Offered for feedback; A new story

Science and the Common Man
3,248 words
© 2015 By Og Keep (a pseudonym)

Chapter One
Alcasan’s Head

   Sarah made her way up the steep concrete steps and into a row of seats. She didn’t want to be too far back, where she would miss everything. Studies have shown, after all, that students at the back of the room get poor grades. And she didn’t want to be in the front, lest the professor call on her. She knew nothing of science, and with any luck, she’d never have to take any again, after this semester.

 

    She settled into a seat near the center of the row. Her friend Alicia followed her, settling into the next seat. The rest of the row, and the rest of the hall, filled quickly. There was a steady murmur, covered with the sounds of rattling seats, overlaid with the sound of notebooks and the occasional cough.

 

    She glanced at Alicia, who had already raised the fold-away armrest between them and had placed a fresh spiral notebook there. Sarah did likewise, choosing a bright red notebook – red for alarm, red for danger, red for read-this-every-chance-you-get-or-you’ll-fail. She selected a mechanical pencil from her bag and wrote a header on the first page:

    SCIENCE 231A, DR. CORBUS, DAY ONE.

    As she wrote, she heard an authoritative throat-clearing, and a deep, booming voice spoke clearly and loudly through the hall.

 

    “I am Doctor James Winter, and this is Science 231A, euphemistically called ‘Science for the Humanities Major.’ ” The voice rang somewhat, and it had a slightly familiar note to it. In the tone of voice came the clear suggestion that Humanities Majors were not approved of by Dr. Winter. “Doctor Corbus will be unavailable for the Semester, and I have been drawn from other, more important, tasks to replace him.”

 

     Sarah crossed out DR. CORBUS from her header and scribbled in PROFESSOR WINTER.

 

“If you are here for a real science education, you are in the wrong room. In this class we will be covering things you should have learned in High School. Or well before that.” She looked up at him, and by pure chance, at that moment he glanced at her. He grimaced, glanced at the ceiling, and resumed scanning the assembled students.

 

Sarah, however, became a statue. Dr. Winter was a stranger to her. She had never seen him nor heard of him until that moment, but he was the exact picture of the man she had dreamt.

 

It had been an odd dream. She and several other students were sitting at desks, in some sort of a cave, lit by fires and torches. A dragon of some sort – or perhaps a cerebus, and sometimes it was more of a griffin – guarded the mouth of the cave. They were being compelled to copy something that had been scrawled on the wall, over and over.

 

She couldn’t remember what they had been forced to copy. It was something strange, possibly Latin, and it struck her as cynical and faintly evil, or perhaps merely silly.

 

Winter had been there. Tall, thin, almost frail, and yet, somehow, powerful, forceful. His hair was white, and he had a white goatee. He was casually dressed, with a cardigan over an open-necked button-down shirt, and khaki slacks that seemed far too informal for school. It was as if he had been transported there from his home. In fact, there were slippers on his feet, and there was a newspaper in his hand.

 

    He approached the dragon, or gnome, or cerebus and scowled at it.

 

    “What do you think you’re doing?” he asked, with annoyance.

 

    “They are required to copy it,” the thing replied. “I don’t make the rules. I merely do as I’m told.” It extended a claw towards him, and the fearsome extremity was larger than most of Doctor Winter’s body.

 

    “This sort of thing is not allowed,” said Winter.

 

    “What are you going to do about it?” asked the thing, now in a dragon form, towering over Winter and menacing him with sharp teeth.

 

    “What do you expect?” asked Winter, as though reprimanding a badly-prepared student. He shifted the newspaper to his left hand and reached towards his belt, his right hand moving to his left hip. From nowhere, he drew a thin, shiny sword.

 

    It was rather small as swords go. It might have been two and a half feet – Sarah was no expert in swords – and perhaps an inch wide. There was only the smallest of guards, and the grip was scarcely big enough for one hand, even a hand so small as Doctor Winter’s. There was virtually no pommel to be seen.

 

    “Too blunt for me,” answered the cerebus, now three heads snarling and snapping. “That thing can’t cut my skin, even if you were fast enough to strike with it.”

 

    “Then why do you fear it?” asked Winter. He brandished it, and it shimmered a numinous light. “It is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”

 

    The students stopped their work and stared at the unfolding dispute. The thing had become a hydra, snapping from seven heads, hissing and spitting. “Stone age superstition,” it hissed.

 

    Winter didn’t reply, but his sword lopped off a head, and the three that grew from it, and the three that grew from each of those. The Hydra became a dragon, and Winter stabbed through a scaly armor plate, striking deep. It shifted again, a Cerebus at bay, backing away, growling. He stepped forward, but instead of striking with the sword, he batted its noses with the newspaper, now rolled into a loose tube.

 

    The Cerebus became a gnome. “Don’t you know who you’re messing with?” he growled.

 

    “Scarcely matters,” said Winter. “You’re done for, just the same.”

 

    As Winter made a swift motion, a downward diagonal chop towards the gnome’s chest, it vanished in a puff of smoke. He put away the sword and started to walk out of the cave. The dumbfounded students stared after him.

 

    He stopped and turned, a look of annoyance on his face. “Class dismissed,” he said. In the dream, chains fell from the students, and they followed him from the cave.

 

    Alicia nudged Sarah. “Are you coming, or not?”

 

    Sarah’s head cleared. She was back in the lecture hall, and her dream, so vivid a moment before, had faded. The hall was emptying, and the professor stood at a board in the front, erasing something. No trace of slippers or a newspaper; no hint of a sword.

 

    Sarah rose to her feet, folding down the stand and taking the red notebook with her.

 

    In the student union, over pizza and soft drinks, Sarah turned to Alicia. “What happened in the lecture hall this morning?” asked Sarah.

 

    “Well, you stared at Dr. Winter, said, ‘Oh my word,’ and then copied everything he said verbatim for two hours.”

 

    “Seriously. What happened?”

 

    “Um, seriously, that’s all that happened. What do you think happened?”

 

    “I, it’s weird. I thought… Okay, this will sound silly, but I dreamed him last night.”

 

    Alicia’s eyes opened wide. “You had a dream about Dr. Winter?”

 

    “Well, sort of, I mean, he was there. Lots of people were, and a dragon thing was making us write verses that were copied on a wall. Dr. Winter made it stop. And I swear I never saw him in my life before this morning.”

 

    “You must have seen him somewhere. You know, dreams are weird. It’s the brain’s way of assimilating information.”

 

    “What was I supposed to assimilate from this dream?”

 

    “That the faculty of this school would, you know, lead us out of the darkness of ignorance into the sunlight of learning, maybe?”

 

    “How did I dream his exact face?”

 

    “You didn’t. You dreamed probably, you know, a faceless professor-type. What Jung called archetypes, you know? And Dr. Winter was the first real person you saw who fit the archetype.”

 

    “So my dreams can’t even manage to be original?”

 

    “ ‘Fraid not.” Alicia drank the last of her soda and tossed the cup into a nearby receptacle.

