Archive for karma

Black Van

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

Zoe asked Smuel, “Do you like driving around all day?”

He said, “Sure, but it depends on the day.” He checked his mirror and pulled out from behind a tractor, overtook it, and pulled in again. “That, for example, was an easy manoeuvre. It’s always a pleasure driving on the Lucerne Valley Road. But when I go to Strattus – or God forbid, the City – it’s not much fun.”

“Why is that?”

“Traffic mainly, but also parking, pollution, tempers, and wasted time. I really don’t like driving there.”

Soon they were at Open Hearts seniors daycare centre. Smuel dropped Zoe at the kitchen entrance and helped her unload produce and supplies. He enjoyed their weekly shopping trip together. She was a real nice lady, that Zoe, and a damn good cook too. Her cooked lunch was his main meal of the day. It was healthy, fresh, and free. If he didn’t fill up here he had only junk food to look forward to on his way home. As he was about to leave he said, “And do you like working in the kitchen all day?”

“The same as you, it depends on the day. I’ve worked at pubs, diners, restaurants, hotels, and at all kinds of events, but making meals here is quite a task. God help me with Irene’s vegan diet, James’s mainly liquids, Gemma’s organic food, Albert’s wish to eat local, and Mr. Amin’s dharmic requirements. I wish that manna would come down from heaven and that would be the end of it, or maybe we should just cut a deal with Pizza Hut.”

“But you love cooking,” said Smuel. “I’ve seen you. It’s what you were born to do.”

“You’re right,” said Zoe. “But sometimes I wonder if I should do something different. You know, have a total change. Go somewhere new and do something new. But my Tom likes it here. He says, ‘I was born here, I live here, and I will die here.’ So I guess that’s that.”

Smuel had held office jobs for twenty years, but then one day his life changed. His wife had an affair with his boss and left him. He wondered what the point of it all was – commuting daily, working for that swine, and killing himself with stress. The girls were grown up and he could be free now. He took his share of money from the house sale and came to Lucerne, where he was able to buy a condo outright, so all he needed to cover were daily expenses. The driver’s job at Open Hearts was not well paid but it paid enough, and he could use the minibus for personal errands. No more office jobs. Just the open road. What could be better?

He’d grown to love the old people too. “Clients” they called them in official language. His first pick up daily was the manager, Mr. Amin. What a funny guy he was, he’d been a diplomat in India, but you’d never know it. He treated people with great respect, as if they were diplomats themselves. He had a strange way of dealing with problems though. He’d call you into his office in the middle of the day. If you’ve got bad news then tell a man in the morning and give him the day to deal with it, thought Smuel, or at the end of the day so he can go home and mull it over. Not slap bang in the middle of the day!

He recalled being in trouble for not completing James’s paperwork. The guy’s a stroke victim – doesn’t move much, and doesn’t say a word – so what is there to write down about him? “James did nothing” and “James said nothing”? Ridiculous. It was just as stupid as office work. Mr. Amin said that he also didn’t like paperwork but The Authority required it, so would Smuel please ensure that it was completed daily. Smuel had of course said yes, but stewed that afternoon, driving around in his hot vehicle. Telling him in the morning would have been better. Or the evening.

He really liked Irene. She wasn’t a big talker, but was clearly a big thinker. Some of the things she said were so deep that he’d think about them for days after. When she told him about the Two Laws of the Universe – those of Attraction and Karma – he’d viewed his life in quite a different light. It was true that he had wished for and somehow manifested a life of beauty in the Lucerne Valley, and a life of ease driving around in the sunshine, and that maybe he had earned all this in a previous life through meritorious actions. He wondered if he really had lived before? Would he live again?

Smuel was less keen on constantly knitting, grumpy ex-math teacher Gemma, though she had her moments – such as getting drunk at the Christmas party and performing a slow “knit-tease”. Thank God Mr. Amin had stopped her unravelling her clothes before she’d revealed too much wrinkly thigh.

Albert, however, was always fun. This ex-cowboy quipped constantly and dispensed range wisdom. His impressions of Chinese Cowboy “Yee-Ha” and Indian Cowboy “Ride’em Singh” were hilarious, though of course he wasn’t allowed to perform them at the centre because they “infringed politically correct protocols”.

Smuel drove the seniors to and from their homes, to various physical and mental doctors, on shopping trips to Squashy’s malls, and daytrips to lakes and waterfalls. The black minivan was perfect for these outings, though the Centre should paint it a different colour. It wasn’t cheerful. Mr. Amin said they couldn’t do that as renting it out for funerals supplemented the Centre’s income. Well why not paint it white and rent it for weddings?

He couldn’t help wondering if Zoe would like to leave the kitchen one day and hit the road with him. Not only to do something new, somewhere new – but with someone new? Why not ride a white van today together, rather than await tomorrow’s black van which you only rode alone?

World Food Council

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , on April 18, 2012 by javedbabar

“May I have a word please, Zoe?” said Mr. Amin. His impish smile had won over many during his political career as Minister of Culture for Northern India, and continued to do so now in the not-for-profit sector of Canadia. It was only that smile, he believed, that had kept Open Hearts seniors daycare centre open. So many times when it was on the brink of closure, bank managers and provincial officials had been charmed by it. It wasn’t just his smile though. It was a million smiles gathered together from every senior that came here and was entertained, fed, and listened to, and whose children and grandchildren slept better knowing that Ma, Pa, Grandma, or Grandpa looked forward to their day ahead. Mr. Amin said, “Which delicious items are you making for us today?”

