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Lucky Courier

Posted in Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2012 by javedbabar

“Damn!” said Sophie to herself and then thought, I hate it when that happens. She picked up the phone and dialled a number. “Hello, it’s Sophie here from Lucerne Village Hall. I seem to have missed a delivery. I was here all morning; how did that happen?”

“Hello Sophie. This is Daphne from the Customer Services Team. I am sorry about your delivery. We’ve had a few problems this morning. Shall I reschedule it for this afternoon?”

“That would be great. If I’m not in my office, the courier can leave it at the reception desk in the other building. That’s always manned.”

She had considered saying, wo-manned but that would sound stupid.

The courier came again two hours later. There was a single fingernail tap on her window, and then a happy face, brown, but more golden in hue than his uniform. She motioned for him to enter, and he bounded in with a small, heavy parcel. She hadn’t been expecting anything. Was it a present from someone? Sophie liked surprises.

“Good afternoon, Miss Walker. I am sorry about before. I am new to this area and didn’t know that other building was related to yours. How many of these buildings are village offices? Oh, all of them around the garden? This must be a nice place to work. How long have you worked here? You seem well settled in…”

So much talking, thought Sophie, does he get many deliveries done? Maybe it’s because he’s new and wants to build customer relationships. Mr Chatty. She should ask him something too. “Where were you before this? In a different territory?”

“I am originally from Salistan,” he said.

Uh-oh, thought Sophie. He thinks I’m asking where he’s from. Why do immigrants always assume that’s the question? “I mean your delivery territory.”

“Oh sorry. Before I was working in the New City, but now I am in Lucerne.”

“That must be a big change for you.”

“Oh yes, but I like it. I don’t care about having a big house or big car. I just want a simple life, where I can hold my head up without people pointing. I want to make my family proud.”

Sophie was about to ask if they were still in Salistan, but he continued.

“I almost became rich, you know. At the horse races I said as a joke to someone to bet on a thousand-to-one horse. The woman put a hundred dollars on it, but the bookie closed before I could put my bet on. That horse won! That woman won one hundred thousand dollars! I saw her dancing. I was going to go up and congratulate her but there were so many people crowding around her that I left it. I was happy for her.”

Sophie started saying, “Did you…” but he was off again.

“At the casino once, I did become rich. You know that gambling is forbidden by my religion, but those machines are irresistible. It is only one coin and you never know what may happen. Lady Luck may be on your side. I won the hundred thousand dollar jackpot! It was like the Gambling God gave me what he owed. The bells were ringing, lights were flashing, and coins flooded out. They told me later that was all for show. The real prize was a big cheque for the money. I was married then, and my wife couldn’t stop laughing and laughing. In the car on the way home, we talked about all the things we would do together, but then I saw the look on her face. It said that she didn’t want to do them with me.”

Sophie didn’t know what to say.

He continued, “That’s why I am here in Lucerne working as a courier. Would you please sign for your parcel? I have a good feeling about it, why don’t you see what it contains.”

Sophie’s eyes flashed like lights on a pinball machine. There was a card saying she had won everything she had ever dreamed of. She just had to call a special number, which she did later that day. Immediately her mortgage increased by a hundred thousand dollars, which was transferred to an account in Salistan.

Dried

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Global Travel, Mystical Experience, Uncategorized, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie had been affected by the drawing she’d found this morning on the Lucerne Valley Road. She decided to display it on her office wall. She couldn’t make out any details clearly, but it gave the impression of a vast, complex city, filled with human activity. Framing it had been a good idea. It filled the boring expanse of beige opposite her window. People looking into the office now had something to see.

She was mostly out of her office that afternoon, at crisis meetings about rising water levels in the Upper Valley. Two straight weeks of blazing sun had melted snow caps and caused the highest river levels since the last great flood of 2008.

She’d pulled her door closed behind her when she’d left, as per regulations. There was no need to lock it though. Every door opening was recorded on the surveillance system, which was enough to deter unauthorized staff from entering her office.

To improve village hall’s green rating, the office manager had switched off air-conditioning systems, and the building’s passive solar design was meant to keep it cool. However the angle of the sun today was such that the overhang was insufficient. Sunshine poured in throughout the day and made her office an oven.

The framed drawing took a direct hit of sunshine for over an hour. The city portrayed within it heated unbearably and began to suffer droughts. Its reservoirs were exhausted and aquifers dry. Its infrastructure had been repaired after the recent “nuclear accident” which most citizens knew had really been a war. However, due to corruption and incompetence, it had not been fixed well. The little water supply there was suffered big losses, causing The Authority to implement rationing and initiate Level Three hydrostatic measures.

Tensions arose on the streets, and there were simultaneous water riots all over the city. Ozwald Malchizedek claimed to be the Prophet of Aqu – the god of fresh water. He called a citizens’ gathering outside the Transparent Temple and said, “People of the holy city, we have displeased Aqu. He is withholding his water from us, the blood of life. He no longer fertilizes mother earth with his fluid seed. He withholds his kindness and displays his strength. He is angry because we have forgotten him!”

There were shouts of agreement.