 

    Sarah looked past Alicia, towards a group of students who sat around a small table, holding hands. Their heads were bowed, and black books were open on the table in front of them. They seemed to be taking turns whispering.

 

    “Now that will be annoying,” she said.

 

    “What will be annoying?”

 

    “The superstitious supercilious self-righteous. Look at us, we meet in a circle and pray. We read ancient books that make no sense.”

 

    “Are you sure it’s, you know, superstition?” Alicia was watching Sarah closely.

 

    “Don’t tell me you’re a God Freak, too.”     

 

    Alicia blushed slightly. “I was, when I was younger. Now I don’t know. It’s like… you know, something still holding onto me. I don’t think I believe it but I don’t think I don’t, you know.”

 

    Sarah raised her eyebrows and grinned. “You don’t think you believe it but you don’t think you don’t you know?”

 

    “Okay, I don’t know, okay? I was raised that way.” She nodded her head towards the prayer circle. “But… Well, college would probably be a lot more fun if I didn’t suspect that somebody up there didn’t approve of everything I did. Like parties and boys and you know, whatever. Anything fun, you know.”

 

    “So throw off your chains and come out of the cave. Maybe that’s what my dream was about… Getting you out of your ignorant superstitious cave and into the light of common sense and reality.”

 

    “Doctor Winter said that you have to hold a reasonable world-view and you have to know what you believe and why you believe it.”

 

    “And being a scientist, he’d probably disapprove of you believing in superstitions.”

 

    “But he said that you shouldn’t dismiss an idea until you know what’s wrong with it. He said that that’s what Science is all about, you know, figuring out what’s a reasonable thing to believe about things. Like this cat thing, with a box, you know. It’s ridiculous, but it’s true. There’s no such thing as zombie cats.”

 

    “I have absolutely no idea what you’re on about.”

 

    “It’s in your notes.”

 

    “I didn’t take any,” Sarah said, flipping open the red notebook. She pointed to the page where she had written her header, only then noticing that it was followed by several pages of fine handwriting. Her handwriting. Notes. Copious notes.

 

    “No, just every word,” said Alicia. “Gotta go. Gym in fifteen. Want to meet up this evening after classes?”

 

    Sarah nodded assent, and Alicia walked away, pausing near the bookstore before wandering off. Sarah continued to stare at the Jesus Freaks. One of them, a pretty girl with long black hair, noticed Sarah’s stare and got up.

 

    “Hi,” she said, approaching Sarah’s table. “I’m Brittany. I think we have calculus together. Want to join us?”

 

    Sarah looked up at the Asian-American girl with a combination of puzzlement and scorn. How could a smart girl – Asian, and taking advanced calculus – believe in that stuff? Or, for that matter, be named Brittany… Seriously?

 

    “Um, no thanks,” said Sarah.

 

    “You’re not religious?” asked Brittany.

 

    “Um, no. And I don’t want to get Bible-thumped, thanks.”

 

    Brittany took a step back. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.” She turned back to her friends, who had their Bibles open and seemed to be discussing some passage.

 

    Sarah shook her head in annoyance and looked down at her science notes. “Science,” she read in a murmur, “Is the process of creating educated guesses and testing them until we discover the truth.”

 

    She stole another glance at Brittany, who was now carefully ignoring her. If Brittany had applied science, thought Sarah, she would not now believe in a stone-age god. How could people keep such incompatible ideas in their heads?

 

    In a different part of the college, a small office that was one of several small offices surrounding a smallish conference room, Dr. Winter was thinking about the morning’s lecture. He had hit all of the basics: What science is, and what science is not; that science is a way of life, almost a philosophy; that great minds used science in every day life. He had talked about why we have to test the ideas in our heads, and why science is important even for those who would never be seen in a laboratory after college.

 

    No, he hadn’t left anything out. That wasn’t what was troubling him. He was feeling uneasy, and he wasn’t sure why. It had started the previous night, as he was sitting at home reading the newspaper. There was danger, and there was a strong need for something.

 

    It had to do with that girl. The one he had recognized in the lecture hall; the one who had seemed familiar; the one who seemed startled by his appearance. Or maybe it was just first day jitters.

 

    The girl was probably just afraid she’d have to learn some science or do some maths. She probably hadn’t been startled at all. And in Winter’s extensive experience, the class would dwindle by at least thirty percent in the next two lectures. No doubt this girl would be among them. No need to concern himself with her.

 

    Maybe he was simply reaching an age where everyone looked like someone he had known, ages ago. That would explain the feeling of familiarity when he glanced at her. He looked at his watch then compared it to the electric clock above his door. Seventy-two more minutes of office hours, as if the students had actually absorbed enough watered-down science to have questions already.

 

    He sighed and reached for a book.

 

    Alicia stretched her tendons and thought about her classes. Calculus was going to be a problem. Integrals, deriviatives. If this equation is true, then that equation with fewer variables had to be true. And this other equation gave you the area of everything below the line in that graph. It was like black magic, honestly.

 

    She shouldn’t have to take calculus. It wasn’t like it helped her English Literature major. She should ask her counselor why she needed to take it. She stepped out onto the track, in the outermost lane, and began to walk, slowly at first, then quickly, rising up into a jog as she entered the first turn.

 

    It would certainly be helpful for science, with all the equations and calculations that Doctor Winter had mentioned. Kinematics, he had said. She remembered that because it was about motion, like kinesthesiology, the study of human motion. Her roommate was studying that. Sports medicine, or something.

 

    Second turn, second straight, third turn.

 

    “Science…is the process… of creating … educated … guesses…” she whispered, “And … testing them… until … we discover … the truth.”  It was simple that way. She had thought science was about having to know everything there is to know about laws of nature and pressure and forces and vectors and all that. Measuring things and dissecting frogs. But Dr. winter had made it sound like a philosophy, or a way of life.

 

    Her footfalls and her breathing pattern fell into a steady rhythm, allowing her to keep pace with her thoughts. Dr. Winter would hate that. Being associated with philosophy? A humanity? Not from the tone he used when he mentioned the humanities. She had a momentary vision of Dr. Winter living in a monk’s stone cell, writing equations on a scroll with a quill pen. As inhuman as a cloistered friar.

 

    But he did seem to embrace science as a way of life. The thought resonated, as if some part of her mind realized something as she thought those words. Science is a way of life. That’s a good thought. She might use that in the term paper.

 

    Back in the student union, Sarah looked at her notes with dismay. A term paper? She would have to write a paper explaining how science related to her field of study? Holy guacamole. How do you relate science to Communications? Short of explaining the physics of a television camera, that is. Science for Humanities Majors was meant to be an easy A and meet the laboratory science requirements. It wasn’t supposed to be hard work.

 

    The holy rollers had stopped reading and were softly singing. Something jazzy and repetitive about oil for their lamps, they prayed, hallelujah. Argh. Sarah softly slammed her books and stormed away.