Zoe said, “We’re having East Indian today, especially for you, Mr. Amin. Tarka dal, mutter chawal, roast chicken for carnivores, and saag aloo for vegetarians, plus some salad, pickle, and sweet.” She didn’t have time to stop working. She whisked gram flour, chopped coriander, and wiped down surfaces as she spoke.

“Mmm… That sounds delicious,” said Mr. Amin, licking his top lip. “What’s the sweet today?”

“It’s halwa with flaked almonds. It’s the first time I’m making it here. I hope it turns out ok.”

Mr. Amin said, “I’m sure that it will. When are you taking your break, Zoe?”

“I don’t usually take it,” she said, peeling onions and squeezing out tomato paste. “I don’t have time. I work straight through.”

“You never take it?”

She nodded.

“Ok, please come and see me when you’ve finished cooking?”

She was about to ask something, but he beat her to it. “Yes, after you’ve done the preparation, but before serving.”

She came to his office at 11.30am. Mr. Amin knew that there was never a good time for these conversations, but it was best to have them in the middle of the day. That way the victim wasn’t shocked immediately upon arrival at work, but also didn’t hear about it just before going home. They had half a day without the knowledge, then half a day to deal with it. He called this his “Half-and-Half” approach to human relations.

He said, “Zoe, do you recall the questionnaire last week? Yes, we asked for clients’ views on how we ran the centre. One of the questions concerned the food we provide. Did you know that? Good.” It was going well so far and he gave her a winning smile. She smiled back. Maybe he’d smiled too much though, so he followed it with a frown, and Zoe frowned too. That was better. “Well as you know, you can never please everybody, however hard you try. Some people always complain. That’s not a reflection on you. Not at all. But we should at least be aware of their opinions, and maybe we can make small changes to please them. Things that are easy for us to do, and will make them happy. Yes, yes, I’m about to tell you.”

He specified the complaints: “cold food”, “boring food”, “flavourless food”, “stale food”, “disgusting food”, “ugly food”, “horrible food”, “food that produces nightmares”, “food that gives you diarrhoea”, and “food that makes you constipated”. Mr. Amin felt that there was little merit in these complaints. These Seniors were going through a process of transition – written about in the Indian scriptures – with one life stage changing to another. Their Childhood and Householder days were long gone, and now they were disempowered Elders. Their opinions counted for little, even in their own homes. The questionnaire had provided them with an opportunity to flex their muscles, and show some authority. At least on paper they could still be boss.

Poor Zoe was shocked. “What will happen now?” she said. “Will I lose my job? Will you bring in prepared food instead?”

“No, no, of course we won’t,” said Mr. Amin.

Her eyes flashed. He’d never noticed the amber. “Who said these things?” she said with anger. “Was it lots of people or just one person? I’m sure it wasn’t Irene, or James, or Albert, or Smuel. They appreciate my food. I bet it was that miserable Gemma – doing her knitting and talking about math. What use is that to her now? Counting down the days till she dies?”

He said, “Zoe, I know that you’re upset by this, but that’s enough. I can’t tell you who said what. Don’t take it personally. Let’s think what small things we can do together.” He left it there, as it was time for Zoe to serve lunch. He saw her slopping food out to clients. Her scowl alone would give them indigestion. Mr. Amin’s Half-and-Half approach wasn’t perfect he knew. They had a further conversation after lunch, and his smile worked wonders. Zoe was a sensible woman who knew that every job had hurdles to overcome. She now accepted the situation, and said that she would do the best she could with the time, budget, and resources available. In his view she performed miracles already with the $2 per person per day ingredients budget.

That evening Mr. Amin called an influential old friend in India. He told him how Zoe marinated food at home so it would taste better for the clients, that she shared her secret family recipes, sometimes added her own special ingredients, was often too busy to eat, and went without food when people wanted seconds.

His friend agreed that her daily good actions superseded her annoyance at the clients. It was clear that she filled her food with love. The next week a registered package for Zoe arrived from India. It was a certificate of merit from The Karmic World Slow Food Council. Mr. Amin framed the certificate and displayed in the kitchen. It was easy for him to do, and made her happy.

Questionnaires

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , on April 15, 2012 by javedbabar

“What are these for?” said Irene, fiddling with the white envelopes and then holding one at arms length and reading. “The Authority, 10001 The City. Why are you giving them to me? Why don’t you take them to the Post Office?”

“There are questionnaires inside the envelopes,” said Mr. Amin. “I’d like you to hand one out to everybody here.”

He could have done it himself, but then what could Irene do? Just sit there doing nothing? As manager of Open Hearts seniors daycare centre he had to be ingenious at all times, which was the only way to keep the place running. “When completed, they should go back in the envelopes and be returned to me. Then I will take them to the Post Office.”

“What are they for?” said Irene. “I’ve filled out enough forms to last me two lifetimes. We all have. What don’t they know about us already? We’re old and we’re dying. What else is there to know?”

“Irene,” said Mr. Amin. “We are regulated by The Authority. There have been bad news stories about care homes recently, and they are a hot topic provincially. The Authority is doing some Quality Control.”

“What’s the point of doing surveys now? It will take them years to analyse results and implement changes. By then we’ll all be dead!”

Mr. Amin knew she was right. The Authority’s capitalist system was based upon dissatisfaction. Do satisfied people feel the need to buy things to prove that “they’re worth it”? Of course not. They stay at home and appreciate simple pleasures. You may as well do what good you could though. He said to Irene, “We’ll be dead anyway, so why not help future generations of oldies?”