He continued, “Let us remember the Dreamtime story of the first parents – Aqu, in the form of Bobby, and Pani, as Naomi – who came from another world and created this one. Their pathways became our waterways. Their dreamlines are our bloodlines. Let us build more vessels for water. I call for the initiation of a mighty canal-building project for transport, leisure, and trade. Let us show that we are worthy to be blessed with the gift of water. If we build the canals, they will send water.”

The Authority had no choice but to supply the machines, tools, and workers required. They knew that drawing water was a matter of life and death. Right now they were powerless, but let Aqu and Pani take the blame. Religion is useful for civic order. Amen!

Communicate With Confidence

Posted in Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2012 by javedbabar

Danny wondered if there was there one truck in many places, or many trucks scattered around? They all looked the same; silver Nissan 4WD’s with canopies saying Communicate With Confidence, and a telephone number.

He never saw any of them driving around, or anyone inside one. The truck, or trucks, were parked around the village in various locations. He’d seen them in condo visitor parking lots, the long driveways of acreages, outside Village Hall, even at the police station.

Danny was intrigued and called the number. There was no music or welcoming message, just two rings, a click, and a robotic voice saying “Leave a message.”

Danny said, “Hello, this is a message for the person at, erm, Communicate With Confidence. I’ve seen your truck, or trucks, around the village, erm, Lucerne, that is. I was wondering what you do exactly. Can you please let me know. It’s Danny here. Thank you. Oh, my number is…”

The message clicked off before he could leave his number. He called back and repeated the message, but it again clicked off early. A third attempt had a similar result.

It was really annoying. What a stupid voicemail system; he wondered how they got any business. They must be successful though, because their truck, or trucks, seemed to be everywhere.

Danny saw a Communicate With Confidence truck in the car park of the Transparent Temple – the nickname for their glassy community centre – and decided to investigate. He asked the receptionist if there was a session in progress, and was directed to Room One. Danny peered in. About a hundred people filled the room, chanting. A sign at the front said simply Communicate! Many of the students turned towards him; Danny felt self conscious and walked away.

When Danny got home, he started thinking, what was it that he wished to communicate, and to who? Was it a message about looking for work? Was it a request to his bank to reduce his credit card rate? Was it a comment about the unfairness and unpredictable nature of the world?

He realized that what he wanted to say was, “Sophie, will you marry me?” They’d been dating for six months now. You either know, or you need to know. He’d been in this position with a previous partner and tried to do something about it. He’d done the right thing; he’d asked her. But his words had come out wrong. It had all gone wrong.

He re-called the number and left a message saying, “Hello, my name is Danny. I am in love with Sophie, and I wish to ask her to marry me. I wish to communicate this with confidence. Please help me to do this. My number is 604 698 6868.”

The voicemail accepted the full message. Five minutes later he received a text saying “We will be there at 9am.”

At exactly nine, the CWC van pulled into the car park of his condo complex. A woman in white overalls and flat cap handed him a business card saying, Mavis, 3C which she explained meant Confident Communication Consultant.

“How much do you charge?” said Danny.

“A dollar a minute,” said Mavis.

Danny received intensive counselling about Positive Thinking, Creative Visualization, the Law of Attraction and the Law of Karma. Mavis said that all of these affect your life deeply. Time flew by. When she ended the session he checked his watch, and saw that four hours had elapsed. He gulped.

“Don’t worry about that now,” she said. “We never chase customers. Our terms are payment upon results. I can say with confidence that you’ll pay us within three months.”

Swirling

Posted in Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2012 by javedbabar

Suzi saw him every morning. The Bakerman arrived at four a.m. looking dreadful. What did he do at nights – stay out drinking and dancing till the small hours? Maybe he was O.K. with less sleep, but Suzi wasn’t. For her to arise before four, she must be in bed by eight p.m. She needed her beauty sleep. What if one day he asked her out on a date? He was only likely to do that if she looked the part. There was the issue of how she would stay awake during the date, but if things progressed well there would be no sleeping; he would clutch and squeeze her till dawn – or opening time if sooner. She could sleep after that.

She watched him unlock the door and switch off the alarm. Once he wasn’t quick enough and it began bleating and flashing, and it looked like he was in a club dancing to a trance tune, the strobing blue light making it seem he was appearing and disappearing. He was her magic Bakerman.

He switched on the lights and the master power switch. Once a light bulb blew, shattering like a phosphoric bomb. What did they make them with now – mercury? It must have spread poison. Or maybe it was just glass fragments. It was a serious thing to happen in a bakery – glass in bread. He closed for the day and hired a specialist cleaner to remove the hidden shards.

He dragged out sacks of flour and measured portions. There was Whole Grain, oat flour, spelt flour, rice flour, rye, and good old fashioned, unrefined, bleached white flour. He used these flours for his breads, bagels, brioches, muffins, tarts, and rolls. He was an old fashioned baker using only bowls and rollers, and of course his hands to knead and punch. She imagined him beating her flesh like bread, not hard, just playfully. Enough to sting her.

Transformation required pain. A minimum of compromise and self-sacrifice and, if you were serious, rituals that caused irreversible harm. Circumcision, scarification, head-shaping, and ear-stretching. Even tattooing, marking you as different and changed forever.