 

    At seven sharp, Doctor Winter closed his book. He didn’t need to look at the clock. He had read precisely one hundred pages, which meant that seventy-two minutes had passed.

 

    “Selah,” he muttered to himself, as he got up and closed the door. Time to go home and put his feet up. But as he turned to pick up his satchel, he realized that the sense of foreboding had returned. There was work to be done. He sighed and sat down.

 

    Alicia, freshly showered after her run, and dressed in an outfit she hoped would be not overly revealing but wouldn’t actually repulse boys, knocked on Sarah’s door. Sarah was waiting, and needed only to grab her bookbag before they scampered off for dinner somewhere, followed by the library.

 

    Brittany sat on the bed in her dorm room, her feet crossed beneath her, eyes closed in the silence. Her heart was heavy. She drew a deep breath and let it out again. Sarah, that was the girl’s name. The one from calculus class, and from the student union. The one that she had felt a strong compulsion to speak to. The one who had rebuked her.

 

    “I come to you,” she said, “An unworthy petitioner, seeking an unreasonable gift, in defiance of all logic and all hope. I look to you, not as I imagine you to be, in some vain form of stone or wood, but as you know yourself to be, in Spirit and in Truth. You know already my petition, but you would have me give voice to it, nonetheless, that when it is done, I may know that it was you, and not some coincidence, which cause this to be done.

 

    “And having dare thus far to speak in foolishness, I will voice one more thing, and will cover my mouth: I call for you to appoint a time when you shall call out to Sarah Miller, and draw her to your side.

 

    “In the name of Yeshua HaMaschiah, I pray, Amen.” Of late, Brittany had adopted the affectation of referring to Jesus Christ by the most likely Hebrew rendering of His name, Yeshua, coupled with the phrase, “The Anointed,” also in Hebrew.
 

   On the one hand, she reasoned that Jesus would recognize and respond to His name in any tongue, or even in wordless thought, but she did it from a combination of pride at knowing an esoteric detail, and a feeling of intimacy in speaking to God by His more obscure name.


She saw this, of course: her pride as a failing in her prayers. Even her fancy preamble probably had God rolling his eyes at her. She could have prayed the same prayer in a single sentence, and expressed the same thing: “Please, God, reach out to Sarah.” But her prayers, she reasoned, were a matter between her and God, and so long as He was not objecting, her prayers were properly made.


Having prayed for one who rebuked her, she felt the burden lift a little. Then, with no forethought at all, she blurted out another phrase: “Lord, use me to reach Sarah.”

Comments

  • Alrighty...

     

    Thoughts on the dream sequence? Too obscure, too transparent, too strange, too familiar, too obvious?

     

    Thoughts on the sliding perspectives?

     

    Thoughts on the subject matter?

     

    Thoughts in general?

     

    (I know you're all out there: I can hear you breathing).

  • Leave it up please. Will read tomorrow early afternoon and give feedback.

     

     

  • I'll start by saying that the sliding perspective worked very well for me. I think I might have stayed out of Sarah's head a little more at the beginning, as it gave the impression we'd be with her consistently, so the change to multiple perspectives was a tiny bit jarring, but once I got over it, I found the motion enjoyable.

     

    The dream sequence was a little to "real" to me, if that makes sense. It felt like something that may have actually happened (which I suppose could be possible) rather than a hint or a clue. 

     

    One thing I really liked was the dialog. Often, particularly in something still being drafted, I find dialog to be stilted or flat. These characters all had voice, they had immediate depth, which is no easy task to achieve, even after numerous revisions.

     

    It's an interesting premise, and based on this, I'm curious to see what lies around the next bend, so I guess as a first chapter, the goal is being achieved.

     

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Hmm...I actually thought it was brilliant. Became more compelling and interesting as it progressed. Fantastic speed, moving one along, and great juxtaposition of voices and narratives.

     

    With regard to change, I would remove "authoritative" completely.

     

    Very enjoyable. It reminded me of the movie "God Is Not Dead" and the  novel "In His Steps."

     

     

     

     


  • Maggie wrote:

    Hmm...I actually thought it was brilliant. Became more compelling and interesting as it progressed. Fantastic speed, moving one along, and great juxtaposition of voices and narratives.

     

    With regard to change, I would remove "authoritative" completely.

     

    Very enjoyable. It reminded me of the movie "God Is Not Dead" and the  novel "In His Steps."

     

     __________________

     

    I did have "God's not Dead" in mind when I started thinking about this story... or when it started forming in my mind... but I thought that there were a few things in GND that could have been done differently. In that film, the struggle was presented as Science versus Faith, when in fact, Science and Faith are not antithetical.

     

    That's one of the things I want to get across: That science and faith can go together. We will later hear Dr. Winter challenging students on why they believe that Science excludes religious faith, and vice versa. I might even have him drag in the Australia arguments from Caveman Apologetics.

     

    One consistent bit of feedback that I got on Caveman Apologetics was that some chapters were hopelessly dry (especially chapters one and two) so part of my thought here is that giving a story line to the argument, and giving several voices speaking from several perspectives will make the difficult parts easier to handle. Ideally, I'd like to put the entire discussion out on the table for the readers... Give them Bertrand Russell and G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain and Hawking and Dawkins and Dorothy L. Sayers and Kafka and Solomon and Tolstoy, and let the great minds battle right in front of them.

     

    I want to make people really seriously think about Tolstoy's one bridge between the finite and the infinite, or compare C.S. Lewis' Argument by Desire with Kafka's Before the Law. I want them to have one moment -- just one moment -- when intellectual pretensions and sarcasm are stripped away, and they have to ask a simple binary question: True or False?

     

    Maybe I'm aiming high. But we'll see what comes of it... Expect this book in paperback around ... oh, 2017 or so... Smiley Happy (maybe sooner if I get to work and stop messing around...)

     

    Thanks for the feedback. It's rough: I spotted several typos and repetitive phrases in re-reading it just now... argh.

     

    I appreciate the good words. Smiley Happy


  • Paul_Lulu wrote:

    I'll start by saying that the sliding perspective worked very well for me. I think I might have stayed out of Sarah's head a little more at the beginning, as it gave the impression we'd be with her consistently, so the change to multiple perspectives was a tiny bit jarring, but once I got over it, I found the motion enjoyable.

     

    The dream sequence was a little to "real" to me, if that makes sense. It felt like something that may have actually happened (which I suppose could be possible) rather than a hint or a clue. 

     

    One thing I really liked was the dialog. Often, particularly in something still being drafted, I find dialog to be stilted or flat. These characters all had voice, they had immediate depth, which is no easy task to achieve, even after numerous revisions.

     

    It's an interesting premise, and based on this, I'm curious to see what lies around the next bend, so I guess as a first chapter, the goal is being achieved.

     

    Thanks for sharing!


    Great feedback. Thanks!

     

    I felt that I needed to be inside Sarah's head through the dream sequence, at least, but I didn't want to stay there too long, because I didn't want to lose my authority as the omnisicent storyteller. I can try to draw that back a bit, I suppose, and tread a bit lighter, or give us a flash into Winter's mind somewhere in there.

