Authors: B. Roman
The young toughs close in on their prey, walking at a determined pace. Janice Cole hastens her step to get away from them, but she is wearing high heels and cannot walk fast enough. She tries to act fearless, or at least pretend not to know they are following her. Only a few more yards and she will be safe inside her car, on her way to the restaurant for her dinner date with her fiancé.
The beep of the remote key unlocking the car is their cue to pounce. Before Janice can open the door to safety, she is flung around and thrust against the left front fender. One thug holds her down, while the other struggles to get the keys from her hands.
“Let 'em go, bitch!” he yells, outraged that she is not cooperating.
Her instinct is to fight back, to try and gouge the thug's eyes out, but she is overpowered by a crushing blow to her face. The shocking pain causes her to relax her grip on the keys. She is pushed forcefully aside, and stumbles to the ground as the two assailants speed off in her car. From her coat pocket, Janice retrieves her cell phone and dials 911. Incredibly, it's busy! Frantically, she hits the speed dial and calls another number.
“Isaac here,” he answers the call.
Janice tries to speak but all she can do is sob into the phone. “I – I - Isaac – “
“Who is this?” Isaac asks, then it clicks in. “Jan? Is that you? What's wrong? Are you all right? Jan?” Her sobbing has him frantic, too, but he calms her down enough to find out where she is. Knocking over his chair and spilling his glass of wine, Isaac rushes out of the restaurant and speeds off to Janice's side.
* * *
David, Dorothy and Sally sit impatiently in the ER waiting room while Isaac comforts Janice in the treatment room.
“How could this happen in our town,” Dorothy steams. “What's happening to people?
“It's all these new tough kids moving in here from the city,” Sally whines angrily. “They think they can terrorize us like they do where they come from. I hate it.”
“It's what they call diversity,” David says, cynically. “But it's really Millennium Madness. She shouldn't have been in that neighborhood anyway. Dumb.”
“Stop it, David. Janice has had a terrifying experience,” Dorothy chastises him. She signs emphatically, her arthritic fingers aching with each gesture. “Where is your compassion? Sometimes I think you're some other David, not my nephew.”
David is almost contrite. “I think he's still somewhere out there, Aunt Dorothy. I haven't been able to find him myself.”
Isaac appears and gives them an update. “She'll be fine. Physically. Those scum bags didn't break her jaw but her face is swollen and badly bruised. The doctors want to keep her overnight for observation. I'm going to stay here and wait for the trauma counselor.”
“Can we see her?” Sally asks hopefully. She loves Janice, who is soon to be her stepmother. It was Janice whose loyalty and affection brought her father up from the brink of depression as well as financial ruin. Sally believes that wherever her mother is, she is happy that Isaac has found happiness and purpose again.
“She's sedated and sleeping now,” Isaac says, “Tomorrow would be better.”
Dorothy embraces her brother and shores him up. Sally kisses her Dad goodnight. David nods at his father, seemingly dispassionate, and strides briskly away, with his aunt and sister trailing behind him.
David loves Janice, too, and the thought of losing another mother figure in his life is too much to bear. First his real mother, Billie Nickerson, killed instantly in the car crash that crippled Sally. Then Bianca - who was so much like his mother he swears it was her spirit reincarnated – perishing in the cataclysmic destruction of Coronadus. And now Janice was almost ripped from his life in a senseless act of violence. No. He would not let them know that he cared. He would not even let himself think how much he cared.
Bright and early the next morning, David arrives at his favorite place, the only place that gives him any feeling that he knows what his life is all about. The observatory sits atop the highest hill on the Port Avalon city college campus and affords a panoramic view of the city and a 10-mile stretch of the beautiful coastline. For a small town observatory, it boasts some of the most sophisticated meteorological equipment in the state, thanks to the lobbying and influence of Dr. Ramirez, David's idol and mentor. Together, David and the distinguished scholar spend countless hours exploring weather systems, having animated debates on religious and mythical symbolism as they relate to world weather conditions, and revel in a passion they both share: music.
