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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fourth Millennium (16)

Sunday Scribblings, Writers Island Joirnals, Matinee Muse


For Sunday Scribblings 141 – “I knew immediately...”

THE FOURTH MILLENNIUM

10 A Netful Of Never

There was something indefinable about Carp that Rose found intriguing…No, not that; more than just interesting…unique; that was it…but how so?
The smile that radiated from his hyper-active eyes, even when his lips remained expressionless, danced a wondrously well-mannered waltz of welcome; a gracious, graceful greeting for his guests. Confidence, mannerisms, and voice alike, exuded etiquette, and combined to serve up a fascinating feast of flawless finesse. Yet there was something mysterious about those eyes that defied description; an enigmatic, almost sinister depth of comprehension that hinted at their possession of untold secrets they had witnessed, and kept locked away in their unfathomable recesses. Perhaps though, Rose was merely allowing her imagination to run wild at the prospect, the promise, of fantastic revelations to come.
Despite her acceptance of the probability that acquired fact and speculative fiction were conspiring to fuse and confuse, she continued to scrutinise Carp’s every characteristic. Eventually she abandoned her hunt for defects, weaknesses, or any inconsistencies, conceding that it was probably Carp’s artificially darkened hair that had prompted her probe. Why had she questioned her initial assessment of this man? Like her uncle, Robin, she was able to judge character, accurately, from only limited encounters.
Starling had drawn a similarly frustrating conclusion, or confusion, by studying Carp’s reactions to sudden, unexpected situations. Just as Rose had done, he also detected something in the eyes that didn’t quite match the controlled, measured motions that characterised Carp’s gestures. They seemed to become alerted to every minor activity in the vicinity of the property; accentuated by Carp’s seating position, directly facing the window. This caused his eyes to reflect the incoming light, and dazzle in a kaleidoscopic display of strobe-like flashes, as they darted from point to point on their incessant course.
Carp hadn’t yet told them of his eye replacement surgery, and the involuntary, motion-detecting characteristic his artificial eyes possessed. He would inform them later that this was what accounted for his rather devious countenance. His eyes were able to auto-track every movement, however minor, homing in on it, in order to calculate, or compute an appropriate image.
Nightingale’s more reasonable assessment of Carp was based on the probability that anyone, who may be capable of revealing knowledge that could validate, conclusively, the integrity of their quest, had been party to inconceivable experiences. Whether these experiences had been of a positive or negative nature, would remain the subject of mere speculation, until or unless experienced by others.
“Please, make yourselves as comfortable as possible, gentlemen, and lady. I have a very long and hopefully, enlightening story to relate. It may seem like an awful lot to digest at one sitting; nevertheless, it is a story, a history, with a specific motive. It must be told, in order that you may all formulate a conclusive decision; to continue with your mission…or to abandon your ‘quest’. Hear me out, I implore you. Time for questions, as well as answers, will be ample, later, if you collectively, or indeed individually, reach the decision to continue.
Let me begin, if I may, at the most logical point; the beginning; at least, as the world has been led to understand the beginning.
Forget about your inherited perceptions that the history of existence is a mere matter of only three thousand years.
Open your minds, as well as your ears.
What you are about to hear, has been denied by the authorities of the Nation, for over a century; dismissed as irrelevant, and subsequently ‘forgotten’.
As far as your authorities are concerned, it never happened; any of it.”
Carp’s words had the effect of triggering the undivided attention of his guests.

“Time, my dear friends, is not confined to the imposed schedules of a paranoid dictatorship, who deny even the existence of yesterday, and view tomorrow, as the ‘reward’ for the obedience and loyalty to the ‘cause’ of today.
Space, is not a figment of the imagination, brought on by the feeble minds of the discontented.
I am about to take you on a fantastic journey, through both Time and Space.
A word of caution; be prepared for a bumpy ride.
My home; my real home, is a land several thousand kilometres away from the Nation; on the other side of the world. Yes; you heard me correctly; the other side of the world. Contrary to popular belief, in fact conditioned perception would be more accurate; the world is not flat! It is a spinning globe, in the infinite Cosmos of Space.
When first I ‘arrived’ in this Nation, I was astonished to discover that the term, ‘the other side of the world’, caused people to think in terms of a reverse side; rather like saying, ‘the other side of the fence’. People to whom I spoke, initially, believed my reference was to what they understood as the underside of the land; a side that was unable to support matter. On that side, anything not physically attached, and fixed to the ground, would fall forever, into the Void.
What, did I suppose, those shining objects were, that appear in the night sky? Quite clearly, they are pieces of the world that, at one time, had been positioned too close to the ‘edge’ of, or merely broken away from, the underside of the ‘plane’. There was never any reference to ‘planet’.
Why, did I suppose that even the chart of the world was square; flat…? I shall explain.”
In simple, un-technical terms, Carp did explain. He proceeded with a condensed history of the world.
Creation, evolution, and extinction, followed by the development of civilisation, were the first topics on his agenda. His silent audience sat and listened to his every word, in open-mouthed, wide-eyed awe.
Society, religion, politics, and education, led to industrial and technological advances. Man’s insatiable greed and arrogance, owing to the compelling forces and temptations of power and money, concluded a lesson that featured poverty and wealth, art and science, laws and morality, as well as the humanities, space exploration, and war. Competition, achievement, hopes and fears, comforts and dangers, security, and health, all found their appropriate positions in his discourse.
The surface had been merely skimmed, but the message had been delivered.
Sensing an inevitable atmosphere of incredulity, Carp was eager to emphasise that as staggering as it may all have sounded, every word he’d uttered, had been the absolute truth.
He had reached as far as the twenty first century; the beginning of the third millennium, and felt that this was as good a point as any, to adjourn, for lunch. The break would, perhaps allow at least some of what he’d related, to sink in, in order that questions, which would surely follow, in due course, could be formulated. Not a word was spoken by anyone, during the simple meal of Sustocrisp biscuits, and Procarb. The food was digested in complete silence, along with the more intelligible portions of Carp’s chronicle.