     

    I was given a bit of advice on dialog recently, and that was to give each character a tone or affectation that distinguishes their speech. Alicia will lean heavily on Okays and Y'knows, while Sarah will be more precise, Brittany a bit pedantic, and Dr. W. absolutely stern. I'm glad that it seems to be working, at least for now.

     

    I do have to say that if shape-changing gnome / hydra / cerebus / dragon creatures seem too real to you, I'm worried... Smiley Happy

     

    But, in fact, I did want Dr. W. to seem homely, commonplace, and ordinary, while the cave, the sword, and the dragon-thing seemed fantastic and strange. I can work in some more fantastic elements, I suppose. I'm hoping to get a lot of mileage out of that dream ...

     

    Thanks, again, Paul.

  • Just one more comment: I think it would sell more (and find its true audience) as "God and the Common Man."

     

     

  • I enjoyed this. It was a very attention getting first chapter!

     

    I agree with others in that, if you are going to switch POVs, you'll need to not stay in Sarah's head so much during the first part. The reader will be thrown off by the sudden switch. I think you can accomplish this by having the dream at the very beginning as a sort of eerie/attention getting first part that lures the reader in, and when you have Winter enter, you can make Sarah immediately react to his appearance (to let the reader know that the dream was hers).


    All in all, it was an enjoyable read! I liked the supernatural sort of air you added to everything with the dream, Winter contemplating in his office, and Brittany.

  • This is general >>

     

    I prefer present tense because it makes it feel as if one is not just reading a story, but are perhaps witnessing it. Of course I expect other tenses to be used when the need arises. Thinking/talking/flashbacks about/to the past for example. I am also not keen on First Persons as if one is the person. I find it annoying when the First Person keeps changing also! When I write I stick to, for example, only knowing what the main character is thinking (even though it's not First Person.) It seems more realistic than knowing what is in everyones' mind, unless the main person is a mind reader of course ...


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    This is general >>

     

    I prefer present tense because it makes it feel as if one is not just reading a story, but are perhaps witnessing it. Of course I expect other tenses to be used when the need arises. Thinking/talking/flashbacks about/to the past for example. I am also not keen on First Persons as if one is the person. I find it annoying when the First Person keeps changing also! When I write I stick to, for example, only knowing what the main character is thinking (even though it's not First Person.) It seems more realistic than knowing what is in everyones' mind, unless the main person is a mind reader of course ...


    I think that you have a point (on the top of your head Smiley Tongue ) in that sliding perspective can be annoying when it is done wrong. I read one story that involved several different POVs in which people saw a man jump off of a cannon in a park. I couldn't get through the first chapter of that one, though others told me that they loved it.

     

    On the other hand, Tolstoy used sliding perspective throughout War and Peace, to good effect; Solzhenitsyn used it well in The First Circle, and so forth. That is the sort of subtle shifting that I had hoped to emulate (again, setting the sights high), and not the choppy jerky mental cinematography of the cannon-jumper scene.

     

    First person should not shift: "I / me / my" means the protagonist and no others, so far as I'm concerned; but in my authorial omniscient storytelling here, I wanted to be able to bring out each person's thoughts. First person limits you to being inside one person't head; every other action must be interpreted through what that person knows and sees. It can be limiting. I wanted more freedom.

     

    The tools must be chosen according to the purpose and the intentions. I hope that the finished product will justify the tools used to create it.


  • MLCrabb wrote:

    I enjoyed this. It was a very attention getting first chapter!

     

    I agree with others in that, if you are going to switch POVs, you'll need to not stay in Sarah's head so much during the first part. The reader will be thrown off by the sudden switch. I think you can accomplish this by having the dream at the very beginning as a sort of eerie/attention getting first part that lures the reader in, and when you have Winter enter, you can make Sarah immediately react to his appearance (to let the reader know that the dream was hers).


    All in all, it was an enjoyable read! I liked the supernatural sort of air you added to everything with the dream, Winter contemplating in his office, and Brittany.


    Thanks.

     

    I wanted a subtle sense that something was happening behind the scenes, so it worked well then.

     

    I might need to put a pre-scene in a different head, to hint that perspectives will change... :Smiley Happy

  • On the other hand, Tolstoy used sliding perspective throughout War and Peace, to good effect; Solzhenitsyn used it well in The First Circle, and so forth. That is the sort of subtle shifting that I had hoped to emulate (again, setting the sights high), and not the choppy jerky mental cinematography of the cannon-jumper scene.

     

    It can work, as if the writer had 'interviewed' all involved, otherwise he would have no idea about their thoughts.

     

    Look at it this way. If a main character is face to face with, say, a gunman, he/she would in reality have no idea what the gunman is thinking. That some writers also say what the gunman is thinking is wrong in my view, and can even spoil what is about to happen.

     

    First person should not shift: "I / me / my" means the protagonist and no others, so far as I'm concerned; but in my authorial omniscient storytelling here, I wanted to be able to bring out each person's thoughts. First person limits you to being inside one person't head;

     

    That suits me. I like to write as if I am the main character and I usually only have one (in the personality of that person of course) which means I only know what is inside the mind of that one person. It's not as if you know what people you get involved with are thinking is it? It's rarely used in TV and film either, and I see no reason the written word should be different.

     

    every other action must be interpreted through what that person knows and sees. It can be limiting. I wanted more freedom.

     

    Real life, even if it is in fiction, and even in SF, is limiting in many aspects. Taking that into account should make a story more realistic.

     

    The tools must be chosen according to the purpose and the intentions. I hope that the finished product will justify the tools used to create it.

     

    As do we all.


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    On the other hand, Tolstoy used sliding perspective throughout War and Peace, to good effect; Solzhenitsyn used it well in The First Circle, and so forth. That is the sort of subtle shifting that I had hoped to emulate (again, setting the sights high), and not the choppy jerky mental cinematography of the cannon-jumper scene.

     

    It can work, as if the writer had 'interviewed' all involved, otherwise he would have no idea about their thoughts.

     

    Look at it this way. If a main character is face to face with, say, a gunman, he/she would in reality have no idea what the gunman is thinking. That some writers also say what the gunman is thinking is wrong in my view, and can even spoil what is about to happen.

     

    Skoob_Ym: But that's just it. I am the writer, not the main character. I am not Sarah (I hope); but I want to express not only what she shows to others but also the inner workings of her mind. I, as the writer DO know what's going on inside the character's mind -- all of their minds. I don't have to tell the reader what Sarah or Brittany or other characters are thinking; that's none of their business unless I tell them.

     

    First person should not shift: "I / me / my" means the protagonist and no others, so far as I'm concerned; but in my authorial omniscient storytelling here, I wanted to be able to bring out each person's thoughts. First person limits you to being inside one person't head;

     

    That suits me. I like to write as if I am the main character and I usually only have one (in the personality of that person of course) which means I only know what is inside the mind of that one person. It's not as if you know what people you get involved with are thinking is it? It's rarely used in TV and film either, and I see no reason the written word should be different.

