Archive for beowulf

New Drugs Den

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2012 by javedbabar

Samuel’s gang met every night after school. Some came immediately, studious members came after homework, and laggards came after dinner. They rode bicycles to their den, a cave at the base of Mt Alba. Older kids sometimes “borrowed” cars to get there, and gave everyone rides home.

The police knew about these activities but were powerless. They couldn’t stop a child without a special warrant, which required extra paperwork. Also, there had to be a minimum of four cops present as witnesses, each later required to take a polygraph test.

Parents didn’t even try to discipline their children. A single complaint by a child led to their immediate arrest, a speedy hearing, and possibly prison. The result of all this was that children were allowed to run free and nowhere were they freer than in Samuel’s gang.

The first few weeks were exciting, but then kids began to get bored. “Let’s play games,” said Samuel. “We’ll start with wrestling.”

This wasn’t a popular choice, and no one volunteered to participate. Since the death of his friend Dale, Samuel had had no real competition. He could crush any other boy or girl in an instant.

One of the studious gang members said, “Okay, how about some word games?”

They played rhyming, guessing, and spying games and grew bored again.

“Who’s got some cards? We’ll play poker.”

They played poker, blackjack, gin-rummy and snap.

“Did anyone bring video games?

They crowded around Playstation 6, XXX-Box and Nintendo Wiiiii.

The modern world had made them bored. With so much available, always and everywhere, nothing was ever enough. Immersion in abundance became avoidance. They needed escape.

Gang attendance declined till Samuel hit upon a new idea, which was in truth an old idea. Toxins, the oldest pleasures known to man.

They began with drinking games, downing beers, wines, ciders and spirits.

Then came smoking games, with cigarettes, cigars and hookahs.

Then snorting games. Snuff, speed and cocaine.

Then injecting games. Morphine, heroin and amphetamines.

They all became drug addicts, which proved a nice earner for Samuel, and for his next layer of lieutenants. But he realized that to become a successful organization, his own house should be in order. Every night that week he locked everyone out of the cave, and made them go cold turkey, and chased the drug monster out.

But the monster returned. Samuel’s wholesale dealers were upset by their loss of earnings, and came looking. A fur-coated, trilby wearing thug asked, “Who is Samuel? The Boss wants a word.”

They didn’t know who they were dealing with. Samuel and his gang trapped and killed them and sold their cars.

The police suspected the gang’s involvement but could do nothing, and to be frank, were not inclined to. They thought, let the underworld clean itself.

Many years later, when Samuel was a grandfather and also a godfather, his grandson’s gang was in trouble. Samuel took care of the situation personally, but in the process was wounded mortally. He hadn’t been hit though. There were no traces of poison, nor knife or bullet wounds; no ropes or cement; no fire. How had they reached him?

Modern crime was no place for old men. It was a subtle arena. Electronic signals disrupted everything, communications in the outside world and nerve impulses within. He was no match for the new breed of robot dealers. Samuel’s last sensation was that of flashing ones and zeros, and high-pitched whirrs. This was against established protocols. Computers’ offspring were also out of control.

Beowulf

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2012 by javedbabar

Osiris was a commercial success, though not a romantic one. Things ended badly for Isis, who lost her beloved husband Osiris, and for Sophie, whose love interest Ahmad disappeared. Maybe the shows at QARY were too real, thought Sophie, and affecting material reality. What a crazy thought.

As the next production Sophie selected Beowulf, which also had an underworld theme. To be precise it was an underwater cave, but that was near enough.

“I’ve seen monsters here,” said Albert, the quarry’s last manager before mining operations ceased. “There were days when you couldn’t bear to go in for fear of what lurked in the shadows. You tasted the dust, darkness made you see things, and rocks made you hear things. The quarry seemed alive to us and sometimes when we went too far, she punished us. Many good men were lost over the years, about one every season. They were our sacrifices to the mine. I’m glad you’ve brought the quarry back to life, but you better be careful with her.”

They gathered for a pre-production meeting. Sophie said, “Okay, we’ve pretty much decided on layout. We’ll make the first chamber Heorot, the mead hall, the second chamber Grendel’s mother’s lair, and the third chamber the Dragon’s cave.” Everyone nodded. “Instead of a linear narrative, this time we’re trying something less structured.” They nodded again. “Each chamber has a monster which can move between the stages, so raising the drama.”

