Archive for flood

Gilgamesh

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2012 by javedbabar

The line was crackly but clear enough to hear her CEO, who said, “Gilgamesh is the world’s earliest recorded story. We put ‘The First Story of Mankind’ on promotional materials. The show is a sell out for two weeks straight. We can’t cancel it now.”

Sophie had two jobs at Village Hall. One was Chief Producer and the other was Crisis Manager. She was delighted that QARY, the old quarry now used for multimedia shows, was a commercial success. The Authority had supported her project wholeheartedly and invested $10 million there.

The issue was that she was well informed meteorologically. The danger of flooding was high. There was an Evacuation Alert in place, but no Evacuation Order, meaning that everybody should be prepared, but nobody should go anywhere yet. There was no excuse for sloth, but also no need for panic. What was needed was awareness.

Sophie said, “You can’t have people underground at a time like this. It is highly irresponsible, and if…”

“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” said her CEO. “You’re breaking up.”

“I said that you can’t have…”

Click. Her CEO had hung up.

Sophie had faith in the warning indicators, whose specs she had reviewed before installation. They had failsafe mechanisms built in giving at least three hours warning, so whatever happened there would be no surprise. Maybe she was worrying without reason.

QARY’s hundred digital projectors, its fibre-optic cabling, and dynamic event lighting were worth a lot of money but were replaceable. The people here were not.

Damn it! Even this story concerned the preciousness of human life. It was not something to risk casually.

Her multimedia productions were in constant development. The first show had been an amateur affair featuring the works of local artists, and the next one, slides of Old Masters. In the second season, The Authority’s support had made epics such as Osiris, Beowulf and Gilgamesh possible; each show with a different style.

Alongside the usual paintings, photos and texts, Gilgamesh required live action filming. There was no shortage of bearded men in the Lucerne Valley to play Sumerian extras. No shortage of cattle and horses either.

Gilgamesh was a nasty king. He was proud and boastful, and oppressed his male subjects and pressed himself upon female ones. To distract him from op/pressing people, the gods created wildman Enkidu, who was his equal in strength, and his twin in appearance, though covered by hair.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu symbolized, respectively, culture and nature, and soon became best friends. Together they went to the Cedar Forest to kill the giant Humbaba, and then they slaughtered the Bull of Heaven. The gods decreed that Enkidu must die as punishment for these crimes. Gilagamesh’s distress at his twin’s death set him upon an epic quest for the secret of immortality. A ferryman took him across the river of death, where he met Utanapishtim, survivor of the ancient Great Flood.

Sophie saw dark pools building. Water trickled down rock pillars and from in between cracks. Was the quarry flooding? Had the warning system failed?

She ran to the control room in an upper chamber.

She saw that the system had been manually overridden.

Sophie had a thoughtflash. Her job as Crisis Manager had long term aims, including tackling overpopulation. There were five hundred people in the quarry. Was this what was going on, a deliberate population reduction?

Gilgamesh learnt that there was no such thing as Immortality. Everyone’s time on earth is finite, so you must live your life well.

If this was the end, thought Sophie, what better way to go than to join her small story to mankind’s first one?

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Old Tree House

Posted in Lucerne Village, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2012 by javedbabar

It was Shama’s second day as Lucerne’s Building Control Officer, a job he was unqualified for professionally, but which had been offered to him for double his usual salary, which he had accepted. He began looking through the files on his desk.

“A tree house?” he said to himself. “Do you need permission for that?”

He asked the receptionist. “Yes,” she said. “Anything over one hundred square feet needs permission, whether below, upon, or above ground. That’s what the last person occupying your position told me. There are exemptions, but very few.”

“What happened to him? The last person. I can’t find any record of his name.”

She looked away. “It was a bad situation. We’re not supposed to talk about it.” He continued to look at her, and she said, “I’ll tell you later.”

The Old Tree House file was stamped “REJECTED”. There was no further explanation inside. Shama decided to investigate the matter.

He drove to the location, a farm fifteen kilometres up the valley. It was always a joy travelling up the Lucerne Valley Road, driving from the white mountain towards the dark one, passing shining forests and sparkling rivers, and glittering lakes with leaping rainbow fishes. It seemed like gems of many sizes had been scattered along his path, or maybe the whole valley was one vast gem, reflecting and refracting light across everything within it.

There was something strange about the farm. There were fences, gates and barns as expected, containing cattle, horses and pigs. There were flowering bushes and huge red trees. What was strange then? He realized that there were no tractors or trucks, no wires or machinery of any kind. This place was not mechanized. It was a Luddite farm.

An old lady emerged from the farmhouse. “Come in,” she said. “I heard you coming up the road. Have some tea and banana bread.”

Her lounge was presided over by a wind-up grandfather clock. There were candles burning, despite it being morning. She noticed him looking. “They’re to purify the air,” she said, “And to welcome the sun.”

She poured the tea and said, “You must be the new BCO. You look better than the other fellow, I’ll say, but you’re probably a rascal too. What business is it of yours? I’m fed up with these floods. I’ve seen all the big ones – ’38, ’64, ’84, 2004. And believe me, there’s another one coming – this year or early next. Don’t you see the pattern in the years? Ah, never mind, you educated folk never do.”

Shama liked this old woman and said, “Yes, I am the new BCO. I’ve come to reconsider the situation.”

“What do you mean?” She was suspicious. “Reconsider what?”

“The tree house. With all these floods, it makes sense to live above ground. But I have to ensure the use of proper methods and materials. I see you are a Luddite. How will you build it without power?”

“Without power? Like everything else! We’ll use ropes and levers and pulleys; we’ve got horses and cattle too.”

“Won’t your livestock drown in the flood?”

“Of course they won’t. We’ll haul them up too.”

He said, “But what if the tree died, or gave way?”