“Okay, I will. Why not? What have we got to lose? Don’t blame me for what they write though. They’re not all in the best of moods, or even sane.”

Irene walked over to Gemma. She didn’t want to interrupt her knitting, so stood over her for a while. There was no appreciable slowing of her knitting and purling of purple and white yarns. Irene cleared her throat and said, “Gemma, may I give you something?”

Gemma’s needles slipped. She grimaced to herself, and looked up furiously. “What do you want! Disturbing a woman doing her knitting. You should know better than that! Who the hell do you think you are anyway?”

“I’m sorry Gemma. I tried to get your attention but you were too engrossed. What are you making?”

Gemma was still irritated and said sarcastically, “Can’t you see? It’s the fabric of life. The knit is what should happen to you, and the purl is what does happen.” She jabbed a needle.

Irene said, “I didn’t know that you took it so seriously. I thought it was just a pastime, making bootees for your grandchildren.”

“I don’t have any grandchildren,” she said. “Or any children, for that matter.”

Maybe Gemma was onto something, thought Irene. The yarn was a good analogy. The Two Laws of the Universe did create a kind of fabric. The weft was the Law of Attraction, drawing you along, and the warp was the Law of Karma, pulling you up or down. Us oldies must be getting wise.

Gemma said, “So why are you bothering me? What’s in that envelope?”

“It’s a questionnaire about the Centre. Please complete the questions and return it to Mr. Amin.”

“You must be joking. I was a high school teacher for thirty years. A damned fine one too. I’ve taught every person in Lucerne under forty to add, subtract, multiply and divide, and the smarter ones square roots, squares, integration, and differentiation too. And then they saddled me with so many forms to complete, lesson plans to create, reports to write, key stages to follow, observations to pass, and endless other bureaucracy that I had a nervous breakdown. Can you understand? Someone who could add real and imaginary numbers, divide by irrational ones, and multiply by transcendent ones with her eyes closed, was made to drown in a sea of stupid papers. Idiotic! Vacuous! Pointless! I never recovered and never returned to work. All I’m doing now is waiting to die. The last thing I want to do is complete any more forms.”

Irene told Gemma that she didn’t need to complete the form. She would explain to Mr. Amin, who would understand surely. She handed out forms to others more successfully, and then came to James. She wondered what to do with his form. He sat there all day, unresponsive to everybody – even to her, his one-time soulmate, so many lives ago, but he couldn’t even look back into her loving eyes now. That was life. Or should she say that was lives? She decided to complete the questionnaire for him.

It was a simple system. There were twelve questions, with a choice of responses – Good, OK, or Bad. She looked into his eyes as she asked each question, hoping for a clue to his thoughts. She asked him what he thought of the location of the centre, its facilities, staff, the food, the information they provided, responses to clients’ concerns, the treatment of visitors, their occasional excursions, overall cleanliness, healthy and artistic activities, daily timings, transport. “Anything else?”

He stared blankly ahead throughout her questioning, and gave no indications at all. She ticked OK for all of the questions. Maybe the conditions of his next life would be Good.

Who knew what The Authority would do with the results anyway? Would they reduce services to dissatisfied respondents for being unappreciative? They were just as likely to reduce services to satisfied ones, thinking that they were getting more than they deserved. Why should unproductive members of society be so happy? If everybody felt like that, The Authority’s economic system, based upon perennial dissatisfaction, would fall apart.

Re-Search

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2012 by javedbabar

In Varanasi Robby had met an old man with waist-length dreadlocks wearing saffron robes. He was sitting on the banks of the Ganges with a mass of jumbled jewellery, and marigolds in his hair being nibbled by the occasional cow. He said to Robby, “There is no search; there is only re-search.”

Saffron-shirted Robby was fully immersed in India, and had even taken a Vedic name, Karma. He said, “What do you mean by that?”

The old man said, “Do you think that this is the first time we have lived? We have existed countless times in an endless universe! Everything is known already! It has been done already! You have no power. You cannot do anything. So re-search for true knowledge. Otherwise you are just wasting time.”

“But if time repeats itself, then why does that matter?” He was all for Indian holy talk but also needed logical veracity. Why would it matter? Why would anything matter?

The old man said, “This you must discover for yourself.”

“Can’t you tell me?” said Robby, annoyed. Why was he talking to this guy anyway? He wasn’t telling him anything new. Just another holy man wanting cash probably. But he hadn’t yet asked Robby to make a “donation to God”. The old man instructed him to bathe in the Ganga River, to chant great mantras, to pray to the home of the Gods, Mt. Kalash, and to make holy designs with coloured powders. “Do re-search,” he said and turned away.

Robby had pretty much forgotten the old man, but every now and then his silly phrase came to mind. “There is no search; there is only re-search.”

After many years of travelling, Robby washed up in Lucerne. It was a beautiful Valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains, cedar, fir, and pine forests, and glacial rivers. He spent most of his time in a cabin on the riverbank, and worked occasionally stacking shelves or pumping gas. It was an easy life but he felt that something was missing. The old man’s words came back to him, and also his epilogue, “Otherwise you are just wasting time.”

What did he mean by re-search? Did that just mean finding again something that was lost or forgotten? This sounded like a regressive activity. Maybe that thing had been forgotten for a reason. The vegan yogini he was dating in India told him of horrors such as witch-burning and widow-burning. Why would you want to re-search for these? Best to forget them.