This was their fourth production together, and the team had gelled. They had a good understanding of each other’s preferences, relative weaknesses and strengths.

Within four weeks the production was ready to go. The first three nights were sold out in advance. QARY had become a big money spinner for Lucerne.

The first chamber was stunning. Its bare rock walls, floors, ceiling and pillars were filled with projections. They seemed covered by rich tapestries and paintings, and hung with swords, shields and armour. The gems on the weapons glittered like stars.

Feasting Dane warriors were slaughtered by gruesome Grendel. He crushed their skulls and ribs and feasted on their brains and hearts. Brave Geats came from across the waters to help them; their King, Beowulf, killed the monster by ripping off his arm.

The second chamber used mood lighting only. It was the underwater lair of Grendel’s mother, who had continued to slaughter warriors as revenge for her son’s death. The epic battle between her and Beowulf caused splashes of red to multiply till they filled the whole chamber.

The third chamber also used mood lighting. After Beowulf’s victory in Denmark, he had returned to Geatland and ruled for fifty years. One day a dragon guarding a hoard of gold was awoken, and laid waste the land. Beowulf’s final heroic act was to rid his kingdom of this cruel dragon, and whilst doing so he was injured and died.

During the performance, groups of people hid in chambers and moved around. There was indeed no separation between mythic and historical, and real and imagined events. These people were fighting modern monsters – drugs, alcohol, glue, lust, greed, anger and many other addictions. The dark corners of QARY were the perfect place to indulge them all.

Semi-Automatic

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2012 by javedbabar

When Mr Kazantzakis’ business executive guests became crime targets, his booking agents panicked. They were getting bad press and stopped sending guests.

There was no need to panic though. Mr Kazantzakis was a solution-orientated individual. He wasn’t Lifetime General Manager of the Lucerne Valley Hotel without reason. He hired a team of security guards to keep an eye on guests. The guards were vigilant both inside and outside the building, and accompanied business executives around town.

One of the guards, Russell, asked to see the LGM. He said, “This should be a professional job. Being a security guard is a matter of life and death.”

Lucerne had a serious problem. There were many professional jobs available but few unskilled ones. Everybody wanted a professional job. The hours were shorter, the workload was lighter, the pay was better and you didn’t get dirty or wet. However few people were sufficiently well-qualified or well-connected, or filled the right quotas, and thus eligible for such jobs.

Opportunities for pencil pusher were endless, but hammer hitters were a different matter. The Authority’s Job Upgrade Plan had created an imbalance. Most manual jobs had been automated or abolished. There were very few jobs for unprofessional people.

With almost fifty percent unemployment, civic order had crumbled. The number of armed and ordinary robberies, stealth and aggravated burglaries, bag-snatchings, car-jackings, violent muggings and kidnappings all rose exponentially. A lack of work led to poverty, boredom, stress and anger, and there were rumours of an imminent uprising, which people were calling the Arcadian Spring.

Mr Kazantzakis was the right man for a crisis. Though the business may tilt or even sink partially, he always provided the anchor or ballast required. He was a man you could rely on. Investment cycles were calculated in fifty year terms, and he was the man to ensure long-term returns.

Mr Kazantzakis said to Russell, “But it is not a skilled job. That’s what elevates a task, the level of training and experience. Anyone could walk into this hotel, I could give them a uniform, and they’d be a security guard, and….”

“You are wrong, Mr Kazantzakis,” said Russell. The LGM was stunned. Nobody ever interrupted him.

“I am following a timeless warrior tradition. In ancient Greece there was Achilles, in India there was Arjuna, in China, Lu Tung-Pin, and in Scandinavia, Beowulf. In the Middle Ages there were archers, bowmen and palace guards, all elite soldiers guarding the king. During the American Revolution, marksmen picked off British officers, helping to win battles. In Napoleonic wars, infantry soldiers learnt how to use the Baker rifle, which was slower to load but very accurate. In modern warfare, specialists take Annual Personal Weapons Tests, and must score above 85% of maximum score. They scout and delay the enemy in close combat. They put their lives on the line. Do you not think we deserve to be called professionals?

“What will you do if I don’t promote you? Will you leave?”

Russell pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and laid it on the table. “I will kill you.”

Mr Kazantzakis liked his style. This was a man he could count on in a crisis. He said, “I am not sure if I can change the job spec to professional, but let’s say semi-professional.”

