Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rebirth of a Theocracy - Chapter IV


Inside the Graveyard of the Pasts

“Anybody who tries to change society 
without examining the family is trying 
to push a shadow without moving a statue.”
Stefan Molyneux

     The simulations held by the Shaman, Cantharis de la Cruz himself, were the greatest challenge the students had chosen to face. He built up realms with countless threats to the dreamers, and to survive, one must use his bodily strength and his mind’s fullest capacity in cooperation with his peers. Courage and determination were the keys to surviving the dreamworlds to fight against the thousand threats the Shaman forged.
     They lived through a siege of their world; they fought against an ancient, lovecraftian old god, or found themselves in the Fall of Terra, being assigned to a role in the society ranging from the highest politicians in power through to cops and surveillance agents, and even laborers with only one task in their mind: to do the what is right.
     They woke up from these simulations with a newfound understanding of their world and more importantly: themselves. It helped them to achieve self-knowledge. When they found themselves in circumstances unknowable to men, they had only one solid and unmovable ground in which to stand: their own self. The self they knew was scarred and abandoned, and the orphans knew they had to learn its laws and rules to gain mastery over their fate.
     The mechanism was written by the Shaman, the ornamentation however emerged from his subconscious; his feelings, his memories and his passing thoughts. On the day of their departure, blood was dripping out of the walls below the city of Vatican, distant screams chilled the students’ already frozen bones, and demonic shadows hunted those who had managed to keep their sanity in this haunted nightmare.
     The Shaman felt all of them. They were connected to his mind, walking the dream he conjured, fighting the challenges he himself programmed. Countless years ago when his mind longed to travel into the unknown, he had studied the art of dreaming from a nameless, calm and wise pratyekabuddha, from an enlightened one withdrawn from teaching in the forests of Azirion, where countless humans hid in deep meditation. They forsook the societies of Mars after the destruction of Earth. “Imbalance in nature,” they reasoned, “destroyed our home planet. It is human action that causes imbalance in the nature; and it is human desire that drives our actions.”
     So they nullified the desires of the body, had their vital organs slowly eaten and synthetically rebuilt by regenerative nano-drones, interconnected their minds, gave their wealth to charities and with nothing but a robe and the book of Tao te Ching, stepped into the forests, never to be seen again.
     Since then, they had been waiting for the end of their lives immersed in meditation, but when the Shaman dreamed, they protected his realm with their presence to keep the dream stable and devoid of intrusion.
     He looked back to the city gleaming in the night. Storm clouds gathered above the realm and he saw lightning reaching from the St. Peter’s Basilica to the heavens themselves.
     No, it was not lightning. It deceived his dreaming mind. It was not pure light flashing in the storm, but a permanent tear in the fabric of the dream and, despite how inconceivable it was, the scar was made of pure darkness.
     The Shaman turned away. Whatever was happening there, his students would handle it.  He’d been searching for the woods to find his master, and now he faced a mountain embraced by starlight.
     Above him flew a sentinel bird, welcoming the guest. Glowing eyes peered at him from between the trees. He stood at the entrance of the forest in which the hidden presences of his dreams, the monks of Azirion lived in animal forms. As the shadows loomed over him, he summoned his ever-changing staff which he always used in simulations. As a torch, it illuminated the path he walked between the trees, followed by the curious eyes of nature’s creations.
     His first step as a lucid dreamer began with the first tree he created in his dreamworld with his master’s aid. The AI intertwined with his brain created a boundless realm within him, to which he returned each night, living in it, forming it. Now he stood before the ancient tree of his dream, its root reaching every region of the realm, its branches reaching further into heavens than any skyscraper made by human hands, and its foliage looming over the great field. The moonlight of Earth’s Luna was shining through its branches. A grey wolf guarded its trunk, and when the Shaman approached, he barely opened his eyes as a gesture of greeting.
     “Master,” Cantharis bowed. “I came to say goodbye.”
     The wolf was the dreamform of the monk who taught him the art of lucid dreaming. He was a man one with nature, his words flowing as a brook in the forest, his mind soared in the freedom and his laughter brought light to any heart suffocating in sorrow.
     He was the last Prime of Earth, who rallied millions to help him end the reign of death, and failed in thinking that the State is the cause, not the effect of the suffering. He failed in seeing the void within men’s heart, the void for violence and for ruling that he didn’t tried to cure, instead destroyed the power that filled it, summoning the birth of a thousand little states, competing, warring, destroying life on Earth.
