The Revolutions of Time, Chapter 08
The Temple of Time
I turned slowly away from where Wagner had disappeared over the side of the wall and faced my captors, the Zards. Chief among them was the King, he being a foot or two taller than the others, with a graceful and powerful pose that struck awe into the eyes of the beholder with its innate command and dignity, both of which flowed from it as naturally as water from a well. There were about twenty guards in the squadron that protected the King, but it was not so much from the terror of them that the Canitaurs fled, nor was it because of the guards that patrolled the walls and were sure to join any fray attempted, it was instead an apparent fear of the King, and rightly so, for his demeanor was fierce and sophisticated, as if he were not just a warrior nor solely a scholar, but a mixture of the two that gave him an aura that inspired fear, some unseen presence that filled the air around him and sent his neighbors into a reverencing awe reminiscent of a lover's sacred euphoria, intangible yet undeniable.
As I turned to him, he smiled and greeted me softly and pleasantly, in such a way that seemed contrary to his nature. Instead of being terrible and glorious like the crash of thunder or the din of waves, his voice was melodious, subtly so, like a soft summer rain affecting the dreams of a slumbering child as it falls gently on his face. There was a rhythm that ran through it, like poetry, yet not like average poetry, where the rhythm is forced and the lines deformed to its ungainly warble, but like heavenly poetry, where the rhythm is beyond the conscious and into the subconscious, where it inspires a feeling of quaint remembrance of itself, as if it were there and not there at the same time. And while it was soft and pleasant, it was not feminine, for it was a strong baritone, reinforced by its own superiority and strengthened by its wit and sobriety.
"Greetings, o' chosen one," he said to me, "I see that you have arrived safely."
"Yes, quite soundly," I replied, a little taken aback on two fronts: firstly that he was not angry or indignant that I had attempted to destroy his kingdom and take his life in the process, and secondly that he seemed to expect me, as if I were his midday tea partner.
"I am glad, for I would wish you no harm, though your Canitaurian friends obviously felt no such concern. But just as well, for they always were unpredictable. I'm sorry that there is no one here at the moment, or we should have a great welcoming parade for our newly arrived kinsman redeemer, but they are off at the lake, inspecting the fire I suppose. I must admit it caught me off guard for a moment or two, and at first I was actually quite surprised. I soon remembered, though, that our friends the Canitaurs would have gotten some notions in their heads of a battle, at your arrival. It must be a grand sight in any case, and not one to miss."
I gave him a strange look, for I was a bit confused myself at the attitude he donned towards me, very friendly, as was Wagner, as I recalled, though it seemed as contrary to his nature as it did to the King's. He saw the expression of my eyes, and seemed to read right through my thoughts and see my apprehension of punishment, for he beckoned to his guards to leave us alone. They moved quickly and uniformly, a well-trained unit, and positioned themselves in a line formation along the street. The King and I then strolled down their midst, they walking along with us at a distance of a few yards, which was all that the closely built buildings would permit. In a moment or two we reached the Temple of Time, which was on the far side of a large square plaza that opened up between it, the palace, and the government center. Once we reached it, he led me inside and the guards took up post around its outside.
"You need not fear," he told me when we were alone, "You are among friends here. You see, the Canitaurs were not the only ones waiting for a kinsman redeemer, the Zards were as well. That day that you were seen going into the Canitaur's outpost was a big disappointment for us, I had almost begun to think that you were beyond our reach. I am sure you know all about the conflict between us, and the circumstances of your time that brought its beginning about?"
"Yes, I do," I responded as we walked through the great entry hall of the temple, lined with bookshelves and a rich red carpeting. He was silent for another moment as we crossed into another room that led to a chamber with a long table in its center and a great many statues and works of art scattered throughout its whole. There was an altar at the far end, built into a giant statue of a White Eagle that graced the entire wall, it holding the altar in its giant claws.
He saw me look at it and told me, "This is the Hall of Time, and that is the altar to Temis, the God of Time. It is a very sacred place, to both us and the Canitaurs, for it was built by Temis himself, before the race of man inhabited the earth. By the time any men came to live on Daem, it had been buried by the dirt and debris of thousands of years, but when the Great War took place, the shock uncovered it and revealed it to men, a sort of revelation that came only as it was needed the most. Daem's war started over the control of it, and to a point still is. To a certain extent is has helped us greatly, since the Canitaurs are afraid to lay siege to us in the regular fashion, for fear that it will be laid to ruin, and then our fate sealed in flesh and bone as well as earth and stone. But come, there is something I want to show you," he told me.
With that he started over to a door in the wall adjacent to the entrance, which, as there were only two doors, was the only other exit. It led to a long, winding stair that went up to the top of the tower that I had seen from below. We walked up it in silence, more from awe of its magnificent construction on my part than fatigue in climbing its steep stairs, which wound on and on almost indefinitely. There were no windows in the tower, and only a few paintings to liven up the sparsely decorated walls, yet they needed no adornments, for they were beautifully constructed from a strange stone that split and colored in a marvelous twisting pattern.