To be continued

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski


For WIJ10 – Most Amazing Experience

10 A Netful Of Never (Cont)

“At one time;” Carp continued, “almost a thousand years ago, many more land-masses spanned the planet. These were separated by seas and oceans, which also contained literally thousands of islands. The population, globally, was a staggering seven billion, and growing. Unbelievably, the population topped fifteen billion, before a combination of man-made and ‘natural’ events reduced the planet, and its population, to nearer what it is today. All that we know, those of us who do actually know, is a vast, single ocean, and only two land-masses; one extremely large; the other, tiny by comparison, with a combined population of, perhaps, two billion.
It is true to say that it was neither nuclear war, nor what was once referred to as ‘Global Warming’ that were responsible, individually, for the catastrophic events that dominated much of the third millennium. By the same token, it is equally true to state that both phenomena were major contributing factors.
The root cause of the devastation that ensued was in fact, as I touched on, briefly, man’s own greed.
Global financial markets reached new peaks, widening the gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. The rich became exponentially richer, fatter, and more ambitious, in their obsessive desire for dominance. The poor, inevitably, were left with, quite literally, nothing.
The consequence was, predictably, war.
It was a war of unprecedented proportion.
By the time the world eventually engaged in universal conflict; for the third…and final time, I might add, in the late twenty first century, that other factor I mentioned; ‘Global Warming’, had already taken dramatic effect. The polar ice-caps had reduced significantly, causing sea-levels, world-wide, to rise, sharply. Some low-lying areas of land had become submerged.
Mass human migrations were triggered as a result of the threat of the ever-encroaching water. Permanent settlers had begun to inhabit the formerly frozen expanses of reclaimed territories. The former authorities of what we now know as the Nation had ensured that, as migration occurred, they collected all the ‘valuables’ that were left behind. They collected ‘taxes’ from the refugees, in order to ‘guarantee’ their safe passage, and to pay for their enforced relocation.
They ended up so immensely wealthy that they used vast amounts of their, now unlimited wealth, to manipulate the worlds economy in their own favour. The interim authorities effectively took ownership of all business and industry. As resources and infrastructure continued to be claimed by the ‘natural’ turmoil, their grand plan backfired, as the world markets crashed as never before. In fact, they became worthless, as industries and technologies ceased to exist, or continue effectively, because physically, they were unable to do so. The demand for their products and services had shrunk to such an extent, as to render them obsolete. Following decades, in fact centuries of chaos, the ‘new’ government decided to adopt a ‘back to basics’ policy.
Largely as a result of numerous nuclear detonations that occurred during this prolonged period of war, several unforeseen consequences had come into play.
Land-mass migration occurred at an alarming rate; an average ‘shift’ of about ten metres a day. Millions had perished in the detonations; millions more were displaced by the elements.
Unnaturally severe weather conditions, and phenomena such as earthquakes and volcanic activity, became commonplace around the world. The death toll rose into the billions. The trauma suffered by the earth’s crust, caused movement of tectonic plates. Mountains literally crumbled; entire countries were lost to tidal surges, and territories became divided by huge chasms, caused by earthquakes, or buried beneath volcanic ash and lava. Drought, ice and snow, flood and fire, famine and poverty, all visited places for the first time in history.
Billions more perished.
By the beginning of the twenty fifth century, the map of the world had changed beyond recognition. Less than a billion survivors, planet-wide were left to rebuild the world, which by now, consisted of just the two land-masses we…some of us at least, know today; The Nation, and my homeland, St. George.
The unnatural, ‘natural’ phenomena that had ravaged, and all but destroyed civilisation, came to a dramatic, and sudden, end. A massive reconstruction programme ensued; every man, woman, and child was involved. Land was levelled, coastal defences were strengthened, and new buildings were erected. The brains; the concepts, behind industrial and technological processes, had survived, even if the actual people hadn’t. Almost all the physical remnants of mechanised endeavour; the machinery and premises, lay beneath the ocean, or were buried under the rubble. Space exploration and satellite communication systems had been long abandoned, and as such were obsolete. The chance to start again had to be taken very seriously.
It took a couple of centuries of unprecedented human interaction and endeavour, to pull the world out of a potential dark-ages scenario, into the relative familiarity of a more modern, civilised environment. So many things; not least cultures, societies, and even most people’s memory, or knowledge of the past, had been lost. Some of the components were rediscovered, in time, allowing us access to our dubious heritage, but many aspects of society were gone, forever.
A recognisable form of civilisation had been re-established, but a further period of time was required to apply the principles of political administration. Once the solidarity of a desperate people had diminished and turned to complacency, the sparse population dispersed, to establish their own communities with their own identities.
The once great superpower of the West had become no more than a local advisory assembly of collective intelligence. Realising the constraints of its fragile grasp on its own influence, as well as the significance of respecting the dignity and status of the people it now represented, it had long ago abandoned its ‘ghetto mentality’. In its attempt to stake its claim on control of the population, people of all races, colours and creeds, were encouraged to co-exist, on equal terms. Understandably, the people were reluctant to, or refused to trust in their calls for unity, and continued to go in search of their own ways of life. They had learnt a harsher than imaginable lesson from the sufferings and endurances of their recent ancestors, and were determined not to accept any part in any potential repeat of the mistakes of their political leaders.
For those who did decide to listen, and remain within the ‘safety zone’ their number provided, opposition to the increasing arrogance of the new government was inevitable. The population by this time, the mid-twenty seventh century, was approaching two billion.
Discontentment and protest were ignored, and localised incidents of sporadic demonstration became widespread. Violence resulted, and conflict returned, leading to the outbreak of the unthinkable; civil war.
Large numbers were once again dying annually, and terrorist activities became commonplace. The powers that be, were practically helpless, until that was, they put their technological capability to work. They developed a computer programme known as ‘Ideocide’.
‘Ideocide’ was a non-destructive weapon, capable of adjusting people’s ways of thinking. The Nation initially threatened to deploy it on St. George, in order to demonstrate its effectiveness, but we were able to resist, having suffered the least from the ‘Disasters’. Large parts of our infrastructure still remained intact. We countered the Nations threat with our own technological deterrent, and the Nation backed down. Their attention turned once more, to their own people, and a version of Ideocide was deployed.

