Friday, May 11, 2012

SAECULUM (A NOVEL: FINALE) – SOL ORTUS



SOL OCCAXUS (Sunset)  Monday, 19 September, 2011

CREPUSCULUM (Evening Twilight)

I. Friday, 23 September, 2011
II. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
III. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
IV. Sunday, 16 October, 2011

VESPER (Evening Dusk)

I.  Sunday, 23 October, 2011
II. Sunday, 30 October, 2011
III. Wednesday, 9 November, 2011
IV. Monday, 14 November, 2011
V. Monday, 14 November, 2011

CONCUBIUM (First Sleep – Coitus – Rest)

I. Thursday, 17 November 2011
II. Sunday, 20 November, 2011
III. Friday, 25 November, 2011
IV. Thursday, 1 December, 2011
V. Thursday, 1 December, 2011
VI. Thursday, 8 December, 2011
VII. Sunday, 11 December, 2011

INTEMPESTIUM (Midnight)

I. Sunday, 1 January, 2012
II. Thursday, 5 January, 2012
III. Saturday, 7 January, 2012
IV. Monday, 16 January, 2012
V. Sunday, 29 January, 2012
VI. Sunday, 29 January, 2012
VII. Friday, 3 February, 2012
VIII. Friday, 3 February, 2012

GALLICINIUM (Cock Crow)

I. Sunday, 12 February, 2012
II. Saturday, 18 February, 2012
III. Wednesday, 22 February, 2012

MATUTINUM (Dawn Goddess)

I. Monday, 27 February, 2012
II. Sunday, 4 March, 2012
III. Sunday, 4 March, 2012
IV. Friday, 9 March, 2012
V. Friday, 16 March, 2012
VI. Friday, 16 March, 2012
VII. Friday, 16 March, 2012
VIII. Friday, 16 March, 2012
IX. Wednesday, 21 March, 2012
X. Wednesday, 21 March, 2012
XI. Wednesday, 21 March, 2012
XII. Friday, 23 March, 2012
XIII. Friday, 23 March, 2012
XIV. Friday, 23 March, 2012

DILUCULUM (Dawn Twilight)

I. Monday, 16 April, 2012
II. Monday, 23 April, 2012
III. Friday, 27 April, 2012
IV. Wednesday, 2 May, 2012
V.  Wednesday, 9 May, 2012

SOLI ORTUS (Sunrise) 
Friday, 11 May, 2012





SOL ORTUS
SUNRISE


All that had happened, all the memories, faded as the nearby voices intruded again. It took a great deal of effort on Michael Mara’s part to try and concentrate on what was being said.