     

    Skoob_Ym: It's difficult to use the authorial-omniscient viewpoint in film or TV, yes, you're right. It's not easy to even use First Person in TV or film. It's a different medium. Of course, there are some shows that have done wonders at letting us know what's happening inside characters' minds. A wonderful example: BBC's show Sherlock. Brilliant show. Sliding perspective, somewhat, though we get more of Sherlock's mind than anyone else's.

     

    every other action must be interpreted through what that person knows and sees. It can be limiting. I wanted more freedom.

     

    Real life, even if it is in fiction, and even in SF, is limiting in many aspects. Taking that into account should make a story more realistic.

     

    Skoob_Ym: But our goal -- well, mine, haven't the foggiest what yours are -- my goal is to go beyond merely reciting a series of events. I'm not in this to entertain the reader; that's just a means to an end. I want to express ideas to the reader -- put things into his or her head that don't easily slip out. I want the reader to walk away either lost in thought at what he has realized or angry at where he disagrees with me.

     

    This might sound pretentious, so remember that this is my intention, and not what I claim that I can do (others will decide if I've succeeded): I want this to be a work of art. I want people to be arguing about this book when I'm dust beneath their feet. I want this book to be burned by some and snatched out of the ashes by others. That's the goal: A timeless work of art.

     

    And in my opinion, Art becomes Art when it stops mimicking reality and begins to tell us what's beneath that reality. Remember Picasso, and those crazy sketches where you see a woman's ear next to her mouth next to her profile next to her eye, in a jumble of shapes and lines? Well, that's what Picasso was trying to do: He was trying to show us not just what the woman looked like, but what she looked like from all angles -- who she was beneath the surface sketch.

     

    And that's what I want to do in this story, but without the jumbling and mixing up of parts.

     

    The tools must be chosen according to the purpose and the intentions. I hope that the finished product will justify the tools used to create it.

     

    As do we all.


     

  • Does this preamble fix the problem of expecting to stay inside Sarah's head the entire time?

     

    _______________

     

     

    Chapter One

    Alcasan's Head

     

    Dr. Winter hung up the phone, annoyed and perturbed. How could they expect him to teach that course? It was an insult, a slap in the face to real science, and it defeated the purpose of requiring a laboratory science. He sighed. It wouldn’t be difficult: He had helped write the syllabus. It would merely be annoying.
     

    He rolled his eyes and steeled his resolve. Sometimes our trials are not difficult, but merely irksome. He picked up his satchel and turned towards the lecture hall.

     

    Sarah made her way up the steep concrete steps and into a row of seats. She didn’t want to be too far back, where she would miss everything. Studies have shown, after all, that students at the back of the room get poor grades. And she didn’t want to be in the front, lest the professor call on her....

  • Skoob_Ym: But our goal -- well, mine, haven't the foggiest what yours are

     

    To tell an interesting and believable story that keeps peoples' attention, even in SF.

     

    -- my goal is to go beyond merely reciting a series of events. I'm not in this to entertain the reader;

     

    You are not? So you are writing non-fiction then? An entertained reader keeps reading. This is what Entertain means >>

    Provide (someone) with amusement or enjoyment.  Give attention or consideration to (an idea, suggestion, or feeling). I feel sure you are writing with that aim.

     

    that's just a means to an end. I want to express ideas to the reader -- put things into his or her head that don't easily slip out. I want the reader to walk away either lost in thought at what he has realized or angry at where he disagrees with me.

     

    That can also happen with entertaining stories. There's a lot of philosophy in mine, but also enough other stuff so as not to preach or to insult a reader's intelligence, and to keep them entertained.

     

    This might sound pretentious, so remember that this is my intention, and not what I claim that I can do (others will decide if I've succeeded): I want this to be a work of art.

     

    Oh. I don't think anyone writes or has written with that intention. If such a label is attached to words then it's by enough readers saying that it is, and people have so many different ideas on what is 'art' and what is just a 'normal' story.

     

    I want people to be arguing about this book when I'm dust beneath their feet. I want this book to be burned by some and snatched out of the ashes by others. That's the goal: A timeless work of art.

     

    Well, good luck with that. Usually to achieve anything like that a book has to be added to the statutory reading list of the school system and to have been on that list for years.

     

    And in my opinion, Art becomes Art when it stops mimicking reality and begins to tell us what's beneath that reality.

     

    My idea of art is extreme skill in the creation of it.

     

    Remember Picasso, and those crazy sketches where you see a woman's ear next to her mouth next to her profile next to her eye, in a jumble of shapes and lines? Well, that's what Picasso was trying to do: He was trying to show us not just what the woman looked like, but what she looked like from all angles -- who she was beneath the surface sketch.

     

    Well, in reality, when the camera was invented most artists of that time lost their earnings, so they came up with something a camera could not capture (not having Photoshop) and Picasso was very rare in that he made a lot of money while alive, many of them lived in poverty (unless they also had a day job) and their works did not increase in value until they died. But you also use War & Peace as an example of classic writing, but that's a real as one could get. It told it as it was, as many classics do. Dickens for example.

     

    And that's what I want to do in this story, but without the jumbling and mixing up of parts.

     

    It sounds as if you are just writing for yourself. I also write what I enjoy and like to read, but it has to be kept in mind that many others also have to enjoy it, and for many reasons. I have a fair idea of what that is because I have always read a novel a fortnight  Smiley Happy

     

     

  • All I can really offer is an example.

     

     

    “Come on, wake up.” Someone wants her.

    “Wake up. NOW!” The voice slowly drifts into her deep deep sleep.

    “Come on, girl.”

    Lilium’s subconscious at last hears and eventually gives her a partial kick, the bizarre, vivid, terrible dreams, nightmares, starting to drift away.

    “Wake up girl. We know as well as you do that it has now worn off.”

    Assumingly the voice means the coma.

    The insistent sound penetrates her fully even though she doesn’t know what has worn. Subconscious gives way to semiconscious, horrendous visions of falling into a metaphorical pit of Darkplane fading if not fully forgotten.

    “What? get up again? is it that phase already?” thinks Lilium, who’s mouth has not yet slipped into gear, along with her brain.

    Still recumbent, eyes still closed, awaiting to be reminded that they are connected to her brain and supposedly under its control, which itself is now becoming almost wide awake feeling alive if not vital, thinks more - “it doesn’t feel a split since you last awoke me.”

    With the extra thought in the back of her mind that she does not recall how she got back here never-mind getting into her nest. She does recall puzzling dark and light dreams of blood-soaked clothing and broken body, tall dark voices shouting, lower down dark snarling. Dreams almost but not enough left in sleep as dreams normally are. Strange dreams the like of which she has never had before, but now fading.

    The even-tempered controlled-calm voice is indefatigable, “come on, NOW, you should be fully recovered by this time. You ARE fully recovered, so, then, who are you? What were you doing? Why?”