Could he have meant research, meaning looking into things further. This sounded more progressive. You could look at old newspapers, magazines, and books, or search online. There was plenty of information on everything, you just needed the skills to delve and sift. Decide whether to trust Wikipedia’s 4 million amateur articles, or stick with the 100,000 professional ones on Encyclopaedia Britannica. Grass roots versus experts.

But surely even better than research was search – actively finding things, real things, rather than their records? Real people and places during real adventures! The Knights of King Arthur’s Round Table didn’t sit in Camelot doing research; they went on a Quest for the Holy Grail. Robby had heard that there was a difference between looking and seeing. Everybody looks – for example at a blank canvas, or empty steppe desert – but few people see – like Picasso saw Guernica, or Genghis Khan saw Mongolia. Underlying any search lay the ability to see. It was all about awareness.

But was not seeing also a secondary act, witnessing what existed already? Prior to seeing must come creation. Was this notion contained in the S of see, a fluid symbol of being like the Taijitu –Yin-Yang – symbol. SSSsss… like a snake. The serpent that lay coiled at the base of your spine, awaiting stimulation. Ready to arise, energizing your chakras one by one – your base, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown. Like the serpent at the base of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, that tempted Eve to offer Adam the evil apple. A being of power but also of danger. The serpent lives in both worlds – both upon the earth in light, and beneath it in darkness. By coiling a snake around Mt. Meru and churning the milky ocean, gods and demons created the world.

The old man had said, “There is no search; there is only re-search.” Was this his ultimate meaning? The S curving like the shape of the lingam – egg shaped symbol of Siva, the world’s destroyer and regenerator, which curved like Einstein’s notion of space-time. A completed curve made a circle, a circus, a circuit, a cycle. A beginning and returning.

Robby sat beside the river and repeated the old man’s rituals as best he could there. He bathed in the River Lilly, chanted forgotten mantras, prayed to Mt. Negra, and made holy designs in sand with his fingers. He recalled his Vedic name, Karma, meaning action.

Then he thought to himself, what on earth am I doing sitting on my ass here in the forest – a grown man with no job, house, money, or purpose – when I have the whole world and my whole life before me. Robby’s ten years of re-search were complete. He arose, got dressed and walked down the road.

Two Laws

Posted in Mystical Experience, Unknown, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2012 by javedbabar

Noop hobbled into the lounge and looked around her. It was airy, bright and open. The small manager welcomed her personally, saying, “Mrs. Irene Todd, it’s always nice to see new faces. I hope that we will see you here often.”

She said, “I’ve been quite busy since Aidan died. It’s been a difficult period.”

“We’ll do whatever we can to help you.” He indicated the staff now busy making dinner. “Our main goal is sociability. We like to draw people out.” He smiled at her like an imp. He was an imp. “So please don’t be shy.” It must be hard work “drawing people out” she thought. Some of them were drooling and dazed. Thankfully she still had her wits about her. That was a nice little temple they’d made, with different gods and goddesses. There were Ram & Sita. Why did it feel so natural to say Hai Ram?

“Please make yourself comfortable,” said the manager. “Will you be dining with us, or have you brought your own lunch?”

“I will be eating here,” she said. She hadn’t heard great things about the food, but wanted to try it. She hoped it was something spicy, even if they made it poorly. It would be better than bland food.

“Okay, great. I’ll introduce you to some of the others at lunch. Will you be okay here for a while? I’ve just got to call the Village about transport, and the Medical Centre about their new healthy eating guidelines. As you can see, bureaucracy never ends – even when our lives do.”

Noop sat on the sofa outside the manager’s office. She could have walked over to the other women, but preferred to be introduced. There aren’t many men here, she thought. They must have disappeared early like her Aidan. How did the tradition develop – all over the world – of men marrying younger women? On average men die five years before women – it doesn’t make sense. Hai Ram.

Her Aidan had been a good man mostly. He’d provided well for her and the kids. He’d built her a home. He’d taken her on holidays. He’d bought her flowers and gifts. In fifty years he’d never missed one Valentines’ Day. “There was more than one St. Valentine,” he said. “Maybe three or four. But all were martyrs. Let’s go one day to Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, and see St. Valentine’s flower-crowned skull.” They’d never made it. Like the manager here, Aidan complained about bureaucracy. He blamed it for most things – even their lack of seeing the flower-crowned skull. “Bloody governments,” he said. “Making rules and regulations. How’s a man ever to fight his way out? My skull is crowned with photocopies and receipts.” He’d done his best. He was a good husband. But in her heart she had always known that he wasn’t her true love.

Noop looked across the room and saw…

The next thing she knew, bright lights filled her eyes. She was looking up at the ceiling. What had happened? Was she lying on the floor? The manager’s imp face was close to her, saying, “Mrs. Todd? Can you hear me? Irene?” Other staff crowded around her. She panicked at first, but relaxed quickly. This wasn’t the first time. She knew it had happened before. But where? And why? The man she’d seen was known to her. But who was he?

An ambulance came and took her to the hospital. They said that it was just a momentary lapse. Nothing to worry about. She checked out later the same day.

Noop should have stayed at home the next day, but just had to go to the Centre. She knew the man there. He didn’t seem to recognize her though. He had lost his mind. He was drooling slightly. She wiped his mouth with a tissue. Other women began gossiping about her. She didn’t care. The way he looked at her. He knew too. So late in this life! Why so late in this life! But they were still connected. Hai Ram.

