Meanwhile, Back at the Campus
Premiered – 1 May 2004 (Beltane)
While April and Herman rested from their attempts to raise the avatar of the androgynous being, Zak had more mundane things to do. Like walk down the hall of a large university's physics/astronomy building – thinking in the process about how much he disliked universities.
For one thing, the halls were almost always trashed. If not littered with rubble from the most recent MRD in-training exercise, the walls inevitably bore the scribbling and alleged art of countless inept scribblers and semi-artists. There were also innumerable, photocopied and colored paper flyers pasted on the walls with everything from masking tape, duct tape, and colored thumbtacks, to staples, and nails. In one moment of creativity, railroad spikes were used to announce a "tree-spiking festival" for the local Dutch Elm trees located in front of the old Administration Building and slated for the sawmill in order to accommodate a new, covered, faculty parking lot. Interestingly, eighty nine percent of the flyers were out-of-date, with thirty one percent being from previous school years. The "tree-spiking festival", however, for those who are interested in attending, is scheduled for next month during the full moon.
Not only did Zak not like walking down trashed halls, he also found the students themselves to be of severely limited value. Surely it was obvious to the most dim-witted of administrators that universities could be enormously improved if only the students were prevented from wandering about, trashing halls, littering campus flower beds, and plastering innumerable flyers on every available wall. Also, there was virtually no point in having students attend college inasmuch as they seldom if ever learned anything. (They did, of course, learn how to play "liars' strip poker", the location and date for every spring booze break conducted by all colleges and universities within a thousand miles, and the best strategy in playing "quarters", the game whereby participants endeavored to flip quarters into jiggers, the penalty for failure of which included drinking the quarterless jigger). Combined with the extortionist tuitions charged, it should have become apparent to any parent that it would be infinitely preferable to lock the kid in a library for four years and send in food in exchange for periodic essays on whatever they managed to read.
Then, as if the students weren't bad enough, there were the professors! Students, to their credit, had not yet reached the depths of total depravity occasioned by prolonged exposure to societal and collegiate rules. Professors, on the other hand, had spent years avoiding all data which failed to fit into their narrow-minded antiquated belief structures. Instead of allegedly liberal thinkers, professors were inevitably pseudo-conservatives, relishing slight variations in contemporary thought but fighting tooth and nail against truly revolutionary challenges to their egotistical paradigm. It was as if anyone with the gall to suggest that professors did not have a monopoly on truth were to be boiled in oil, granted a lobotomy, or simply flunked.
Zak's feelings for professors could best be summed up in a remark he made several years ago, to wit: "Professors are egotistical shits!" This terse viewpoint also explained why Zak had spent less than a year under their sway.
There was one exception: Myra Travers, Herman's mother, and a former, delightful lover of Zak. Myra was an astronomy professor. More importantly, she was rapidly on her way to becoming -- thanks to Zak's generosity -- a retired with full pay astronomy professor emeritus. Myra was also a believer in UFOs and an ardent predictor of the end of the world coinciding with the end of the Mayan Calendar in the year 2012 A.D. (Keep in mind that college professors are also generally bonkers.)
When Zak walked into her office, Myra looked up from a partially filled box of books, which was situated on top of several other boxes already filled with books and which, in turn, was surrounded by a massive number of other book-filled boxes, plus two small boxes filled with personal effects. Her smile brightened the room, despite the fact there were no curtains and the room was almost blindingly bright with the Sunday afternoon's diffuse daylight. (College facility administrators are apparently unaware of the existence or the potential benefits of installing curtains, whereas venetian blinds, with their ability to pick up inordinate amounts of dust, are prolific throughout the collegiate landscape.)
"Zak!" It was the nicest of greetings, coming as it did from the heart.
"Hello, Myra ," Zak answered, and then hesitated. With boxes sprawling everywhere, providing an obstacle considerably more challenging than the Maginot Line, Zak suddenly felt inclined to wave, rather than attempting to reach the other side of the room and Myra .
His former lover, however, knew the path of least resistance. Quickly, she made her way to him, and throwing her arms around him, gave him one of the better hugs of his day. Her head buried against his chest, she nevertheless managed to say quite clearly, "Thank you, Zak. Thank you so much!"
Zak felt the combination of embarrassment and pride, as he replied, "You're welcome."