But they don't just discuss the natural laws of music and how they parallel the natural laws of the Universe. David and Dr. Ramirez also jam a lot on Ramirez's triple bank of keyboards. With his new wireless hearing aid David can hear the higher frequencies of music, and the pulsing of the beat. And with a new computer program that he designed, he can actually see the notes and sound waves in living color on his computer screen.
“This is when I miss being able to hear the most,” David confesses. “I so much want to hear all the music, the highs, the lows – all the subtleties.”
, David,” Dr. Ramirez tells him. “It's probably more sublime than anything the human ear can experience.” The miraculous invention of verbal texting allows David to read on a small monitor what Dr. Ramirez is saying as he speaks into his computer's mic.
“Do you think that musical vibrations can create life?” David asks.
Ramirez nods, used to such questions from David. “Create it, and destroy it.”
“I remember you said that all life forms vibrate to a certain musical note. Even a blade of grass has its own frequency.”
“Yes,” Dr. Ramirez replies. He begins to play Chopin's
providing a meditative background to his monologue. “Everything that moves, lives and breathes has its own frequency, its unique musical tone. As you recall, it was the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras who established the relationship between numbers and all universal manifestations – the circling of the planets, the lunar cycle, the rhythm of the tides, the growth cycles of plant and animal life. His geometric formulas formed the basis for the seven- and twelve-note scales and tonic systems that are the foundation of the music of the Great Masters.”
“Beethoven, Mozart, Bach…”
“To name a few,” Dr. Ramirez says. “Pythagoras believed if these numerical formulas were used in the composition of music, the sound vibrations would resonate in harmony with universal forces and enhance life physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He believed that music had divine properties. If its formulas were used unwisely or incorrectly, chaos would result in the universe.”
“Chaos?” David ponders.
“Chaos in the soul, in society, and in the forces of nature.”
David is dying to ask Dr. Ramirez if he knows anything about the Wind Rose compass and its ability to cause catastrophic damage in the environment, but he dares not even mention it. He must never mention it to anyone, ever, as Bianca had made him promise.
Nor does David want to reveal that the only reason he founded Beach Watch was in the hope that he would somehow be able to summon up the clipper ship Moon Singer with the Wind Rose, or miraculously find the Singer crystal washed up on the shore. Instead he keeps the conversation focused on the ecological conditions that affect Port Avalon.
Later, when David leaves Dr. Ramirez's observatory studio, he does not see the message on the computer screen that pops ups again: “12 is 7 is 5 is 3.”
“Let me tell you, good people, and hear me, hear me. Our eternity with God is going to be awesome, so awesome I can't even describe it.” The Reverend Jedediah Holmsby is 45 minutes into his sermon, working up a sweat proselytizing on the imminent coming of Christ. “And it's going to happen soon.”
The congregation of the Holy Converted Church of Port Avalon needs no convincing. Heads nod. Several people call out, “Amen!”
Reverend Holmsby pulls a white linen handkerchief from the pocket of his dark blue suit and dabs his forehead. He waves his Bible in the air.
“There's no need to call the psychic hot line, or cruise the web. God has revealed it, the end of the planet Earth, and it's all right here in the scriptures. In the Gospel According to Luke, Jesus said: There will be signs in the sun, the moon, the stars. And on the Earth, distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
On cue, a chorus of 50, wearing perfectly-tailored gold-trimmed ruby red robes, elevate the room with their powerful voices and soul-stirring gospel music. The church congregation waves its arms to the heavens, shouting awed and reverent Hallelujahs.
* * *
That evening, the Astronomy Club of Port Avalon University is convened atop Vista Point. Some never-before seen vision causes Jeff, one of the fledgling astronomers, to take special note.
“What's this, Joe?” Jeff relinquishes the telescope to his colleague.
Joe studies the celestial object pensively. “You mean that triangle-shaped thing?”
“Well, that's a scientific description if I ever heard one,” Jeff cracks. “But, yeah, that triangle-shaped thing. Is it a light or a solid object?”
“Hard to tell,” Joe replies. “It keeps ducking behind the clouds. It's moving fast, I'll tell you that.”
“Can we get a picture?”
“I don't know if the camera will pick it up, but let's give it a try.”