To be continued

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski


For Matinee Muse – Behind The curtain

10 A Netful Of Never (Cont)

In a last-ditch bid to once and for all combat crime and terrorism, that was now rife in their own land, the high tech weapon was ‘tested in-house’.
Rather than being exposed to the full force of Ideocide, which would automatically indoctrinate the population with the philosophy and culture of the ‘authorities’, the programme was delivered in stages. Your great-great grandparents and their parents at least, were subjected to a kind of ideological ‘neutering’ process. With the aid of the Ideocide programme, all their pre-conceived notions of how things should be were removed from their consciousness, gradually. This allowed their, now more passive, less aggressively inquisitive minds, to accommodate the ‘new’ concepts. Thus, the process of assimilation, or acclimatisation, to the ‘New World Order’ was introduced by ‘suggestion’. Much as a ‘natural’ educational programme, it was based on teaching and examination. The common knowledge, and ever-present potential consequences of Ideocide, had enabled a ceasefire to be implemented, and the mere threat of its general deployment led to the ‘compromise’.
All adults; all people aged between fifteen and fifty five, were summonsed to attend ‘Rehabilitation Classes’.
Within a generation, the inhabitants of the Nation, had been transformed from a people who had, albeit briefly, flirted with and enjoyed, the fundamental freedoms, brought on by peace, to a placid, controlled, androgynously-minded…flock of sheep. Freedom of choice, association, movement, speech, and even thought, were things of the past. The past itself was a thing of the past. An entire population had been ‘programmed’ to support, and follow the cultures of Apathy and Ignorance; only hearing, seeing, knowing, and even thinking, what their ‘superiors’ deemed permissible.
Only St. George remained relatively unscathed; left alone to continue as before; a kind of ‘control culture’ to the radical ‘experiment’ that was being conducted on the other side of the world. You may know of these developments, but not necessarily about them. The period was known as the ‘Armistice’, and its aftermath as the ‘Purges’.
A great barrier, known as the ‘Ring’, was placed around St. George, leaving us with only a two thousand kilometre expanse of ocean, in all directions. This ‘exclusion zone’ was placed, to ensure that we Georgians, could neither penetrate the defences of the Nation, nor receive further news of any events that took place in the Nation. The barrier still exists; a monument to oppression, and a reminder, as far as we’re concerned in St. George, of what could happen to us, if we were ever to lose sight of the fact that paranoia and wars only cause problems; they never solve them. However, the ‘Ring’ is fortunately, no more effective than our own defence mechanisms; a fact that permits us both to exist on Earth, side by side, albeit separated by thousands of kilometres, as well as this physical barrier…out of sight, out of mind.
Eventually we both all but forgot about each other, and even the mere existence of the Nation, is never even mentioned any longer, on St. George. We were happy to comply with the imposition of an obstruction that no-one could even see. The Nation was off-limits, so there was no reason for long-distance travel. Ocean going passenger liners became obsolete, as did large-scale airliners, leaving only the activities of the trawlers, and offshore commodity installations, out of sight of the island. Besides, it wasn’t St. George that was wasting all her assets on maintenance of the ‘Ring’. My guess is that this is where most of the real wealth the Nation possesses, is actually spent.
In effect, its inhabitants live in a kind of self-sufficient cooperative, where worthless ‘tokens’ are issued as currency, to give the impression of personal prosperity. The tokens, once used, are merely recycled and re-issued. Prices remain static and only certain, minor luxuries, are made commonly available, subject to very limited accessibility. There is no unemployment, no inflation, and no requirement for large amounts of cash, therefore no banking system and no augmentation of private affluence…officially. The status quo is maintained; enforced.
