Archive for gilgamesh

Bully Best Friend

Posted in Lucerne Village, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2012 by javedbabar

“You are! You are! You are!” screamed the boy in pain.

There was no dispute that Samuel was now leader of the gang. He was fair-skinned and blonde, ten kilos heavier, and six inches taller than most other boys, and all of them were afraid of him. He beat up boys and forced girls to kiss him. It made no difference if they were gang members or not, but gang members got off more lightly, with fewer bruises and bites.

Many parents complained to Samuel’s parents, but they shrugged their shoulders and said he was out of control; they didn’t know where he got it from. Besides, The Authority banned all forms of domestic discipline, so there was nothing they could do. The official guidance Samuel received at school was written only, nothing verbal, or, God forbid, physical discipline to counter his physical conduct. It barely dented his bad behaviour.

His Grandpa was a tough character, and was asked to have a word with him. Rather than acting as a good influence though, his Grandpa’s pep talks made him proud and pompous.

Things were set to get worse when Dale arrived at school. His parents had lived off-grid in an “undisclosed location” since his birth, and had home-schooled him till thirteen. The Authority had then threatened to lock them up, and take Dale away, unless they returned to “civilization”.

Dale was the same size as Samuel, but dark and hairy. Either they would fight each other in rival gangs, or together become twin terrors. It could go either way.

On his first day at school, Dale stood in front of Samuel in the playground. Samuel was a wary of this strange new boy, and rather than pushing him out of the away, he instead said brusquely, “Excuse me.”

“Excuse me, what?”

“Excuse me,” Samuel launched himself at Dale, screaming, “Pleeeease!”

They fought for ten minutes, resulting in a complicated stalemate, with both boys and then four teachers, tangled on the floor, before they broke apart, laughing. After this, Samuel and Dale become inseparable best friends.

They continued fighting each other for fun, much to the relief of others, who now became spectators rather than participants, cheering for one or the other combatant, often laying down bets. The Samuel-Danny fight became a popular ritual. Teachers bet on it too, and Miss Jewel and Mr Wong won $100 each.

“That shopkeeper charges too much money,” Dale said to Samuel. “He wants two dollars for chips when they’re one dollar everywhere else, and a potato costs ten cents to grow. He thinks we’re stupid. We should raid his shop.”

“We should smash it!”

“We should burn it!”

They decided to do all three things, and raided, smashed and burned it that night. The tied-up shopkeeper begged them to stop, each by name, and when they realized he recognized them, they smashed and burned him too.

The police came to school the next day to quiz teachers. Because of regulations, they were not allowed to quiz children. Samuel and Dale smirked at the back of the class.

A week later, the shopkeeper’s daughter saw Samuel and Dale and set her Rottweiler upon them. After a long fight, they killed the dog. Samuel only suffered cuts and grazes but Dale was bitten badly, and a few days later, died.

Samuel was withdrawn from school and stayed at home for two weeks. He went to visit his grandfather who lived beyond the swamp at the base of Mt Negra. He told him all about the gang, the fight, the shopkeeper and the dog. And most of all about how much he missed his best friend Dale.

His grandfather clipped his ear and said, “Don’t be such a wimp. You get that from your father, not from me, for sure. I had killed four guys by your age. Now go back to school and kick some ass.”

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?

Bright Brown Eyes

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2012 by javedbabar

There was half an hour to go till the global launch of the film HUMANITY. Its celebrated auteur had eschewed London, Mumbai and New York in favour of Lucerne, where the idea for the film had first come to him while mountain climbing.

Local project manager Sami had been asked to run through everything with the General Manager prior to doors opening. He hadn’t been able to locate him yet and the screening time was drawing near.

He asked the projectionist, “Have you seen the General Manager around?”

“Ah, The General. He was here this afternoon when I was setting up. I’m not sure where he’s gone.”

“Why do you call him The General?” asked Sami. “Is he a tough guy?”

“Actually, no. Quite the opposite, but I know he is an ex-military man. He led tough campaigns in Asia, and fought in brutal African wars. You wouldn’t think so though.”

This made Sami think of the ancient Indian king Asoka, who renounced bloodshed and became an advocate of non-violence, truth and tolerance instead. Sumerian king Gilgamesh, said to be one-third human and two-thirds divine, also mended his vicious ways. If only such leaders had been studied in 20th century Germany, Cambodia, Iraq, China, Russia and America, the world would now be a better place.

Sami located The General fifteen minutes before doors opened. He was a tall, well-built man with cropped red hair and eyes that seemed orange at first, but were in fact bright brown. Sami walked him around the site and showed him the screen, which had been stiffened to counter evening winds, projector, cabling, seating, ropes, poles and carpets. He ran through key timings and flows, and showed the required safety certificates.

The General was very friendly and calm. He made some minor comments, said, “Good job”, “Good stuff”, and “Good work”, and said he would be in his office if needed. The run through with him took under five minutes. Now that’s a guy who trusts people, thought Sami. I’ll bet his soldiers felt inspired.

There was an issue concerning wheelchair spaces. Sami had allocated five spaces, but a village official said there should be seven. It was too late to change seating layout now as doors were opening in less than ten minutes, but the village official insisted on the change.

Sami decided to get support from The General. After all, he was in charge here and had approved the plan. He buzzed his office, and the door flew open immediately.

After a dark hallway, Sami came to a steel door which slid open silently. There was The General watching a bank of screens that covered an entire wall. Facial recognition technology identified people and followed them around. Where were these cameras hidden? Sami hadn’t noticed them anywhere in The Place.

On the adjacent wall were pinned scores of faces, a few of whom he recognized. Many had a black strike slashing across their faces. The General looked at Sami and said, “Two strikes and you’re out.”

His bright brown eyes lit up, very fiery, like when he had dropped bombs on restless provinces, and spearheaded “population control” projects. He had acted as consultant to many governments, and oil and water companies, who needed certain people to disappear. The General was interested in the film tonight, HUMANITY, but more so in its rumoured sequel, INHUMANITY. He hoped it would feature some of his special projects.

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.