His first round of baking was done by six. Truckers came in as soon as he opened the doors. Sometimes they were waiting already. Beef wanted two muffins and a double-double Americano. Taylor switched between sandwiches and bagels. Nancy loved his brioches, but would settle for tarts. It was a wonder that she kept her figure, being a full time trucker and daily pastry consumer.

Suzi went in at seven daily for a cappuccino and spelt or rice flour muffin. Something relatively healthy. She went again at twelve for a sandwich and smoothie. Her favourites were the turkey breast door stop and strawberry banana fruity. Her third visit daily was at four for tea and cake – Assam and whatever he’d made that day.

The Bakerman was nice to her initially – all welcomes and smiles. But one day she’d mentioned that she was attending a party and asked if he’d like to come along. Well to be precise, she’d asked him to “be her date”. She recalled his look of horror. It was as if the thought was so ridiculous that it had never occurred to him. He recovered quickly but too late for her to remain under any illusions. He clearly found her disgusting.

Suzi never went to the Bakery again. She went cold turkey. This didn’t stop her watching him though. His daily comings and goings. She felt most sad in the afternoons.

She missed his rainbow cake, with red, green, blue and gold, all swirling together. Rainbows were created by sun and rain. His smile and her tears.

She missed his marble cake. The brown and white whorls moving within and around each other. They were yin and yang. He and she.

Most of all she missed his Vanilla sponge cake. A simple flavour spread throughout it, combined with the flour forever.

To say she didn’t go to the Bakery wasn’t entirely true. She just held a different schedule. His keys had been easy to copy, and she’d figured out his codes by watching, so every Sunday she broke in at midnight. It was just to smell him. The breads and bagels he’d made the day before. She pushed her face into them. Smelled their cruel perfume. Once she didn’t reset the alarm properly, which he triggered when he entered. Once she’d removed a fuse to disarm the alarm, causing a bulb to explode. Sometimes she tested ingredients to ensure that they were worthy to touch his hands.

Today she had a special ingredient to add to his sourdough. Cyanide would put him behind bars for sure. At least there he would welcome her visits. Transformation requires pain.

Oxygen

Posted in Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 5, 2012 by javedbabar

Adam and Lucy arrived at 9.30am to ensure a good spot at the front of the crowd. This was so exciting! Their first Canadia Day, in their first home together, in their new Village; somewhere where people actually knew each other, and made and grew things, and came together as a community. “The happiest, healthiest place in Canadia,” they’d heard it called.

Every resident of Lucerne was present. The street was filled with red and white balloons and flags. Red and white children chased each other through crowds, with silly spotted dogs running after them. It was a celebration of all that was good about this Village: happy children, uniformed and helmeted heroes, profitable, job-making businesses, lovers of cats, fish and, birds, First Nations singing and drumming, Seniors still rocking and rolling, the noble mayor-farmer and wise council, fifth-generation potato growers; those enthused by motorcycles and bicycles; and those who tinker with engines to make them roar like castrated dinosaurs.

Adam and Lucy cheered every float passing. They were confused however by the approach of an industrial fuel tank which caused the crowd to hush into reverential silence. Why had everybody gone quiet? Adam said, “They’re looking at us.”

“No they’re not,” said Lucy. “They’re looking at the fuel tank.”

“Well why are they looking?” Now people really were looking at them, as the only ones talking among the crowd of two-thousand. The sea of hush. They became self-conscious, looked at each other, and hushed too. As the tank drew closer, they saw that it was not borne on the back of a truck, but on the backs of people. A hundred of Lucerne’s residents carried it proudly.

Being new in town, they hadn’t heard the Story of Shirley. She was born to farmers in the Lucerne Valley, and her parents had both died in a horrific agricultural accident. Despite being “safe” in the house, noxious fumes affected her young lungs, which suffered irreversible damage and degeneration. They didn’t really fail, just fell apart gradually. She tried not to exert herself and stayed in the house as much as possible, but when she hit nineteen, like any young lady she wanted to get out. However her lungs couldn’t extract enough oxygen from the atmosphere and needed constant topping up, so she couldn’t go anywhere without an oxygen supply. A small water bottle sized container was adequate.

This proved to be an issue at the Lucerne Hotel, which had recently been fined for liquor licence infringements. The doorman had been instructed to be extra tough on customers. He said, “Sorry love, you can’t bring that in here.”

“Why not?” said Shirley.

“You can’t bring in bottles from outside. That’s the rules.”

“But it doesn’t have any liquid in it. It’s just oxygen.”

“Even if it doesn’t have any liquid, you can’t bring it in.” She could tell that the doorman was not being mean deliberately,  just following orders. “You could fill it with liquor and take it out.” He seemed relieved by his invented justification.

“Why would I do that?” Shirley said. “I could buy some from the bottle shop. It’s cheaper there. It even comes in its own handy bottle already.”

“Very funny,” said the doorman. “Ok, let’s just take a look at the bottle.” Shirley handed it over, and he twisted it open before she could stop him. He was surprised by its hiss, and peered inside and said, “Ok, you were right, it’s only air. I’ll let you take it in this time.”

