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Chapter (2)

Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake? 

Leonardo da Vinci

The Cave

Sitting quietly on the edge of a garden at nightfall, a gentle breeze whispering through the bamboo, Ben listened to the hush sound of water flowing softly over smooth stones. In the distance a shakuhachi played a melody filled with a slow but passionate sense of longing. Though the sky was calm, he knew a storm was brewing far out on the horizon. A lone cricket chirped nearby and the light from the rising moon shone through the tall staffs of bamboo before him. A single leaf fell in a slow fluttering dance through the soft beams of moonlight and landed in a calm pool of ebony water. Where the leaf touched the surface of the darkened water it should have disturbed a reflection of the moon through the shadows of bamboo. Instead, when he looked into the pool of water all he could see was a deeper darkness as though a shadow within a shadow.

"What the hell?" He had built this virtual garden as a present for his wife to help her feel more comfortable so far from her native home in Japan. He had worked hard at crafting the garden into a carefully refined aesthetic balance but his frustration now that it was spoiled was mixed with a gnawing curiosity. Rising to his feet he moved a little closer to get a good look. He pointed at the darkness. "View source code.”

A complex string of nonsense surrounded by familiar code filled a virtual screen floating ergonomically nearby. The screen adjusted itself automatically to his movement and eye level as he approached. "What happened to the code?”

"System, please scan displayed code set for hacks and virals." He moved in for a closer look at the strange fragments in the code but there was nothing that looked dangerous to his eye and the system scan confirmed that. "It must have gotten corrupted somehow."

He looked carefully around the virtual garden for other errors but found nothing unusual. He was no genius at programming but he was fluent enough with the tools he used and to his eye everything else looked fine both in a submersed view and on a code level. He deleted the layer holding the darkened pool then searched and reloaded the backup of the pond.

"Hide screen." He sat back down by the bamboo and the virtual screen vanished as though it never existed. "Refresh timeline one."

Sitting quietly on the edge of a garden, a gentle breeze in the bamboo, he listened to the hush of water flowing gently over smooth stones. Though the sky was calm and a lone cricket chirped nearby, the light from the rising moon shone through the tall staffs of bamboo before him. As the light fell to the ground, a dancing shadow-play of geometry appeared in a calm pool of ebony water. But as suddenly as it appeared, it was gone. The pool morphed into darkness filled with a fractal like chaos, a broken hologram of strange imagery and a cacophony of sounds. When he looked closely he found some fragments that showed the garden from different angles and fragments of other worlds he had created.


After a couple of hours he made his way back home, got Mayu another snack and went about cleaning the house. Chop vegetables, carry laundry. I guess this is going to be my spiritual practice for a long while after the baby arrives, I better get used to it. After he finished cleaning Ben checked on her again only to find that she was still asleep. The crackers were gone and the thermos half drunken. After putting more food on her end table he went back to the Cave.
An impressionistic northwest forest animation filled the room, displaying a trail stretching off into the woods. Holographic sound created the impressions of wind in the cedars and fir. A woodpecker knocked on a nearby tree and crows conversed in their gutter tongue high in the canopy. Sitting back in a form fitted chair, he put on his VR glasses and relaxed. Sensors in the walls and floor responded to his hand and foot movements.
    "Open link to Dream Network." He said quietly and a shimmering conduit of electromagnetic energy irised open into the distance. Cascading waves of luminescence rippling outward along the surface created the illusion of movement as he was propelled down the transport tube. The tunnel disappeared leaving him in front of a conglomeration of closely packed cubes and pyramids that resembled a temple complex at the base of an immense range of mountains reaching up to the stars. Two pillars of deepest black stood before the entrance with a bold red laser running between them. The beam of coherent light was filled with curious interference patterns that seemed to flow slowly from side to side. As he approached, each column prompted him by changing hue and displaying the appropriate icons before returning to deep black.
    They changed the default view again. He disapproved and summoned the link to change views, a softly glowing blue tetrahedron appeared hovering at arms length in front of him that changed to lavender and black. Pointing at the shape he activated the link and the world around him transformed. Now before him stood two large wooden gateposts and massive doors with ornately carved runes and decorative woven patterns around the edges. Crudely shaped human figures morphed in and out of the background much like Rodin's softly featured sculptures. Each side of the gate was guarded by a large scorpion-human hybrid with a human torso grafted onto a segmented body the color of fresh blood and a tall arching tail with a stinger held high like a spear waiting to be thrown. They moved quickly and precisely on long articulated limbs.
"Login." Prompted the female on the left.
"Password." Requested the male on the right. Once he transmitted his credentials they bowed to let him pass and the massive doors opened with the baleful sound of rusted iron. Entering the gates placed visitors and members randomly in one of the four massive galleries connected to the central chamber. Each was a great arched room much like a great cathedral with sculpted columns supporting the fresco covered ceiling eight stories above. Each column resembled one of the many deities of sleep and dreams from around the world. Ben entered the temple through the eastern hall and read the plaques beneath a few of the Greek and Roman deities.
"Hypnos, Somnus, Morpheus, and Icelos. Ah, some old deities that I haven't seen in a while." He was glad the others continued to modify the place after he helped build it. He was curious but refused to get too close to any of the statues. Even though they appeared to be little more than stone, the deities had a way of drawing you into their worlds the closer you got to them. Each one was in fact a gateway to a small virtual world where the drama of their myths could be witnessed or lived out.
Walking, flying, crawling and slithering along the gallery with him were people dressed in every form imaginable. Those who had not chosen an Avatar or Virtual Persona before entering appeared as Crash Test Dummies. It was a mocking tribute that many places in the web now adopted as the default when someone could not or would not choose an identity for themselves. Walking near him was a whole family of Dummies. Originally, people entered various cyberspaces dressed with Crash Test Dummy personas as a form of protest against the dangers of total submersion but the message was lost in the medium. The effect was quite literally lost in translation. Some hackers now loved to be tricksters and abuse Dummies with practical jokes.
The ones walking near Ben had only suffered minimal abuse. One had mismatched arms with one so long it dragged on the ground. Another had wobbly shopping cartwheels for legs while still another had a head that occasionally morphed into an upturned laughing hyena. Their hackers had been kind. Joseph could not help but smile before he turned to the gate for the inner temple....

This Chapter was the foundation where the novel began. Much of the mythological and technological substructure I had already worked out in the year or so prior to writing.

Moonlight through the bamboo...