Through Noop’s many lifetimes, with many different names, one thing had become clear. That there were only two laws at work in the world. The Law of Attraction and the Law of Karma.

The Law of Attraction was qualitative. There were no absolutes. Its vehicle was your imagination. Whatever you thought about, desired wholeheartedly, and worked towards was ultimately yours. It may take a while to get there, but it would come. Noop and Raja had been circling each other for countless lifetimes, like the gods Ram and Sita. They came together like sugar and water, dissolving into each other completely. But that water was spilled again after forty, fifty, or seventy years. They were entwined and could never be separated entirely, but must find new containers to mingle. That was their endless journey, to find a grail in which to merge. Maybe one day forever.

The Law of Karma, however, didn’t make things easy. You did the best you could, given your circumstances. You tried to be diligent, hardworking, truthful, just, and kind. You retained faith in God and fulfilled your earthly duty. But no one knew the repercussions of their every action, multiplied infinitely. You did your best, that’s all you could do – and that changed continually: with each moment, day, year, and lifetime. Karma was quantitative: a huge balance sheet of plus and minus – leading to a grand net total. If positive – you advanced, and if negative – you retreated. So it was.

Plato spoke of divided souls, searching for their completion. Sufis yearned for a return to their original unity. All lovers seek soulmates. Twin flames, lit from the same source, can merge again. But till then they must wander as lone sparks.

Noop looked into Raja’s eyes, though he didn’t seem to be looking into hers. She held his hand, squeezed his fingers, and said, “I have found you again, my love. I am your Sita. Hai Ram.

Noch Aye

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , on March 11, 2012 by javedbabar

“I thought that drinks weren’t allowed,” said Moreen. The circus troupe had started drinking when they’d left the Village, and continued all the way up the Lucerne Valley Road. The Russian clowns downed vodka; Jamaican acrobats limbered up with rum; English jugglers drank both cheap and premium gins, according to their social class; Goan magicians made fenny appear and disappear; the Chinese doll family drank thimblefuls of baijiu; the Mexican couch-spinner had tequila and mezcal – he said “one for each end”; the German sword swallower liked schnapps to “heal his mistakes”; the Iraqi cannonball said that only arak “kept his tummy in”; Greek plate-spinners said brandy “balanced their ears”.

“We are circus people,” said the Scottish Ringmaster, sipping 23-year-old malt whisky, “We make our own rules.”

“You could get into a lot of trouble for drinking,” said Moreen. “They are pretty tough here. The whole Valley is dry.”

“This is the land of water. Water is wet!” said the Ringmaster loudly. “Noch aye!”

“Noch aye!” the circus troupe members replied.

“Isn’t it Och Aye?” said Moreen.

“Well usually it is, but we make our own rules. If those gold diggers want entertainment, they’ll have to cut us some slack. Noch aye!”

“Noch aye!” everyone called out.

It is inappropriate to be drinking on a schoolbus, thought Moreen. The driver seemed to agree with her and stopped the bus halfway up the Valley.

“Right, you lot,” he said through his beard. “I’m going to tell you this once only. Drinking is forbidden in this Valley, and also on this bus, which is used to transport children to school daily. I’ve turned a blind eye till now, but break time’s over. You better put those drinks away and sharpen up your act.”

The Mexican couch-spinner rose from his seat. The Iraqi human-cannonball did likewise. The Scottish Ringmaster rose up too, and indicated for the other two to sit down. They screwed up their faces, but followed his order.

“Ok, you’re the boss,” he said the driver. “Then he faced the troupe and said, “Ladies and gentlemen! You heard the man. Let’s drink up.” Everybody raised their glasses and downed them. “Thank you. Now put them away – at least till we get through the checkpoint.” The driver slowed the bus again. “Ok, I didn’t mean that. Ladies and Gentlemen! No more drinking on the journey at all please.”

The driver sped up and called out, “If I see anyone drinking I’m turning around and taking you back, and reporting to the Authority.

They soon reached the Golden turnoff, lined with black security fencing and guard dog patrols. Depleted supply in Africa and Asia meant that gold was more precious than ever; a vital component for cellphones, laptops, satellites, solar panels, catalytic convertors, airbag and braking systems, and a million other things. And of course, it was the only universally recognized currency, come hell or high water. Golden had been designated a “Fundamental Framework” zone.

The security guards were idle. They didn’t smell or spot the booze. They ordered everyone off the bus and then back on again. They asked troupe members to perform some tricks. Most were on work visas and didn’t want fuss, so obliged.

The Balkan chapeaugrapher rolled his eyes, and transformed his white, ring-shaped piece of felt into a pirate’s hat, a Russian fur hat, a nun’s wimple, Admiral’s hat, skyscraper, baseball cap, baby’s bonnet, mortar board, an iPod, a barrister’s wig, and Mickey Mouse ears. The security guards laughed and clapped. The Peruvian knife thrower was called upon. He threw five knives at a cedar, five at a fir, five at a pine, and his last five knives removed guards’ hats and pinned them to the security fencing. They reached for their guns but then burst out laughing, and gave him high-fives. The Israeli fire-dancer was required to produce a turn. She ran her standard repertoire of poi, fire hoops, batons, nanchaku, and fire whips, then fire-eating and fire-breathing, and lit all their cigarettes for a finale. The guards cheered, and then stamped the troupe’s passes.

