Reality Inspector, chapter 15

Copyright © 1982 John Caris

Several days later, John's mind was still swimming through his experience at the Rainbow Inn. Stepping through Hank's box, he had become a participant in the performance of The Open Door. How this instantaneous jaunting had occurred was a mystery. He was not certain whether he wanted to know, whether he wanted to push beyond the comforting curtain of ignorance.

After the performance he had talked to several people, including Helen; and they all said about the same thing. At some moment they had noticed his presence at the table. No one saw him enter the stage and sit down at the table. One moment the table was vacant; the next he was sitting there. Well, obviously they were not really watching the table; they were watching the characters. Presumably, he walked on stage; presumably, he was part of the play. And of course he was.

Then this morning his mind was given another jolt. The phone message from the anonymous caller was clear. Her voice had left an indelible impression. The sound was soft and sensuous; it was inviting. So it was difficult to grok the complete thought, the message contrasting so sharply with the voice. But the meaning itself was clear enough. The two shots fired at him, when Mary and he had left the Rainbow Inn, were only a threat. The next time the bullet would not miss him; it would cut his life thread. The beguiling, siren voice repeated the message three times. Obviously, it was a recording; and he had his own recording of it--in his head. There was no doubt now that he was moving in the correct direction, that he would soon discover the secret of the alien program's reappearing act. He must push his opponent even harder and force him to make a fatal mistake. He would lodge his queen in the hole of his opponent's fear.

By the afternoon the sun's shining and cool ocean breezes were vibrating his desire to step beyond the doorway of convention. Mary and he were at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. They were standing in the midst of an exhibit about early people--those who used stone and bone for their tools. Both needed to relax, to refresh themselves. The thirteenth chess game was in the evening; and Sam Runner, having won the eleventh game, now led 4 to 3. As the chess players moved closer to the magic number of six wins, the tension and anxiety mounted. Mary and John's affairs were now running parallel, running in phase together. Perhaps, a clue lay hidden in that pattern of movement.

They were looking at some small, bone needles, remarking about the original imagination required to think of the idea of sewing. Later people built upon this remarkable imagination by applying the idea to different materials. But could modern people originate such amazing concepts like that of sewing? The human brain had changed very little in its structure, yet human life style had changed radically. People had lost trust in their imaginative abilities, for modern society was forcing them into trusting their machines instead. The country's president even now worshipped technology above God: a sign of the times--a sign that modern society was moving toward entropy.

Both Mary and John were deeply impressed by the creative potential of the human brain that the Ice Age Exhibit demonstrated. Could modern people ever regain some of that lost potential? They would have to, if they were to survive. The less developed societies stood a better chance of surviving since they still retained some faith in their God-given potential. And they had survived that way for thousands of years. But modern people were giving up their humanness; they were becoming more like their machines. And the desire to survive was dying out. As Socrates had pointed out a long time are, "Life is worth living only according to one's nature." When people try to be nonhuman, then life loses all its meaning. Modern societies were now at the edge of the precipice. Would they fall into the abyss and eternal death, or would they turn aside and follow the path with heart? We'll have to wait to see, John thought--and hope for the best.

"Mary! John! Come quickly."

They both turn and see Od gesturing for them to follow him. They both stand startled, for Od is dressed in animal skins. They glance at each other and, finding that they also are dressed in animals skins, look about. They are standing in a meadow. Od is already walking up a path that climbs a rocky hillside. They follow. John notices a stone adz in Od's belt and that Od is wearing moccasins as they are.

Soon they reach a ledge overlooking the valley below. The huge valley of meadow and grass tapers to a narrow dead end where the sun rises. Od is excitedly pointing to a herd of bison grazing on the valley floor. "Pte. Pte. They're moving toward the entrance. Tomorrow or the next day they'll move through."

The people have patiently waited as the bison herd grazes its way across the valley floor toward the rocky slopes that enclose the valley where the sun rises. Each year the Pte moves from its winter pasture on the large plains of prairie grass into the lush meadows of the valley. And each year the people wait as the Pte eats its way toward the end. Then the people kill as many bison as they will need for the winter. The remaining animals move back to the winter pasture, and the following spring the cycle begins anew.

When the bison reach the entrance where the valley narrows, they will be fenced in. The people many years ago had built movable fences from the tall pines that grow on the valley slopes. Each year at the proper moment those fences are put in place and then later removed when the herd is ready to migrate back to the plains. Famine is unknown to the people because they respect the Pte spirit and the Great Spirit that oversees all the creatures under its care.

While the bison herd is in its natural corral, hunters observe it carefully. They decide which animals will be harvested. They always keep in mind that their survival depends upon the survival of the herd; they want the best stock to reproduce itself. When the herd has been observed, the hunters selectively kill particular animals that are then hauled out to the great fires burning on the other side of the fence. Here the carcasses are skinned and butchered. The hides are stretched out and worked into leather for clothing and skins for lodges. The meat is dried and smoked. The bones are shaped into tools and weapons; a few are carved into delicate jewelry.

During the next few weeks the people are busy and happy, for they look forward to a secure winter. The Great Spirit is smiling on them. As the moon grows full, the people prepare for the harvest festival. The hunters now carry in the animals selected for that week long occasion. Others are preparing for their part: the healers are making power bundles for use in the ceremonies while the dancers are practicing their songs and steps. All the lodges are placed in the form of a hoop, and in the center are erected four pinepoles around which the ceremonies will be held.

After the week of celebration has ended, the people break camp and travel toward their winter camping grounds along the Whispering River. A small group stays behind to remove the fences and store them in a stone building for winter. When finished, they will follow the people toward Whispering River.

The first winter snow blankets the ground with whiteness; the air becomes chilly and crisp. With their winter lodges nestled along the shore of Whispering River, the people settle down for a time of leisure.

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