     And so he became a monk and a man banished by his own choice.
     He oversaw Cantharis’ dreams and simulations, stabilizing them with his presence, being an unchanging anchor in a world of illusions.
     “There are humans,” the Shaman continued, “who need my help and I will give it to them. I…” his voice broke off, and then he continued softly “I am being devoured by the peace I helped to create. I want to struggle and lose hope and fight one more time.”
     The winds shrieked and the whole dream started to heave beneath his feet, the tree wavered as a comet passed through the sky.
     “Stay” whispered the winds.
     A chill ran down the Shaman’s spine. His master, who swore to live a life of observing the flow of nature without disturbing it with human action, had now turned away from his philosophy only to guide Cantharis away from a path clouded with shadows.
     His mind received a memory from his forgotten childhood. A vision from the AI to strengthen the resolve of Cantharis de la Cruz, to help him remember the man who helped him and guided him toward his goal, which was not only the liberation of Oana Rain, but all who deserved a second chance while suffering under the tyranny of the simulation. It was the memory of the first encounter with detective Clark Novaris.
     The child, Cantharis, had laid there strapped, bloody and sobbing in the Chamber of Transcendence when the detective found him. Wings, reaching from the metallic frame toward the ceiling were implanted in his back, made by electrostatic outbursts shielding and holding the countless tiny thrusting engines in place. The wings looked as if they were woven from lightning.
     Novaris opened the iron shackles with a small pointing laser heating its target, helped up the boy and gave him his long, black coat, the wings scratching the fabric as he took it up. From then on, detective Clark Novaris took care of the young Cantharis, he raised him and helped him live with the technological curses his maker Azier, had gifted him.
     His consciousness had returned to the simulation and he felt a familiar, yet forgotten feeling: the feeling of being alive inside the storm of the unknown. As the first obstacle had shown itself, he no longer felt the comforting feeling of being at home with its predictability and ease.
     Violent electric power ripped through his flash, consuming his human shell. His coat turned into dark flames. The wings of lightning ascended from his back.
     He was awake.
     “Too bad,” his voice crackled, and thunders echoed in the distance. “I came to say goodbye, not to seek guidance, my old master. There is no force in the world that could stop me,” he said while the AI in his brain looked for the worst possible outcome of his plan, finding nothing that would stop time itself.
     The wolf growled and with two swift jumps he charged towards the Shaman. Cantharis stood, waiting, looking straight into the wolf’s eyes and said, his voice soft and calm:
     “I see now the reason for your withdrawal from among us. It is your action that you fear of, not the actions of men itself. I won’t blame you; you pose no threat to us from the forests. But know that a man is capable of change if he is guided by reason. And know that a soul that emerged victorious from a battle with its own self is the greatest force a man can master. And know this: I have seen a darkness gathering over our kind, and such force may be the only source of pure light once that nightmare arrives. I have to go, whether you agree with it or not.”
     The wolf growled once again at the Shaman softly and weakly, and then went back to the tree and lay down again, sighing. Cantharis bowed at him.
     “Thank you.”
     The animal didn’t even look at him as he left. The great grey wolf watched the dancing of the grass in the gentle wind, and shivered once in a while.

***
     Men travelled through dark space to Mars, and the vessels that carried him never again rose to the skies. The loyal beasts of technology slept patiently in the Graveyard of Ships, and became homes, housing their owners. All around them gardens were built, children played in the shadows they cast, and the crooked pavement made by Martian stone connected them into one network of mutual help, caring and friendship. 
     Ana held the hand of Solaris Midsummer in a tight grip, and Raoul walked in front of them. When they walked past people, residents smiled and waved at them. Looking around, Ana felt a weight pushing down her shoulder. She realized she walked on hallowed grounds, and looked at sacred people. She walked in the heart of her colony, the genesis chamber of the values they all shared. Here lived the people who traded skills and knowledge, favors and respect, men and women who moved here when their children was born, and spent the first five years of their child, the years most crucial to human development in tranquility and peace. This was the place where the seeds of learning were sown into the children’s minds, the seeds of empathy, of trading and of the sanctity of life. A community modeled the right way of life to the smallest of their kind, and Ana felt fear for knowing that words not spoken in heed, or an action unguided by reason that she displays is an act observed and in time mimicked by the young.