They asked Moreen her reason for visiting Golden. She said that she was looking for work there. “What kind of work?” asked the biggest guard.

“It depends on what’s available. I’ll consider most things.”

“Will you now?” said the big guard. “Wait here for a minute.”

The circus troupe were back on the bus now. Only Moreen remained. The guard told the driver to start up the bus and get going. “But what about my passenger?” he said.

“She hasn’t been cleared yet,” said the guard. “We’re waiting for instructions. We’ll send her on the next bus.”

“We’ll wait for her,” said the driver.

Moreen was scared. What did these guards want with her? She should have chosen her words more carefully – not said that she’d “consider most things”. The Ringmaster climbed down from the bus to enquire about the hold up. When they told him he was incensed. “You let fifty drunken reprobates through, and you want to keep this perfectly respectable single woman here for no reason? Gentlemen! That’s ungentlemanly behaviour. What do you think you’re playing at?”

The big guard placed his hand on his gun. “Buddy, you may be King of the Ring in your world, but here I am God. What I say is Law. Now be on your way or I’ll arrest you for obstruction.” His fellow guards prepared to handle their guns, and didn’t know what happened to them next.

They later recalled being flipped about, being wound around people’s heads, swung around, ejected a hundred metres, having their tongues set on fire, being sawn in half, thrown about repeatedly, pinned to boards and spun about, having pies pushed in their faces, and the bus disappearing in a puff of smoke.

“What did you do to them,” Moreen asked the Ringmaster.

He said, “We just taught them a lesson. That was no way to behave with a lady. We circus people like to follow the rules.” He winked at her. “Our rules.” Then he called out, “Noch Aye!”

Dicewoman

Posted in Sacred Geometry, Unknown with tags , , , , on February 20, 2012 by javedbabar

“May I ask you a silly question?” said Martha to the shop assistant.

“Of course, Madam. I am at your service.”

Martha relaxed. “Ok then. Why do some people call a dice a die?”

Die is singular, Madam, and dice is plural.”

“Ah!” she said involuntarily. “That solves the mystery. Thank you.”

“You are welcome.” He waited for a further question; when there wasn’t one, he busied himself with arranging figures in a minutely-detailed miniature castle.

Martha realized she had another question. “Excuse me.” The assistant half-turned and looked up. “Is the word for this….er, gambling device,” she flashed a smile, “related to the word for a…. metal mould?” She looked unsure of herself. “The one you use to make models; you know, when they say something is die-cast.”

“I’m sure that it is, Madam. Do you have an interest in models?”

“Not really,” said Martha. “But my brothers used to play fantasy games. I remember their ugly little monsters; they used to scare me.”

“There’s no need to be scared, Madam.” The assistant smiled kindly. “It’s only a game, after all.”

She also wanted to ask if die and dice were related to the word for the end of life, but felt embarrassed. All she wanted was an ordinary die to replace her lost one, so she could play Snakes and Ladders with her husband. Their bedroom routine had been disrupted. Most nights they played quick games of Snakes and Ladders, Chess, Ludo, and Strip-Poker; took all of their clothes off and then put on their pyjamas. On Saturday nights they kept their clothes off. She hadn’t got pregnant in eight years yet. Her husband had given up, but she felt that there was no harm in still trying.

Martha looked at the display case and said, “Could you please tell me about the different dice?”

“Certainly Madam.” The assistant opened the case. “These ones are common Western dice. See how their spots are widely spaced out? These Asian dice are smaller and rounder; their spots are closer together; notice how the ‘one’ and ‘four’ are coloured red for good luck. These clear ones are casino dice. Their markings are drilled, rather than moulded, then filled with similar density paint – so differing number of spots will not affect their performance – then polished and given serial numbers.” He threw the casino dice and scored double-six.

He pointed to some others. “Now these ones you may know already,” Martha nodded. “Role Playing Game dice with ten, twenty, and one hundred sides.” She hadn’t seen the latter before; the assistant passed it to her and said, “It is called a Zocchihedron.”

He indicated what appeared to be mathematical and biological models. “These Platonic dice are collectors’ items; each has a different number of sides. These talus bones from Sudan are the original form of dice used in ancient societies. This set of three, twelve-sided dice – used for astrology – are printed with planets, lunar nodes, and astrological houses. And this single-sided die is a joke die; nothing but a sphere with the number one.”

Martha had never seen so many; she was dazzled by the dice. Knowing their purposes enhanced her fascination, but something was bugging her. This huge variety of dice had one thing in common: their outcome was random. If that was the case then what was the point? She said “Is there any kind of die which is not random?”

The assistant gave her a severe look and said, “There are many kinds of loaded dice – mercury tappers, those with melting resins, and electromagnetic kits – but this is a reputable establishment, Madam. We do not carry any of those.”

“Oh,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to break the bank of Monte Carlo. I was just curious.” She looked around the store and eventually returned to the dice counter. “Ok, I’d better get what I came in for. Just an ordinary dice please, for Snakes and Ladders.”

“An ordinary die?” He reminded her of her grammatical error. “I’m afraid there is no such thing Madam.”

“I mean that one there with six sides, and one to six spots.”

“That is a die, indeed,” he said. “But it is not an ordinary one.”

“What do you mean?” said Martha.