Shirley teared up. It was impossible to enter now that her lifeline was gone. Her mother had taught her to not complain in life, and there was nobody alive to complain to. She returned home immediately.

Shirley’s lungs worsened and she needed more oxygen. A bar visit now was out of the question. She decided to visit the library, carrying a large Coke bottle sized oxygen container. But health and safety rules at municipal facilities forbade people to bring in unchecked containers. The security guard insisted that she open it up. Shirley cried at the hiss that once again forced her to go home.

Kind neighbours did her shopping, but sometimes she had to do it herself. As her lungs deteriorated, she wheeled around a bucket sized oxygen container. The grocery store guard repeated the all too familiar procedure. He said that Local Food Laws did not permit noxious gases near fresh produce. “But they sit in it for months in shipping containers,” she said. “This is just oxygen, you know, what we breathe.” He insisted on checking. She went home without food.

Eventually Shirley needed to push around a dustbin sized oxygen container. The coffee shop guard said its contents may ruin the roasting process. “But it’s oxygen,” she said. “Like the bubbles in froth.” But he needed to check this.

The Lucerne Hotel’s doorman found Shirley crying in the car park one day. She told him about her failing lungs and her need for ever-more oxygen. He sat with her for a while, and asked for her to accept his apology. The next week he went to visit her home. She now needed a twin bed sized oxygen container. He called six of his buddies and together they lifted it up and followed Shirley around town. Word got around quickly, and she was welcomed everywhere. New laws were passed. No smoking, no cell phones, and no electricity were to be live anywhere near her, as the risk of pressurized gas igniting was too great. The true measure of any society is how it treats its weakest members. Lucerne passed with honours. It became a quiet reflective town, where people listened to and helped others.

Adam and Lucy saw a weak, smiling girl walking before the industrial tank borne aloft by Lucerne’s citizens. When she raised her pathetic hand to wave, everybody began cheering. She seemed embarrassed, but also the proudest girl in the world.

Cash Centre

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by javedbabar

Harry had worked nightshifts at the Cash Centre for five years. It was boring but steady work. Lord knows there are few good jobs in Lucerne. Most families sent their earners to Strattus, but here was a way for an unskilled man to support his family locally, for which Harry was grateful. He was not an ambitious man, and had a friendly yet somewhat oppressive relationship with his boss.

“Morning boss,” Harry said to Timothy.

“Morning slave,” he replied. “Did you sleep well today? Do your neighbours still think you’re a vampire? Do you still howl at the moon?”

“All of those things,” said Harry. “Now do you want me to stand around chatting, or do some work so you can get your bonus?” He switched on his Daylight, Ultraviolet, and Infrared lamps and sat down. He often thought how strange it was to work in a place like this – a high-tech workspace on the edge of the wilderness, toiling in artificial light through the darkness.

Harry worked in the Operations team counting cash. Trucks arrived throughout the night, bearing labelled and tagged canvas bags. Workers were allocated eight bags each, one per hour being the standard work rate. Harry emptied the bags into a raised metal bin and worked through the bundles conscientiously. Most were Clean #1, meaning that they contained what they said – a hundred twenties, a hundred fifties, or a hundred hundreds – but some held misallocated notes. There were fake notes and foreign notes; torn and worn ones too. Occasionally there was a cheque – how those got in he had no clue.

The process was simple. Stage One was sorting the notes through machines. They were macro- and micro-weighed, and graphically, structurally and chemically analyzed. Every note, and each batch, must be acceptable, or the bundle was rejected. Stage Two was manual checks. His hands had developed incredible sensitivity. His fingers were like radio antennae – picking up every bump, hollow, and ridge. Stage Three was alerting Timothy to irregularities. Stage Four was the CCTV monitoring everything, though this was out of his control.

“What are you doing?” Harry had warned a new colleague. “You’ll never get away with it.”

He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been up to something all week. Why are you being so stupid? And coins! Why coins?”

“It’s a test to see if I can get them out. They won’t care about coins. It could be loose change in my pocket. How will they know?”

“Believe me, they’ll know,” said Harry. “They’ll know.” Harry never saw that worker again. Another man arrived at and left work in a taxi daily. It was only a $10 fare from the Village, but that was $100 a week, and $5,000 a year. He could never afford that on his lowly salary. There was a reason that Timothy called them slaves. After five years Harry was only making $25,000 annually. It was company policy to pay people badly, so they didn’t attract ambitious people – like the taxi guy. Eventually he was caught with notes rolled into his nostrils. That’s why they’d never found them in his ass. You’d think that three rear cavity searches would be warning enough. He was caught when he sneezed one day and Queen Elizabeth shot out. GB. Great Booger. HMS. Her Majesty’s Snot.

With hundreds of thousands of dollars passing through your hands daily, even millions some days, sure it was tempting to steal. But Harry was a practical man. He knew that he wouldn’t get away with it. He also liked to think that he was honest.

