(01-28) Jules Evolves

An oppressive cold settled onto the high desert when the sun went down. Blue Mesa became a still life, without wind or even the humming of a passing pickup truck on the two lane snaking along the desert floor below the mesa. The silence was so pronounced even the coyotes and the night birds were just listening. Inside the hogan, the first notes sounded.

Indian Shadow played his cedar flute to the fire glowing beneath the smoke hole. He played his story, that he was father to a new race of beings, descended from people but not people anymore. He was the spiritual father, and while it all seemed like an accident to him, he had to accept the gift from the bear spirit. He had preserved the Patriarch and brought him to safety, and he would protect him here until Jules was ready to ascend. Jules had said he was ready to move into a different universe, one separated from this one by just a shift in frequency. He would ascend, he said. It was too dangerous to stay on Blue Mesa any longer.

Indian Shadow didn't understand how there could be so many universes occupying the same space. He'd always assumed that Space was distance, impossible distance, none of it hospitable to life. Jules had simply said, “No, it’s not like that."

“What is it then?” Indian Shadow had asked, thinking to be challenged by some new revelation.

“The best I can do is that it's like a radio dial, and you can move from one station to another without actually going anywhere,” he’d answered. “It's not a very good analogy but it's as close as I can get with somebody who doesn't know the math.”

Indian Shadow said. “You’re so smart.” There was a hint of hurt feelings, which prompted Jules to send a cascade of sensation through Indian Shadow's nervous system, which made him behave like he was being tickled in the ribs. He grabbed his opposite sides to cover up and bellowed a comical protest. There was a hissing like a kettle on the boil. The baby shrieked. The flute was in a slow motion fall to the floor and there were blank spaces. Time had collapsed in the face of overwhelming consequences.

There was lots of space between events. It was the moment of the incoming missile, of the tsunami poised over the beach, and inside it there was the baby calculating how much time they had, and driving the action. Indian Shadow was throwing Paris through the doorway and coming behind her, jumping into the air and coming down on the entrance to the shelter, sliding down the sloped shaft. It protected them from the main force of the blast, which was not a direct hit.

Paris wasn’t there. He'd been sure she was with him but she wasn't there and the world was silent.

He didn’t know if his hearing would come back but he couldn’t wait. Indian Shadow suddenly found himself looking down at the scene from above it. The strike drones floated on updrafts, robotic killers who served only coordinates. The first had released it’s missile toward the hogan and even though it wasn’t a direct hit, the hogan was now mostly kindling and rags. The second drone was recording to confirm the kill. The video showed two figures trying to escape. One dropped out of sight. One of the figures was literally blown out of the air while jumping into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The body lay crumpled about fifty yards away. The battery powered drives whined and the drones moved away.

Jules had access to the communication and he replayed it, sharing it with Indian Shadow. The Indian took two things from the shelter. He took a blanket, the same blanket Paris was wrapped in when she arrived with Dexter, and he took the xm8. He set it for sniper fire. “How are you at sighting through a scope?” he asked the baby.

At that moment the lights approaching across Blue Mesa went out. There were six men in the patrol and all the lights went out at the same time, so that they all knew it was not a coincidence, nor an explainable phenomenon. Their phones weren’t working, either. They were suddenly cut loose from the network that had become part of their collective brain. “We don’t have contact with control,” one of them said at the moment a bullet deflected from a roll bar beside him and slugged into the base of his skull. The other two dove out of the vehicle and one of them was still alive when he hit the ground.

“Nobody can shoot that accurately,” he said aloud, but there was nobody there to hear him. He looked at the dead man who didn’t yet know he was dead. He was still looking around for why he couldn’t move, but his brain was torn loose from his spinal column, and any comprehension was projected from the observer. The eyes turned to glass.

The survivor — for the moment — heard the other team laying down a field of fire toward where the shots had come from. He looked over the hood at the ATV as the team fired off a flare to light up the target area. The woman who shot it off went down and a moment later he heard the report of the weapon. Somebody was shooting with perfect accuracy, and had night vision. He jumped back into the vehicle with the thought of escape, but the battery was stone dead. There wasn’t even a click. The last thing he saw was a hazy, blue disc moving above him, shining a light down on the scene. At first he thought it was a chopper. He heard a voice say, with ingratiating politeness, “If it was a helicopter there’d be noise.” Then a vast emptiness opened above him and there was no more memory.

Indian Shadow had stopped firing when the two mercenaries started running away, because they had dropped their weapons and were obviously just running for their lives.. Indian Shadow had a soft spot for rabbits, and it gave him a huge boost of personal power not needing to kill them. With Jules directing the fire he was like a hawk in a field of mice. He shuddered with the excitement of the power to which he was proximal. He’d shot them as easily as if the end of the weapon was a feather reaching out to touch them. In the next instant material reality exploded back into bone blown away and flesh torn like paper, the smell of oil and cordite and blood, and then the silent sighting again, his finger as light as a feather on the trigger squeeze.

For a moment he’d assumed the light in the sky was a chopper, but then it was much too big, and it was silent. His mind shut down in the face of something for which he had no pattern. The event occurred but it did not register as part of ordinary reality. It was as if the entire scene was a recording, and bad sectors were being isolated to repair a damaged place.

He remembered the silence just before the first incoming missile. He was playing the flute for Jules, and Jules was doing something between crying and singing. Paris was smiling at him. This was a holographic recording of some kind. The top blew off the hogan and he was looking up at a light in the sky. A flying saucer would have been more comforting, because it suggested technology, and thus a reality, however advanced. But this was just light, which seemed to swirl around a vortex. Surrounding the effect was a blue halo.

Indian Shadow was looking into the center, expecting to see an object, a ship of some description, but he had the peculiar feeling he was being pulled into it and he shut his eyes. It didn’t make any difference. He was still looking into the swirl, riding along a beam of light. He had the sensation of being split into several realities. In one he was on Blue Mesa, trying to get Jules to safety. In another he was in an interrogation room. Light was shining into his eyes. Then the light resolved into an examination light and a man in surgical scrubs was looking at him like he was a popsicle.

He lost consciousness again. When he opened his eyes next he was laying on a lime green sofa near a window opening toward the sea. He pulled himself up and looked for at himself. He was wearing clean white cotton pants and a red broadcloth shirt. His feet were bare. There was something he couldn’t remember. He looked around for some indication of where he was. There was very little furniture. In the middle of the room was an elevated pond. He walked to it and looked in. There were large goldfish and green aquatic plants.

In the next instant he was on his knees in the sand, retching. The light was fading away like the smile of the Cheshire Cat, fading back into another dimension, from whence it came. There was nothing left in his stomach but he couldn’t stop convulsing. Finally he paused, there, squatting like a dog, his hands flat in the sand, and he looked around himself, carefully. He was aware that he was seeing in the dark, watching the forms of the two security men as they ran back along the road, trying to get back to their vehicle.

He picked up his rifle and watched them through the scope as they sneaked back and tried to start the engine. Indian Shadow squeezed twice more and there was nobody but him left alive on the mesa. Jules was gone. He wrapped Paris’ body in the blanket and buried her in the shelter before he went to where he’d hidden the dirt bike. By the light of the moon he left the Mesa.

Posted: Tue - September 30, 2008 at 07:00 PM