     “I’m not ready to be a parent,” she sighed.
     “What?” Solaris burst out laughing. “What were you thinking of?”
     “Well, if you look around, those children keep glancing at us. If you behave strangely, they will try to mimic you, that’s what children do. So basically we are modelling a behavior to them. I’m constantly aware of the way I walk and what I do and what I say so that they won’t pick up bad habits from me. I bet they even listen to us now.”
     They looked around and didn’t speak for a long moment.
     “Way to ruin the party, Ms Mionar,” said Raoul, interrupting the silence.
     They laughed, and the children around them laughed with them. The neighborhood was quiet, only laughter and music filled the air. Cloudwalkers avoided these skies to respect the wishes of the neighbors and of their insurance firm, and so did Ana and Raoul, parking their car near the Graveyard and walking on foot through the roads.
     “These roads here, you know, have a fun story to tell,” said Raoul. “The man you are going to meet basically built them single-handed, for free.”
     “Why would he do that?” asked Solaris.
     “Well, long story short, he was a businessman, whose company was fueled by state funding. Then he became an anarchist, and spent fortunes on spreading his truth. He argued with many people, and in the end he got fed up with them asking ‘Who will build the roads?’ so at one public meeting he snapped and said ‘I will!’ And so he did, free of charge here.”
     “But why build free of charge?”
     “He said for selfish motives, to see people walk around here, when they otherwise wouldn’t, to see this Graveyard of Ships thriving with life. Well, that’s their ship right there in the end.”
     Raoul was familiar here; he grew up in the embrace of these people. His parents left Earth in the hope of a new, liberated world, only to find themselves in the grasps of the cult that killed them, but after they died, the community protected their little child.
     “They are marvelous cooks,” smiled Raoul as they approached the ship. The man stood in the balcony, smoking and enjoying the sight of the dusk. He looked down; he smiled and waved at them, and then disappeared in the chamber of the cruiser.
     They walked below the majestic, metallic wings to the back of the ship, in a path between rose bushes. Mrs. Kynia Nightwood was already there, commanding the drones to place the wooden tables and chairs handmade by her husband to an empty place in the garden. They greeted the woman, and Raoul introduced her to his friends.
       “Oh my dears call me Kynia. I don’t like the elderly titles,” insisted the woman while shaking their hands. She was energetic, smiling and tall, and had the figure of a thirty year old. “Let me finish the preparations, darlings, and then I’ll be all yours.” She dropped back her white, long hair and returned to the drones until the furniture was in the right place. “Come, come,” she signaled, to which the students sat down, the sight of the sunset to their side, and started to study the menu Kynia sent to them.
     “We have homegrown coffee, tea and marijuana, I take care of the plants personally,” said a melodic voice. They looked toward the ship to see Mr. Nightwood, a muscular man with short, white hair, but his face was clean and young. His age was visible only on his arm in the form of a tattoo, saying: “Made in Earth”
     He shook their hands as well.
     “You can call me Rade. I just came down to welcome you,” he smiled. “I hope you’ll enjoy your evening here. It’s good to see you again, Raoul.”
     “Rade, it’s good to see you too! I was telling them about these roads around us.”
     “Mr. Nightwood, how did you turn from statist to anarchist, against your financial interests?” asked Ana.
     “Oh well that is a great story. You know, the more you delve deep into affairs with the state, he more visible it becomes how evil the whole system is. And then you become corrupt yourself.” He looked into the eyes of his wife, who stood next to him. “And then I met you,” he said to her, “and we had our first child.” He turned back to their guests. “Then I knew I’ll deliver a cruel world into the hands of my kids that will turn into a nightmare by the time they will have theirs. So I stopped.”
     “Yea but how did you become an anarchist?” asked Ana.
     “Well I’ve listen to the Shaman. He was a kid back then, but he led revolutions. And when the wars came, I made sure he gets all the help he needs to gather all the good people from Earth. I built ships and so on, gave it to his movement for free, and followed his lead to a new planet basically with little to no money… but that’s another story,” he smiled.
     “All right,” Mrs. Nightwood said, “I’ll go back to the kitchen to prepare the place, and you kids just take your time to place the orders.” She smiled and hurried back to the ship, leaving his husband alone with the students.
