Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Saw this on the ARE Forum. Seems to sum up the whole process pretty well.

You come to a solid brick wall, infinite in length and 75 feet tall at every point. You venture to touch it. As your gloved fingers move across the smooth, unbroken concrete, you stare in awe at the expanse to the north, then in the opposite direction. Perfectly level at the grade line, you wonder of its construction. "No control joints? What awesome and marvelous expression of form and stability..." until your mind considers the late 20th century technique of "slip forming." You notice something to the south, was it there before? Maybe. 200 feet away, just above head height, there is a break, perfectly rectangular. Walking over to it, you gaze up and through to the sky beyond. Their sky, the Others'.

You know about The Other Side. Your ancestors, in your youth, spoke of its mystery, the unwavering stability, occasionally a clay tile containing strange cryptic messages would come hurtling over the walls, silently and unpredictably. The tiles are mostly imprinted with series of unrelated questions. They are in your language, but none make sense. Some seem to point to an answer, some have two, three, or even four correct answers scrawled underneath. Others are short and seem to trail off. Still others are nothing more than blank tiles or nonsensical pictures. You knew a boy who ventured too close without being aware many years ago and was crushed under a slab. It was simply labelled "LF." This is why civilization has stayed away, but here you are today, making the trek to The Wall. All candidates try it, but no one has conquered it. You can pretend that you are uninterested, but the Others know the order of things, and that candidates will continue to return day after day, year after year. Your elders have told you that you can defeat them, to "toss those tiles back," but that strategy only works to the point that there are fewer impediments on the ground at the foot of the wall. Nothing changes. They still come back, they ALWAYS come back, and your additions to the tiles or exclusions seem go unnoticed. Over the years some have observed, the content changes, but the ambiguity doesn't. They keep coming, patrolling the wall, and heave the stones back. Some still ask why, but most acquiesce and continue on instinctively. You will be one soon, you are told.

You look at the hole again, it is up there, and square, about 11 inches wide and 8 tall. Maybe it is 8 1/2, but the wall, at least at this point is thin enough to allow oblique views upward. "thank goodness for forced perspective," you mutter sarcastically. You hop up, using the wall as a fricion surface, but with no ledge or handhold, you can only see if you keep jumping. Your truncated views are fair, however. You can see the ground on The Other Side. You see tiles, thousands of them. You jump again, and you see something that causes alarm, but you still jump. Up and down. Up and down. Adjacent to these lie actual, live residents of The Other Side, indulging in libation and what looks like caviar. Pilote lie strewn about. They are smaller than you imagine. As you continue to jump, one moves toward you, and speaks. It is your native tongue. Slowly and mechanically, it says "Thank you for using our guide, we just installed it, and we hope you may find it useful." Startled, you jump to the side, so that you cannot see the representative. You query, "why is this portal here?" Silence. "What shall we do with this?" No answer.

You jump again, this time farther away from the wall, in case of danger. To your great surprise, the portal has been replaced by concrete. Perfectly smooth, and not indicative of any prior disturbance. You look in both directions, and feel a lingering emptiness, which you then realize is not simply emotional, and as you look down, you know what you are going to see, in all the jumping, your fine gloves have been removed without your realizing. They are gone, and taken by Them as a barter for the information. Wincing, you remember their history. Passed down from your father, also a candidate, to help you handle the slabs without injury. Now part of the machine in full production and revelry of the slabs. Your devistation as you stare at your bare hands is overwhelming.

As you walk away, back to town to consider this bitterly ironic development, you are discouraged but curious to return, you realize that the price was in exchange for that lonely, solemn glimpse into the world of the Other Side. You alone have the expensive view, but, will it be of any help?


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