’re taking deep breaths, it’s a giant stethoscope, recording the absorption of air in the atmosphere.” She pointed to weeds in cracks of a rocky surface of Oahu; they were growing on a deserted, mountainous plain. “This is what I wanted to show you.”
“Weeds?” he replied.
“Okay, those are weeds. But it’s an example of Pio. There has been lava flow, not recently, but not too long ago. Those species have been growing in the cracks from the flow of lava. Hard to say if it’s ruderal, or competitive, or just normal. First, it was bacteria, then it was heated by the Sun. Can’t tell. It doesn’t matter.”
“So?” he said.
Aji said, “The star, which is the Sun, heats the gases in the atmosphere of the planet. Winds are dramatically greater on a place like Saturn. The heat from the Sun causes changes in the atmosphere that result in gales, breezes, storms. The Sun convects it all like an oven, or, as my mother used to say, cooks the world.”
“I still don’t get it.”
She gestured at the Hawaiian weeds. “They didn’t come from any seeds, bud. They didn’t come from anywhere at all! They just…grew.”
As if to agree, rather grumpily, a burst of solar wind enlit the shield, and tossed the pod for one last time. “Let’s go to Jupiter,” he entreated. “Nice, peaceful İo!”
“Did I lose you?” Aji asked.
“No — you never found me,” he said. “It seems like a proverbial answer looking for a question.”
Aji searched him with her eyes, in a deeper thought. “There is an answer.”
She scanned the bluing sky, with a smile, as İo arose in the night. “There is an answer,” Aji enjoined him.“‘There is, literally, music in my heart all day, / I hear it late and early /.’”
“Okay,” he eased, in the calm, and quoted, “‘The lark is singing rarely.’”
“ ‘Above the bluest mountain crest /.’’”
He said, “‘It comes from fields’ –”
“‘Far away /,’” Aji said. “‘The wind that shakes the barley.’’” ◊
¤ Juke Box ¤
Theme, (Episode 1, Part Two): “Water (Piano Solo), Pachelbel’s Canon in D” | playlist, “Flea Markets, Nos. 1-50,” a myopic vaile (No. 21).
“The Echo By Seas” is one of three works by SODA TOM.
Selections from volume I have appeared on
“The Echo By Seas,” by Soda Tom, Vol. I of III, is from The Echo By Seas; & Other Stories, by Soda Tom. Copyright (C) 2018; 2017, ff., by the author. All Rights Reserved.
Created by Soda Tom