The Revolutions of Time, Chapter 09
Mutually Assured Deception
The light of the newborn sun rose that instant far enough above the horizon to shine directly into the tower's upper dome-like room, and I was awe struck by the texture that the lights created on the glass of the walls, for when it shone through at just the right height, a previously invisible picture came to view. It was of a towering clipper ship with sails that stretched across their masts like skin over the bones of a pleasantly plump fellow, the wind billowing them about at a leisurely rate. Waves broke gently upon the ship's side as the crew rested peacefully on the various cables and nets, all except for the one-legged captain who was busy looking at the map and accompanying charts. It was a quaint and beautiful scene, though it soon passed away as the sun moved upwards in the sky, and I wouldn't have mentioned it, except that as it disappeared, I found myself looking at where it had been, but instead of the ship, I saw directly through the glass the inhabitants of Nunami arising and beginning their daily business, a scene which I might have missed since I was previously wholly absorbed by the picturesqueness of the sky.
Usually the Zards would arise before dawn and be about their business, but because of the great flames of the night before, they had no doubt had trouble sleeping, and therefore slept later than usual when they finally did fall into the lands beyond consciousness. They hustled and bustled about the streets of Nunami, each doing their own business, and there was much business to be done in a city in which all provisions are provided internally, with no trade or commerce outside whatsoever. There were merchants and stores still, yet they were not traders but producers, each making their own wares as they sold ones they had already made. Butchers sat in their shops with their blood-stained aprons already donned, cobblers and tailors were busy with the day's repairs and new creations, the milkmen paraded the streets slowly and methodically, somehow getting their products to the citizens before 8 AM. The farmers and herdsmen were also at work in the fields that were spread throughout the city, plowing and sowing, and being joined by those who had just finished distributing the milk.
All was commonplace and normal, I thought, and I was surprised, for the Zards were not at all martially minded, a great contrast to their Canitaurian brethren. Of course, I had never actually met any of the Canitaurian commoners. It seems to me that the only ones who really are martially minded are the leaders and politicians, everyone else seems to mind their own business, and sometimes I wonder if there would even be any wars if there weren't any governments with the power to wage one. There was a group of Zards by the government center, which was close to my involuntary quarters, and they were leaning over an opening in the aqueduct that ran down into the lake in the southern section of the city, branching off from there into all the various sectors. They were dumping a barrel of a fine, white powder into the water that was running down into the lake, and after the first had been poured in, they added another and another until they had put a good five barrels into the water source. Once they had finished, they took the empty barrels to a large cage that was down the road a bit, inside of a small grove of trees and shrubs. Inside the cage was a multitude of little beetles that crawled around every which way and were evidentially feasting on a large chunk of glowing material. For a moment I was surprised, and wondered what it was they were doing, but then it hit me: they were the delcator beetles that Bernibus had told me of earlier, the ones that absorbed the radioactive material and stabilized it. As I learned later, they had two good uses, one was that they consumed the unstable materials and neutralized them, but the other was that their droppings, when mixed into the water supply, also gave all that consumed them a greater tolerance for nuclear material. It was almost ironic that their whole way of life was dependent on the feces of another life form, but I will refrain from turning it into a metaphor.
The female Zards wore a black headpiece that mostly covered their faces, and at first I found it strange that for all his talk of progress, the King's people still oppressed their women, perhaps there wasn't as much progress as he had boasted, or, more likely, he was unaware that there was no such thing as progress, just different manifestations of oppression. History repeats itself, they say, and indeed it does, both literally and figuratively.
There suddenly arose a great commotion in the square between the Temple and the palace, and as I looked, I was surprised to see that there was a large crowd gathered. In the middle of the square there were two groups of ten Zards facing each other, with a single Zard in between them, and around the outside of the plaza area stood a hundred or so spectators, apparently watching those in the middle. A moment after I started watching, the solitary Zard, the referee as I found out, walked to the edge, and each of the groups walked to one of the opposing sides and then turned about to face the other. The referee let out a loud yell and in a flash, the two teams ran at each other headlong, until converging somewhere in the center of the field. As they met they dived upon one another and pushed and shoved until the left team had isolated one of the right's players, who was the only one on his team wearing an orange jersey. They dived on him and jumped until the whole field was piled high with them, and then they slowly began to disembark. Once all of the opposing team's players were off of the orange shirted Zard, all was silent and still as the referee held his hand aloft and began counting with his fingers. Everyone held their breathe and stood tensely by as they watched. Just before the referee's tenth and final finger was counted, the orange shirted player rose from the ground, amidst the screams of joy from his team and about half of the crowd, apparently their fans. The two teams then returned to their respective sides, and again the referee yelled loudly, signaling them to rush at each other once more, and more of the same ensued, this time it being the other team's orange shirted player to get pounced on. Once again there was a high pile on top of him, and once again, as they crawled off and he was exposed, the referee began to count. Except that this time the orange shirted one never got up. The other team cheered again and so did the other half of the crowd. The referee went to a pole on the sidelines and put up the number '1' on it while a few bystanders picked the Zard up and carried him off the field. They continued to play in this fashion for awhile, going until one team or the other had no longer any players to be jumped upon, but I was too disgusted at their violent nature to watch, and instead walked over to the end table and picked up the telescope, taking back as I did my thoughts about the innocence and gentleness of the common folk.