     “Can I ask you a question, Mr. Nightwood?” Solaris asked. The man wanted to say “Just call me Rade, boy,” but when he looked at Solaris, a sudden feeling of unknowable dread overwhelmed him. Solaris stood in front of him, Raoul and Ana to his left and right like guards, behind him blazed the dusk and the dark clouds, the boy looked up at Rade deep into his eyes, not for a second averting his eyes, red eyes burning like the sun behind him, forcing the soul of its target to serve him.
     Rade Nightwood could not look away. “Yes, you can,” he answered in a state of mind that felt like hypnosis to him.
     “How did you help the State to grow?”
     “I… I funded schools that coerced children; I bribed the media not to show the wars... and the ‘gun in the room’… I funded jails…” he said, his voice pleading him to stop.
     “And why did you do these? Did you hate the world? Why?”
     “I saw violence… I was born in violence… my father was a drunk… my mother wanted him to hurt me… and my sister…”
     Ana gasped.
     “Oh my god,” she said. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”
     “So why did you helped the Shaman in the end? Why did you help the world you hated?”
     “I helped him because… I wanted to help the future… to help them not see the suffering that I had.”
     Solaris averted his eyes, and looked up to the glittering stars. The mind of Mr. Nightwood returned to reality. Nobody else saw what happened between them.
     “Rade…” said Raoul. “Are you all right?”
     “Yea, sure, son… it’s just… it’s been a while since the last time I thought about these things. Well, now, I’m sorry for ruining the mood, don’t pay attention to the ramblings of an old man. Take your orders; we’ll be preparing it in no time,” he said, and went into the spaceship.
     They sat down in silence, thinking of the man, the dusk to their right, the ship and the dark night to their left. All around them in the Graveyard of Ships the lights of the neighboring ships, one by one flared up like metallic fireflies, as their owners enjoyed the last hour of sunlight. Children laughed, smoke ascended with the fragrance of roasted meat, and far in the horizon the center of the colony was seen, where blue pillars of space-lifts opened up and closed.
     “It is a lovely place, Raoul!” said Ana.
     “Yes, we used to frequent it almost daily with my parents.”
     “I thought one would avoid the place triggering old memories after such a horrible event” said Solaris, carefully choosing his words.
     Raoul shrugged.
     “This place has an atmosphere of calmness. And…” he stopped for a second; looking at the sunset “I come here to relive the memories. Those memories are the last things that I have from them. Now,” he smiled at them “stop dwelling on the past, at least the investigation is proceeding.”
     “Yup” nodded Solaris and looked at Ana. “We caught a member of the cult. If we’d have strong evidence to prove the inter-human ties between the members, the whole cult could be damaged.”
     “You guys are taking it too far. I mean who knows what mankind could profit from them; they could be a stepping stone to humanity. I’ve heard they live in a state of simulated reality, seeing all the information around them to a sub-atomic level. They have instantaneous communication channels amongst them; one knows what all the others know. And furthermore,” she spoke faster with her eyes glittering, as she became more and more excited, “imagine if all of us were connected! Why would anyone break the nonaggression principle then? We could…“
     “Ana” interrupted Solaris’ calm voice in her mind. “You are talking about the entity that killed Raoul’s parents.”
     She fell into silence immediately, covered her mouth and looked at Raoul in shock.
     “God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know that…”
     “Nah,” he said, holding up his hand, “not a problem. Thanks for not saying out loud,” he said, looking at Solaris. “You didn’t know. And to be honest, there is truth in what you’re saying. I thought about it a lot, about the cult and all, and they might be right. Their goal might be what we should strive for, but the means with which they are trying to achieve it is corrupt. After I’m done with them, their legacy will be useful for us.”
     “I have looked up all the information regarding this Vatican simulation” said Solaris.
     “Regarding what?” asked Ana.
     “Well, it is a long tale, and I’ll tell it all later, but in short, we know that there is a virus in the Vatican that can be used as a weapon against the cult. What is it?” he asked as he saw Ana looking at him in shock and disbelief.
     “Well I only wanted to bring the subject up later, and before that, I have to tell you that the coincidence is strange, or outright suspicious, so think about it when you make your decision, but the Shaman asked the three of us, if we would like to go with him to the Vaticanian simulation for a week or two.”
     “What the hell…” said Raoul.