“Madam, every style of die has its own magic. I wasn’t entirely honest with you earlier when you asked about non-random dice. Just take a look at this Western die. See how the spots are arranged? That’s right, numbers on opposite sides always add to seven. That’s because of its internal vertex, where all possible outcomes merge, and are then manifested according to the moment’s needs. There is in truth no randomness in dice.” He stared at her intensely. “Don’t you imagine that Indian and Greek gods, Biblical prophets, and medieval knights used them for a reason? Your Snakes and Ladders, by way of example, is an ancient game revealing the journey of life; each ladder is a virtue and each snake is a vice; which your soul must experience, and learn from, on its royal road to perfection. The outcome of every game is known. The die merely starts the action.”

Martha fingered the dice nervously. He continued, “Take this die as a gift from us, Madam. Use it to play Snakes and Ladders tonight. You may be surprised at the outcome. I think you know already. We look forward to you returning soon to purchase some children’s games.”

Mirror

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Infinite City, Mystical Experience with tags , , on January 29, 2012 by javedbabar

The fundraiser was much better than expected. Sam had been bullied into attending by the Library Director; every time he went to get a Sci-Fi book, she emerged from her office to ask if he’d got his ticket yet. But he wasn’t ready to commit. He may be somewhere else; somewhere better; who knew? But eventually under pressure he’d handed over twenty bucks.

It was the best investment he’d ever made. He won first prize in the raffle – a night in the Wells Suite at the Regal Hotel. He’d seen that place when visiting the City, but had never imagined staying there. It was the grandest place in town. The only snag was that it had to be this Tuesday. Why couldn’t it be next week, he thought, or last week?

On Tuesday his girlfriend was working late and said she’d join him later, so he checked in alone. The receptionist said, “Welcome, Sir. It is a privilege to have you stay with us. We hear that you attended a charitable event, and won first prize. Indeed good deeds are always rewarded. We hope that you will enjoy our humble lodgings. If you need anything at all, please do not hesitate to ask.”

The 20th floor penthouse was amazing. It was hard to describe the decor – maybe “retro modern”. Chandeliers brightened its blue-striped walls. The reception room contained a large green table, sofas, and footstools. The bedroom had a four-poster bed, all draped in blue. The bathroom held golden fittings and a claw-foot bath. If only his girlfriend would hurry up – they could make good use of the bed and bath; though he doubted things would get as steamy as they had with some other girls. Maybe he should have invited one of them.

Sam hit the mini-bar – the library was paying after all – and he smoked a joint. His girlfriend texted, saying, “So sorry, love. It’s an emergency. I can’t get away. Will call you later.”

“Bitch,” he said to himself. For some reason he didn’t believe her. Once he’d dreamed of making her his wife, but recently changed his mind. It just wasn’t like it used to be. Their endless laughter and passion were gone, and were unlikely to return. So why bother?

Sam noticed a locked internal door. Had they forgotten to open a room? He called downstairs. The formal receptionist appeared, sniffed the air and said, “Have you been smoking Sir? You do know that this is a non-smoking hotel?”

“Of course I haven’t,” said Sam.

“Very good, Sir. I will take your word for it. Many wouldn’t.”

“I would like you to open this door.”

“Sir, are you sure?”

“You said I shouldn’t hesitate to ask.”

The receptionist unlocked the door and left. It was a spacious windowless room, with a dark desk at its centre. There were bookshelves filled with science texts and holy books. The only other notable item was a full-size mirror with an ornate golden frame. Sam peered into the mirror, cut some smiles, and left the room.

He couldn’t believe it at first. Was he dreaming or drunk?

The room’s decor was completely different. Gone were the blue-striped walls and green furniture. The whole room was white. It had a few sleek items of furniture – more loungers than sofas – and there was no obvious source of light, but everything was glowing. As he moved forward, the light increased around him, as if an aura. A wall-sized screen came alive slowly, showing waves lapping a beach at dawn. Sam peered outside, and saw flying cars. He was so surprised that it took a while to realize that his movements were jerky; he was stumbling along. Then he noticed his hands were wrinkled and knotted with rope-veins, and his feet were like clubs, which shunted rather than flowed. What had happened to him? He tried to return to the study, but the door had locked.

“Knock! Knock!” He wasn’t sure whether to answer the front door. “Knock! Knock!” But what else could he do? There stood the receptionist. He spoke in a too-loud voice. “I thought I’d check up on you, Sir. Is all well?”

“You can see that it isn’t.” Sam’s voice was different. It held a rasp. “What has happened to me?”

“I’m afraid that only you know that, Sir.”

Smug bastard, thought Sam. “Can you let me back into the study?”

“Of course, Sir.” He unlocked the door and left.

Sam sat on the edge of the desk and tried to comprehend the situation. Then he thought he’d better see himself, and looked in the mirror again. He looked just like he should; still forty years old. The futuristic world must have been a delusion. He really should drink less. He left the room.

The room was different again. There was a huge orange wall-hanging, filled with circles, and a fat yellow sofa beneath. The carpet held mixed yellow and orange squares. There was a boxy brown television with many chrome knobs. Sam heard the bells of trolley cars outside. Again he was stumbling along, but in a different way. He tensed his face, and looked down at his hands. They were chubby and small-fingered. Child’s hands. He turned instinctively, but the study door was locked once more. And just at that moment, “Knock! Knock!” He toddled over to the suite door, pawed and eventually opened it.

The receptionist smiled in a patronising way. “Sir, is all well?”

“Nooo. It bad. O-pen door?” He sounded so cute, even to himself.

The receptionist unlocked the door and left.