At last we came to the top. It was much like it had appeared to be from below, for it was a large glass sphere that sat on the tower, like the dome on top of a light pole. It was divided in two, and the stairs went right through the bottom half and opened into a circular foyer that then had a small flight of stairs running up to the main room. There were little closets and such in the empty spaces on the bottom floor. The upper room was a good thirty feet in diameter, and the walls and ceiling were all made of glass, very sturdy and insulating, yet completely transparent. On the floor was an odd carpet that was smooth and thin, like a silk or fine linen, yet very strong. There was a rounded table on the side of the entrance hole opposite the stairs, and a curved couch that sat against the wall behind it, cut perfectly to its circular outline. Two cushioned chairs sat at the table and a small end table leaned up against the couch, on top of which there was a medium sized spyglass, that is, a telescope.
The sun was just coming up and shining its golden hues on the surrounding lands, which were beginning to darken as the fires of Lake Umquam Renatusum died down to a faint glow in the center of the forests of the near-north. It was the first time that I had gotten a bird's eye view of Daem, and I was amazed at its beauty. The plains stretched on one side of Nunami like a broad field of gold in the morning light, its dew drizzled grasses waving in a solemn and dignified manner to and fro like the constant beating of the earth's heart, and when looked upon abstractly it moved as if one great beast of benevolence, holding itself in unison as it chorused back the silent tones of life. Its edges draped down to the ocean like a curtain of woven sunlight on the eastern and southern sides of the island of Daem, and on the western side of Nunami the great forest came up right to its edge. There was a little of the forest between the ocean and the city on that side, while to the north there was a great stretch of trees, all the way until the ocean again came into sight in the far, far north. On the ground the trees of Daem seemed like mighty towers and battlements of nature, and on the treeway one felt suspended in air hundreds of feet above the ground on a cloud of green and growing foliage, but from afar and above they were revealed in their true splendor, shooting up from the earth as if they were the arms of the ground itself, grasping huge clusters of leaves and branches far above in their tightened fists. Some way into the forest, the ground sprang up into mountains that were as fierce and behemoth as the trees that clothed them. They were terrible to the eye and mind, as evidences of the power that exists outside of oneself.
The city of Nunami was also revealed to me for the first time in depth. As I have said, it was surrounded by a thick, tall wall made of stones and precious jewels, with four gates, one at the furthest extreme in each direction. It was a circular city, made mostly of the same materials as the wall and temple, which were a plain, silvery stone; a dark rock with inherent patterns; a mixture of cobblestone and a colorful compositor rock; and a vast array of metals, everything from brass to silver to platinum. Made in an ancient style, the buildings were tall, the average being what was equivalent to at least a dozen or two stories in the pre-desolation times, and they were close together, built along roads paved with cobblestone and lined with trees whose girth, though not as monstrous as those in the wild, was still great. There were farm fields and vineyards and orchards and meadows for grazing animals all within the city walls, and not just congregated around the outside, for there were buildings all around the wall's perimeter, but scattered among the other buildings in a natural and pleasing way. In the southern part there was a lake that was of fair size, and a fleet of fishing boats anchored at its shore showed that it did its part to contribute to the city's well-being. Several of the trees throughout the city were especially conspicuous in their grandeur, for they rose hundreds of feet from the ground and had great waterfalls flowing down from their tops, as if they were crying great torrents of tears down from their aged faces, though if in sadness or joy, I couldn't tell.
To the east there was land visible from the height at which I found myself, though in the distance it became hazy and I could not make out its distinct features. It was evidentially corrupted, however, for it had an uneasy look about it, as did the ocean, which was a faint, pale shadow of the rich blue it was in my childhood days. The sky as well was tainted, and it looked to be filled with the accumulated atrocities of countless generations. The clouds were thick and bluish, and the spherical mural of the sky itself had been greatly dried, cracked, and crumbled since my time, for it bore the marks of pain, the marks of the labor pains of the earth's last gestating doom. And well they should, I thought, for in the years since my natural life it had seen much suffering and much destruction.
The King broke the silence, saying, "Lovely, isn't it, Jehu? And it is all yours for the taking."
"What do you mean," I asked him.
"Exactly what I said, the whole world is yours, if you want it."
"All you have to do is join us, the Futurists, and we will reward you with all the power and glory that you can imagine."
At that I sobered up and replied, "But what of Onan, of my quest to stop the doom of humanity from materializing in this final juncture. He is the one who sent me, and he is the Lord of the Past, whom the Canitaurs follow. I am his agent, why would I turn from him to serve mere mortals?"
He laughed a slight, sarcastic laugh, "Tell me, Jehu, to whom did he send you, your ancestors or your offspring?"