She gave him a patronizing smile, and pointed to the huge red trees everywhere. “These are Arcadian Firs. They’ve been here for over a thousand years. How long has your village hall been there?” Shama didn’t know. “I’ll tell you how long – twenty eight years. The last one was flooded and rotted out. I’ll take my chances with the trees. They will last much longer than any of your buildings.”

When he returned to the office, Shama changed the status of the Old Tree House file to “APPROVED”.

Cropped

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , on August 13, 2012 by javedbabar

Shama pulled up in his silver pick-up truck. “Having car trouble?” he said.

“No, I’m not,” said Sophie. “More like brain trouble. I had a rough night and don’t feel like driving this morning. Are you heading into town?”

He said, “I sure am. Jump in.”

Despite feeling bad, Sophie was looking good this morning. A white summer dress always works wonders with a tan. Her relationship with Danny had cooled off since they’d got engaged. Though her friends had said this was normal after reaching such a milestone, she hoped it would revive soon.

Shama dropped her in the village and she went straight into a crisis. The Lilly River was rising in the Upper Valley, setting off alarm bells. Four years ago the Village office had been slow to heed warnings and the flood had claimed ten lives. The Authority had made the mayor and council scapegoats and removed them.

No one was taking chances this time. Geologists had been called in from the city, and old timers with personal experience of the great floods of ’43, ’68, ’89, and 2008 were consulted. Search and rescue teams stood on standby.

At lunchtime Sophie remembered the drawing. Why would someone throw away such a detailed artwork? It must have taken days of careful sketching. Then she thought, well, everything changes. Maybe they were redecorating their house and it no longer suited their scheme. There’s days when there’s just too much stuff, and you can’t even breathe till it’s sorted and gone. Maybe somebody had one of those days.

The drawing had not been casually tossed aside though. It had been properly screwed up and stuffed into garbage. Sophie opened it out on her desk. Again she felt assaulted by the detail and somehow drawn into it. It seemed alive.

She knew that good art affects you. This drawing was doing that. Maybe I’ll get it framed, she thought. She went to the local art shop, which also offered a framing service. The owner priced it up. “It’s three feet by four, that’s twelve square feet at thirty dollars a foot – so that’s three hundred and sixty dollars.”

“Three hundred and sixty?” said Sophie. “Really? I didn’t think it would be that much.”

“It’s a specialist job. It if was three feet square, I could sell you a standard frame for a hundred dollars.” The owner gave her a mean look. “Why support local artisans when you can support factory workers in China?”

What a stupid comment, thought Sophie. She’s offering Chinese products in her shop. No one is making her do that. There was no question though. “Why don’t you crop the picture for me, and I’ll take the hundred dollar frame.”

The woman sliced a one foot strip off the end, and fitted the drawing in the hundred dollar frame. “There,” she said. “How does that look?”

“It looks good,” said Sophie, thinking that it looked different somehow.

It seemed darker and quieter.

She didn’t know that the slicing of the city had caused agony for suburbans, who had suddenly lost all power and communications. Huge fault-lines had appeared. Disaster recovery teams had been despatched to patch up the broken edges of the city.

Samhala

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2012 by javedbabar

I spent a week at the steel cabin reading the pioneers diary, which had an unnerving parallel to my own story. The author had woken mysteriously on top of a white mountain – which he called Mt Alba – and crossed swamps to reach the valley’s town; it was then no more than a hotel, shop, sheriff’s office and church. He had been welcomed at the hotel, but then chased out of town by holy zealots who feared and hated strangers. He had braved wild beasts, forests and rivers, to reach the place where he had either built or furnished this strange steel structure.

I made myself quite comfortable there. There was a stock of food – dried beans, garlic braids, and canned tomatoes, plus a mini root house with multicoloured potatoes. There were red, white, and blue ones; he must have been a monarchist. I also managed to catch some grouse, those most stupid of birds. Two flew into the structure and stunned themselves, becoming ready meals.

One night I heard a steady rhythm. At first I thought it was a bear bashing a tree trunk or the echoes of a woodpecker’s drilling. Then I thought noise could be the black river slapping a log, but it was too precise and steady.

It sounded like drums coming from further up the valley, on this side of the river, maybe slightly uphill. Enclosed echoes are deceptive though. It could be coming from anywhere.

I walked slowly through the forest. The bush was thick and ground unsteady.

The sound always seemed far away but suddenly was close; just as I realized this, I saw movement ahead. A shadowed clearing was filled with busy people, a hundred at least, of all ages, building something of wood. The object lay on the floor amid tall grass. What was it, I wondered – a giant boat? Could they read the weather of this flood plain? Was a deluge coming?

“Ouch!” I cried, and jumped up. “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Stop that! Who is it?” A boy turned and ran, clutching a reed, through which he’d been blowing beans, each of which had stung me like a wasp.

People in the clearing stopped working. Some shouted to others. Men advanced towards me clutching hammers and bars. A bearded elder called out, “What are you doing? Is this any way to treat a stranger? Welcome him! Invite him to our village!”

Some men’s snarls transformed into smiles. Others found the change too hard to master, and looked like jittery mimes. However they all made friendly gestures, encouraging me to come forward.

I stepped out of the forest into the clearing, and the elder came forward, huffing, and said, “You are not the first stranger. Others have come before and sheltered here with us. But you are the first to come on Samhala. We welcome you, stranger. It is a good day for us. It was foretold.”

I was taken to a house with thatched roof and squared plaster walls, and given warm water to bathe, and a soft bed to rest. At dusk someone entered. I was ready to jump up and fight for my life, but saw that it was a beautiful woman with full breasts, red hair and blue eyes.

She held no shyness, for her visit had holy purpose. It was to strengthen the Upper Valley’s gene pool.