"I don't know if you realize how much I'm looking forward to quitting this scholarly rat race, getting down to writing and living, and just getting in touch with my feelings!"
Zak was genuinely pleased with his former lover's appreciation and said so. “I'm glad that everything has worked out for you.”
Myra added, "With everything else you certainly came through in the end."
Maudlin sentimentality was not Zak's favorite sport. "So, what are you going to write about? An expose on college professors, perhaps?"
"I don't even want to think about these clowns!" Myra frowned just long enough to say "clowns". Then she switched back to her delighted attitude. "I'm now in the process of shifting my research from the Pleiades, a group of young, bright blue stars, to Nibiru, the twelfth planet."
"I didn't know we had twelve planets," Zak answered, as his mind added that he didn't even know the solar system had eleven planets. Ten, maybe.
"It's more than a planet! It forebodes great and momentous changes!"
"Sort of like society," Zak ventured, unaware of his trek into quicksand.
"Time to renew! The Phoenix is again rising! And Nibiru is the cause!"
"It is?" Zak's sensed his first hint of being knee deep in quicksand.
"Oh, I know: Nibiru's orbit is a little extreme, and it does take thirty six hundred years to complete one trip around the sun..."
"Thirty six hundred years...?"
"Give or take a century. But when you realize what was happening thirty six hundred years ago, it's obvious what we're about to see now!"
No vague hint of what might have happened thirty six hundred years ago endeavored to wander through Zak's thinking. He just stood there.
Myra helped him out. "Obviously, it's crash and burn time!"
Finally there was something Zak might possibly understand. "Now, 'crash and burn' I can grasp. Wipe everything out, before you rebuild Marine fashion.”
"What are you talking about?" It was Myra 's time to be confused.
"The Marine Corp always break a man, take him down to virtually nothing, before they then rebuild him. And in precisely the form they want."
"That's good?" It was a tantalizingly simple question.
"I suppose," Zak replied, beginning to suspect that it wasn't. Then he remembered he had a son who had been a Marine. Lars. Obviously, the technique accomplished what the Marine Corp wanted even if what the Marines wanted wasn't necessarily a good idea.
"All I know," Myra said, "is that all my previous work into the Pleiades and their inhabitants was to understand creation on a basic level. Imagine my surprise, when all along my young son had told me that it was Leo that marked the creation of the world! Isn't that incredible!? I never even understood that until just recently." Zak still didn't. And probably wouldn't. Myra added, "But now, with the help of our space brothers, I'm back on track!"
'Now, I remember!' Zak thought; 'this one was the kook!' Time to bail out of this conversation!' Zak smiled halfheartedly. "By the way, have you seen Herm lately?"
"Are you kidding?" Myra asked, displaying the typical motherly reaction to a son's total disregard for her welfare. "The last I heard, he was off to Tibet on some silly thingamajig!" Suddenly she smiled, with an extra dash of mischievousness. "But you just wait! "He's about to meet his match!! That you can count on!" When Zak only looked blank, she added, "You know what they say: 'When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited.'"
Zak looked at Myra for several seconds. "What does that mean?"
"Don't worry," Myra assured him. "I'm sure you'll figure it out."
"Don't be too sure," Zak replied.
For a moment, Myra put her hand on his arm, comfortingly. "I understand what's happening with you, Zak. Everything's going to be okay!"
Zak gave up the verbal portion of the conversation, and just smiled.
"Now! Time to help me carry some boxes down to the car!"
"What!?" The concept whereby anyone would ask Zachary D'Michael Gilan, a world class entrepreneur, an elite head of industry, and a politically powerful heavyweight, to carry boxes, especially boxes of heavy books, like any other common... box carrier, was nothing short of incredible!! The very idea boggled the mind. Not to mention, mentally wrenching his back.
"Don't worry," Myra hurriedly added. "I have a dolly." Then when Zak only looked at her as if she had lost her mind (something to which Myra had developed an immunity, since, in fact, she had already lost her mind lo these many years ago), she added, "I'll even show you how to work a dolly."
"I know how!" Zak countered, ignoring the slight. "The question is why?"
"Because you're big and strong."
Zak didn't quite buy the argument, but he was not quite ready to refuse Myra . For a moment he took the proffered dolly, and while she maneuvered herself behind the first stack of ready-to-go boxes, he looked at the instrument of transportation. "Why do you suppose," he asked, "they call this thing a "dolly"?"