“We’ve got back most of the emergency work-up including CT and MRI scans. They show no obvious damage to the spinal cord, brainstem, or brain cortex. Direct trauma has been excluded and yet he has generalized paralysis. Septic screens, so far, are also negative,” a West Indian woman’s voice pronounced.
  I’m in a hospital, he suddenly realised and probably in an ICU from the way the women were talking.
“Where was he flying from?” the girl with a Scottish accent asked.
“Yerevan, Armenia. His passport shows that he’s a well travelled individual.”
“Tropical disease screen. Was that done?”
“Armenia is hardly the tropics but yes, because of his travels, they’ve all been done. Malaria and Typhus screen is negative. Stool for ova, cysts and parasites have been sent as well. We had to give him an enema to get that. His bowel is completely flaccid. ”
“Oh God! I hate giving enemas to coma patients,” the Scottish nurse groaned.
“Tell me about it.”
“He looks very comfortable. Have there been any consults?”
“Yeah. Doctor Cameron, the new neurologist, was called in. He thought it might be an acute poisoning with a plant toxin or curare-like compound. He has tried reversal with no success and thinks that our friend here probably suffered irreversible brain hypoxia when he collapsed and couldn’t ventilate. We’re waiting for lab results on a toxic drug screen and metabolite spectroscopy.”
Poisoning! Brain hypoxia!
“His current status?”
“Flaccid paralysis. Ventilator settings are pretty constant. Input and output satisfactory. Core temperature is elevated but not spiking. Pupils are dilated and unresponsive, eyelids taped closed. No evidence of papilloedema. He’s for a repeat MRI and EEG tomorrow. The contrast is in the fridge.”
The voices drew closer.
“Are you on your own tonight, Kathy?”
“Two of the regular staff are on holidays in the States and have been caught out by the shutdown in the airports. The night manager said that there’s an agency nurse coming in. Delayed in the traffic I think.”
“I still can’t believe what happened there.”
“I know. It’s unreal. I’ve been glued to the telly all day. Listen, finish your report Janice, and get off. I can cope until she comes.”
“Michael. Michael, can you hear me? Unlikely. The poor sod. Michael! This is Nurse Devine and she will be looking after you tonight. I’ll see you again in the morning.”
Janice, the West Indian fatalist, was leaving him. Don’t go! he tried to scream out.
“Good night Janice, enjoy the party. Give Peter my best,” Nurse Devine teased.
The departing Janice laughed. “Not on your life. I plan to give him mine. See you.”
The footsteps receded.
“The lucky tart. Did you hear that Michael? You and I will just have to manage. My name is Kathy. Can you move anything for me? Move something if you can hear me.” The accent softened to a plea.
There was an expectant pause. He did try for her. The sweet voice was disappointingly quiet. He could almost hear the pity in the silence. Then there were footsteps again, this time louder and quicker as if the person was running, he thought.
“Oh, Kathy.” The voice was breathless.
“Yes, Janice. What’s wrong?”
“There’s one other thing I forgot to mention. When he came in, our friend here had a peculiar burn on the palm of his right hand. It’s a full thickness injury, almost as if he had tried to hold a hot exhaust pipe or something. We’ve been dressing it two hourly and the next change is due shortly. The tray is ready.”
“Thanks, Janice. I’ll see to it. By the way, has there been any contact from relatives?”
“No, not yet. Admin are on to it but fat lot of good that’ll do.”
“Why?”
“I tried contacting them earlier but apparently there was nobody available to deal with it. A management staffing shortage, it seems.”
“That’ll be a first in the NHS,” the nurse called Kathy said sarcastically.
“Yeah! Perhaps the coffee machine was broken. Blimey, look at the time! I’ll be late. I must fly Kathy. See you tomorrow.”
“Goodnight, Janice. I’ll see . . .”
Michael heard the footsteps disappear at a running pace. Kathy didn’t bother finishing the sentence and from the soft sound of her breathing, he knew she remained close by. He began to feel drowsy and found it was hard to concentrate.
“Hmmmm. Your oxygen saturations are falling a little Michael. I’m just going to increase the rate a bit. Nothing to worry about,” Kathy reassured.
Do it. Do it! He screamed silently.

Sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup -

The mechanical noise increased its rhythm. With the frequency change came a strange sense of euphoria. Michael’s mind became clear.
“That’s better, sweetheart. Your sats are coming up nicely,” Kathy’s voice broke in.
Good for you my angel.
“You’ll be more comfortable now, Michael. I’m just slipping out for a minute to check your blood gases. Don’t go away – Oh! Hello.”
“Hello,” a different voice answered.
“You must be the agency nurse.”
“Yes.”
“Hi. I’m Kathy. Listen, I was just about to run off this man’s blood gases and I need to check on the other isolation patient. Can you hold on here for a few minutes and I’ll come back and give you a report?”
“But of course. Is there anything you want done?” The question was formal, another woman, accent European.
She sounds strangely familiar, Michael thought.
“No. . . oh, yes there is! He has to have a burn dressing changed on his hand. The tray is all set up. Can you handle that?”
“No problem.”
“Thanks. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Kathy’s footsteps faded. Michael could hear a tap being run and the snap slapping on of latex gloves. The next moment, the voice of the new nurse was very close. “Hello, Michael,” she whispered gently.
He convinced himself that he sensed her breath on his face. She has an angel’s voice, like my mother! he suddenly thought, adding to his confusion. He desperately wanted to be able to see. I’d love to be able to . . . The wish faded, unrealised. Michael felt himself drift off again, a traveller of the night. Throughout his life, in those moments suspended between sleeping and being awake, between dreaming and having dreamt, between the spectral and the tangible, he had often felt an acute sense of vertigo as he became aware of the edge of his world. The physical safety net of a gentle awakening in the sleep-warmed embrace of another’s arms was not for him. He always needed to get moving, to get away, and by moving, paradoxically, ease the vertigo. Powerlessness would become power as he controlled the direction.  He now needed that direction again, that determination. His brain screamed at him, to rise and rush towards the light of day and away from the night’s horizon, but his body again refused to move. As he lay there, he felt trapped in a sarcophagus of his own flesh. Just the noise:

Sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup-

There are some compensations however, he suddenly thought, as a dazzling glare of euphoria enveloped him. His thoughts raced and were clad in vibrant colours. Three men were walking towards him with the sun at their backs. One of them is Gilgamesh, the hero of the Babylonian epics, who had searched long and hard for the secret of immortality, and who when put to the first test by Uta-napishti, the Distant, was unable to even defeat sleep. He is explaining to two other men, one of whom is Michael’s father, how the survivor of the flood had taunted him:

‘See the fellow who so desired life!
Sleep like a fog already breathes over him.’

Michael could hear Gilgamesh tell the others of how he dived to retrieve the secret coral plant of immortality, the ‘Plant of Heartbeat’ only to watch helplessly as a serpent snatched the immortal coral before he had a chance to distil its powers, its essence, before he had a chance to help himself . . . Or others:
 
‘Now far and wide the tide is rising.
  Having opened the channel I abandoned the tools:
  What thing would I find that served as my landmark?
  Had I only turned back, and left the boat on the shore!’

Gilgamesh, Michael’s father and the other man stood there in their radiant light looking pityingly at him. Their words repeated again and again. ‘Had I only turned back!’ Indeed! he thought. The other man then suddenly smiled at him. It was a tormented but kindly smile. He spoke softly:
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.’

An alarm rang. Shrill and sharp. He heard running footsteps. Coming closer. “What happened?” A concerned Kathy asked.
“I’m not sure. His core temperature shot up suddenly and he developed a tachycardia. It has just begun to settle again. Were his gases ok?” the agency nurse answered.
“Yeah . . . although the pCO2 is low. We’d better slow the rate again; otherwise he’ll get alkalotic. We’d also better make a note in his status chart and let the senior resident know when he makes his rounds,” Kathy said, concerned.
“I can handle that.”
“Are you sure? Thanks. I need about twenty minutes with the other fellow. I’ll be with you then.”
“Sure. Take your time. No problem.”

Sheshhhhhhshup  . . . . . . . . . . . . . sheshhhhhhshup –

The alarm stopped. Time hitched a ride.

Sheshhhhhhshup  . . . . . . . . . . . . . sheshhhhhhshup –

Michael’s father was beside him again, wrapping him up in the warm towel of love. “Remember, Michael, Time, is the castrator of the heavens, it severs the link between man and the Creator. Saeculum of the Romans; al-dahr of the Arabs, is our Time, both here and now and from beginning to end, until resurrection. Do what you will with it, Michael, for it’s measured by the appearance and disappearance of light, not darkness. Light bathes the ascent of man, the night his descent. The ancients feared that descent and divided up the night. From crepesculum, the evening twilight, until diluculum, the morning twilight, the seventh division, they hurried its passage. In the Twilight you will find your destiny. You must take that journey, Michael, but have no fear. I’ll be waiting for you.”