     “Did he say why he wants to go there? This is a way too lucky coincidence indeed.”
     “Yes. He told me a lot about that place. It is a statist society, but based on some kind of voluntary contract one signs before entering the simulation.”
     “What is the point of this?”
     “Outcasts live there,” said Solaris in a calm, slow tone. “It is understandable to a degree; those who are unable to cooperate with the principles of this world must find a suitable place to live. And I guess that’s still better than with the commies. Yet still, what a terrible fate,” he shook his head, “to accept your enslavement in despair, after you are not allowed into this world.”
     “There are some who have changed while they were there, and the Shaman wants to help them” said Ana.
     “And what will he gain from it? I mean no sane person would do it for pure altruist reasons.”
     “As I understood, he is terribly bored here. Well, you saw the simulation today, he really wants to go. And I want to go as well. I want to see these people, this world, the difference between a statist and an anarchist society.”
     “That guy… seriously… when a man is bored, he goes to the movies. But when a Shaman is bored, he helps a world to Transcend.”
      “I will go, of course,” said Raoul.
     They looked at Solaris, who was looking at the table, his mind racing through reasons how would he benefit from going.
     “I should go,” he shrugged, “though I have no reason why.”
     “Well then,” said Raoul with a smile, “luck and the gods are on our side, and the Shaman.”
     Androids began to serve the meal, printed meat and homegrown plants and fruit. They were paid workers, an AI assistant residing in a synthetic body programmed to act as a professional servant. The minds were individual persons made by human technology, working and living with their creators in the Martian world.
     They served a joint to each of them, made of genetically modified seeds of cannabis sativa, an organic plant trained to pass the regeneratory firewall of a human mind, infecting the neural system with the same sensation that an unmodified human would feel if he was to inject unmodified cannabis. The plant was specifically programmed to simulate only those effects of its ancestor that enhanced the sensation of tastes, so that they could think and sense within a rational framework, while the food tasted like heavens.
     The students ate, recalled the events of the morning to Ana, and talked about the afternoon’s simulation, their thoughts constantly drifting into the unknowable future that awaits them. When they have finished and paid, they were talking about the symbolism of the Shaman and Hypnos. “It is the pillar between worlds leaving the city influenced by the god of dreams,” as Solaris put it using the meaning of the names.
     They waved at Mr. Nightwood who, standing in the balcony, smoking, returned the gesture. There was another tattoo on his other arm, the pair of “Made in Earth,” saying: “Rests between the stars.”
     The night after dinner came shortly. The students packed the things crucial to an interplanetary journey and arranged their social absence. They froze their academy accounts and traded every mission they were working on with detectives all around the city. Sent a goodbye message to all of their friends and disconnected from the network, to greet their city without distractions.
     Raoul spent the last night with his assistant in its favorite “dress” Anilai. They, as countless other people, had a long, enduring friendship mutually benefiting both party in trade and emotional business. Raoul left his digital wallet open to his friend, since he knew that artificial minds were still underpaid in the market; lacking the abilities of an unconscious, the dream and the insight.
     Solaris Midsummer spent the evening with Lillian and his beloved one last time before departing.
     Minutes before midnight; when the people of the city were still travelling to the space station with elevators, and the dark skyscape above the city showed the blue pillars opening, the lift ascending and the pillar closing again, the rings of the elevators flying to a next order over and over, three drones flew to the top of the school carrying the package of the Shaman’s best students. A moment after, the lift opened and Cantharis turned towards the three stepping out of it.
     The gray and blue metallic falcon at the top of the academy that was Cantharis’ ship slowly rose to the sky. The Shaman and the three were watching the receding city. It was the city in which they were born and raised by the greatest of the teachers and legends, and helped its residents to resolve disputes countless times. They were departing from the city which held their memories, the parks above the skyscrapers where Solaris and Ana spent the warm nights, the skies that Raoul loved to roam, their friends and the happy faces in the streets, the jubilation of strangers all around the colony that filled their world with joy. Their heart were aching and revolting at the same time. First time in their life, the children of Mars were leaving their home planet.
     Cantharis saw the city in the forests of Azirion: a tiny point of light appeared, then another, and within seconds, the blaze of a thousand torches said farewell in the name of his master.
     The guardian of the city left the planet, leaving the joy, peaceful trade and cooperation, and a restless shadow enduring the light.



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