Staff were required to be discreet about their employment, and only to tell their immediate families. Wilderness, discretion, and nightshift – boy they expected a lot for their silver. But he knew others that couldn’t resist showing off. It was human nature. Some daytime workers had big houses and flash cars. They must be working in the other half of the operation – Analysis. But there seemed to be so many of them – what did they analyze? Everything was done already by the Operations team.

Timothy called Harry into his office for “a chat”. Harry sensed that it was more than that. He was asked if he was happy with his job. He said that he was, but could do with more money, for he had a family to feed. “Well how about triple your current salary?” Harry didn’t know what to say. Here was his boss offering him a cut in some high-level scam. If he refused then he’d be fired for sure. If he accepted then he’d be caught for sure. He was being set up here. What could he do?

“I know what you’re thinking,” said Timothy. “That I want you to commit a crime. But that’s the furthest thing from my mind. You’ve proved to be an honest and loyal worker. I’m offering you a promotion. You will leave Operations and join the Analysis team.”

“Doing what exactly?”

Timothy said, “Follow me.” and took him into the other half of the building. The labs where fingerprints and DNA from every note was collected, deconstructed, and integrated. Every user of that note was recorded. The Authority used the information from notes to value individuals – their worth to the province, how many services they were entitled to, and which opportunities they deserved. Ordinary people had forgotten that money itself has no value. It is merely a symbol of what can be done by people. They create its worth, and by that, mark their worth.

Open Relationship

Posted in Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 28, 2012 by javedbabar

It is a long haul home in one sense, thought Antonio – three long ladders, all strapped together, rising thirty feet. It seems like an endless series of steps, like railway sleepers running past you at increasing speed; plus it’s trickier when you have shopping bags.

The fourth floor isn’t that high, he thought, but the ladder isn’t going straight up like a ship’s ladder. It’s angled about 45o, so the only things it touches are the ground and my apartment – my apartment, not theirs – on its √30ft2 x 30ft2, approx 45 ft length using Pythagoras’ formula for triangles. Clever guy that Pythagoras; I wonder if he would have approved of this solution.

Antonio’s ascent was somewhat awkward and entirely outdoors, but still quicker than walking all the way round to the apartment block entrance – up three sets of stairs – along many corridors – though endless sets of fire doors – past fire alarms – sprinklers –

CCTV – all to get to his apartment. It had been a year since Antonio had walked into the manager’s office and said to him, “I’m not paying any more management fees.”

“Why not?” he’d asked.

“Because I own this apartment, and pay $800/month to the bank for the privilege. And then for some unknown reason, I must pay a further $800 to you. That’s disgusting.”

The manager looked away, and fiddled with his desk toy. Five steel balls on wires were set in motion – by pulling away and releasing a ball at one end that bashed the others, and sent a ball at the opposite end outwards, which returned and continued the motion in reverse – and never stopped. Then he said, “But you must pay your fees to cover facilities. You have signed a contract. It is your obligation.”

“Screw my obligation. There is no such thing. There is free will and choice. That’s it.” He fixed a stare to the manager. “I’m not going to use your facilities. I’ve got my apartment. That’s all I need.”

“How will you do that?” said the manager, staring at his desk toy. “How will you get up there? How will you get in and out? You need our facilities.”

“You’ll see,” Antonio had said. “You’ll see.” He didn’t have a clue, but had set things in motion now and didn’t wish to back down. He realized that the management company fully owned the paved approach, the entrance lobby, the stairs, the corridors, and safety doors. He couldn’t set foot, or lay hand, on any of them without owing dues. So there was only one solution – an external approach.

He borrowed long ladders from a builder friend, and engaged the spirit of Pythagoras. Pythagoras was a mighty mathematician, of course, but more than that he was an idealist – some would say extremist. His commune in Croton, South Italy was a radical place, where all activity was directed towards the study of mathematics. Eating beans was banned – as flatulence was distracting. Like many great philosophers, Pythagoras was persecuted by the State. The great Socrates, for example, had been made to drink a cup of hemlock. Antonio decided that he would not allow the System to treat him like Socrates, but neither would he hide away like Pythagoras. He was a landowner, dammit! A man’s home is his castle. And a castle is home to a king.

The management company tried everything to remove Antonio. He was locked in, locked out, and kicked out. He was roughed up, blackmailed, threatened, and arrested. But his strength as an orator from his fourth floor window, and his unkempt, philosophical persona, saw him through these trials. People were moved by his arguments for the dignity of man; they were inspired by his notions of free will and free action. He said to them, “No one is free who has not obtained the empire of himself.” Here was someone to believe in at last; a true person. The manager sensed the local mood and stopped hassling him for now, saying they were looking into “structured legal positions”.

Despite his successful ladder setup, it was tiring getting in and out, so Antonio spent much of his time in his apartment reading Karl Marx. Yes, workers were duped by capitalists all over the world; they must rise up to reclaim their dignity. What was this bullshit notional rent they were charging for facilities he owned already? The apartment was his, so his access was implicit; he had eternal right-of-way. He would not accept their hidden charges; a filthy mixture of corruption, theft, profit, and tax.