    Lilium being one of life’s innocents has no cause not to giggle, so she does, in still the same sweet if no longer magical way.

    She thinks - “what odd phrases and stupid questions! Stop tricking around!”

    She is amazed at Flowerclock’s (“Who it must surely be” aside-thinks Lilium) clever voice, trying to trick her and at least bewildering her for a short instance. Flowerclock is not renowned for her sense of humour. In fact she has never been known for one.

    “But there is a first time for everything I suppose” thinks Lilium.

     

     

    Other writers don't use quotation marks around thoughts, but I just thought it made them more obvious from the rest of the text.

  • That's certainly a start, and I've read books that started much worse.

    I don't mean that I don't intend to entertain; I mean that I do not intend Merely to entertain.

    You and I have different concepts of what it means that writing is great art. You seem to mean that it is popular and told well; I mean that it tells us something about what it is to be human. Surely one of the great human questions is: Why am I here? What if anything am I supposed to be doing? How can I know?

    And it is by dealing with those questions that I hope to make art.
  • That's certainly a start, and I've read books that started much worse.

     

    Did you mean my sample? It's not a start but well in to a story. What precedes it makes it all clearer. And what do you mean worse?!!

     

    I don't mean that I don't intend to entertain; I mean that I do not intend Merely to entertain. You and I have different concepts of what it means that writing is great art.

     

    Not just us to. As I said, there's possibly as many ideas as to what is great art as there is art.

     

    You seem to mean that it is popular and told well

     

    Being well told could make it popular. Or at least make the writer's further stories popular.

     

    I mean that it tells us something about what it is to be human.

     

    And can that not be well told as well as entertaining? But it will be only saying what it is to be the people in your story.

     

    Surely one of the great human questions is: Why am I here? What if anything am I supposed to be doing? How can I know? And it is by dealing with those questions

     

    Again, that will only apply to the people in your story. But, no one has the answers to those things on a human scale. Then again I do. We are just the vessels for the passing on of DNA.  Smiley Happy

     

    that I hope to make art.

     

    Some also thing that the Twilight Saga is art.

     

    Anyway, we digress.


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    Some also think that the Twilight Saga is art.

     

    Anyway, we digress.


    Does the Twilight saga tell you something about what it is to be human? It seems to me that it would say more about what it is to be vampire, or to be werewolf. But perhaps it says something about what it is to be human by contrast.

     

    Here's what I'm getting at, and I don't for one second expect you to agree: When Kafka writes about hopeless situations and despair, he is saying that that's part of being human. For him, unfortunately, it was the greater part, and I would argue with him that life need not be hopeless. But that's what he told us about life, and I think his works rise to art.

     

    Popular? Well, among philosophy geeks and literature nerds and folks who like the idea of using a bucket as transportation. But really, no. Well written? In the sense that he expresses his ideas well, yes, I'd say so. But if you asked ten people on the street who Franz Kafka was, eleven would have no idea.

     

    I imagine art in literature to be like this: Aliens on Alpha Centauri -- let's imagine that they are intelligent gas-clouds or something -- have intercepted enough human language to create a dictionary of their own, and thus they are able to speak to us and to translate our responses. Let us further imagine that one of them comes here, and converses with us, asking, "What is it like to be a human? Not just what your day is like, or your cultural artifacts, but what is being human really all about?"

     

    With that question for a lens, consider great literature. For example, to Mark Twain, life was about friendship and community and simple pleasures in life. It was in seeing the humor in the mundane, and in taking joy in one's fellow humans. To Daniel Dafoe, it was about the persistence of the human spirit, the triumph over adversity, and the reflections upon oneself in solitude; by contrast, it was about community and fellowship. To Herman Melville, it was about overcoming our obsessions, and trying to understand the insane goals we make of our lives. To Tennyson, it was about traditions, and about the defiant spirit that resists even time. To Kipling, it was about God and Country. And so forth.

     

    So when a story tells us something about being human -- a demonstration, mind you, not merely a description -- then and there it rises to Art. It answers the question that an alien might ask.

  • I think a preamble like thisis a very good idea. Now we are prepared for the sliding perspectives before spending some time in Sarah's head. It's quick and elegant, and achieves exactly what it needs.

  • Does the Twilight saga tell you something about what it is to be human? It seems to me that it would say more about what it is to be vampire, or to be werewolf. But perhaps it says something about what it is to be human by contrast.

     

    I have no idea. It's for young adults.  Smiley Very Happy I only watched one out of curiosity. But all the same, they are stories dealing with relationships (humans or otherwise) and almost all stories do that because it's almost unavoidable. Most stories, insist on having some love-interest for example. In Hollywood they even write it in to existing book stories that never had it in in the first place. Apparently it's what the great masses want.

     

    Here's what I'm getting at, and I don't for one second expect you to agree:

     

    I have not said I disagree, but I am not sure how what you intend differs from most stories. Most good ones anyway.

     

    When Kafka writes about hopeless situations and despair, he is saying that that's part of being human. For him, unfortunately, it was the greater part, and I would argue with him that life need not be hopeless. But that's what he told us about life, and I think his works rise to art.

     

    Heard of him, never read him. But what I know of his works they sound very 'heavy', even depressing. But it's not hard to be influential when there's not much other fiction around. Have you not noticed that the term Classic often just means old?

     

    Popular? Well, among philosophy geeks and literature nerds and folks who like the idea of using a bucket as transportation.

     

    Philosophers are studied in some courses in universities, which helps such things become classics and to be known. Students are forced to read them But for 'how it was' at the time of writing I prefer Dickens, who is not classed as a philosopher but as a reformist activist.

     

    But really, no. Well written? In the sense that he expresses his ideas well, yes, I'd say so.

     

    I wouldn't know. Most philosophers tended to be a bit nuts though. Often loaded with cocaine because it was not illegal.

     

    But if you asked ten people on the street who Franz Kafka was, eleven would have no idea.

     

    Indeed. Perhaps because they did not take philosophy at university? I often wonder what people with such degrees go on to do. But then again, so few people read anything.

     

    I imagine art in literature to be like this: Aliens on Alpha Centauri -- let's imagine that they are intelligent gas-clouds or something -- have intercepted enough human language to create a dictionary of their own, and thus they are able to speak to us and to translate our responses. Let us further imagine that one of them comes here, and converses with us, asking, "What is it like to be a human? Not just what your day is like, or your cultural artifacts, but what is being human really all about?"

     

    Impossible to answer because all humans are different and also have different backgrounds and experiences. What's it like to be a human in Syria? for example, compared to life in rural Cheshire? What's it like to be a human in the Amazon Rainforest hunting monkeys to eat and living in straw huts? What's in the mind of someone who guns down school children?

     

    With that question for a lens, consider great literature. For example, to Mark Twain, life was about friendship and community and simple pleasures in life. It was in seeing the humor in the mundane, and in taking joy in one's fellow humans.

