Sunday, June 30, 2013

Zeus's Beard

Only Marcus seemed unaffected by the roiling heat.  Everybody else, all six kids, Omega, Petey and John-John were stretching out in the shade of Olive trees and drinking water from a little spring.  They were on the edge of stone white cliffs that overlooked the beautiful sea just beyond them.  It was hot as mid-July in the American Southwest, and they needed water.

"Look!" Suzie said, pointing toward the sea.   "The deepest blue of the deepest blue.  The landscape of sea and sky."

"This must be Greece," Omega said.  "The birthplace of mathematics, philosophy, the sciences, law.  Gifted people."

"Let's get going," Omega waved the kids to their feet.  "I think we need to walk eastward, on to Athens. There's somebody there I want to meet."

The landscape changed as they walked on, going from wide open spaces and steep cliffs, to hamlets where people grew grapes for wine and olives for oil.  Then before them stood a smallish city, tiny by their standards, but graced with sculptures and temples, a place for the market.  In the middle of a market, sat a man on a three-legged stool, teaching and gesturing.  He was so lively and provocative in his thoughts and his opinions that people gathered around him, arguing and gesturing right back.

"Aristotle,"  Omega said.  "Alpha said he was right in many ways and would be proven so even into the 21st century, and really, really wrong in others.  Said he was worth meeting and talking to.  But then Alpha thinks that about everybody."

"The world is worth looking at," Aristotle shouted.  "Best pay attention.  As much as you can.  As close as you can.  Be meticulous in what you observe!"

"The difference between careful science and just fooling around is your ability to write down your  observations,"  Omega commented.

"What's meticulous?"  Larry whispered.

"Being careful to do something right.  To give it time and attention,"  John-John answered.

"Life itself is your teacher!"  Aristotle

"What about the things you can't see?"  Omega asked him.

Aristotle smiled and answered,  "Well, then you have a bit of a problem."

"There are dimensions and universes a plenty out there you can't see.  Beings and angels, maybe some ghosts, maybe some demons, some wandering souls who haven't made it home just yet.  There are kindnesses that people do that flavors the air we breathe with sweetness, wondrous music, the adventure of art and drama, true love. beauty, real live hope for our lives.  All of those are great gifts from Alpha, our creator,"  Omega explained.  "Stuff that's just hard to see."

"I love the thoughts of that.  I try to explain some of that stuff as 'forms,'  as the form of love or family.  But it just doesn't quite work or work for very long,"  Aristotle sighed.  "A grand creator?  Marvelous."

"Is there room in your form for the thought or the reality for green dragons?" Omega asked playfully.

"No," Aristotle smiled.  "I'd bet on Zeus's beard that there is no such thing.  I've yet to see one."

"There is in mine,"  Omega said.

Monday, June 24, 2013

How Alpha Speaks

"But, I think I need to go with you!"  Marcus  was adamant.

"Why?"  Petey said.

"Because there are adventures to be lived, there is love to be explored, and hope.  Lots and lots of hope.  You all act as if you are hopeful about your lives.  You are not lost souls nor are you slaves.  You don't act like dumb kids.  I think I need to check this out."  Marcus had been hanging out with them for the two or three days they were in Roma.

"Your folks O.K. with this?"  Omega asked.

"Yeah, I told them you were safe and healthy, and Roma is neither, especially for kids from another place.  We're not citizens here, just slaves.  And I want to be free.  I'm good to go."

"So, let's go," Omega said.  They were pushing their little craft out of the willows and into the tides.  Off they went.

Later in the day, the winds picked up on their pretty little sea.  The waves crested above the rim of their craft and soaked them again and again.  And then a haunting melody crept into their minds, until Suzie began to sing along with it, and the other kids realized they were all hearing and singing along with the melody.  Beautiful women's voices soared over the crashes over the waves, and soon enough, they were caught on a strong current and washed up upon an island in their sea.

A gorgeous woman met them in the island cove, but all the kids could see was the top half of her body and her long, dark hair.  She had on, what looked like the top part of a toga.  Every once in awhile, it looked like a tail close to her flipped out of the water.  Once the craft was up on dry land, the sound of the waves increased as the wind screamed past them, and the luxurious sound of women's voices invited them onto the island.

"Who are these girls?"  Julie asked.  "They don't speak as much as they sing and they draw us into island."

"All I know," Larry said, "Is that I wanna go!"

As the day drew to a close, the singing persisted, only now the sounds were not so beautiful.  In fact, it was more like off-tonal screams, really loud, and it felt like madness.    Omega cautioned them to stay inside their own  heads and to trust their own minds, and not let the sounds take over.  "That way is real craziness.  Stay away.  Don't sleep."

They could not see the legs of the hosts, which the kids did not understand.  In any way.