Antonio’s neighbours liked his style. They hated paying management fees too, and never really understood their purpose, or where they went. The block’s facilities were functional and complete; the only ongoing costs were hallway lighting, lift operation, and occasional cleaning – how did that cost $800/month per owner? The managers were clearly crooks that must be challenged and resisted. Why should honest, hard-working folk shell out for made-up, bullshit costs? The apartment owners locked out the manager, and elected Antonio their leader. When the manager complained, Antonio said to him, “Be silent or let thy words be worth more than silence.” The manager kept quiet.

On his first day in the manager’s office, Antonio calculated the monthly bill for communal services. It came to $600 per property owner. So they had been ripping him off, the bastards! He drew up bills for his comrade-owners – $600 costs plus $200 admin charges for all his efforts. This was much fairer. Every man must be rewarded for his labour.

Free Living

Posted in Sacred Geometry, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 23, 2012 by javedbabar

Sandy didn’t think of himself as homeless; he thought of himself as nomadic. Like great peoples of the ancient world – Mongols, Tibetans, Bedouin, and Hebrews – he moved around. He accepted that his “people” numbered only one person, but every people has to start somewhere. The great peoples were herders, and moved with their beasts. Sandy did too till his dog ran away. Now he was both herder and beast.

He spent much of his time in the forest. He’d found a good spot a little ways uphill, just out of town, to place his sleeping bag nightly. There was a deep rock ledge there, almost a cave. He was comfortable enough from spring to fall, but wintered elsewhere – usually the City – where they had better facilities and wealthier people – not that he ever begged. But if people wanted to give him five bucks to make themselves feel better, that was their business.

His rock ledge in Lucerne was near the park. Friendly runners passed close by and often said, “Good morning,” though an increasing number were now saying, “Gooday”. That was another tribe of nomads – Australians. A tall Aussie girl – she must be a six-footer – ran by daily. Today, as always, she beamed a huge smile and stopped to chat. “Gooday,” she said. “Did you sleep well last night, Forest Saint? Any great dreams?”

“Well actually I did,” said Sandy. “I dreamt that I was a very lucky man living freely in the forest, chatting to pretty girls.”

“Well it looks like your dreams have come true then!” she said, and bounded off like a doe.

He chatted to East Indians. The best thing about them was their food; and of course the fact that they offered it freely at their gleaming temple, which used to be a church with a holy congregation of seven, but now held fifty turbaned warriors. They called him Sandy Sahib – which means Sir Sandy. He loved their steel platters filled with steaming food, followed by sticky cubes of dessert, and hot sweet tea. The elders told him about their journeys to get here from rural Punjab, but they were immigrants rather than nomads. Their holy book was installed in the temple, and they were staying put in Lucerne.

Sandy had no travel costs; he hitchhiked everywhere. Today he fancied heading up the Valley, and was picked up by a South African guy in a blue Tacoma. “Howzit?” he said.

Sandy had accepted rides from South Africans before, and knew that the answer to this greeting was not, “It is truly fine Sir, and what about yours?” The appropriate response to “Howzit?” was “Howzit?” right back; like he’d been taught by kids in the park that the answer to “Wassup?” was always, “Wassup?” as the answer to “Wag1?” (What’s going on?) was “Wag1?” There were only ever questions with some people. Everything was left open.

Sandy bathed daily in the spring – but of course downstream from where people filled their 18.9L gas station water bottles. Refill them once and you’ve repaid your deposit, and after that, its water free forever. Isn’t that how life should be always – free?

Sandy’s life previously had not been free. It had at times felt like a cauldron burning dry, and at other times, a roof leaking in many places; and now and then, somewhere in the middle; and too often, both at once. It was exciting to live in the City for sure; a world of commerce, industry, and architecture; untold opportunities; power lunches and grand dinners; urban music festivals; blockbuster action movies; dramas, operas, ballet, and modern dance. But there were also millions of other people chasing those very same things, leading to endless noise, overcrowding, pollution, traffic jams, bad tempers, no time to smile or talk to strangers, pushing and shoving, clock-watching, trying to succeed at your job and keep your head above water. The City was stressful. Those people weren’t free at all.

One day he’d said to his boss, “I can’t do this anymore.”

His boss had looked at him oddly and said, “You never could.”

“What do you mean?” said Sandy. “I always did well here. I hit my targets and achieved my goals.”

“You know what I mean,” said his manager. “This was never the right place for you. You should have married into a gypsy clan, or worked for the circus, and spent your life on the road.” He’d shaken his head and said, “I like you, Sandy, but you will never be a respectable member of society. You don’t believe in any kind of structure or fair exchange.”

Leaving full-time work meant that he could no longer pay his mortgage, and his house was repossessed. His wife was not impressed by this turn of events and left him soon after, moving far away so he couldn’t see the kids. He began to wonder whether families provided synergy – making everything better for each other – or were merely parasites – sucking each other’s life blood. Anyway, he was free of them; so that was that.

Sandy’s goal was to live in the now. Not in the past or the future, but only in the present moment which truly exists. And who existed really? In truth his consciousness extended only to himself. So maybe only he existed.