That concludes the entire history of the world, in a nutshell, as far as it concerns the Nation. As for St. George; the modern history of the island can wait until a more relevant occasion. I think I’ve spoken at length, and anyway, certain conditions apply to receiving information regarding modern-day St. George, which will become apparent as time progresses.
All that remains is for me to tell you about how I came to be here.”

Carp, proceeded to relate his harrowing adventure turned nightmare, aboard his inadequately prepared pleasure boat, bringing Starling, Nightingale and Rose up to speed with events up until he’d left the medical centre, not ten kilometres from where he was now living. During his account, he referred to himself, for the first time in thirty years, by his real name; Marc.
“Once I’d recovered sufficiently to hold my thoughts together, I set out to learn about all the differences between this place and the one I’d come from. My recollections were jumbled, confused, and very vague. The culture shock hit me hard, and I soon realised it would be pointless trying single-handedly to educate the ignorant. Instead, once I’d realised my semi-conscious ramblings, about ‘Them’ and ‘There’, had earned me some kind of cult status, I set out to try to take advantage of the situation.
Most people didn’t actually believe my ‘stories’, but they loved the concept of a place where things were different. To be honest, a lot of my ‘revelations’, in the past, were told as much for my own amusement, as for their education, and were received as a novel kind of entertainment. Literature, theatre and the like, having been abolished with the ‘Purges’, the experience was all incredibly surreal to my sceptical, though captivated, audience. Of course, I enhanced certain aspects, and omitted certain others. I was well aware of the danger of revealing too much.
After a while, I decided to limit my ‘fantasy’ storytelling episodes, to very occasional, sporadic, performances, for ‘chosen’ people, in order to prevent the attraction of unwanted attention from the ‘authorities’. Fortunately for me, I believe, no-one ever revealed the source of the ‘rumours’, which had begun to spread and circulate. Only certain ‘others’ were ever allowed to find their own way to me.
Ever since my arrival, thirty years ago, I’ve been waiting for the right person, or people, with the necessary skills, determination, and commitment, to pay me a visit, in order to help me find my way back home.
I was barely even an adult when I, inadvertently, entered the Nation’s waters. Look at me now; I’m fifty five years old, for God’s sake!
The most important lesson I’ve learned from it all though, is that if I hadn’t used each specific incident as a focal point, to inspire me, I would have become overwhelmed by the concept of my ‘discovery’, and allowed it to consume me, with its merciless, personality sapping, production-line, mentality.
I have to congratulate your perseverance, all three of you. You come highly recommended, and I have learnt much about you, in a short period of time. Your ambition, your consistency of character, and your evident abilities, are admirable. Most people who have made it this far, come with the less than inspiring, optimistically motivated, qualification of; ‘they seem serious enough; see what you think’. Rather than demonstrating, to me, their own creativity, they have, in the majority of instances, saddened and disappointed me with their displays of naivety. Most have come in search of a way forward; wanting to know what I can do to assist them.” Of course none have been worthy participants in my ultimate plans, and I remain, in an anticipation that I never allow to become desperation; my ambition unfulfilled.

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski