Category Archives: Short Story

A long way from home yet never far away

I’ve been feeling a little bit guilty about not interacting more on this here blogging thing. I’m getting questions and reminders and I’m thinking, OK, time to share a few thoughts and close that up with a story that, to me at least, sums up my thoughts on the whole thing rather neatly. I won’t tell whether I believe the story and I know I’ve posted it before but for those who care, yes there are a few changes-the beauty of owning your own piece of writing. Doesn’t say what you want it to say? Fine, just delete something, write something else into it.

Why haven’t I been writing? Two simple reasons: one, the US presidential election; two, the scamdemic, both of which are exercises in stupidity, ignorance and of course, self-aggrandizement. Apart from the truism, ‘if you would know the truth, follow the money’ there’s the one for the common peon: ‘we’re right and because we’re right, they are wrong’.  Another way of putting it is ‘scientism.’

What intelligence wants to argue with, let alone against that?

Now the story.

___________________________________

It was a hot and dry day up near the end of the canyon when my old half-ton blew its rear driver side tire.  Fortunately I was easing the thing as the going had been mostly uphill, something the old crankcase didn’t like much, so after a bit of swerving to gain control, I was able to pull up beside the road, on a dry patch of gravel. 

I got out to assess my situation.  I had no food and no drinking water – hadn’t thought of that since I was only going a couple of hundred miles.  An inaccessible half mile below me the river glistened mockingly in the noon day sun.  All around was dead silence except for a few crickets and heat waves made everything shimmer.  The scent of scrub pine and sage brush filled the air and under almost any other condition that would have been enough to give me complete pleasure.   At that moment I failed to appreciate the offering.

There wasn’t much traffic in those days, as the conditions of the highway were still quite primitive so I wasn’t expecting help anytime soon.  I went to the back and looked with some apprehension at the dried cake of mud that hid the spare hanging under the box.  I found a rusty tire iron behind the torn seat, some cracked gloves and a short carpenter’s pry bar and went to work loosening and dropping the spare.

After some time it came loose and I was able to slide the lifter chain off and drag the spare out.  Sure enough, it was as flat as flat can be.  Who thinks of making sure spares are kept up?  Wouldn’t have mattered anyway, I couldn’t find any sort of jack and looking up or down the surrounding countryside quickly told me that I wouldn’t find anything resembling a suitable lever to lift the truck: plenty of large rocks to use as fulcrums and supports but no pole.

Well, what to do?  I scanned both sides of the road for any sort of habitation and didn’t see anything.  Only one thing left to do: start walking.  I knew there was nothing behind me, so I decided it was best to head north, into the unknown.  At least this way there would exist the possibility of some sort of home or homestead or a road upkeep yard showing up.  Being eighteen and having been raised on a northern homestead, I already had the survivor mentality and a bit of philosophy to match.  The one thing I was sure of, I would never give in to the problem.  I ‘knew’ by reasoning based on certain experiences that life entails problems, that problems require solutions and that these solutions are always available, one way or the other, though none of that alters reality. 

As I trudged along I became very thirsty.  The river surface down below continued to mock me, so I looked for berries but the only thing resembling berries were bunches of dangling blue elderberries.  Bird feed at best and not ripe in any case; too early in the season for anything else.  As I walked on uphill, each curve showing more endless climb, my feet began to throb in the heavy work boots so I stopped by a rounded rock to sit and loosen the laces.  A dull throbbing in my head made me want to stretch out by the side of the road and sleep – which is exactly what I did.  I didn’t feel like walking any longer. 

That I lay in dusty sand would not matter much to my dirty white tee shirt, my tattered greasy blue jeans nor to my over-length hair which was several days in need of a serious wash and many weeks in need of cutting.  At least there were no flies and sleep came easy despite the choking heat. 

That’s when I had the dream that would puzzle, haunt, thrill and bother me for the rest of my life.  How could a dream manifest in reality?  How could events in a dream become events in “real life” which changed not only my mind, but my physical reality as well?  These were, and remain, unanswerable questions.   So let me recap the events instead of getting into the mind-twisting impossibilities remembering always brings up.

I had just fallen asleep (at least it seemed so) when someone called my name and said, “Hey Levi, get up.  It’s time to go.”  The name Levi was given to me as a joke after I was stupid enough the mention that I’d wanted to be a priest, and there happened to be a defrocked Bible thumper in our logging crew who yelled, “Levi!”  My real name is Logan Learned – which was also quite entertaining in my school years: “Hey, what have you Learned today?”  Laughter.  But now, Levi?  I had to ask why.  Matt, the ex-Bible guy said, “Don’t you know about Levi in the Old testament?  The priesthood of the Levites? 

“ ‘Fraid not, never read the Old Testament.  Only know the Catholic catechism and some bits and pieces of the gospels.”

Instead of commenting further, he just laughed and the rest joined in, including me.  Nothing wrong with Levi, so I became Levi the Levite.  So now I was, in a sense, a priest.  I’m sure my Catholic confessors would not have taken it so lightly, but that didn’t matter to me, I hadn’t been to church in several years and had no intention of ever returning.  Bad memories best left behind, along with my upbringing.  The more baggage you drag along with you, the more your life is stifled and I had too much to live for to let that happen. 

