Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No Water
Captain Mission

My great grandfather had told me Nowater was the most beautiful place on the earth, he often spoke warmly of the natural beauty, the way the ocean and land met with the sky, the way light fell and diffused through the many trees, bounced across the water from boat to boat, he said it was gods country and whenever he spoke of it there were tears in his eyes, but god had relocated now, there was no sign of him here.
I stood upon the ruins of the lighthouse, gazing out at the salt flats. Once upon a time, in my great grandfather’s day this was all water, it was once known as Pittwater, now it is more appropriately Nowater.
The ocean was almost just a myth, gone the way of his god.
I often imagined my great grandfather’s world, peaceful and uncomplicated. Life must have been a simple equation in those days, a beautiful time to be alive. He enjoyed the leisure within nature, now we all just survive against it.

Winston pointed out to the salt hills in the distance, ‘My people used to live over there. They left their markings in the caves. I think you should still be able to see them if the salt hasn’t got in there, it’s so abrasive, might have worn the markings away.’
‘How old would they be Winston?’
‘Old. Before history, before time.’
‘Can we see them?’
‘We would have to cross the flat. Can we make it?’
I checked the sun, ‘Yeah easy. Let’s go.’
We began our descent.
Winston took the lead, I followed, one foot in front of the other, careful not to loose my footing. ‘It’s had to imagine this was all bush.’
‘Yeah all bush and ocean. It’s all gone now. Just salt.’
‘People used to live here to, there were communities. There must be homes and cars and bodies under these hills. Our cultures were very different Winston, yours lived in harmony with the land, as custodians, mine dominated it and caused all this.’
Winston kept silent, there was nothing to say.
When we hit ground level I picked up a lump of white rock, applying a slight amount of pressure it disintegrated in my hands, a fine powder trailed in the wind.
‘Salt, it’s all fucking salt now. All that’s left.’
‘Come on let’s head out there, before the sun gets to high.’
As we walked closer I could see some sort of structure rising out from the ground, in fact it was the only thing standing at a right angle to the surface. It looked man made, like some sculpture. Impossible I thought. We walked towards it, each step bringing us closer to the mystery. The sun was still low but even through my visor I could feel it’s blaze. As we approached Winston began to mumble something, a chant. I didn’t recognize the words, it was his native tongue, a song.
For a moment I wished I could take of my helmet and just feel the sunlight on my skin, I had never felt natural light unfiltered before directly from a sun, the visor had many layers of filters that protected us yet gave everything a strange monochromatic tint. I longed for the breeze through my hair and to run my fingers along the strange cathedral structure that was sticking out from the sand, towering over our heads. It was a giant rib cage, probably from a whale.
A whale.
I had seen images of them, heard their sounds on recordings but they were like a myth to me, lost in antiquity.
I had never had a religious feeling before, the numinous was missing from our lives replaced by just the brute will to survive. No one considered anything mystical or supernatural but here I stood within the ribcage of this dead creature overwhelmed by something inexplicable. It was impossible to consider that there was no more whales left, that this mighty beast had once been covered in flesh and swum freely in the earths oceans, feeding and playing, singing its own song. We killed them with our ignorance and arrogance.
‘My ancestors sung the whale song, they walked in the whale dreaming.’
‘I wish we could be as proud of our ancestors as you are of yours Winston my friend.’
Winston patted me on the back of my suit, ‘Come we need to beat the sun.’
I walked backwards looking back at the strange bones, they cast a long shadow across the salt, their points meeting at the direction we had come from.
I imagined what this must have been like when my great grandfather was a child. He said he once fished here and he spoke of sailing upon calm waters along the beautiful crystal clear rivers. He said that even though he was near a city it felt as if we were somewhere in prehistoric times.
Now his descendants live in post history in a terrible aftermath.
I thought about the other expeditions and wondered if they had discovered anything as magnificent as the whale cathedral. My cameras attached to the suit would record everything, later we would process the information and make assessments. One day we may be able to live out here again but the air is still very toxic, sun far to dangerous, the land incapable of sustaining life. Humanity would be confined to the Dome for many thousands of years but for life in cosmic terms that would be a blink of an eye. My great great grand children’s grandchildren may one day breathe clean air and drink water naturally. That would be wonderful I thought. Hope sustains life as much as water.
I looked back at our footprints, two sets across the white surface cutting the landscape like a gash upon nature. Those footprints were so out of place amongst the strange empty landscape. I followed them until they took me back to where we had landed, although our module was hidden by the white backdrop of and high ground.
It was becoming harder to make out details.
This was a form of snow blindness we had been warned about. The human eye couldn’t distinguish between the various subtle shades of white within the environment, plus the ultra violet light bouncing from the surfaces eventually swamp the retinas and the brain declares everything as white. Another reason to get over to the other side while the sun was low.
We had been walking for about two hours, I figured another 30 minutes before we reached the shore.
The sound of our breathing was all we could hear. I felt dizzy overwhelmed with the landscape and the strange feelings the whalebone sculpture had left me with.
How could something like that ever have had a life?
Where is its family?
Why was it alone, how would it feel to die out here alone?
I felt the ground rise up to meet me.