Survival of the Fishest

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2012 by javedbabar

Mr Cooper loved the light glittering on the ceiling. It looked like a sea in the sky. He’d managed to convince the project manager to put reflective paint on the ceiling by telling him it would save on heating and lighting costs.

This was his favourite part of the job, teaching kids to swim. “Right! We’ll begin with the principles of buoyancy,” he said. “Who knows what happens when humans enter water?”

No hands went up, so he picked on a small boy at the front. “You – what happens?”

“We sink,” he said quietly, and looked scared.

“Wrong! We float. The human body has high water content, so its density is close to water. Due to its cavities – I mean your lungs, not your teeth – the average density becomes even lower and we float. So your natural state is floating, not sinking. Got it?”

The small boy pulled in his lips and nodded. A tall boy at the back was not paying attention, and made his friend laugh. Mr Cooper said, “You – what’s funny?”

“Nothing Sir.”

“Well, why is your friend laughing? Are you both such imbeciles that you laugh at nothing?”

“No Sir. We were wondering why it is important to swim when you can use a boat? I mean, you can enjoy the water and not even get wet.”

Mr Cooper was a master of the long game. He said, “You’re right there, we could use a boat.” The boy nodded happily. “In fact why bother going on the water at all when you can play the Titanic video game? That way you can have a really exciting adventure, safe in your home.” The boy continued to nod.

Oh dear, thought Mr Cooper, it’s even worse than I imagined. The noble tradition of movement through water using one’s limbs, without aid or apparatus, is in dire straits indeed. He thought of the epic stories of mankind. Would Gilgamesh have swum to the bottom of a deep pool and found the Plant of Immortality? Would Beowulf have dived into the boiling lake to slay the monster Grendel? Would Odysseus have survived his twenty year voyage sailing home? Heroes have always been swimmers. It shows their mastery of nature.

There are Stone Age paintings of swimmers, five thousand years old. If the power grid went down, today’s useless kids would be thrown right back there. No Hotmail, no Google, no iPhone, no PlayStation, no television, or microwave. Back to basics for everybody. Hunting, gathering, and swimming!

Mr Cooper rubbed his hands. It was time to have some fun.

He picked on a brown boy. “You – where are your parents from? Guatemala? Okay, that’s close enough. Imagine if they needed to get across the Rio Grande to get from Mexico to America. Do you think they’d make it?”

The boy was confused, and said, “I don’t know, Sir.”

“Well, let’s see if you would.” Mr Cooper pushed him in.

He pointed at a stocky boy. “You – are any of your family in the army? Good. What about the navy? No? Well you can be the first.” He pushed him in.

The children drew away but their backs were against the pool; they had nowhere to go. He pointed to a boy with glasses. “You – you look like a good student. Do you like biology? Good, try marine biology.” He pushed him in.

“Now the rest of you can jump in too, before I use one of you to illustrate what good exercise swimming is for amputees and paralytics. Fortunately you have use of your limbs.”

Some of the children were scared of water, but they were more scared of him, so climbed and jumped into the pool. The ones that couldn’t swim clung to the side.

“Great, you’re all in the water. Now we can begin.” He threw floats into the pool. As the children at the edge reached for them, he said. “Don’t be complacent though. You could easily die from drowning. You could panic in the water, become exhausted, catch hypothermia, or become dehydrated. Something could hit you in fast-flowing water and cause blunt trauma. In open water you could suffer bacterial infection, or in places like this, suffer from chlorine inhalation. Jellyfish can sting you, crabs can puncture your skin, even small sharks can bite and cause blood loss, sea snakes are venomous, and eels will shock you.”

The children were scared and some momentarily forgot to swim, and sank. “Right – all of you must stay in this pool for an hour. Get to like it. If you try to crawl out I’ll throw you back in.”

He was being hard on them, he knew. But we have evolved from water. It is our natural home. Only when we rebuild our relationship with water will we respect the earth’s life force, become Water Brothers and Sisters.

As a Water Master tasked with carrying our racial memory – that of fish crawling from oceans, becoming mammals, then apes, and humans – Mr Cooper took his duty seriously. He looked at the light glittering on the ceiling, as if there was a sea in the sky. This is what it must have looked like, he thought, to our earliest ancestors. The bravest and strongest ones. The ones who knew that the purpose of life was survival of the fishest.