By drawn, the music subsided, and the kids were left with their minds more or less intact.  Larry sighed.    "Well, that was interesting,  I'm thinking we need to leave this island this morning and not look back.  I don't think I could hold onto my own mind for another night.  There was something those women wanted from me.  I don't think they should have it."

Then the swish of green dragon wings fluttered above them.  "Hey-y-y-y!"  Tim shouted, still clutched in the mouth of the dragon, headed toward the east.

"I keep thinking, 'The deepest blue of the deepest blue,'  Rick said.  "I think something is whispering that in my ear and I can't decide where it's coming from."

"That's Alpha talking to you," Omega said.  "He's a little mysterious, even on a good day."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Far, Far Away

"Marcus, where are we now?"  Rick asked.

"You're in  Roma,"  Marcus said cautiously.

"When are we?"  Rick blurted out.

"Now,"  Marcus smiled.  "We were a kingdom for 500 years.  Now we are a republic, and we've been that for about a hundred years.  We are famous for our Coliseum, which hosts our sporting events, our circuses, and our justice system, which is mainly throwing criminals before lions and letting them be eaten alive, and our Pantheon, which honors our Gods.  All of 'em."

"So," Rick said.   "That's probably 400 - 450 BC, our time?

"What do you mean — our time?  Doesn't time belong to everybody?"  Marcus wondered out loud.

"We're not from around here,"  Rick said.  "We're from far-far away, both in time and space.  We measure time differently."

"You gotta alotta Gods?" Larry asked.  Cheryl punched him in the arm.  "Just askin'," Larry whined, a little bit.

"We've got a lot of Gods, because our Gods liked each other a lot,  they had a lot of kids.  Our main guy is Jupiter, a great hunk of a God, sometimes in a bad mood, and likely to toss lightning bolts around,"  Marcus explained.  "You have to take him seriously."

"We only have one God, but he's a walloping Guy.  You don't mess with him, either.  Turns out he made everybody, but he's still sorta scary,"  Larry explained.  "I'm real nice when I pray."

Then they heard footsteps.  Men in barefeets.  Not so-o-o scary, thought Julie.

They gawked at an amazing sight:  eight or ten acrobats, all of them twisting, turning cart wheels, tossing each other around, standing on their heads, building people paramids, yelling and singing.   They surrounded Omega and his merry band of kids and helpers.  Soon, everybody was playing, flipping each other over, and laughing and carrying on.  Rare fun.  Marcus was clapping and keeping time.

Then the biggest guy in the group, maybe eight-feet tall, strong enough that his muscles had muscles.  He had on a linen toga and his arms were bare, so there was  no mistaking his power and his intention.  He glanced around the crowd, until he spotted Rick and Larry, and he leaned down at them, until he was at eye-level.

"You know who I am?" the giant growled.

"Pretty much," said Rick.

"Met somebody called Alpha.  Gave me a right fright," the giant growled.  "Said I could continue to be God of the Romans, until somebody better showed up, then I'd melt away.   I have no doubt that is true."

"Did he mention us?  Rick asked.

"He said I was to tell a bunch of teenagers, from another place and another time, to look for the Green Dragon in Greece, and somebody named Tim was all right, but that Tim was making the dragon a little crazed with all his questions and his jokes.  You all best be hopping right along, because irritating a green dragon is not the smartest thing you can do.  Especially one who can blow fire at will."

Friday, June 14, 2013

In Plain Sight

Another day, another leg of the journey east.  As the kids watched the days go by, Rick spotted what looked like a permanent cloud bank in the not too distant East, in reality, land locked in mists.  As their little boat and the tides took them ever closer, the elements of a landscape became clearer and clearer.  Olive trees.  Simple dwellings.  Hanging flowers over hand-hewn bowers.  A lovely, lovely place.

They found a small inlet, a little bay, and they were able to pull the boat in far enough, they could cover it with tree limbs.  Where ever they were, they knew this was a stop that was not permanent, only a stop over.  They started walking down a dusty pathway.  Ahead of them, the seat of power for the entire world, power in full force, ahead of them, just down the road.

Nobody paid much attention to them.  Their clothes were weird.  Think denims in a place that was looking more and more like Rome.  Dark headed peeps.  Off-white togas.  Latin-speaking citizens.

"I've narrowed down our time to 300 or 400 years before "The Big, Big Time Change," said Petey.

"Let's ask somebody,"  Larry said.  "But I suspect they don't know yet about the BC/AD thing."

Along the pathway, the teens spotted a young man, sitting and leaning against a gigantic stone.  He was a color and a body type the kids had never seen.  He was very lean and very tall.  Omega was over six feet, and this young man was closer to seven.  His hair was curled tight and cut into very unusual geometric shapes.  Very sophisticated, in the mind of the teens, and striking.  "And," Larry mused, "his skin is a color that I've never seen before, a bluish-purple."