     

    From his point of view only and a small section of a county.

     

    To Daniel Dafoe, it was about the persistence of the human spirit, the triumph over adversity, and the reflections upon oneself in solitude; by contrast, it was about community and fellowship.

     

    Based on a true story, but again from one viewpoint and total isolation.

     

    To Herman Melville, it was about overcoming our obsessions, and trying to understand the insane goals we make of our lives.

     

    About one man's obsession only. It says nothing about me and I assume nothing about you.

     

    To Tennyson, it was about traditions, and about the defiant spirit that resists even time. To Kipling, it was about God and Country. And so forth.

     

    Do you only read writers that died over a 100 years ago? They are not my type of thing. If I want history I will read (or watch) factual stuff. (Which I do a lot of.)

     

    So when a story tells us something about being human -- a demonstration, mind you, not merely a description -- then and there it rises to Art.

     

    No, only it is is exceptionally well written, regardless of content. If you want to read a master of what you wish to achieve then read Terry Pratchett. He was one of the most observant and analytical writers ever. He carries it further by all his books not just having humans in them, so there's social interaction between all manner of sentient creatures. What's more, he is often funny and very entertaining. How many people read to be depressed?

     

    It answers the question that an alien might ask.

     

    Only if you are a sociologist and psychiatrist. If not then you will find your story hard to write in the way you wish.


  • Paul_Lulu wrote:

    I think a preamble like thisis a very good idea. Now we are prepared for the sliding perspectives before spending some time in Sarah's head. It's quick and elegant, and achieves exactly what it needs.


    Thanks.

     

    I'll keep it then, and it also makes it less of a surprise that there has been a change of instructors.

  • Sarah’s mind began to drift. She was suddenly in the audience of a stage show of some sort. Four oxblood red leather chairs sat upon a platform atop a stage. They were arranged in a gentle quarter-circle, with a small end table beside each arm.

     

        As yet, the chairs were empty.

     

        From somewhere off-stage, an announcer’s voice came on:

     

        “Ladies and Gentlemen,” He cried, “Good Evening and Welcome to Philosopher’s Round Table! Tonight, four esteemed men of letters will face each other in a discussion on the Meaning of Life!”

     

        It sounded oddly like Dr. Winter: booming, melodious, arrogant, declarative. She wondered what sort of card tricks he had up his sleeve.

     

        “Joining us first tonight will be Frrrrrrrannnnnnz Kafka!” The announcer made him sound like a boxer coming into the ring for a prize fight. “Franz joins us from a publicity event for his recent novella, The Metamorphosis.” Kafka, wearing a large costume of quilted brown cloth, waddled onto the stage. It was wide and flat, and it took Sarah a moment to realize that in this get-up, he had been transformed into a huge cockroach. He took the chair farthest right – Stage right, Sarah corrected herself: The performer’s left.

     

        The audience laughed, some in humor and some in derision, at the philosopher’s odd outfit. Sarah wondered in perhaps some people didn’t get it.

     

        The Metamorphosis was recent? Was this dream set in 1915? The appearance of the next guest did nothing to clarify the setting.

     

        “Coming to us straight from the fields, where the barley harvest is just ending, I give you the Count himself, the man who put Graf in graph paper, Leo Count Tolllllllllllllstoi!” A bearded man, dressed in Russian peasant clothing – a simple blue shirt and a loose pair of brown trousers, wrapped slightly at the waist in lieu of a belt, strode on from stage left, taking the chair next to Kafka.

     

        There was loose applause.

     

    He took a moment to nervously fluff his full beard – it was square cut at the bottom, and came to where the second button of his shirt would be. It gave him the air of a prophet, or perhaps a Civil War general. He nodded to Kafka, then he brushed a few strands of straw from his trousers. Kafka haughtily ignored the greeting.

     

    Sarah tried to remember her European history. August 1914… no, that was Solzhenitsysn… Tolstoy would have been around the Napoleonic wars – 1803? 1812? 1815? Well, it sounded like her dream was rather loose with its timeline.

     

         “Aaaaaaaand now…. Coming to us straightaway from his sold out music and poetry tour…” There was a stillness in the crowd, as if they had collectively drawn a breath. “Fresh from Canticle of Canticles, I give you the one, the only …. SOLOMON of JERU-SALEM!!!”

     

        The collective breath became a roar. The crowd clapped, stomped, shouted, and cheered as Solomon, wearing a bright white robe sewn with detailed gold and silver embroidery, took the stage. He strutted proudly to center stage, turned so that the crowd could see the embroidered pattern on the back of his robe. It was a dazzling image of the First Temple, with real golden threads depicting the gold leafed doors.

     

        Solomon spun back around, winking at young women who were throwing flowers at his sandal-covered feet. Raising one hand into the air, and never taking his eyes from the crowd, Solomon moon-walked backwards to the center-left chair, lowering himself into it and striking a pose.

     

        Well, that completely blew the timeline out of the water. Solomon of Jerusalem would have lived in the Davidic era, roughly… well, give or take, 1000 BCE, or roughly 3000 YA. There was no possible stretch in which he could have been on stage with the other two, and yet, there he was still waving to his admirers as the applause finally faded out.

     

        “Finally, last but not least, the first Cambridge Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature, Professor and amateur theologian, the ever-popular C. S. “Jack” Lewis!”

     

        Lewis strode onstage confidently, waved humbly, and took the last of the oxblood leather chairs. He was dressed simply, with a cardigan over a button-down shirt. He drew out a pipe, looked at it, and then put it back into his pocket. The applause, mild but enthusiastic, drew down to silence.

     

        “Ladies and gentlemen, you now see our panel; it’s time to open tonight’s discussion! But first! A word, from these sponsors…”

     

        In the dream her attention was drawn to a projector screen at the extreme stage right, where a series of commercial announcements passed in from of her. This was a first for Sarah. She had often had vivid dreams, but never had they tried to sell her dubious cooking appliances.

     

        “And we’re back! Before the show, our panel drew straws to see who would open our discussion, and the short straw fell to Solomon.”

     

        There were a couple of shouts from the audience, fans who hadn’t made themselves hoarse at his introduction. Then Solomon smiled. His voice was smooth, and his winsome grin radiated from his handsome face. “There are two things that are never satisfied;” he began,” And three that are never filled. But we shall speak of only one of these tonight: The grave.”

     

        His grin became serious. “What does a man gain, if he spends his life in the most majestic of pursuits, only to die and be forgotten?” He paused, looking to his fellow panelists for comments and support.

     

    Jack cleared his throat. “If I may,” he said, gesturing with the empty pipe, “The Romans had a saying, Memento Mori. It means ‘Remember, you shall die.’ Now, we cannot completely know what it meant to them…”

     

    “It means that this obscene life is an obscene joke!” shouted Franz. “It means that our high philosophical traditions come from the pig sty! That’s what drives a man: Base ambitions and lusts!”

     

    “Franz,” remonstrated Leo, putting his hand on Franz’ arm.