I opened my eyes and I wasn’t dreaming.  An obviously native man was standing over me, offering me his hand.  I took it and he held me firmly as I stood up.  He handed me a bottle of cold water which I gladly took.  Half was gone before I felt sated and thought that maybe that was all the water he had.  He smiled, the skin around his eyes crinkling.

“Lots of water here Levi.  Lots.  Don’t you worry about that.”

“You know my logger’s nickname, how come?”

“It’s the name you go by, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Okay then.  Mine is Jack.”

“Okay, fine.  Thanks for the water, I was parched.”

“Yeah, I know.  Maybe we should walk back to your truck now, or do you need some food first?”

Out of a growing sense of curiosity I looked around.  Except for “Jack” nothing had changed.  The sun hadn’t even moved; the heat was just as intense and I saw no food, not did “Jack” carry any kind of pack.  He wasn’t even holding the water bottle anymore.

“I could use some food, Jack, if you have something without meat or fish – I’m vegetarian and I get sick on meat or fish.”

From nowhere he produced a fresh sandwich, loaded with vegetables and cheese.  I took it with thanks and ate it in four bites.  It tasted like more and sure enough, “Jack” produced another one, just as delicious. 

“OK, I’m really curious now Jack.  Where did this food come from?” 

“People always ask these same small questions.  Where do you think it comes from?”

“I have no idea, that’s why I asked.”

“Ever heard of the continuum, Levi?”

“The what?”

“The continuum.  You know, what your religions call infinity?  What some people call heaven?  If you’d read the Bible you would know that the Hebrew God fed them what is called “manna from heaven” while they lived in the desert.  Connect with your nickname and look into your memories, Levi, third son of Jacob, founder of the Levite tribe.  Can you see anything there?”

“I’m afraid I can’t, Jack.  Are you telling me that you pulled that water and food out of nothing, like God dropping food from heaven on the Hebrews?”

“Actually at this point we should refer to them as “Israelites” rather than Hebrews.  But yes, why not?  But not “out of nothing” as you say.  Out of another reality.  We’re always part of the continuum and it’s what feeds the material order.  Without this bleed through of energy, these worlds could not exist.  All it takes is for an intelligent mind to image or invent material/physical reality from an endless supply of free energy we call the continuum.  It’s really very simple if you think about it.”

“Well Jack, I am thinking about it and the more I think about it, the less sense it makes to me.  This is too much like fantasy; science fiction, a fairy tale.  If it was that easy everybody would be doing it; everybody would have her or his way and you know what?  It would spell utter chaos, that’s what.”

“They realized this long ago when intelligent beings discovered the ability of manifestation and problems began immediately.  So “they” – the ones who discovered this ability – decided to put a block on manifestation.  Only one would be allowed to manifest reality, that was their solution.  Basically “they” created the concept of “God” and through the eons the concept remained.  “God” gets to decide what is, what isn’t; when it begins; when it ends and the reasons are also God’s reasons, no one else.  At least that’s the theory.”

“Is God accountable to no one then?”

“Oh yes, God is accountable, but only to his peers; to the “they” who started it all.  And also, God isn’t always the same person on the divine throne.  “They” have periodic elections and take turns running things.  Hence why you discover “bumps” in the process of creation and material expansion or destruction.”

“This is very interesting Jack, but how do you know all of this for a fact?”

“I go by what works, see?  You and I, we’re the same with one specific difference: I’m from the other side of the continuum, you’re on this side.  I was on this side long ago, but I, shall we say, translated to the other side gradually, over many incarnation.  It began with a glimpse of the continuum, what you might call a near death experience.  Only it wasn’t “near” but total.  That was my first awareness of how much freedom there is in living without a body.  After being given a chance to look around, someone simply sent me back.  I had fallen and broken my neck.  They fixed me up, good as new and I was left with a permanent question mark that became a quest.  I would find this place and live there.”

“Then there should be literally billions of people like you out here now!”

“Not really.  You have to understand how the thing works if you want to, say, commute from the outside to the inside – from the wholly non-material to the material.  After my return I began to earnestly study shamanism, witchcraft, the concepts hinted at by every established religion on this world.  I contemplated anything to do with the so-called after-life.  I discovered that only those who were able to pass through with their material bodies were said to be empowered to return and manifest in the physical.  So I cheated: I found the trick that allowed me to slip out of this realm into the other with my material body.  Oh, it was immediately changed, of course, but it wasn’t killed – there’s no termination over there, see?  Once you’re in, you’re in.  Then it’s up to you to make it work.  Luckily for me, bodies don’t need to be fed or even exercised over there.  They are what you make them to be and they remain that way until you change them.  You couldn’t imagine the different “things” I’ve been since I translated.”

“Time out, Jack, hey?  I can’t absorb all this stuff.  Besides, I’m still not convinced you are what you claim to be.  You could be an illusionist; some sort of con artist…”

“Of course, I could be.  I never asked you to trust me, did I?  But think on this, see if it rings a bell or two:  ‘You were thirsty and I gave you water to drink; you were hungry and I fed you.’”

“Oh! …  You don’t look like him.”

“Like who, Levi Logan Learned?”

“You know who I mean… I am really confused now.”

“Good.  It’s good to be confused on materiality – it prevents dogmatism which is astigmatism of the soul – a blurring which prevents clear understanding and appreciation of what is.”

“OK, so there is a God? Or is that only your theory about the “ruler” of materiality? Answer me that!”

“I can’t answer the God question simply because no matter how it is answered it will satisfy no one. Your people are too dogmatic to allow free information to flow through their minds unimpeded by belief systems, you see. Even you, not knowing whether to believe or not to believe; not knowing if you’re an atheist, a theist or anti-theist, won’t let the God question flow unchallenged. For you it’s just too big a question fraught with too much emotion to be allowed its freedom to answer itself.

“Now listen to this. “There is a God” is the truism that proves there is no such a being as God. God, as religion preaches and teaches, is categorically impossible. But according to all I have seen, studied, contemplated and worked with, there is a “ruler” who guides material reality, not always for the best. It’s not God, of course, but it ACTS as if it were, and appears as God to less-understanding entities. It is “all powerful” in that it can prevent almost anyone, certainly anyone without the necessary qualifications, from participating in manifestation. Already explained why that must be.

“Unfortunately, power begets power and as intelligence expanded in the “created” realms, some of these individual intelligences sought power. Since you can only express power by dictating to others, usually of lesser minds, these intelligences became totalitarian in nature and “evil” was born in, and bred from them, oozing right down to your own tin-pot rulers and dictators, right down to your school yard bully; down to your racist, misogynist, bigoted, greedy, planet-eating sociopath corporate manager or banker. As you know money is a major means of gaining power. It allows the few to rip power from the many. In your future, Levi, you will see a relatively few bureaucrats tied in with also relatively few “billiocrats” to change the pattern of money into a single global power. You will in effect see the effort made by these billiocrats to establish their goal of one world economy ruled by one world government, and that won’t be the end of it, but the beginning. Then will come the conquest of space; endless expansion and endless wars to conquer and expand. The nature of greed, friend.

“Do you get the picture, Levi?”

“Huh… yes, I’m sure that I get it – it’s not a subtle point you are making. But now, where does that leave me?”

“Exactly where you are, or as you were if you choose to ignore this unexpected interference in your rather uneventful System-controlled life. But don’t you have a truck to drive up the road another hundred miles or so?”

Out of habit I struck my forehead with my right hand. “Oh yes, the truck. Well, it’s down the road about a half-hour’s walk. Or maybe you can transport us there and fix it for me?”

“Would you like me to do that?”

“Sure, why not?”

And I thought to myself, well, that ought to be a good one. What happens next?

That’s when I woke up. I mean I really woke up. I could feel the heat, the stink of my sweat, feel the swelling of my feet in my boots. Overhead the sun was still blazing at its zenith as if no time had passed. I did notice a couple of things that were different. I wasn’t thirsty nor hungry and I felt, well, completely blissful. And then I noticed that my truck was parked just below me, without a flat, apparently ready to go on. I shook my head and let the dizziness pass before I stood up and took another good look around. No Jack. Just the same empty countryside and the river surface reflecting silver from the bottom of a very deep, dark canyon.

Being “child of the land” as they say, I looked around carefully for tracks in the sandy soil – there were only mine which indicated the point where I sat down, then laid down. Nothing had changed and everything had. And the only witness I had that “Jack” had been there was my old pickup with four healthy tires and except for the cracking of cooling dissimilar metals rubbing angrily against each other under the hood, it wasn’t saying a word. Well, no word except the sounds indicating that, since the engine was still cooling, little or no time had passed since I’d pulled over with a flat tire.

I’ll tell you, from this experience, there are things you can’t look back from, only forward. I made it to Cache Creek, where the main highway splits, the 97 going north to Prince George, and the #1 Trans Canada highway heading east for more than 3000 miles, crossing the expanse of Canada. Symbolically this was also where my life would change direction. I had to make a choice here: continue my logger’s or construction labourer’s vagabond life that was fun but not terribly fulfilling, or get serious about life.

Well, there were the two roads beckoning away from, always away from, and suddenly I felt tired of running away. I booked into a motel for the night, avoiding the bar and a couple of very pretty girls watching me bring my pack in my room and the next morning before the sun rose I was turned around and heading back to the coast, and the university. I felt an insatiable hunger for more knowledge that would not materialize from jumping across the mountains, work camp to work camp until too old to do much more than working security detail on construction yards. My mind had taken control and I realized I didn’t half mind it.

Thanks, Jack.

A Real Treasure

A Real Treasure
[A short story by Sha’Tara]

(A simplistic tale of a simpler time too many of us have forgotten.
Two things – One, I hope it proves entertaining. Two, I also hope I haven’t posted it already. Fortunately, it’s a short read. Enjoy)

“Life is full of treasures if one can only find them.” That promise,
from a happy-ending story read in class that afternoon, kept going through
his mind as he ran along the rough, rocky shore. His straight, unruly hair
blowing across his reddened face, his eyes watering in the spray, his
sleeve wet from wiping his runny nose, eight year old Jamie thought about
treasures: piles of gold and silver coins in an iron-bound pirate’s chest
with a huge padlock to guard against theft. He thought if he looked hard
enough, he would suddenly spy the corner of such a chest sticking out of
the loose gravel. Imagination, being free, is one of the real treasures
of the poor!
Forgetting his hungry stomach, he would regularly stop to scan the
rising swells for a familiar boat returning to the jetty, but the waters
were too rough and the visibility reduced to the line of shoals disappear­
ing in the in-coming tide. He shivered in the gusty, mid-winter winds. He
thought of his father and two older brothers out there on the sea. He
sighed, “If only I could help…

His keen eyes saw something dark floating in the water. A log! A whole
log being pushed ashore by the tide and wind. He waited impatiently as it
came close enough for him to direct it, then wondered how he would claim
and keep it. The tide may wash it away again, or someone else may find it
before he could run home and return with his mother. He decided to keep an
eye on it and let the tide do its work. His mom would worry and be angry
but when she saw the wood, she would understand.

The log floated higher. Too big for him to do anything with, there was
nothing to do but wait… All thoughts of pirate treasure left his mind:
his real treasure, representing several days of heat, and perhaps some
scraps for carving, was that log. He eyed it jealously, scanning the
shoreline for scavengers. He was relieved to see no one. Wandering around
while waiting, he searched for other treasures. His imaginary hoard now
was a whole pile of logs against the slate-roofed cottage just over the
top of the low, weather-beaten cliff separating land from sea.

He didn’t find any more wood, but he found an old rusty steel cable
tangled in blackberry bushes. Struggling to free it, he had an idea.
Laying out the cable, he found he could wrap it around the log then around
one of the larger rocks protruding from the gravel. He secured his log,
then using a broken piece of stone, laboriously scratched his name in it.
His hoard thus properly identified and anchored, he ran home. His mother
met him at the top of the path, scolding as he came up. He stopped to
catch his breath, then told his story of the log. She didn’t believe him
at first, but when he ran to the lean-to for the saw and the wheelbarrow,
she grabbed her coat and accompanied him down to the noisy, indistinct
strand, the clattering sound of their footsteps lost in the raspy,
turbulent surf.

Following her son, she looked eagerly for the treasure. Two motionless
figures were inspecting something in the gravel and Jamie cried out:
“They’ve found my log. Please, mom, hurry or they’ll take it!” Running,
nearly out of breath in the biting air, she came upon two men sizing up
the log. “Hullo, ma’am” one of them said, looking at her and touching his
cap. “Reckon this log’s ours ma’am, we found it first.” She looked at
Jamie and he pointed to the top of the log where he had scratched his
name: Jamie Willbrooke. They looked at the coarse but fresh inscription,
then the same one said, “Smart little fellow you have there, ma’am.” She
nodded and waited for the inevitable question. “Maybe, for a chunk, we
could help you haul it in, then?” She nodded again and took her son’s
hand. Holding it gently, she turned her head, permitting only the sea to
witness the love in her tear-filled eyes.


Addendum to Professional Driving Course T-18 (2006)

for British Columbia, Canada
(Humorous short story – some of you may relate even. As the date says, this was written while I still drove for Coca Cola, something to entertain fellow drivers. Some thought it was funny, some didn’t get it and wanted an official copy from ICBC – the provincial ministry in charge of drivers’ licenses)

Dear students,

You have graduated from Professional Driving T-18. Congratulations. The following is intended to help you make sense of all that you have studied and practiced in the last 6 months. There is no extra charge for this information but we would encourage you all to read through these following pages and think about it. This information, while not an official part of the course, was collated from interviews with long-time professional drivers who, upon retiring, wanted to share some of their observations.

This section is called “Moving Obstacles.”

The road is your friend. When out on the road, remember to look at the road. It will always try to tell you what to expect as you travel along it. However, the road is not a free entity. Before you got on it, there were already other things moving on it. We call these things “moving obstacles.” They will resemble vehicles, for the most part, but sometimes will also resemble human beings or animals. Do not let that fool you. They are just moving obstacles.

Moving obstacles will be found ahead of you, behind you, coming at you from side roads or simply wandering along with no fixed destination. Some will be faster, some slower and some will be immobile. Do not let any of that disturb you. If a moving obstacle is in front of you, do not get too close. You can never know what it will do next. Moving obstacles do not, as a general rule, obey any known (or de-listed) traffic laws. Remember that these MO’s (as we shall so designate them) do not possess any intelligence or common sense. When interacting with them, you are entirely on your own. Do not assume anything. It is very important to note that MO’s and their cargo are incapable of understanding that road laws apply to them.

Let us give you some examples of what we are talking about.

If there is a double yellow line and an MO is stuck on your tail, do not speed up or slow down. Ignore it. Chances are it will suddenly veer to your left and attempt to zoom past you. That is normal. Let it go. Sometimes you will observe a strange movement of the hand coming from what is referred to as “the driver” – a human-like object sitting prone directly behind the steering wheel of the MO. The hand jerks up and a middle finger tends to spring up and remain stuck in an upright position. That is perfectly OK. This condition is common but not life-threatening. The human-like object can still function with its other hand – which will probably be occupied holding a small black or shiny grey object called a cell phone to the ear. All is fine. The MO is designed to handle such situations for short periods on straight roadways. Hold back and let it go. It may swerve back in its intended lane ahead of you, or if the road suddenly curves, may disappear off the road or crash into another MO. That’s totally normal. Remember students, you are not getting involved. Just keep watching the road. You have a schedule to keep. 