"So," Larry asked.  "Have you seen a green dragon flying through here, carrying a white guy who is having a fit the entire way?"

"Well, it's not the first thing that comes to mind,"  the young man said in flawless Latin.  "My name is Marcus.  You're not from around here?"  Omega translated.

"Nope, we might not even be from now,"  John-John said.  "Mr. Marcus, you don't look like you were born here either.  Or your parent's weren't."

"My parents are slaves,"  Marcus said.  "High-powered slaves, with  prestige, in the household of our magistrate.  They were born in Africa in the small nation of Berundi.  They are Watussi.  Long, lean, brave people who command respect by their beauty and their presence.  We live here now, we want to go home some day.  It is a long walk, however, a very long walk."

With that they heard footsteps,  military footsteps, precisio ed, disciplined, intentional.  Marcus turned to Omega, Petey, John-John, and the kids.  "Hurry, Hide," he whispered.  "You must not be here, because you are strangers, and strangers are not at all welcome in this city-state now  or  ever.

"I  can make us invisible," Omega said.   "I'm good at hiding in plain sight."

And then Marcus was standing in the Italian sun.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What The Waves Had To Say

Petey took to the repairs, crawling all over the rigging of their tiny ship, as if he'd been born to homemade ropes and  tall spaces.  Soon enough, on the high seas, they could steer their boat again.  The problem was this:  which way?  They'd gotten completely turned around, couldn't tell left from right, East from West, up from down.  They were pretty clear on what was wet and what was dry, but that's about it.

The   morning of their fifth day at sea they were caught in a dead zone.  No wind.  No tide.  No forward movement.  They were sitting on the starboard side, dangling their legs in the water.  Omega was off taking a call from his Dad, although nobody asked how that was possible.

Then the water began to roil around the small boat, tossing it here and there.  A massive green arm raised itself and pointed toward the East.  Then the shoulders were visible next,  surrounded by an immense red cloak.  The face of Neptune emerged from the Deep.  Although the kids couldn't see his whole body, it looked like he was fifty feet tall, soaking wet.  His other hand emerged, holding a three-pronged weapon, with barbed hooks on the end.  Thirty feet of his cleared the top waves, and he pointed toward The East.

His voice was so deep, the small sea shuddered.  "Follow the Tides," he barreled the words out,  "They will take  you toward the land and perhaps The Dragon will have spit out your friend as well.  Tell The Son of The Most High, that the Great God of The Deepening Seas sends his deep regards and his eternal respect."

And then Neptune sank back into the ocean waters and they paddled toward the East.  Soon enough, they could spot the in-coming currents and they put their paddles away, and hung on for dear life.
The sea was taking them for a ride.

Omega rejoined them.  "What did I miss?" he asked.  "Why are we riding the currents?"

Larry explained,  "Somebody who knows your family says hello."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Three Days Out in Rough Seas.

No land in sight.  The water they'd saved to drink was getting low and the fruit was on the far side of ripe.  Something needed to change and change fast.

The sea swells opened up like giant gnawing mouths, lapping up the next bite.  Everybody was feeling sea sick, tummyitis.  When one swell started to get big, bigger than all the others,  bigger by far,  big enough to cover a giant sea creature, the size of five whales and it was wiggling an eel-like body.
Long, slow undulations appeared as the creature took shape and it's personality, not a good one, took hold.    Must have been those red burning eyes.  Dragon eyes.

"Omega!  Do something about this guy!"  Petey shouted.

"Yeah, but what?  I don't harm God's creatures, all of them are my brothers and sisters."  Omega reminded them.

"Now you tell me," grumped Petey.

Then it turned it's great, red burning eyes at Omega and the crew, and blew hot flames at them. Close enough to singe their eyebrows. The final undulations was immense and the waves swamped their fine, little boat.  Because the boat was put together with reeds and willows, with broad board used for ballast, the water quickly washed back into the sea.

The thing settled back into the water. The kids looked around the small craft and into the deep blue sea.
"Hey!"  Rick said.  "I can't find Tim!"  That sent everybody into the small boat's hidey holes and then they peered over the side.  No  Tim.  He had been washed overboard.

Deep, sad silence.

Then the sea erupted into a huge explosion, that sent spray in every direction,  and unsettled wave after wave.  The dragon look back at the boat.  In it's mouth was a wiggling, yelling Tim, alive, but water-logged.

A huge surge of energy enveloped the whole ship, as if the wood and the reeds could conduct energy.  A huge crack sounded and then one of the masts listed to the right.  The mast had developed a spiral break, like a bad break in a leg.  The green sail slumped to one side.

