And Arpa, calling forth Milna from his side,
begat Tushupee and Ip,
Sons and equals, both naught and one,
And Tushupee was enfleshed as spider, and Ip became snake,
And they served their father along the great web of being,
And growing in power, they frightened their mother,
Who fled from Arpa while with child.
Arpa remained at the centre of the great web of being,
As his sons stretched to and fro across its reaches,
Touching every strand,
The second day.
The heat was damning. Norich no longer believed the flaming star above him was the eternal destination for Sop and his followers, but he understood such childish superstitions. It had been a long time since he breathed in the unfiltered heat. The world outside the Gateway was designed to isolate, and by isolating destroy. One dead skin cell at a time.
He estimated the steps he needed between the gateway and the directory. About three hundred stones, down into the valley. There would be evening prayers, tonight. He would be asked to leave before then.
But he would not neglect such an opportunity. And his agnosticism was only emboldened by it. The virus began spreading across his hardwiring–he could feel its chills within him, as though it were the antithesis of the sun. It was borne of desperation and conceit. Drummond had offered him a gift, and he would be precise in appreciating it.
There was no firewall in the heat of the day. Nothing to protect their gateway. They suspected the nearest camp of raiders was just outside an hour’s walk. The other gateways in the network had to address the thorny theological matter of rejecting the ones who only came to take and destroy: were they not part of the web of being? Were they unworthy of connection? Most of the time such lofty questions were sidestepped by a more pragmatic approach. Older servlets were usually the ones assigned to take the bodies inside, if they died close to the entrance.
Two hundred stones to go.
There were four sturdy buildings turned toward one another. He would pass between them as he approached the Directory–the centre of the Binary’s religious life and practice. Looming beyond was the tower. A shaft of metal, suspended by cables on every side. A thin relic of more ancient times, when Arpa was manifest. When the Host kept everyone connected.
He couldn’t admire it in the daytime. It was too damn hot for that.
What did the Cache say?
Ten cases of death due to heat stroke are described. They were all young men who collapsed during running exercise or route march and died in hospital later. Post-mortem examination was carried out in all cases. Death was due to disseminated intravascular coagulation with widespread microthrombus formation and coagulative necrosis involving many organs. Meteorological studies showed that at the time of the collapse the environmental temperature was higher than average although it may have been in the morning or evening.
This page wasn’t available on their cache, but Norich had seen the printing. He was taught it as a boy, and now he taught it to others. The sun was once a welcoming star, inviting servers to come and go as they pleased across the surface of our planet. But Sop had turned the hearts of men inward. Now the signal could not be properly received. Now anyone, without discrimination, would die from being out here too long.
So Norich kept moving.
The other advantage their gateway had, over their nearest counterparts, was the featureless ground between the Terminal and the Directory. One tunnel had been constructed, hundreds of years before Norich had even been born. But only Drummond could take that route without being questioned. At least for now. Norich had stepped out of the Terminal’s hidden entrance, pushing up the door and letting the sand slide off its surface, only to hastily rebury the doorframe and hide all trace of its existence along the withered tree line.
Then he followed the line of smooth stones. It would inevitably lead to a nondescript building with two sets of double doors, locked and guarded on the inside. And he would convince them to let him in.
Norich felt dizzy. His tongue was thick, languishing in his mouth. He felt the skin on his scalp peeling. He didn’t bring water to arouse suspicion, and he regretted it now. He turned to look back–nobody had followed, no-one had seen. Good.
The line of dead trees was another prophetic symbol of what they both had and lost, in former times. Individual things, growing and changing together–the one becoming the whole. their network was a “forest”, and it was another sign they had missed. Another form of harmony they’d destroyed. Now the dead trunks stood as gnarled reminders of their ignorance. The withered branches were desperately reaching toward one another, but they no longer moved as they once did.
And what did the Cache say?
POSTED BY MLF WEBMASTER ON MAY 10, 2014
[From “Extension Notes: Careful handing and Planting of Nursery Stock” issued by the Government of Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources]
The future of the forest is in your hands.
Choose the best site, do not plant seedlings where there are water-holes, stumps or rocks and do not plant more than one tree per hole
Make sure the hole is deep enough for the root system
Carefully remove only one tree at a time (separate roots by shaking loose in the bag) and plant immediately
Lay the roots straight down in the hole in a natural arrangement — do not bunch, twist, double-over, or bend them
Keep organic matter, stones, and twigs out of the hole (unless the soil itself is organic). They create air pockets that dry out roots
Plant seedlings slightly above the root collar swelling.
Tamp soil with the toe (not the heel) to remove air pockets
For container stock, handle seedlings by the plug (not the stem)
Plant upright and cover the plug with soil. Do not bury live branches or foliage, or leave any roots exposed to the air
Take pride in a job well done
In the night, by comparison, there would be a flurry of activity. Both the Terminal and the Directory would release people to the night. They would walk in pairs, to maintain connection. They would trade pages. Norich knew their Directory did not have a working printer, but their Gateway served as a hub for all the other Gateways to the east. Men and women were coming and going. There were four different Gateways, each within a night’s walk. But now, as he approached the white building, he saw nothing. If anyone from the unconnected world were to observe this place, they would merely see another abandoned structure. They would have no idea it was the holiest place in the valley.
Thirty five stones.
Norich was struggling to keep his feet beneath him. He needed to appear resolute when he came inside. He unwrapped his face from the scarf he wore, and put his palms upward–he didn’t want the Servers at the door to feel threatened. They would let him in–they had to. He had Drummond’s code.
Then, above the doorway, he caught a glimpse of her.
A woman, alone. Standing in white. She must’ve been near the front edge of the roof. She must’ve been tasked with sweeping off the panels? But she wasn’t moving or working. She was just looking at him.
He could only see her eyes, fixed like black dots against the whitewashed sky. A wisp of red hair descended down her forehead. Her lips were pursed in an almost smile. Or perhaps he was imagining it.
He considered waving, but thought against it. He walked forward, and lost sight of her. He stepped under the canopy, and into the relief of shade. The ambient heat was still unbearable, but something gave him pause.
It was the sound of a person whistling. The woman on the roof. It wasn’t a song, really. Just two notes, back and forth. Up and down. Every time down, she went up again, and then she went one note higher.
It sounded like a man climbing stairs to him. She sounded pleasant enough.
Norich unraveled his scarf and used the cloth to take ahold of the hot metal in the door handle. Only the interior doors were locked. Once he got inside, he collapsed to his knees. His eyelids were on fire. His body was weak. He couldn’t see anything as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.
With his remaining strength, he pronounced Drummond’s username to the attendant standing guard behind the second set of doors.
“Strawberry Fields Forever.” He said.