He began talking to himself more: the only True Being. He said, “I am living freely, without baggage, with neither obstructions nor obligations; I have no money and need no money; this world is generous, bountiful, and abundant. This moment is perfect, and I am free.” But in a secret place, a little voice said “Am I a star, alone in outer space? A ship cast adrift on the ocean? A forsaken lizard creeping through wasteland? The last snowflake on a sunny day? Am I no longer a herder but a beast?”

One Stop

Posted in Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 17, 2012 by javedbabar

The gloomy day was disappointing; Jason had been expecting sunshine, at least in the morning to get people out. He needed customers on his first day as a stall holder. His college fees were due by the end of the month.

His uncle had dropped him off on his way to work, way too early, but he was here at the Transparent Temple – nickname for their fancy community centre – before everyone else. In business this is known as an opportunity.

Jason set up three decorating tables, and arranged his Grandpa’s stuff upon them. His mother had not handled his loss well, and her way of coping was to erase his memory entirely. His Grandpa had been a hoarder all his life and she had wanted to throw everything out, but Jason had said he’d sell it instead.

The annual spring sale was a Village tradition – full of juicy jams, wild cakes, herbal candles, and forest art. But no other traders were setting up. Jason’s heart dropped – did he have the right day? He checked the Spring Sale application form. Yes, it was today – March 20th, Spring Equinox.

Midday came, and Jason realized something terrible; there were no other vendors. The plus side to this was that he had the best – and only – place in the market – right in the middle of the hall, visible from every direction. But he wasn’t sure how beneficial this would be as there weren’t any customers either. It was raining very heavily outside, like rippling sheets dropping down. He should have realized that business would be affected.

Jason was alone in the great hall, surrounded by his Grandpa’s memories. His holy books; his English tea set, his German cutlery, and Japanese crockery; his antique typewriter; his pinstriped 3-piece suit; his top hat and cane; his shirts, his socks, and his shoes. There were also many unpacked boxes that his mom had wanted out of the house immediately.

There was commotion in the doorway. What was going on?

A sullen crowd rushed in; Jason didn’t recognize any of them. A man walked over to him. “Oh, it vaz so terrible!” he said with a German accent. “Our bus vaz stuck in vater. It vas up to our chests. Ve had to carry de children on our shoulders. It vas a great big flood!”

Jason hadn’t realized the Valley was flooding. Heavy rain must have burst the dikes. These poor people seemed tired and scared. His first thought was to make them some tea in the bone china tea set, but then realized that he had no means to heat water. But hang on a minute – didn’t his Grandpa have some camping gear? Jason looked inside the boxes and found a camping stove and tin kettle. He filled the kettle up from the bathroom and soon had it boiling. He passed around cups of tea.

Danke,” said the German man, taking trays of tea to his fellow wet passengers. They smiled at him from around the room.

They must be pretty hungry too, thought Jason. He rummaged around in the boxes and found some powdered egg and hard biscuits. He’d seen his Grandpa’s army uniform and campaign medals, but never his rations. He’d kept them for over sixty years! Jason recalled him describing army food as “indestructible.” He’d said, “They should have made the tanks out of that stuff!”

Jason pulled out a pan and cooked up a mess of scrambled eggs, and laid blobs of it on biscuits. His German friend passed them around his fellow passengers, and there was a chorus of “Dankes”.

The caretaker of the building came in looking troubled, but smiled when he saw the catering operation. He said, “Good job, lad. Keep our visitors happy. The tourist dollar is half the Village economy.”

“Excuse me,” said the German man. “Do you know vat iz de situation regarding de vether?”

“I’m afraid the whole Village is flooded,” said the caretaker. “I think you’ll be here for a while. Maybe a day, maybe a week; no one can say.” The German man’s face fell, but then recovered. “Just make yourselves as comfortable as you can. I’ll come back with news.” The German man shared the news with his tour group; a wave of muttering ran around the hall perimeter.

Once the shock was absorbed, people began wandering over to Jason’s stall. They rummaged through Grandpa’s stuff, asking questions about items, and how much they cost. He had a captive market. He thought of doubling the prices, but thought that Grandpa would not have approved. Grandpa had both seen Prisoners-Of-War and been one himself. “They were just like us, boyo,” he’d said to Jason. “Cold and hungry and frightened. They were just like us.”

A lady examinded cooking utensils. The caretaker appeared with bags of spuds and carrots. He said, “A farmer left them here yesterday but hasn’t shown up today. Can you use them?”

Yah,” said the woman, and called over her friends. They grated the potatoes and cooked a stack of rostis. Flour and sugar appeared – and soon there was also carrot cake. Someone began to play Grandpa’s accordion, and an old man raked spoons along the washboard. People began dancing in pairs, and then in groups, like flowers opening outwards, and then returning to their centres. They began opening their suitcases, removing items, and sharing them out – Schnapps, fruit breads, chocolates, and ginger cakes. It became a great festival of spring gift giving. “Just is like Fruhlingsfest,” said a pretty blonde girl.

Jason too offered his items freely, but the Germans insisted on paying for them. They had heard that he was raising money for college. By the end of the day, all of his grandpa’s items were sold and Jason had made $5,000. The only thing left was a framed photograph of his grandpa, which someone had purchased and then returned, saying, “Your grandpa saved us today. You mustn’t forget him.”