"To my ancestors," I said slowly, "Though the Canitaurs seemed to imply that my time was long ago. To be candid, I do not understand."
"Of course you do not understand, and how could you, when no one has told you? You see, Jehu, the question of time is not so linear as you would think. You know full well that the conflict between the Zards and Canitaurs is over how to address the renewing of the earth: they would send you, our kinsman redeemer, back into time to prevent the nuclear wars, while we would send you to the future to bring back its completion. They hold to traditions as if they were the foundation of life, while our people have no traditions in the traditional sense, if I may use that oxymoronic phrase, but we look to what will come instead of what has passed. History is unimportant to the present, Jehu, because we have advanced to the point that we do not make the same mistakes as our ancestors. In the past, they waged war needlessly and did so in the name of humanitarian deeds. But today, we are advanced enough that we use peaceful and just means to reach our ends. In your day there were many absurd beliefs, for example the so-called 'fats' that were so vehemently avoided, are actually quite healthy, while on the other hand, protectionism and socialism are quite absurd ideas, and yet they were held dear. But today we have no such presuppositions, today we understand the world and know justice where your society knew only its shadows. We do not need to be bound by the mistakes of yesterday, for we have the enlightenment of today, and while the Canitaurs cling to the old time's ways, we have progressed to the point where we have no need of such traditions."
He continued, "It may seem to you foolish to follow Zimri instead of Onan, because Onan's realm has already been established and grows greater everyday, while Zimri's doesn't exist and never will, but you miss a very important point in the understanding of these matters. For, as you probably know, time and matter are the foundations of physical existence, and while the two components are independent, they are also parallel. Matter is always revolving, from its simplest form in the atom to its greatest in the universe, everything is revolving and rotating. So is time. Imagine time as a galaxy, revolving continually around the black hole at its center, that is, an enigma that is actually devoid of all matter. Time is revolving around a great enigma as well, which is devoid of time, that enigma being eternity. Eternity is not a place where there is infinite time, but rather a place where there is simply no time, it is the counter-part in the temporal realm of a black hole in the material realm. And just as a galaxy in the material realm revolves around the black hole at its center, in the temporal realm, the flow of time itself revolves around eternity. That means that time repeats itself over and over again, just as on earth a year is the amount of time it takes the earth to revolve around the sun once, in the temporal realm, an age is the amount of time that it takes the time continuum to revolve once around eternity. Just as every year the climate on the earth is similar, every particular day having its usual temperature and weather, and every general period having the same seasons, so is time. While every age is completely new and original, they all follow the same pattern, and through every age the same general events happen, though a few of the small details change from one time to the next.
"So you see, it is true that Onan sent you to both the past and the future of your original time. The Pastites would say that you were sent forward in time, because you existed in our past, while the Futurists would say that you were sent backwards in time because you existed in our future. While this would seem an unimportant question, it is not, for we have to choose one or the other. You, the kinsman redeemer have to choose one or the other. That is why you were sent, you have to decide. Our fate must be decided by a mortal because the gods have vowed to never interfere directly in our ways again. You must decide, Jehu, for you hold the fate of humanity in your hands: in all the other ages before us, the wrong decision was made, and every time some great calamity came that somehow threw the earth into a great ice age that destroyed all life for many millenniums. We know that the wrong decision was made, but we cannot tell what it was that was done. Tell me Jehu, will you join the Futurists? Surely you can see that the Pastites are just that, stuck in the past, with their obsession with traditions and legends. They are of the past, but we are of the future, we are the progressive ones. Dear Jehu, choose the future, and when the earth is spared from the great impending doom, we will set you up as ruler of the world to show our gratitude. Will you join us, friend?" he asked me with the most entreating eyes, though of somewhat doubtful sincerity.
There was a deathly silence that followed, for I was thinking long and hard about what I should do, until at last I spoke, "Your majesty, I am afraid that I will have to turn you down and remain with the Pastites. Onan sent me, and it is Onan whom I shall follow."
The King shook his head and sighed dejectedly, for a moment he looked disheartened and crestfallen, but then he again resumed his former prideful pose and said to me, less humbly and entreating than before, "Very well, I was afraid that you would do that. I have no choice now but to keep you here indefinitely as a prisoner, until such time as you realize the error of your ways and repent. It may seem improper to refuse the decision of the kinsman redeemer, but I must, for I will not allow my people to be destroyed by your ignorance."
With that he turned and walked quickly down the stairs to the door, turning to me just as he reached it and adding with an almost spiteful intonation, "But then again, what clarity of mind can be expected from someone from the unenlightened past." He then left the room, closing the door with a powerful thud, after which I heard a small metallic click and his strong, commanding footsteps fading down the long stairway. As soon as the sound had died away and he was no more to be heard, I ran down to the door and tried to open it, but to no avail, for it was locked. There was no way to escape: I was a prisoner of the Zards.