Myra smiled, not buying Zak's attempted procrastination. "Because men will want to put things on it and shove them around!"
Zak looked at Myra for several seconds, before he said, "Cute."
Try to remember: Myra really was a kook. But at the same time, this kook had one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world carting books around for her on a dolly. Power sometimes comes in some strange forms.
Later that day, Aaron woke up with a start. Beads of sweat covered his face, while his hands came up to ward off any distraction which might interfere with remembering his dream. For it was a dream that grabbed one's attention -- full of symbolism and meaning, and of obviously great significance. At the same time, it was for Aaron quite weird! Ugly thugs with swords and lethal body odor, a decidedly threatening female with all the appearances of a witch, and this unbelievably ugly woman who was feeling amorous toward Aaron and notably interested in kissing him -- just as a bride might expect a kiss from her groom.
Aaron jumped again, as the telephone rang. For a moment, he was outraged at the audacity of someone to awaken him by calling him at home in the middle of the... afternoon? Looking at the clock, Aaron realized he had fallen asleep, taking a short nap on a Sunday afternoon. The papers and reports scattered about him provided the evidence of what had undoubtedly constituted his sleeping potion. The telephone rang again and Aaron jumped once more, only slightly less exuberant this time. He picked up the receiver and for just a split second listened instead of answering. When there was no immediate sound, he ventured forth with, "Hello."
"Mr. Gilan! Hyde here! I've located Lars for you and I've arranged for the visit you requested. You're scheduled for first thing tomorrow morning."
"Excellent," Aaron replied, a strange smile appearing on his face.
"I'll also be providing you with a small gift for your brother, one which he should find particularly appealing."
"Good work, Mr. Hyde," Aaron said. "There's nothing like some inconsequential gift to put people in debt to you."
"I don't think you'll have any problems with him, Mr. Gilan."
"I seldom have problems with anyone!" Aaron replied haughtily, responding to what might have been a subtle challenge to his authority and leadership capability. Then his smile slipped slightly as he considered other key items. "Have you kept up with the other two?"
"Yes, sir. One of my operatives has informed me that Mr. Herman Gilan has apparently spent the night with a one Ms. April Ikaria." Hyde's pronunciation of April's name carried the distinct quality of military precision.
Aaron snorted, thinking he knew full well what Herman's evening had been like (when in actuality, Aaron didn't have a clue). "What about Ms. Gilan?"
"That's rather interesting, sir. Ms. Gilan has visited a Ms. Perses Spear, at a mental institution called Elysium Fields. I talked to a Dr. Cusman, who with a little financial encouragement told me that the two women had spent considerable time together, taking an extended tour about the facilities."
Aaron was surprised, but was unlikely to demonstrate it to a subordinate. Covering himself, he replied, "I'm aware of Ms. Spear. Clearly the time has come when it will be necessary for me to make a visit myself. Set it up." As Hyde acknowledged the order, Aaron recalled he had several secret meetings during the next three days with some of Worldwide's most important associates. Aaron knew takeovers did not occur smoothly without pre-planning and often only after considerable private negotiations. Still, he would have to somehow fit Perses into his very busy schedule. It was premature to allow any detail to go unattended to. Quietly, he ordered, "Set up my meeting with Perses Spear for Wednesday afternoon after two o'clock ." When Hyde acknowledged the order, Aaron added, "Good work, Hyde. I'm glad to see you're staying on your toes."
"Thank you, sir."
With that, the conversation ended and Aaron hung up. For a moment, he smiled. It had been amazingly easy to keep up with Tina and Herman. They were leaving a trail a mile wide! Obviously, this cloak and dagger stuff, keeping track of all the other players, was really quite simple. In fact, Aaron was beginning to enjoy its dramatic qualities as Hyde kept up a running stream of seemingly unrelated facts. Facts with which, Aaron could then synthesize and plan his next moves. Rather like an elaborate game, actually. And one in which Aaron was undoubtedly winning -- and thus enjoying.
Then he tried to remember his dream. Somehow, it had slipped away as dreams are wont to do. All Aaron could recall now was that of a very ugly woman asking him for a kiss, one which he had definitely refused. Aaron Gilan would not kiss an ugly hag, no matter what the motivation or the prize. Without another thought, Aaron let the dream slip away, and never again thought of it.
Chapter Sixteen – Alchemists
Chapter Eighteen -- Games
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