Freezer

Posted in Organic Farming, Uncategorized, World Myths with tags , , on February 4, 2012 by javedbabar

Frank had always wanted to be a butcher. He was an embarrassment to his parents at parties during the inevitable round of, “And what do you want to be when you grow up?” Good children said doctor, lawyer or banker, and there was always a nerd wanting to be Prime Minister. Frank was honest and always said, “A butcher”. When asked why, he replied, “Because I want to kill and eat animals”. His parents tried to train him to say something else, but he wouldn’t lie. That’s what he wanted to do, truly.

Franks inspiration was the local butcher’s shop. His visits there with his father were highlights of his childhood. The tinny smell and glistening haunches; the sounds of sharpening, chopping and grinding; slabs of meat slapped onto blocks; paper rustling and wrapping up; the grass – fake he knew – but making it seem like a natural place, where animals were born and died; pink tongues poking out; red livers slipping; trails of white intestines, and black-tipped hooves. The Master Butcher was pleased when little Frank said he would like to join their trade. He wiped his hands, removed his apron, and said, “Would you like to see the freezer?”

He led Frank to a room at the back with a big steel door. Inside was really chilly. Frank shuddered as he entered, and his breath created a small cloud. There was strong humming and whirring. The room was filled with slabs of red flesh hung from steel hooks – fat strips dangling, thick legs, and whole sides; white ribs shone within red bodies, like long teeth smiling. There were trays of round chickens, bowling-ball turkeys, and curled strings of sausages. The Master Butcher held up a huge ox heart, and said, “This is what you need for this job.”

A lot had happened since then. Frank was now dating a Vegan; Linda was a beautiful girl with dark glossy hair. Despite their differences, they got on well. Their ethical disputes sometimes got out of hand, but were mostly good-natured. He played up his carnivorous credentials, and she called him a “depraved killer by proxy with ambitions to descend lower”. He didn’t often remind Linda that her father owned the grocery store, and that she had at least partly been raised on blood-money. He only did that during serious arguments, like the one they were about to have.

“Linda, what on earth are you doing?” he said.

“Teaching you a lesson, my love.”

“Come on, don’t be silly. It’s late. Let’s get out of here.” As much as he’d loved the butcher’s freezer as a child, he had no wish to spend the night in this one.

“We can’t, my love.” Her eyes shone strangely.

“Yes we can, watch this,” Frank walked over to the door and pushed the safety latch. Nothing happened. He looked at her, confused.

“I disabled it this morning. I’m sorry, my love, but this is necessary.”

“How long must we spend in here?” He was getting annoyed now.

“Let’s put it this way, my love; our last moments will be spent together.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. We could survive all night here if we cuddled up…” He stopped as he sensed something. “What’s the temperature in here? It seems colder than usual.”

“Yes it is, my love. I turned it down to minus forty.”

“Centigrade or Fahrenheit?” Now he started to panic.

“They’re both the same, my love. Minus forty is the same on both scales.”

He had a rush of thoughts. They’d had some colourful arguments, and Linda was the queen of dramatic gestures. She’d worn a meat dress to a fancy ball as a way to promote her views and shock his friends. She’d somehow sourced a piece of in vitro meat, grown in a lab from animal cells, but “without consciousness or the need for murder”. After serving him dinner one day she’d revealed a bandage beneath her blouse and asked how she tasted, for the stir-fry contained a little piece of her flesh. When her mother’s dog had died, Linda used its meat to make him a curry. She said it was a guilt free offering from Scruffy. One morning he awoke to find the bedroom transformed; it held a terrible installation of animal skulls. How she hadn’t woken him, he didn’t know. It had to be Rohypnol. All of these things he’d found exciting; and the sex that resulted was awesome. It was animalistic, complete with roaring sounds. But he should have seen these as warnings, and now she was trying to kill him. But wait a minute; wouldn’t she also be killing herself?

“Yes, I will, my love. You are a murderer by proxy and deserve to die. But I am killing you directly, so deserve at least the same fate.”

What should he do? He tried the door a few more times, but found it was locked firmly. He bashed the insulated steel walls, which didn’t budge. He tried the many controls in the freezer but none were operational. The only thing left was to force Linda to release him somehow. But it seemed that she was very serious, and had thought things through. He would only be hurting a person he loved, and really achieve nothing. He said, “Let’s talk, my love.”

He told her about his childhood dreams of being a butcher. How he had the greatest love and respect for animals which had given their bodies to nourish him. The more he learnt about butchery, the more he saw it as a spiritual exercise. Like native cultures, he honoured his brother cow and sister sheep. He said prayers before each meal, ate consciously, and never wasted meat knowingly. Butchery was a noble profession, he said, a metaphor for the disassembly of self, and a giving of that self to others. The primal cut at the slaughterhouse separated the ego from the self, and secondary butchery destroyed it. He was really angry at her for wasting his life like this, but he wouldn’t hurt her. She was his love. These were the things he said as he became tired and confused. His breathing and speech slowed. He saw her lying beside him senseless. He lost movement in his arms and feet. He dreamt that he fell and shattered.