How to reason MO encounters.

We would instruct you to think of MO’s this way: Think of walking along the side of an unstable mountain. Suddenly you hear a rumble above you. You look up and see rocks begin to tumble down towards you. Using common sense, you will instantly know that such loose rocks will generally obey some simple rules of physics. They will tumble downhill towards you depending upon their shape and size, the make-up of their path, the pitch of the hill and force of gravity. You already know that stopping and screaming at them will make no difference. Running at them or downhill away from them will only result in them crashing into you. The only thing to do is to move either left or right away from their path. They will tumble past you and come to rest eventually at the bottom of the hill. So it is with MO’s. They obey certain very simple rules, which have, we repeat, nothing to do with man-made laws. Let them go. We cannot emphasize this too much.

If you are following an MO and it keeps changing its speed, keep your distance. Possibly it is looking for some egress from its current trajectory. If it signals to turn right, do not assume anything. It is just as likely to turn left. If it begins to pull over, do not begin to think it is parking. It may suddenly jerk forward again, without any warning. If it signals to turn left and moves way over to the right shoulder, then stops for no obvious reason, do not confront it. It will only get angry and react, involving you in a stupid accident in which you will be at fault. Patience is a virtue: use it when dealing with MO’s.

Remember: no intelligence rides with these constructs. You cannot reason with them. 
Never get angry at an MO. This is a total waste of time and dangerous. Think of them as wild animals and yourself on a touring safari. Remember that MO’s are an absolute necessary part of the whole “road show” system. You cannot destroy them, however much you think they deserve it. The System depends heavily on their willingness to throw money away along the road. That money is sometimes used in the maintenance of your friend, the road. Killing an MO is not only illegal, it would be stupid. Allow them to go ahead of you. The police enjoy chasing them and are likely to be preoccupied ticketing them while you blissfully pass on by. Businesses thrive because of them, keeping some of your costs lower. Politicians love them (hence why they are protected) because anytime they want to win an election, they put up signs that say things like, “Your tax dollars at work” and pretend to “fix” a piece of road. The human-like objects inside the MO’s are entitled to vote and some of them will respond to the gimmick and elect that “road fixer” politician.

Sorry students, we did not mean to get political. All we wanted to do was equip you to survive your first year as a BC certified professional driver.

Good luck and happy roads to you!

Dallas

Periodically I run a short story of mine here. Most of those pass by unobtrusively, a few likes, rarely a comment. I think it’s because most of my stories are parables that contain too damn much “Shatarian flossofy” that spoils the entertainment value. The odd time though, I can contain my exuberance and just tell a story.  Maybe this is such an odd time. Enjoy anyway.  Thanks for reading.
_______________________________

Dallas was a week from her 15th birthday when she disappeared. I am her older brother by almost 2 years. My name is Greg, or for some, Gregory, 3rd oldest of five siblings. Home is Hope, a small town at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley, if you will. The house is in an older subdivision on the way to Kawkawa lake. Not much ever happens in Hope and Dallas’ disappearance created quite a stir for the next year, until nothing was discovered or found and like so many, Dallas’ fate entered the missing persons’ growing police files.
Needless to say, the family was not the same after that. Mom was disconsolate but adamant that Dallas was just “lost” as she put it, that nothing had happened to her. She managed to communicate this feeling to me and upon graduating from Hope Secondary, I decided to go in search of Dallas.
There wasn’t much to go by, but I knew Dallas intimately – we were more than siblings, we were close friends, and I knew a lot of things about Dallas that she had not shared with any one else. I knew that she was restless, not close to anyone and tired of being “mom’s girl” at home. Dallas had grown wings prematurely and wanted to try them out. She had talked to me about leaving home many times but it was always something in the future, when she was “of age” so to speak. But youth is fed by impatience and Dallas added impetuosity to the volatile mix. Hope and home were much too constricting for someone like her. I could remember her flashing dark brown eyes and black pony tail swinging back and forth when she entered into an argument about something she felt deeply about, and Dallas felt deeply about everything.
So, with only mom knowing my plans, and a little over 2 years since Dallas had gone missing; with some money from an uncle’s inheritance, I set out on my private search for her.
I went west, to the city and port of Vancouver. After settling down I focused on doing research on teens running away from home. I did a lot of work to create a working pattern. I rented cheap accommodations where I set up my notebook and bluetooth mini printer. I transcribed my notes from the day’s search into computer files and printed pictures of Dallas to put on posts, bulletin boards or to pass around. I got to know a few city police detectives on missing kids detail and everyday was a new learning experience. I won’t bore you with the endless false leads, and the sick people trying to cash-in on leading me to Dallas. I learned to smell them out pretty quickly. And all the while, I discovered the dark heart of a modern megalopolis.
Having made my peace with the reality of the city I knew that anything was possible. I interacted with prostitutes, pimps and massage parlours, any sort of place or business that might provide a haven for underage female runaways. I didn’t think Dallas would go that route but desperation narrows choices. On the other side, I frequented movie sets where a young girl’s ID might not be checked too closely when an extra was needed in a hurry. I checked the Internet for ads and agencies that placed babysitters or nannies.
It was a strange time. The more I came up blank, the more convinced I became that I was on Dallas’ trail and would find her.
I dreamt about her sometimes, and every dream showed me this: that she was not only all right, but had found herself and was happy with her new life. Sometimes I met her in a restaurant where she waitressed, or in a rich household where she worked as a nanny. There was always that mischievous look in her eyes, the twinkling that said, “I have a secret and I won’t tell you what it is until and unless you discover it for yourself.” Then she would laugh and the dream would end.