"Well, crap."  Rick said.

"What happened?"  John-John asked.

Omega shrugged, "It just got away from me.  I get upset and it just goes. . ."

The dragon took flight, taking Tim with him.


Monday, June 10, 2013

A Boat with a Wide Bottom

So, how do you know it's Greek and how do you know what it says?"  Petey demanded.

"Oh, my Dad made me learn Greek.  Said I'd need  it.  But I did it so I could say—'It's all Greek to me'—and people would think I didn't know stuff... when I did know.  Knowing stuff other people don't know is a big advantage," Omega said.

"That's sneaky.  What's up with this bowl with all those Greek letters on it?"  John-John questioned.

"It's unnerving to find a bowl with our names, letters actually, on it.  It's not an old bowl, it's a new bowl.  See how shiny the glaze is.  But the letters have little differences from the way we make them.  They are made an old-fashioned way."

The wind picked up and blew sand.  The island grasses blew toward the East.

"We don't know where we are, and we don't even know when we are,"  Tim muttered.

"I know where we need to be, and when we need to be there," Omega said.  "Now and There."

"We need to cross that sea,  and we need to take the bowl with us.  We need to go East.  If we go West, we'll hit wide open sea for hundreds of miles: If we go East, it's likely we will tangle with Rome, with Athens, and, maybe, Jerusalem—long before I was born," Omega said.  "But we'll be on land, and we can cope with that."

"I can make a boat," Petey said.  "We've got willows, we've got trees, we've got rocks we can sharpen into knives.  My dad was a fisherman, he had to make his own boats and his own nets.  I  helped.  I know how."

And so Petey went to work.  He whacked apart trees, he harvested willows, he wove together sails from long, green tendrils and sharp-ended leaves.  He built a platform, wide and shallow, with low-slung benches and handholds, he gave it a unique shape, more than of a dolphin that could slice through the water.  He built in holds for water and fruit, which he could find on the island, and crafted the 3 immense green sails so the boat could be steered, loaded materials used for repairs.  It had an eerie, organic feel to it, cast an odd shadow.  It sea-worthy, sturdy, more than the sum of its parts.

They were going to need it to be.  A summer storm was brewing, coming in from the East.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Golden Vortex

Standing on a low-hanging ledge, Omega was peering over the edge at what looked like the spinning of a tornado, the top of the clouds spread out over the coast line and hundreds of feet over the pretty little sea.  Dusk.  The little tornado whipped up the dust and small green leaves.  Like any view from the top of a mountain or off the face of a cliff, something mesmerizing invited a big jump into the scary.

The sun, sinking into the West, lighted Omega's skin and face, which was the color of caramel and his hair, which was dark.  The beginning of a beard gave his face the content of mystery.  Nearly six and a half feet tall, Omega was almost graceful, but there were plenty of pratfalls yet. His feet were big, nearly size thirteen.  It looked like he might be good for another six inches. He was in the clumsy but cute stage, there was the possibility for real gorgeousness.   He could top out at seven feet tall.  Jumping off the ledge didn't look like a good idea at the time, but seriously, Omega was contemplating a jump.

Over he went.

"Oh, crap!"  Petey yelled.  "Don't you go without me!  There's no telling what's out there. . ."  And he jumped.

That left John-John and six other kids  wondering what in the world they should be doing.  "We could sit here and twiddle our thumbs.  Or, oh heck."  John-John grabbed Larry's hand, who grabbed Cheryl's hand, who hooked arms with Tim, who grabbed Rick.  Julie and Suzie grabbed their boys.  In tiny, baby steps, they edged toward the ledge.  Then.   Then they were gone.

The wind howled, then screamed, then moaned,  and then it whistled.  There were no teens left to be seen.

They had jumped into a golden vortex, and the wind  spun clockwise, which created such upset tummies.  They were in a massive kaleidoscope, with the colors of sunset whirling around them, flashing lights, lightning, spots lights.  It tossed them, six ways to Sunday, and they no longer knew which way was up, which way was down, or if there was a way in or out.  The sound was enough to wreck their ear-drums.

Then they were spit out.  On a lonely, warward island with palm trees and white sand.  The sprawled on the beach, and were quietly, prone until the dizziness passed.   Which is did.  Eventually.

Gingerly they sat up.  John-John and the six kid were in a heap.  It was sorta awkward.

"Do you know where we are?"  Rick asked.

"Nope,"  Omega said.

"Do you know when we are?"  Suzie asked.

"Nope,"  Omega said.

Petey found a bowl, a ceramic, hand-made bowl, painted a bright blue, with symbols around it's middle.  "Hey," Petey said.  "These are the Greek symbols for Alpha and Omega."