Archive for silence

T-Phone

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2012 by javedbabar

The farm was hot and full of bugs. Maybe the ecosystem wasn’t quite balanced yet, or the ladybugs were of a lethargic species, and the mosquitoes of a dynamic one, for the latter were winning hands down. The forest was cooler, with widely spaced Arcadian Firs. Their branches captured much of the light, which meant less vegetation on the forest floor, and thus fewer bugs. Bobby dozed in the forest daily from twelve to four.

On days off he’d visit Alan and Patricia, who said they’d lived in the valley for one hundred years. Alan was a prehistoric geek, obsessed by communications. He captured local transmissions via an antenna, many miles long, strung between firs.

“You always seem so happy together,” Bobby said to Patricia as she poured him Lady Grey Tea. She’d said it was a perfectly refreshing afternoon tea, which she preferred to the floral taste of Earl Grey. “What’s your secret? Is it just your time spent together? A hundred years in the forest has surely drawn you closer. Or is it something else?”

“Alan says that we are in tune. We have the same frequency. Do you know the difference between AM and FM radio signals? You don’t? Well, AM means Amplitude Modulation. The size of the waves rises and falls, conveying the information necessary to transmit a message. FM is totally different. It stands for Frequency Modulation. The size of the waves is constant but the distance between them changes, which conveys information. Well, Alan says that he is AM and I am FM, but we’re in tune with each other. It doesn’t really make…”

“Hello again, young man!” said Alan, bursting into the room. “So good to see you. How’s your teatime? You like it? Good, good.”

Patrician poured him a cup too. There was no need for her to ask him, as she was in tune.

“Has she told you about my new invention? I can tell him, can’t I, love?” Patricia nodded. “It’s the T-Phone!” He pulled out a mobile phone as big as a brick. Bobby had last seen one of those in the 1980s. Was Alan that much behind the times?

Alan smiled and said, “I know it’s not much to look at, but wait till I show you what it can do.”

Bobby said, “Please do.”

“I’ve tried various forms of information propagation – AM, FM – I heard Patricia telling you about those – and SSB, TETRA, amateur radio, unlicensed radio, even radio control, but they have never conveyed all the information encoded. There is always loss.” He stopped for a moment. “And digital information is even worse; its binary form removes gradation.”

Alan tinkered with the brick-sized phone. “Do you know Instagram? Well, what that does for your photos, the T-Phone does for your voice. It enriches the frequencies, avoids noise, and prevents fading. It creates a richer sound.”

“Why is it called the T-Phone?” asked Bobby.

“Because the technology it uses is Telepathy. There is no physical transfer, thus there is no resistance and loss. The T-Phone uses silence as a means of communication. Everything is contained within it.”

Bobby noticed that Alan said these last words without his lips moving.

Speaking Together

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2012 by javedbabar

Though he was surrounded by fellow workers, Bobby often felt alone at the farm. On his days off he went to visit Alan and Patricia, who he thought of like great-grandparents.

They claimed to have moved to the Lucerne Valley a hundred years ago, and made him feel welcome. The first thing was always a “nice cup of tea”. There were no cold mugs or tea bags for Patricia. She used heated teapots with quilted tea cosies, and bone china cups that were  rich blue with gold patterns, like ones that you saw on antique shows.

Patricia had a special shelf of tea caddies from all over the world. She ran her fingers along the shelf and stopped at the caddy that “spoke” to her. She selected a tea spoon in a similar way and dropped three spoonfuls of loose tea into a teapot, the tea leaves dropping, tinkling and crackling.

“Why do you always ask me how I take my tea?” asked Bobby. “You know I take it with milk and sugar.”

“Well, what if you’ve changed your mind? I don’t want to make assumptions. That’s poor form. It is not the way of taking tea together.”

She says some strange things, thought Bobby. He said, “On the farm, we drink tea with…”

“Never drink the tea on the farm,” she said seriously. “Don’t touch it.”

“But they tell us to. They say it is better than water. It is a healthy…”

She told him again not to drink it, saying it wasn’t what he thought it was.

Alan came in from the garden and said, “Good afternoon, young man! How are you this fine day? Well, I hope. Good, good.”

They took tea together, each adding some milk and one sugar. Alan said, “We’ve monitored the communications in this valley for a hundred years now.”

Bobby had found Alan’s antenna, a wire running through the forest, strung between Arcadian Firs. “At first I manually recorded the few messages sent daily, later by phonograph, then tape deck, digital recorder, and now computer. Everything is stored on hard drives and processed by speech-to-text software, and analysed semiotically.”