I emailed or texted mom fairly regularly, skipping many details but reassuring her that I was not only still looking, but increasingly sure that I would find Dallas and that she would be well. Often I would get a simple reply: “Thank you, Gregory, thank you. – Mom”
It occurred to me, after over a year, and a third of my funds gone, to combine my search with some practical course on private investigating and journalism. Within a few months I felt confident that I had enough horse sense and street smarts to try working. I answered an ad from a family looking for their disappeared son. I visited the people and explained what I was doing in Vancouver and convinced them that I knew enough to be of value to them. We settled on a fee and I added 14 year old “William” to my search query, creating a new set of patterns. Not surprising (to me) I found William with a group of Lost Boys downtown, trying to earn some money washing windshields at intersections.
Once I was sure of him, I waited for a chance and approached him as casually as I knew how, offering him a small amount of money if he would run an errand for me. He was hungry and broke and completed the errand in record time. Before I paid him, I told him his name and asked him if he ever thought about returning home.

“You a f…king cop?” he snarled and almost bolted from the outdoor table I had chosen for the exchange. I gently but firmly put my hand on his arm.
“Oh, don’t be stupid, Will. A cop wouldn’t ask you to run an errand. I wanted you to have that to think about before I talked to you.”
“So what’s the deal? Why do you care who I am or what I do?”
“Should be obvious – I’m a private investigator hired to find you, and I found you. I can have you home within the hour… if you’ll let me. Hey, it’s no skin off my nose if you run, I get paid regardless. I report that I found you, the location, and that you took off. Doesn’t sound too smart to me, though. Whatever caused you to run in the first place couldn’t have been that serious, and it’s been 6 months. I think it’s time for you to go home, finish school, then think about leaving with your head high this time, with a job or a degree at least. You’re not a poor homeless kid, William. You’re a spoiled Yuppie brat who may just have learned a valuable lesson now. You can take advantage of that. You know what gets you the farthest in life? Self-discipline. You can do it to wash windshields, surely you can do it to a greater end than that.”
So I returned a subdued William to his grateful parents. And I found other jobs; learned to collaborate with some of the undercover cops and my life slowly changed, but my purpose remained steadfastly the same: to find Dallas. Another year went by and I figured most would have given up by now. But something was inextricably linked in my mind: Dallas and the City. Dallas and I. All three of us were drawing together, I could sense this.
The City, as ugly and frightening as it had appeared at first, was definitely growing on me. I saw her gross sins and could forgive many of them. I interacted with her victims, the rich and the poor, and found out many didn’t mind being victims and I learned to accept that. And I wrote all of that down in my notes and began to feed some of my impressions to the borderline underground press that proliferated in the City. I deliberately used my real name to sign my articles and made sure it appeared frequently. I made a couple of “appearances” on radio talk shows about my work on the street, and what I had learned in interaction with the “Wendy’s” and the “Lost Boys,” as I called the runaways; their pimps, employers, lovers, and mentors.
And as I somehow knew it would, it happened: I found Dallas. She did investigating for a couple of Internet news blogs between other jobs, and she saw my name on an article, found the radio program on the Internet and contacted me by email. My heart soared as old Chief Dan George would have said. We chose to meet in a Starbucks, neutral grounds. I was there early because I wanted to watch her walk in; wondering how much she’d changed; if I would recognize her.
I had no trouble recognizing her face. Her hair was longer, no longer in a pony tail but allowed to flow freely thick over her shoulders. She appeared a bit taller, slimmer certainly, and much older. She wore a brown fake leather jacket and a short blue skirt and knee-length high heeled black boots. But that dark brown-eyed twinkle was as bright as ever.
“Dallas!” I couldn’t help calling as she looked over the crowd and line-ups. She saw me and smiled. It was still that special smile she used on me when we were “kids” it seemed so long ago. She came over, hugged me and went to get an espresso. I watched her, the poise, the certainty, the assurance. I should not have been surprised, but I was regardless. I couldn’t help but remember that she had not yet turned 15 when she left home and Hope to find herself. And I though it uncanny how right both mom and I had been about her. Except that she was never lost: she had her own map, her own destination and her own destiny to fulfill. And as I watched that young woman interacting with the guy behind the counter, I realized what her mind had told her, those eventful years ago: “It’s time Dallas. Leave – now, or forfeit your purpose. They will take you, when you come of age; when you have graduated, or earned a degree, and they will file you, pigeon-hole you, and you will become the living dead, just like your parents, your teachers, the adults you see on TV and meet in the stores. They will make you fit in. You’ll get married, get a house and stuff, have kids, part-time brain dead job, and walk the treadmill until you die. Walk away now, Dallas. You can do it.”
And, she had.
We didn’t talk very long that morning. I was on a case and she had reports to file, so we decided to meet at my place. Hers she said, was a bit crowded; she lived with two other women, one of whom was her lover – for the time being – she added with that twinkle. “Neither one of us is ready to settle, and I don’t think I want a serious relationship, at least not for a long time.”
She came to my place and having settled my case that afternoon and gotten paid, I got the goodies and wine and we talked, basically all through the night. And although the question was burning on my tongue, I never asked her why she hadn’t contacted mom, nor whether she would now. It didn’t seem appropriate and besides, she was the one asking the questions.
“OK, so I can see mom would try to put you up to this, but why did you come looking for me, Greg? Why didn’t you just let it go? Huh? She got up abruptly from the chair, sending it flying ass over tea kettle, turned, grabbed it and threw it back on its feet. She turned her back to me and talked: “I’ll tell you why you came to find me. You didn’t believe that I was lost. I became an opportunity for you, didn’t I. An excuse to leave also. Romance, excitement, feelings, emotions, so many things that tend to get bottled up in a small town stuck against a mountain and a river, things that can be let loose and expressed in countless ways, good and bad, here in the metro. You wanted what I had discovered. And you wanted to find me to prove to yourself that you had found it too. You followed me, not to find me, though that was your intent, but to find yourself. You were the one who was lost, Gregory. You were never going to find yourself in Hope, or in whatever institution you ended up working for. You sensed it, and you found my map in your mind, where I left you a copy. So, have you found yourself, Greg?”
She turned just as abruptly, leaned down with both hands flat on the small table and literally stared into my soul. She smiled thinly and sat down to sip some more wine. She waited for my answer.
“You are right, Dallas. The commitment, the gallantry, the chivalry, call it whatever you will, that was the cover story. The underlying motive was romance. I would do something different, and I had you to light my way. And Dallas?”
“Yes?”
“What a light you turned out to be!” She smiled again, and her eyes were wet, as were mine. We finished the wine and I called a taxi to take her home. We hugged once more just before she got in the car. She picked up the dragging edge of the long trench coat she was wearing and I closed the door, watching her disappear in the early morning mist and smog.
And the City stood surrounding us, neither smiling nor frowning, withholding comment and judgment.