Sam went straight to the mirror. He looked unchanged; still forty. He decided to leave the hotel immediately. Sure, he’d taken some crazy trips before, but nothing like this. This was way too weird. But when he tried to leave the study, he found that he couldn’t. However much he walked towards the door, it never got any closer. The desk was always before him, and the bookshelves to the right. But the door remained far away. He was stuck in the mirror with no future or past; no fantasy or memory. Just all the time in the world to reflect upon the present.

Pity Party

Posted in Lucerne Village, Sacred Geometry, Unknown with tags , , on January 21, 2012 by javedbabar

Peter awoke feeling sorry for himself. There was no real reason, it was just an occasional indulgence. Pity for the things that could have been, but hadn’t happened. Oh, he could have been a world-class athlete, a devoted husband, a father to many smiling children, a vast landowner, a big game hunter, and so much more. He lay awake, looking at the ceiling.

In a high corner of the cabin was a spider’s web, and there was the little black rascal spinning it. The powers of this eight-legged creature were awesome: to create a world from your own body, and to entrap and enfold other beings within it.

Peter looked out of the window. It was a gloomy day. Why couldn’t it be sunny, so he could go for a run along the Meadows Road? The sunshine inspired him; it was something to run towards. But this weather was cheerless. Why would someone want to go outside in that?

After an uneasy sleep-in, he accepted that there was no way out. He had to get up and go to work. He did a fat shit, brushed his teeth, and had a quick shower. Pulsating eucalyptus  waters roused his spirits, but when he opened the fridge, they fell again. Fuck! He was out of milk. Why didn’t he buy some from the gas station yesterday? Or keep a stock of evaporated milk? But he hated that stuff. And cereal with water was just wrong.

Because of Peter’s sleep-in, his timings were off. He was a half-hour behind schedule. As he started the truck, he heard the closing bars of his favourite radio show. That Native comic was hilarious, and the East Indian one, and the woman with the lisp – talk about shameless! How could she even conceive of doing that with cayenne peppers! But shit! Shit! He’d missed it. There was some show about psychology, talking about how your thoughts affect your perceptions, which in turn affect your behaviour. Then flaky bullshit about affecting your “realities”.

He was late so pushed the truck hard, slowed behind an old lady driver, and once around the bend, flew past her at 160. No cops here ever. He saw her look of shock in his mirror. He, he, he!

But then his truck wobbled. Bastard! He realized that he had a flat. The low-pressure warning light blinked last night, but he hadn’t been concerned. That sensor was way too sensitive. But the slow puncture was now a flat. He changed the tire, cursing continuously. A spider ran out from somewhere. The old lady driver flowed past him, smiling.

Peter entered the office hoping for company, but there was no-one about. Where was that pretty new receptionist? He enjoyed flirting with her. Anyway, it was all good if she wasn’t there – he could watch porn and play video games.

He switched on his computer. It took forever, and then the blue screen wobbled and quickly died. Cunt! What the hell was wrong with that machine? He called the IT guy and left him an abusive message, telling him to choose between “the blue pill or the poison pill, either way you’re fucked.” Then he went out to grab a coffee.

The girl at the coffee shop seemed familiar, but he wasn’t sure how. Her golden orbs were pushed together, bursting out of her low-cut top. She tried to charge his card, but there was a system error. She swiped it again but still no luck. Peter said to her “Why don’t you swipe it down your cleavage, and I’ll give you a tip?” She bared her teeth uncomfortably, and tried a third time. This was successful. But while Peter was adding cream and sugar, the manager came over and asked him to apologize to her. Peter told him to fuck off, and was immediately asked to leave, and banned from the coffee shop. Idiot people around here, he thought, they can’t take a joke.

When he returned to work, his boss was waiting. She said, “Peter, may I have a word with you?”

“Sure, right now?”

“Yes,” she said severely. “Right now. I’m afraid I have some bad news. Complaints against you from staff, suppliers, and customers have built up to an unacceptable level. It seems that you do not comprehend good behaviour. The company can no longer be associated with such rudeness. You can either resign immediately, or I will fire you. Which would you prefer?”

Peter informed her of his choice – and plenty more besides. He left her shaking with rage and tears. At least he’d made a lasting impression.

He went to the pub and ordered an early drink. In the daylight the pub looked different; less shiny, less clean. More hopeless. It even had cobwebs. That barman should dust higher.

Peter stayed there all day, moping. He told each new customer his woes. Eventually he was too drunk to speak coherently, but kept bothering people, leading to a small tussle with the barman. Peter fell and bashed his head on a chair, and his mouth was edged with blood. “Bash-tard! You broke my tooth!” He slurred as he was thrown out. “I just wanted one more beer.”

Peter managed to start his truck and drove it a hundred yards, before red and blue lights flashed behind him. He pushed the accelerator to try to get away, and then the brake to stop. He was breathalysed and ticketed, and his car impounded. A taxi took him home, where he found an eviction noticed pinned to his door. “Your sexual harassment of my niece today at the coffee shop was intolerable. Please vacate this suite tomorrow. Your damage deposit will not be returned.” Peter ripped the notice off the door and tore it up.

He fell into bed but couldn’t sleep. In the high corner of the cabin, the spider’s web had grown larger. His unfocussed eyes made it seem that he was within it. His sunshine, his breakfast, his laughter, his truck, his job, his coffee, his beer, his home, and his dreams, were stuck in its strands. Each dark deed trapped him further. And Peter wondered if he was the spider, the insect, or the web?