So that’s how they spend their time, thought Bobby. They don’t sit around drinking tea all day. They analyse communications. Maybe Alan is a shadowy consultant, working secretly for The Authority.

“But the voice always comes first.” He stopped and looked at Bobby directly. “Am I boring you, or would you like to hear more? You would? Good, good. Now listen to this.” He played a clip of a woman speaking about potato prices. “And listen to this.” It was a man talking about property prices. “Do you note their different frequencies? No? It takes a while to master, and later you can even hear things in what most people call silence.”

He led Bobby to his workshop, filled with electronic equipment. There was a monitor showing green waves reflecting, refracting and diffracting. “See what’s happening? They’re all out of synch. That’s why people never really understand each other. That’s the meaning of the Tower of Babel story.” He pointed to the house. “Patricia and I have spent one hundred years together. We are tuned to the same frequency. We fully understand each other. It is like Eden before the Fall.”

Seven Generations

Posted in Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2012 by javedbabar

Nobody in the village had spoken to Breda for twenty four years. Seven generations ago, one of her ancestors had committed a crime, and since then all villagers had shunned her family.  The Nooranis were Quieted, which meant that they were not to be spoken to or spoken about, ever. It was as if they didn’t exist.

Life continued though, and they quietly went about their business in the Upper Valley. They were farmers and thus largely self-sufficient. They had all the food they needed – roots, fruits, meat and veggies –and could make do with or mend most objects. They were also able to trade with out-of-towners, who held no taboos, and engaged with them freely, but Lucerne’s citizens kept away from them entirely.

The only exception was shopping. They were allowed to buy what they needed from the grocery and hardware stores, but always in silence. Mt Alba and Mt Negra – the white and black peaks at opposite ends of the Valley – had been better companions to Breda growing up than anybody in Lucerne.

“Good day, love,” said the grocery store cashier. “How are you doing today?”

Breda dropped her cabbage. Somebody had spoken to her! How? Why? What for?

The cashier continued, “How was your weekend? Boy, it was hot on Sunday. Did you take a dip in the lake?”

Breda said, “Excuse me, are you talking to me?”

“Sure I am. I quit talking to myself years ago. I always chat to my customers. That’s the difference between this place and a box store. We give you personal service. Wasn’t it…”

Breda interrupted. “Do you know who I am? I’m a Noorani.”

“Yes, yes, I know that. Who doesn’t? But that’s neither here nor there now, isn’t it? The baby must be coming soon. When’s it due?”

Breda held onto the conveyor belt. So that was it! It was her baby! The child would be born of the eighth generation, and the taboo would be ended.

“Oh, I see you’ve got some nappies. You’ll be needing plenty of those! You might want to get a bigger pack next time. You’ll get through those in a flash. Do you want to change the pack? I’m sure the people behind you won’t mind much. They’ll understand the situation. Wait! You don’t want to walk up and down the aisle in your condition. Let me call one of the assistants…”

Breda was lost for words. This rush of engagement was overwhelming. It was like a desert becoming a lake. She was not ready to respond.

For Breda’s twenty four years of life, nobody in the village had spoken to her or her family. She had been made an outcast for crimes that had nothing to do with her at all. She didn’t even know what her great-great-great-great grandmother had done in the first place, and what was the chance of a fair trial for women in those days? Was there even any evidence? It was likely a baseless accusation for personal reasons, by a vicious neighbour, a zealous parishioner, or greedy rival.

Breda declined the cashier’s offer of getting a bigger pack of nappies. She bagged her own items and headed out of the store.

Two women passing greeted her effusively. “Oh Breda! Look at you now! When’s it due?” These were girls that she had studied with. They’d not spoken to her during her schooldays – never, ever – yet now asked after her mother and sisters. She didn’t know what to say to them, so grunted and headed to her truck.

A guy in a white half-sleeved shirt, on his lunch break from the bank, helped to load her groceries into the cab. He asked after her brother, to whom he had never spoken.

Breda started the truck and headed up the Lucerne Valley Road. As she rounded a bend near the river, she saw more people she knew that had never, ever spoken to her. They now waved cheerily and made signs to call them.

Breda considered swinging her truck towards them. Hitting them hard and sending their bodies flying into the river. These people had condemned her for things she hadn’t done; at least then they would have a reason to hate her and the next seven generations of her family. But then she thought, why not make this eight generation different?