The Elita Theorem

[a short story by  Sha’Tara]
(Inspired, in part, by Isaac Asimov’s “Prelude to Foundation)

 Ansar and Elita were what you would call lovers.  Ansar was a member of the galactic arch-council located at that time on the pivotal world they called Juno.  Elita was mathematician and social historian at the famed university of Urtank, in the central high mountains of Sector T-41 of planet Quatl-Iln.  The following is a time-captured record of a brief exchange that took place in those long ago days after Elita worked out a program from a theory that stated that “time” was primarily a recording device in which could be read both past and future events.  The sharper the “reader” the more accurate would the reading of the sought events be.  It is all old hat now, as they say, but in the years prior to mankind’s initial scattering from his original galaxy (circa year 22,000 old reckoning) this was considered very naïve and pseudo-scientific.  But let’s hear what they were saying…

“We have a past, you know, Ansar.  A real past, which to this day society insists on dubbing a myth.  I’ll be brief.  We originated on one world only and you’ve heard that “myth” before, I’m sure.  You don’t buy it, but I do.  And then I don’t.”

“Make some sense, Elita.  Don’t speak to me in your usual riddles.  Either you do, or you don’t.  You can’t have it both ways.”

“No riddle.  Just simple fact which I can have “both ways” as you so eloquently put.  Our world of origin in the preserved language was called earth.  There mankind evolved, so it was thought, and taught, and from there he spread his wings and flew away to discover the galaxy.  And now, we are once more precariously balanced upon the horns of an old dilemma.  For centuries our real growth has been in decline.  At the same time, mankind is again looking beyond his doorstep, this time looking to jump to other galaxies and perhaps begin again.  And I can generally predict what is going to happen.  We are going to make the jump.  We will “begin” again and what we leave behind will continue to decline, to shrivel upon itself and die.  As did earth.”

“How do you know this?”

“Mathematical projection says so.  Observation says so.  Simple statistical projection says so.  Increasingly indolent ways of a pampered population says so.  Breakthroughs in non-ship-non-moving travel says so.  Shortages in resources marginalizing and starving millions of poorer planets says so.   The leadership vacuum says so.   Before rebellions and total war engulf the galaxy, you will have a scattering.  These scatterings are the seedings, and every time a group of humans seeds itself upon a new world as yet untouched by previous human presence and exploitation, that group is irreversibly changed.  Those who survive become, to the eyes of those left behind (if they are able to see) either monsters, mutants, or super-human depending on the point of view.  And, what was left behind fears these who have escaped.  Their authorities pursue them, hoping to control them and to feed from them.  Failing that, trying to destroy them.” 

“But what does any of that say to your belief that some mythical world called earth was man’s original world?”

“Don’t you see?  Earth man was a seedling.  It was planted on that ancient now long-gone world and it flourished there.  But it did not actually originate there.  It did not, as was then claimed, physically evolve from the muck and mire of the planet, anymore than we evolved from the rocky strata of this stony world.  The early people of earth were ruled and enslaved by their forebears but in their fevered discovery of new-found abilities, they shook off the yoke of their masters, of the sowers, and unmindful of the consequences, literally exiled themselves upon their world with no means of leaving, or of contacting any other possible sown worlds.  So engrossed did they become with self-discovery and exploitation of their world that they soon forgot how they got there.  New leadership, fearful of having to share power with galactic powers, ordered the re-writing of history and established religions that relegated the real-life human sowers to ineffable divinities to be idolized in worship.  