I came to in the darkness of what could only be a cave. Winston was sitting with me smiling.
‘Take it easy Jakob. Rest for a moment. You are fine, I just brought you out of the sun. We have to stay here for 4 hours then we can start the return journey.’
‘I’m so sorry I passed out. Everything just went white. Did you carry me?’
‘Yeah, it was no problem. Rest and then I’ll show you something.’
I checked my suit, nothing was damaged save for a few scratches upon my helmets visor. I adjusted the air conditioner and checked my solar cells, full power. I felt a slight claustiaphobia but my breathing exercises helped regulate my fear.
I stood up and walked to Winston’s side, he was filming the cave walls. There were some rock paintings, pictures of animals; I could see a large bird, a fish and various creatures I did not recognize. They were drawn in what must have been paint or charcoal, not much color just black and hints of fading red ochre, they looked ancient and primal but they seemed to have an essence of beauty about them.
‘Why did they paint these here?’
‘I’m not sure. Probably before a hunt, maybe to visualize what they needed in some sort of hunting ceremony, maybe they just tell a story. My ancestors loved stories.’
‘Yeah I’ve heard about the dream time stories but I never really understood it.’
‘Come. Let’s look down here. You will need your light.’
I activated my helmets light and a beam lit the way ahead. The cave took a steep descent and the ceiling seemed to rise upwards even higher. Our movements echoed as we followed the trail down. The passageway seemed to go on for a few hundred metres, Winston assisting me clamber down other more difficult areas. Occasionally we would stop to look at the markings on the walls. The images now became more abstract, symbols, a few animals but more representative of something other than a simple ‘hunting’ ritual.
There were a few numbers, and something I recalled from a class I had taken in applied theoretical particle physics and quantum math, it was an infinity symbol and some ‘closed time curve’ configurations.
I was looking at an equation, something to do with Tachions.
Winston looked at me incredulously, ‘This makes no sense at all.’
‘Let’s keep going, maybe we will pick up some clues.’
‘What do you think happened to the people here?’
They moved inland when the white settlers came. Some were killed but mostly they just moved away. My ancestors were nomads. Eventually they assimilated and the old ways were forgotten. There are a handful of descendants left back at the dome, but in another generation we will be no more.’
‘Same as my people really.’
‘I didn’t know you had a people Jakob.’
‘ Ha! They were called the Jews Winston. Now just another dead tribe.’
‘Now we have one tribe. One people.’ Winston said proudly.
‘Winston, we have always been one tribe really. We just couldn’t grok it.’
We both exchanged a smile and continued the walk.
Eventually the walls began to get further apart and we emerged into a huge underground cavern. I could make out the stalactites and stalagmites, calcium deposits, which would mean there is water here. My training kicked in, I took a sample.
The chance for life, I smiled. Hope. Nowater could reclaim its original name.
‘Let’s send a flare,’ Winston whispered making the moment seem even more sacred.
We crouched down, positioning the flare gun somewhere into the darkness beyond. A purple streak flew across the cave and suddenly exploded into a massive expanse of falling bright white light. We stood in a huge cavern, endless, there were no boundaries, no distance between walls or ceilings that we could distinguish, it was a huge expanse of emptiness. There were no visible life forms, no plants or animals, just these strange rock formations and the sprinkling of salt that had found its way inside.

It seemed almost that we were on the other side of the mirror, over ground and under ground, both the same desolation but both opposites, one without hope, one with, one without light one with, one without water one with.
Then Winston started yelling.
‘Jakob, Jakob come quick. Jakob. Look! Look! It’s impossible.’
I ambled towards him, he was looking at the wall paintings, face pressed right up close, I could see the glint of fear in his eyes. There were more drawings of mathematical symbols, some I recognized. There was a lot of physics represented here, quantum mechanics and wave theory.
‘I didn’t know the aboriginals were so advanced in their thinking Winston. Space. Time. It’s all like a dream. Dream time.’
‘I don’t know what these markings signify,’ he said pointing at the equations, ‘that’s not what scares me.’ His hand moved further along, ‘Have a look at this.’
Winston’s head beam followed direction with his head movement, over to the lower left of the equations was the unmistakable image of a whale’s rib cage. Then next to it were two people in white suits, complete with helmets and over on the highlands was a landing ship, a spacecraft. Our module. Granted it was a poor representation but it was unmistakably us.
We recorded the pictures.
‘How is it possible Winston?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t understand it.’
‘It’s not really possible at all.’
‘But here it is.’
We returned across the salt flats in silence. Both of us surrendered to the mystery, both lost in our thoughts. As we passed through the whale ribs again I felt a teardrop falling from my left eye. We climbed up on the banks of the salt hill and made our way to the module. Whatever this place was we both knew it was sacred. It was a holy place, spiritual. It didn’t matter that it was desolate, incapable of sustaining life for the next million years, maybe longer. It had a power beyond that, beyond time and space. Whatever happened when we returned to the dome, we would carry that knowledge with us always and we would tell our children of the magic of this place.

This land has a power and we would both respect it in a way that would make all our ancestors proud.
Winston and I had left our mark there, we had drawn another picture on the cave walls, a picture of ourselves, a white skinned man and a black man holding hands. We were brothers. We had thought we come from different tribes but we were the same tribe. This was our connection, this was our bond this is what made us family.
As the module left the Earth’s lower atmosphere I looked downwards at the place we had left behind.
Pittwater, Sydney Australia, The Earth. It was once home, it was once the sustainer, the nurturer, the mother to us all, and it would be again.

The end


redgrevillea said...

CM ~ this is a lovely story. I love your essential idea. It made me think afterward that the concept of 'eternity' is often bound to the erroneous idea of time stretching out to infinity. However, this is not 'eternity', this is merely thought-projection created by the thinker within the lower dimensions of sluggish 'worldly' time & past. Eternity is everlastingly present and real, and within us all. No matter what we do to the Earth, and we are on a collision course of major destruction no doubt, the divine elements of love life and truth live on in eternity. It may take millions of years to restore this planet back to the heavenly garden She is. No matter, in principle it always was this blessed garden, and always will be, in eternity.

You should have won the contest. Keep at the writing. What you convey in your writing is of deep importance, in my view.

Cheers, ross

captain mission said...

thank you for your kind words