     

    “What I was going to say is that the Great Question of Death certainly leads us to the Great Question of Life.” Jack put the pipe into his mouth, drew once, and then seemed to realize afresh that it contained neither tobacco nor fire.

     

    “And that was my point,” said Solomon, smoothly inserting his mellifluous voice into the argument, soothing the rough tones and pulling them to his thesis. “If we know that we are going to die, then how shall we live?”

     

    “It doesn’t matter how we live,” roared Franz, his face coloring. “Suppose the Emperor of China, on his deathbed, gasped an important message into the ear of his messenger. Do you think you would ever hear it? Fighting his way across the royal chamber, then through the crowded out chamber, then down the stairs, and out into the crowded courtyard, and finally into the second great courtyard – each exponentially larger…”

     

    “We understand,” said Leo. “The task of living is daunting. We squander our lives, because we do not know what it is for.”

     

    “We were given the choice of being kings or messengers, and as children will, we chose to be messengers – all of us, with no kings. So now we run to and fro, shouting meaningless messages to each other – messages from no one!”

     

    “That’s not to say that there is no King,” said Solomon. A few in the crowd tittered at this, supposing that he meant himself.

     

    “Franz, we all experienced these things. We were all frustrated. We all wondered what it was all about. Every one of us has questioned the purpose of being. I used to awaken suddenly and say to myself, ‘How do you justify your existence? Are you supposed to do something before you die? And if so what?’ All of the pursuits of this life are meaningless and void.” Leo’s eyes became distant.

     

    “Vanity of Vanities,” sung Solomon softly, under his voice, but loud enough for the microphones to carry it into the crowd. “Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity; All is vanity says the preacher, in Je-ru-salem.”

     

    The crowd gasped and then clapped. Solomon waved them down.

     

    “All the rivers run into the sea, “ said Leo, nodding to Solomon, “And yet the seas are not full.”

     

    “The eye is not filled with seeing, nor the ear with hearing.” Jack repeated another line from the song.

     

    “Sycophants,” hissed Franz. “I know what you all are. You’re just more groomsmen, climbing from the pig sty. All your powerful emotions are just misplaced lusts. Carnal fleshly lusts, that’s all that lies beneath.”

     

    “I pursued the Question of Life,” said Solomon. “I sought it in many places: In greatness, in poverty, in solemn study and in drunken revelry; In the having of many wives and in the solitude of the gardens; in public works and in personal pleasures; in reading and in writing and in all possible goals. And it all comes down to this: Striving after the wind.”

     

    “So then how are we supposed to be happy with this, this, ongoing charade?” boiled Franz. “What precisely do you propose that we do?”

     

    “The happiest a man can be is to enjoy his work and to do it faithfully, eating enough, sleeping enough, and spending time with his beloved family,” answered Solomon. “But the only way to achieve that sort of happiness is to serve God.”

     

    “See! See! I knew you were merely salesmen, a front for that old religious babble! Get to the root of your philosophy, and there is that terrible Old Man, ready to strike down the infidels! Ha!”

     

    “Allow me to clarify,” said Leo. “I, too, pursued all sorts of meanings for life. I studied, and I wrote, and I taught others; those whom I felt were my lessers. I taught them about what Life is like, even though I had no clue. Looking back, I am ashamed of the pompous fool that I was!”

     

    “You’re a pompous fool now!” shouted Franz.

     

    “Franz!” rebuked Jack. Franz scowled and leaned back in his chair, as far as his costume would allow.

     

    “A fool I may be,” said Leo. “But I finally figured out the one bridge between the finite and the infinite. It is the church.”

     

    “And at a certain point,” added Jack, “We must all throw ourselves into the arms of Old Mother Kirk.”

     

    “But not blindly.” The Count’s long, narrow finger stood like a knife before him. “We do not blindly cross this bridge.”

     

    “One moment,” said Solomon. “I hear what you’re saying, but to clarify: You do not mean that in the Church, they speak of numinous things, and therefore the church is true.”

     

    “No, no, no,” replied Leo. “Not that, certainly not that. I am saying that there are numinous things. There are questions bigger than we are. The fact that we feel that there is a purpose that we must fulfill means that there does exist such a purpose.”

     

    "Mankind is the only creature afraid of the bones of its own kind," observed Jack.

     

    “He has set eternity into our hearts,” sang Solomon, softly.

     

    “Indeed,” answered Jack. “We thirst for water, and this thirst has a solution, which is water. For every physical human thirst, there is a physical object: Water for thirst, food for hunger, warmth for cold, a scratch for an itch. But for the spiritual hungers, there does not seem to be a spiritual object, or not outside the Church.”

     

    “This is why I say, there is one bridge between the finite and the infinite.”

     

    “What do you know of physical needs?” scoffed Franz. “Has your coal bucket ever been so empty, so light, that you could sit in it and fly?”

     

    “You focus on the wrong things, Franz,” said Solomon. “You allow the existence of physical things to distract you from spiritual things.”

     

    “There are no spiritual things,” cried Franz. “Don’t you see that? All we have is this silly, useless life; this charade of being!”

     

    “I agree with you in one part,” said Jack. “We are poorly fitted for this life. We hunger for things we cannot have, such as perfect justice.”

     

    “There! There! We agree on a single point. Let me tell you of justice: Imagine a man who goes to see the judge, to obtain justice for his case. He spends his life trying to gain admittance, and is barred from even passing through the door. But when he finally dies, he finds that the door was only even meant for him. Where is the justice? There is no earthly justice!”

     

    “Yes, precisely.” Jack leaned forward and pointed the pipe-stem towards Franz. “And there is the point. There is no justice to satisfy our desire for justice. But if every physical desire has a physical analog that satisfies it, can we not therefore conclude that there does exist perfect justice? And since that justice cannot be obtained in this life, is it not also clear that we were made for a different world, in which such justice can be obtained?”

     

    Franz shrieked, and leaping to his feet, he tore away his costume. Beneath it he wore only a red union suit, and in just that undergarment he stomped away stage left, past the panelists and out among the curtains.

     

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” came the dulcet tones of the announcer, “With the departure of Franz Kafka, we seem to have come to the end of our discussion. To occupy the remaining time, Solomon has graciously agreed to give us a sneak peek at his upcoming album, already pre-sold in the tens of thousands, to be called, Ecclesiastes!”

     

    The lights faded to a single spotlight, and Solomon stepped into it, the gold and silver from his robe sending sparkling shimmering pinpoints of light across the crowd. A lyre began to play offstage, and Solomon nodded in time as he waited his cue, holding the microphone near his chest.

     

    “My beloved, my beloved,” he sang, as the women in the crowd screeched and swooned, “I extended my hand to my beloved…”

     

    And suddenly Sarah was being pulled back through the misty crowd, and the music faded into silence. She awoke in her bed, in her dorm, alone in the quiet night.

     

    “Too much studying,” she murmured. “Agrippa was right: Too much study has driven thee mad.” She pulled up the blanket and rolled over.

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