It would be thousands of years before the ever-present urge to resume the sowing cycle would obsess these Earthians and they would abandon their internecine warfare to concentrate on going to the stars.  Predictably they did so, for we are here.  And predictably, they carried with them the belief that they originated on earth, thus making that world the ruling world of the galaxy.  Sadly, that is why it was slagged by the “new” children who did not tolerate that a backward little planet so far from galactic centre would rule over the whole.   Much was lost in the destruction of earth but the greatest loss was in records of what happened so long ago, before Earthians were solidly established on their new world.  Records of previous generations, previous intelligences, previous star-farers who gave birth to Earthians and thence, to us.  We must re-discover those records.”  

“You make a persuasive argument but I remain unconvinced.  You have no real proof that what you have conjured could ever have some basis in  fact.” 

“Proof.  People put so much faith in that word.  But perhaps there is proof.  If I could actually and correctly predict a specific future event using certain formulas I’ve developed, would you consider that proof that we can draw out reality from the chaos of the unknown?”

“If, indeed!  Yes, if you could predict exactly a certain future event, I’d see that as proof.  But what about the past?”

“But don’t you see it?  There is no difference.  If we can accurately predict the future, we can just as accurately “predict” what happened in the unknown past.  Let’s say that your family drove to a certain town while you were in your mother’s womb.  Once in that new town, you were born there.  The family possessed a past that was not yours.  However, when old enough to drive, you could choose to drive forward from that town, or to, in a sense, retrace your family’s steps by driving back down the road into the past.  Some things would be different, but you could verify that the world they spoke of did in fact exist. 

I believe that my computer program and my calculations can do this for mankind and perhaps much more.  Certainly we will be able to “verify” not only where we are going, but where we come from. There are those who are so intent on destroying all vestiges of the old myths.  They want to destroy the old religions that have clung to mankind from the earth days to now.  The way to demystify the past is not by pretending or claiming it did not happen, but by proving it did happen, and demonstrating how it did so.  The ancient “gods” then become simple humans with what would be to us very primitive technology and were neither eternal nor all-powerful non-material beings as fabricated religions have falsely claimed for so long until now.” 

“Interesting.  With our funding, you claim you can develop this new science that will show not only how our future will develop but prove that the mythical past did in fact happen?  Will there be more to your argument when you present it to the Council for, what must certainly become, substantial additional funding?”

“Do I need more?  Are you not curious?  Would you not risk a few billion credits to find out where you came from and where you are going in, say, a thousand years from now?  If we, as humans, must continue to bootstrap our ways across parsecs and eons of space-time, can’t we at least secure stronger and longer straps for ourselves?  Must our existence continue to be an endless, chaotic gamble against the forces of time and the universe?  Must we forever be running from our enemies, be they competing intelligences or depleted environments, and towards unknown conditions that may test us beyond our abilities to resist and overcome?  I think that what we term “expanded awareness” has to include an ability to remember the distant past and to appropriate to certainty a much longer portion of the future.  We cannot continue to launch ourselves as dandelion seeds in the winds for the day will come when we will literally fall in among an inimical race that will destroy us, probably out of fear of our predatory ways coupled with our unnaturally prolific birthrate.  We are predators, Ansar, and represent a very real threat to any other intelligent species already established around us.  It would be extremely naïve to think we have not been noticed.  If we know the future, we can avoid such an encounter and prevent catastrophe to ourselves.” 

“My curiosity is certainly not as expanded as yours, love.  But I’ll support you on Council even though I don’t share your enthusiasm for socio-history.  I would be satisfied if you could predict the next day of windless sunshine so we could go mountain climbing.  What do you say to that?”

“Just the two of us?”

“Just the two of us.”

“Would you accept an educated guess?”

“I will, but I have one condition.”

“Ah?”

“Will you accept my ring?  It will be a year tomorrow since the last time you said ‘no’ to me.”

“I accept your ring, Ansar.  Without conditions. As to the weather, my guess is the wind will have to be reckoned with but safe enough for experts like us.” 

 It was ten years later that Elita’s group in Urtank saw the first fruits of her efforts.  It was another twenty-three years before the theory was fully tested when a no-ship “fleet” consisting of seventeen billion people jumping off from Juno would have encountered an enemy force that would have destroyed them had they not “seen” this prior to departure and changed course accordingly.  Two hundred years after that, as this inimical intelligence began to seriously encroach upon new human settlements, it was caught in a 5-pronged attack by humans and was annihilated.  These perfectly timed attacks were devised using the Elita Theorem of time recordings.  

To add a little explanation to this theory, let me just say that it resembles the reading of those old movie strips.  Once a “time line” is focused upon, the computer can “play” the “image frames” either forward or backward.  An identical “time line” can be read from any number of different places, even distant galaxies, without distortion.  Hence the possibility of simultaneous action at vast distances. 

And so we are in the process of conquering the universe.  What will we do, should we discover that our universal space-time model does not apply beyond our universal borders?  Who will break through the next mystery should the Elita theorem fail at that point? Are we still curious enough to dare go and find out? Do we even have a choice?