Archive for road

Black Light

Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2012 by javedbabar

The city had got too hot for Shama. Things seemed hopeless, like a blackout blind pulled over his life.  The landlord would keep his damage deposit, but he hadn’t paid last month’s rent anyway, so all’s fair-square. Not that he had any wish to please that asshole, but it was the easiest way out. He threw what he had into his backpack, took the bus to the edge of town, and stood beside the Sea to Sky Highway.

It wasn’t long before he caught a ride to Strattus, and on to Lucerne. Shama didn’t want to go way into the bush, what would he do there? He could barely manage urban survival; forget wilderness survival. Being in the bush may also attract attention. Fewer people but more bears.

He pitched his tent at the base of a mountain near a natural spring. The one thing he couldn’t do without was water. The river was nearby, good for washing. He walked into Lucerne Village daily, which took an hour each way. A few people started saying hello to him. He wasn’t rude, just unresponsive. He said hello back and moved on.

A weird-looking old guy became familiar, over six feet tall, unshrunken with age. His beard was a strange golden white. He walked around in monk-like black robes, and was clearly ethnic, though from where was hard to say. People seemed to treat him as special, but he remained always alone. His only activity seemed to be walking along the Lucerne Valley Road, at a steady speed, to God knows where. Shama had only been here two weeks, but couldn’t recall an occasion when he hadn’t passed him on the road when going in or out of the village.

One day at dusk, Shama spied the old man ahead. He gritted his teeth and prepared to speed past him. A car went by and the old man’s robes caught its headlights; it seemed as if their black glowed.

Shama wondered if the man had any money. If he robbed, or even killed him, who would know? He could wash his knife in the river. This was the thought going through his head as he approached the old man.

“Don’t even think about it.” Shama heard a soft voice inside his head. “Your weapon is useless against me. My mind is greater than your weapon.” He looked at the old man, but he couldn’t have spoken these words; he was too far away. Shama stopped and turned around, and then started walking again, faster. The voice continued, “One truth we know is that you can’t get away from yourself. Wherever you go, there you are.”

“Who’s saying that?” Shama shouted. “Who are you?”

“I am Guru Baba,” said the old man. “Walk with me awhile. Let’s talk.”

“But you’re talking to me inside my head already! Get out! Get out!” Shama moved threateningly towards the old man but knew that it was a useless gesture. From his days of street crime, you know when someone’s untouchable.

“I have a proposal for you. You see me walking every day. Despite the power of my soul, my mind is deteriorating. So many people still need so much from me. I need an assistant. Will you help me?”

Shama was surprised. “Me, help you? How?”

“We’d be helping each other. You can help me with administrative tasks, and I will gift you my lifetime’s knowledge and experience. I will help you imagine better, and become your best self.”

Only at that moment did Shama know that this was the goal he had sought in this and many previous lifetimes. To find his true master and fulfil his true potential. To turn internal conflict into external co-operation, and become part of the cosmic dance.

The next driver on the Lucerne Valley Road was surprised to see a scruffy vagrant and one of the world greatest holy men dancing together. The holy man’s robes gleamed black, showing the truth of illuminated darkness.

Double Lines

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Sacred Geometry, Unknown with tags , , , , , on March 26, 2012 by javedbabar

Danny was getting frustrated. He was stuck behind a dark car going very slowly, which he could easily overtake, but there were solid yellow lines along the road. He would have to wait for dashes, or a free-for-all unmarked stretch. He could push ahead anyway, as you do with old ladies and tractors, but a dark car is different. It could be a cop car. Why was it doing steady fifty in an eighty zone? On the blind bends – ok; but on the straights too?

He’d been stuck behind this car for four kilometres. It was getting ridiculous. He considered making a call to say that he’d be late, but what if it was a cop car? Then they’d nab him for talk-driving. He already had a ticket for that, along with speeding, no-seatbelt, and no-lights infractions. He was the local cops’ best customer. Ever since good, god-fearing Albert Samson was elected Premier, no road was complete without them.

There seemed to be double solid lines right along the road. The few sections that didn’t have lines held road works, with, of course, no work going on there – just signs, boards, and cones. At least there was a reason for doing fifty here – because the little girl on the board says, “My mommy works here.” Maybe her mommy was still making her breakfast.