With the telescope in hand I went over to the eastern side of the room and began to closely inspect the savanna in an attempt to get a bird's eye view of the point of my entrance in Daem. It looked rather the same from above as it did from below, though the smells and sounds were missing, and I found that it was rather bland once the initial excitement, surprise, and respect of its novelty had worn off. Indeed, it was quite too dull for me, even in my state of boredom as a prisoner, though I suppose that that isn't a proper description of my feelings, for I wasn't free from excitement or intriguing events, but rather, I was in the middle of a campaign of new and anticipated things, but simply unable to participate. Stuck in a room 800 feet from the ground with walls of glass that allowed observation of the whole island of Daem, which I assumed to be the only civilization in the world, while great events unfolded around me, of which I was supposed to be the primary actor, was very disconcerting, though I find in retrospect that fate worked so mysteriously in my situation that it is quite puzzling to think about, meaning, of course, my relationship with the doom of humanity as preventer and provoker, as savior and condemner.
My writing of this manuscript may be considered quite a big cheat, as it details my direct involvement with Onan, the Lord of the Past, and the general circumstances of the end of life on earth, for the current age at least, but still I am allowed to write it. Onan told me just a few moments ago that I could write it and tell all that I want, to which I was taken aback. When I asked why he would allow me to break the law of the council of the gods, he replied that there was no rule against a human agent from detailing his involvement in the actions of the divines. It was allowed, he told me, because it would never make a mite of a difference, for even if it were able to survive the bitter ice ages and all the evolutionary periods in this TAB (Temporal Anomaly Box, which I will explain later, since I get ahead of myself and have not told of them yet), and even if it is found by humans, and even if they are capable of understanding the text contained within it, even then they will take no gain from it. I was again taken aback when he said this, for though I know humans to be stubborn and foolish, in general, I would think that they would at least mind the warning when the conditions of its completion came to pass. But he dissuaded me, telling me that my coevals of the next age would no doubt take it as a novel.
At this I took your defense quite personally upon myself, and demanded in as not so humble a tone as would be thought proper, though as I am about to die within the next day or two, I have to admit that I don't give much of a damn for politics or manners. And yet, with all my ardor I was quickly subdued by a curt rebuke by my interlocutors (for Zimri was there as well), which was, quite simply, that you hadn't taken Homer for any more than a creative poet, even after a few thousand years of study, so why should my meager manuscript make such a large impact. At that, I acquiesced to them and admitted that on that end my attempt to save humanity one way or another was contemptible, but I still write, as you see, for the story's sake, and possibly for my own material immortality. But never mind that, for it is high time that I went back to my story.
I was looking through the spyglass at the various areas of Daem where my adventures had so far taken me. After I had examined them all for a few moments, I felt a strange urge to use the telescope to look closely at the mainland that I had seen before, to see what the effects of the Great War had been there. As I turned the telescope's sights toward it, I was at once surprised and flabbergasted at what caught my eye. There were living beings on the mainland, not too far from the coast. And not only that, but they were standing upright, though stooped, as if by weariness and the wiles of life, and they seemed, in general, to resemble humans, not directly, but as much as the Zards and Canitaurs did, and with the effects of the radioactive instability greater on the mainlands, it would seem natural that they would be further removed from normality than those on Daem. The land itself was barren and flat, with sparse vegetation in the forms of small, deformed shrubs and a short, weak looking grass. As I looked closer I saw that there were about six of the strange, stooped humanoids, and they were gathering the fruits of some of the shrubs for consumption. In a few moments they finished their task and began to walk further inland, and I followed their progress with interest until they finally disappeared behind some of the small plateaus that were scattered here and there among the wastelands.
Putting the telescope down, I walked over to the couch and laid down on it, with indignation filling my every move, for I was almost enraged that the Zards and Canitaurs both should fail to tell me, whom they claimed to respect as kinsman redeemer and whose decisions would seal their fate for good or ill, that there were other survivors from the Great Wars. I was also shocked by their selfishness, for while they fought pettily amongst themselves over how they would change their lands for the better, a seemingly important question about past and future, they completely ignored the sufferings of other humanoids, to whom their way of living no doubt seemed like a paradise. But there they were, stuck across the sea on their desolate lands, unable to cross to Daem and enjoy its plentiful resources and luxuries, yet not at all unaware of them, for as they labored in their hopeless ways, they could see Daem shining like a heavenly vision before them, one which they were not able to touch or grasp, but instead one that must infuriate them to no end in their heart, at the knowledge of fate's unfairness and their utter hopelessness and complete poverty, not because of their laziness or their ignorance or anything involving their actions whatsoever, but simply because they had been born on the wrong side of the sea.
At that moment I was embittered against both the Zards and the Canitaurs for their selfishness and their pretensions of morality. There is no morality where one sees another starving and suffering and does not help, when one sees a whole race of people living on a land where nothing but sorrows dwell, but will not let them share the wealth that was given one by no doing of oneself. There is no morality in selfishness, and when I saw those wretched people, I no longer felt like redeeming those on Daem from the impending doom of humanity. Whatever plans they had for me they never told, I sensed, for there was something deeply wrong about the way they looked at me and talked about me, something deeply wrong about the way they patronized me and treated me like a silly child, while I was the one who was to decide their fate. The Canitaurs and the Zards both looked at me with a subtle sense of deceit and ill will, all that is, except Bernibus, which is why our friendship flourished so swiftly. As I laid there with thoughts of Onan and the decision that I was to make, and of all the responsibility that was put upon me involuntarily, as I thought of the conflict of past and future at the neglect of the present, as I thought about the self- obsession and overindulgence that come with wealth, and the desire for still more that accompanies it, I fell to sleep and into a place where no troubles lay, for my long day and night had left in me no energy for dreams.