Joe aims his telephoto lens at the mysterious object in the heavens. His camera clicks numerous times in succession, taking multiple images in split second sequence. When the object disappears into the cosmos, Joe checks the digital images.
“Well, I didn't think I'd get much of anything,” Joe says. “But there's something there all right.”
“It's kind of blurry because it's moving so fast,” Jeff comments.
Joe shakes his head, bewildered. “I don't think it's blur. It's more of a shimmer. There's a glow coming from - whatever it is.”
“Well, if ships could fly,” Jeff laughs, “I'd say it was a ship. Like an old fashioned clipper.”
“Like the Flying Dutchman? That legendary Ghost ship that can never make port?”
“In this case, a ship that can never find a planet to land on. Wonder how long it's been up there?”
* * *
Religious fundamentalism, doomsday prophecies, and all manner of superstition surrounding the coming millennium are rich fodder for every medium, even on local Port Avalon television talk shows. Psychiatrist Dr. Hilyer, who is also an expert on religion and mythology, is a frequent guest on such programs where the host, this time Randy Phillips, poses the same questions over and over:
“The dramatic increase in Apocalyptic fervor is quite disturbing, Dr. Hilyer,” Phillips asserts. “Is this hysteria the norm around an approaching millennium, or is there really something to these doomsday prophecies?”
“Yes, it is the norm,” Hilyer replies, “especially when approaching a historic point in time. Most of the doomsday prophecies fall into the category of Scriptures known as Apocalypses, which were written during times of oppression to reassure persecuted believers that God had not forgotten them. However, apocalypses portrayed divine intervention in a distant, cosmic future, and were not meant to be taken literally.”
“So, are you saying that today's self-anointed prophets are harmless?” the host asks a loaded question.
“Not exactly. The obsession with equating current events with Biblical prophecies causes more harm than good, especially when they put their own interpretation on things. By assigning hero and villain roles, they fuel distrust and even hatred of public officials and institutions, and increase the expectations of an end-times assault by demonic forces. There are many such examples that are now part of history.”
“Like the Branch Davidians, under the leadership of self-proclaimed prophet David Koresh, whose killing of federal agents ignited the Waco catastrophe?”
“Yes,” Hilyer concurs. “One result of this was to ignite a violent response from avowed government hater Timothy McVeigh who was transformed psychologically by the standoff, and who ultimately bombed the Oklahoma City federal building in retaliation two years later. Sadly, other such incidents followed, as we know.”
“And lest we forget,” Phillips adds, “there have also been mass suicides by cults who actually desired to accelerate the end times, such as the Jonestown tragedy in Guyana and the Heaven's Gate suicide near San Diego, California.”
“There is a slight difference here, though,” Hilyer clarifies. “Jim Jones, founder of the People's Temple in Jonestown, was a deranged drug abuser who exacted control over a group of people living in a primitive, agricultural community by using fearful biblical connotations, and the group succumbed to his brutal programming by drinking poison.
“The Heaven's Gate cult consisted of highly intelligent, computer web designers who cultivated members and spread their information through the internet. The Heaven's Gate leaders were also deranged, but claimed to have arrived on Earth via a UFO and would return to their source by riding the tale of the Hale Bop Comet which was due to pass by at a specific point in time. Amazingly, they enticed several dozen people to agree to a murder-suicide pact as the means to experience the Rapture.”
“So, a computer savvy civilization is no assurance of an enlightened civilization,” Phillips posits grimly.
“No, and I expect there will be more such conspiratorial doomsday predictions in the coming years, whether it's the fear of a killer asteroid, a collision with another planet or with the supposed end of the Mayan calendar.“
“But give us some hope here, Doctor,” Phillips implores. “Must the apocalypse be strictly a doomsday event? Could there be a healing power of the apocalypse?”
“Yes, indeed,” Hilyer asserts optimistically. “Interpreted positively, the apocalyptic vision metaphorically represents the death of suffering and the rebirth of joy. It is truly meant to give us hope that, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, in the end it is GOOD that will prevail. It is hope, after all, that makes it possible for us to live day after day.”