There used to be long stretches with just tarmac and common sense, meaning “You’re smart enough to know how to drive.” There were dashed sections meaning “Buddy, keep your eyes open.” Places with lines and dashes on alternate sides meant “You are members of a civilized society; this is a tricky curve, so please take your turn in an orderly manner.” But now there were double lines everywhere saying “We make the rules here, and you do what we say. Drive nice and easy along this laneway that we’ve made nice and smooth for you. Keep a steady speed. If someone before you is going slowly then you go slowly too. Why do you need to get ahead anyway? Take it slow. Good boy.”

Danny took an executive decision to overtake the dark car. It was probably just a foolish tourist overwhelmed by the beauty of the Lucerne Valley, or nervous about driving on the right and wanting to stick to the rules. Danny pulled out on a short straight stretch and pushed his Frontier forward. There was no battles of wills here, and it was over in five seconds. He was now the car in front.

A blue light began flashing somewhere. He was unsure where it came from. Then he saw it in his mirror, coming from the dark car behind. Shit! It was a cop car. They were signalling for him to stop. He indicated and pulled over, and the dark car crept in behind.

Danny sat in his car as per the protocol. Last summer he’d stepped out without thinking and almost been shot. Nothing happened for a while. Then the dark car’s door opened and a man stepped out, and walked towards his car.

“Hey, Danny, remember me?” said the bulky man with short orange beard. “Jim from the pole yard?”

“Sure I do!” said Danny, relieved. He’d had a few drinks with this guy. Why was he driving a cop car though?

“Did you want me to stop?” said Jim.

Danny said, “No, you were flashing me. I thought I’d better.”

“Flashing you?” Jim looked confused. “Oh! I see! You mean the blue lights? No, no, pal. Those are transceivers, front and back, aligning positions.”

“There wasn’t anything at the back,” said Danny. “Only the front. I thought you were signalling me.”

“Damn, that rear light must have broken again. I was having trouble with it yesterday. I thought it was fixed. I’d better take a look. You must have wondered why I was crawling along. Hell, you must have been cursing! Why didn’t you overtake me earlier?”

“There were double lines all along the road, and I thought you were a cop. What are you doing?”

“I’m working on the IQ project,” Danny recalled finding little white posts in the forest when hiking. They used to say IP – for Iron Point, indicating official property boundaries – but they now said IQ. He’d thought that this was the next level somehow, to be followed by IR. “It stands for Investment Quadrant, the new government model for land value, following Native traditions of respect for all land. Every feature is seen as equally precious – the road, river, swamp, forest, ancient sites, towns, and mountains.”

“How can everything be equal? What does that mean in practical terms?” It’s like everyone having to drive at the same speed, thought Danny. It’s false and frustrating.

“We use the ADAM apparatus – Advanced District Allocation Module – the blue light you saw flashing – to divide areas into EVEs – Equal Value Entities.”

“How’s that?” said Danny.

“We ensure that each EVE has equal assets. For example, Lucerne Valley West has Kalash subdivision, Mt Negra, and the Taxila ruins. Lucerne Valley East has Lucerne Village, Mt. Alba, and the Golden mines. ADAM is based on Biblical principles – to be stewards of the earth. The first step is to divide this land into fields for us to tend as holy guardians.”

“But how do you divide Lucerne Valley into East and West? It runs north to south.”

“We’re dividing it along the Lucerne Valley Road. The double lines are the boundary.” He winked at Danny. “Never to be crossed.”

A to B

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , on March 3, 2012 by javedbabar

Camp A and Camp B were now established. It was strange how they had both sprung up at the same time, but without being connected. Rumours said that neither had gone through the proper process, scared by rumours of burial grounds, which if identified would end all construction. But they’d kept the in-joke. A stood for Apparition, said Camp A’s residents; Camp B’s dwellers said that B stood for Banshee. How the hell had he ended up here, Antoine wondered? What had he done to deserve this? And then he remembered.

He was legally obliged to mention his conviction, which tended to make him less attractive to employers. There was no escaping the fact that twelve years ago he had killed his boss. The boss was a mean son-of-a-bitch who had started the fight, and their fight had been fair, but Antoine should have stopped when it was clear that the issue was settled – by his bosses’ teeth being broken, and his lying unconscious in a pool of blood on the floor. There really was no need to smash his skull in with a fire extinguisher. But Antoine had been driven to a point beyond reason, and that’s why he could now only find jobs on the edge of the wilderness – a place he would always inhabit.

Out here things could be different though. Here was a convicted killer wearing a shirt and tie, in his air-conditioned office-trailer, having meetings with respectable people. He was only employed two days a week by the Village, and had to make best use of that time. One day was for fieldwork, the other for meetings. Today he was exploring options for connecting Camp Apparition to Camp Banshee with the three main interest groups.

His assistant Laurence was great at prepping. He could rely on her entirely. He wondered if she knew about his conviction. He reckoned that she did, but never mentioned it. What a pro. He was very lucky to have her. Why a sassy girl like that worked out in the bush though, he had no idea. At 11am she said, “The Lucerne Valley Merchant’s Association is here. They look like a fun bunch. Watch the one with two moustaches.”

“The one with two moustaches” turned out to be the grocery store owner. Antoine couldn’t help smirking when he walked in; he had a regular moustache, and a monobrow. Two moustaches. He said, “Merchants want the most direct route possible. Twenty kilometres of new road is not going to come cheap. We see the need to connect the two camps and are supportive. But as the biggest taxpayers in town, we want value for money. So we say built it straight, and build it cheap. Don’t drown us in more taxes.”

After lunch Laurence said, “Lucerne Valley Families First are here. I’m not sure why, but they seem to have brought their pet caterpillars.”

A group of people with fat sideburns walked in, and Antoine smirked again. That girl needs to behave herself, he thought, or she’ll get me into trouble. But he wondered when this hirsute fashion had started; was this Valley’s heritage Middle-Eastern?

A hefty lady was their spokesperson. She said, “We would like the road to take the scenic route between the two camps. If you run straight between them, you cross swampland and flood zone. You also skirt bluffs where bears and cougars have been spotted. So for the safety of our children especially – they’ll be on their bikes, or walking – we want the road to stick to higher areas away from the swamps and bluffs.”

At teatime Laurence said, “The Lucerne Valley Developers are here. They are very keen birders. Habitat will be their main concern.”

A group of men with beards and wigs walked in. This time Antoine could not help laughing. They were surprised at first, then angry. “What is the meaning of this?” said their chairman. “Is this a business meeting or a clown show?”

“I’m sorry,” said Antoine. “My assistant told me a joke earlier. It was a killer.”

“Well, do share it with us,” said the leader. “We like a good joke too.”

“I’m sorry, it’s a personal joke.” I will kill that girl, he thought; but only in a nice way.

“We Developers would like to see a network of roads. Not just a straight stretch between two armpits. We need roads to spread through the area, to create access to new neighbourhoods. A road from Camp A to Camp B will not attract anyone. People prefer eyesores out of sight. But a complex network will induce demand. That’s capitalism at its best, creating something from nothing.”

When everyone had gone, Antoine and Laurence put their heads together. Both were history buffs. They brainstormed the many types of roads in antiquity – dirt-tracks, flint-covered, stone-paved, corduroy-timbered, timber trackways, clay-brick-paved, Persian Royal Roads, Roman straight roads, Arab paved roads, and roads besides rivers, along which materials were hauled by horse-drawn boats. They discussed some related structures including bridges, tunnels, supports, junctions, crossings, interchanges, and toll roads, and of course the continuous right-of-way required.

Antoine suggested that he and Laurence use a fieldwork day to walk the proposed routes. They found the straight route involved much bushwhacking. The scenic route was easier, largely following animal tracks. A network could follow natural breaks and contours. But none of them felt right to Antoine. Was there anything else?

As dusk approached, they fell onto a pine forest track. There was a full moon tonight so they continued walking. Mushrooms grew profusely, and owls were hooting; wisps of blue light appeared and disappeared; someone had hung coloured glass balls at intervals; they heard rustling and whispering, and felt shadows. They had found an ancient corpse road, where bodies were transported from the Village to forest burial grounds. The Apparitions and Banshees were lonely here; they were long forgotten. They liked to see the living, especially those who were close to death themselves. This man they knew had killed someone, and the woman was here to avenge her father. They were pleased that company would be arriving soon.