Sheshhhhhhshup  . . . . . . . . . . . . . sheshhhhhhshup –

Michael’s father disappears again. He feels as if he is a feather falling like a stone in the vacuum of space. He is the geometric point of Foucault’s pendulum but no longer has a physical dimension. He has become opaque, a fugitive. There was no corporeal him!

Sheshhhhhhshup  . . . . . . . . . . . . . sheshhhhhhshup –

The footsteps came back again and squeaking wheels. “Michael, it’s me,” a familiar voice tenderly intoned. “Michael. My poor, Michael!”
  Her concern entombed him in a casket of silk lined pity. I don’t want pity! he screamed silently. I want to be free from the darkness to fly towards the blinding light of day. I want the sounds to be that of a nightingale, a harbinger of the dawn. The voice . . . he knew that voice.
  “Michael. It’s me.”
It’s Isabella! he realised. She’s here. Isabella is here with me. She’s alive. How? How did she find me?

  Sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup

  Michael became confused again. The mechanical repeating sound hypnotised him.

Sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup

  Perhaps his notion of Isabella being there, is also imagined. The faithful transport of an abstract notion from one medium, the medium where she existed without him, into his.

  Sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup

 
  “Michael! It’s Isabella. I know you can hear me. The heart monitor is displaying your response. It’s like when I danced for you, I am able to sense your soul.”
 
Don’t torment me Isabella. I cannot see you dance. I cannot hold you close. There is nothing else. Don’t leave me again!

Sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup.

“I am always with you Michael. It was Gaiane and I whom you saw moving in the shadows of the carpark in Armenia. I saw what happened to the seal and how the sands of its existence crumbled from your hand.”
Gaiane! I don’t understand Isabella.
“Gaiane from the hotel in Yerevan! She was one of Alexander’s women, one of his bassarides, waiting patiently for Saclaresh to show itself.”
Her ear. I knew it! I sensed something when she left the taxi! What about Zoƫ and those other women at the villa? There was a defect in their left ear lobes too. Why?
“Charles Alexander was a Corsican. It is the way that Corsican shepherds used to identify their sheep. He never marked me, Michael.”
What about Saclaresh?
 “He always knew that Saclaresh was in Armenia somewhere, and that it was just a question of time before it surfaced. When I told him that I suspected that you were to be its next guardian he telephoned Gaiane from the villa and alerted her to your possible arrival. She was waiting, yet was very surprised when you, almost instantly, materialised.”
How did you get to know?
“Gaiane tried to contact Alexander at the villa and when she couldn’t, she left a message for me. I only received this about eight hours after escaping from the villa.”
Corsica! How did you get away?
“I always had the authority to use Alexander’s jet and after alerting the crew I was able to fly directly from Bastia to Zurich. From there I flew on to Yerevan. I arrived while you were at the monastery.”
What happened to Alexander? They never found his body.
“I don’t know what has happened to Charles but his opportunity has now gone. Even if he did survive, he no longer would have any power. 9/11 has changed everything, but then of course, Michael, you knew nothing of that, as you rested in your coma.”
What happened to me Isabella?
“I followed you back to the airport and took the same flight as you and Dave Asha.”
I never knew his surname!
“It was Asha, one of the Keepers, who poisoned you on the plane. Remember when you stumbled over his foot in the aisle?”
He thought he saw someone. Was that you Isabella?
“He thought he recognised me and that’s what caused him to panic. I saw what happened. The Keepers had decided to protect you, and your guardianship of a Voice, by having Dave Asha follow you. When he thought he saw me, thought that I might be alive, he panicked. He assumed that I was working in league with Alexander to recover the seals and decided, there and then, to remove you from your obligation to Alonzo and the guardians, lest I got to you first. He knew how you felt about me.”
You were there and did nothing to help me!
 “And you thought Michael, that I might love you or that I could, or would, change my destiny for the devotion of one man. Poor Michael . . . though I must thank you for the warning shout in Corsica. It gave me a chance to retrieve the other seals and get away. I also had time to detonate the explosives that Alexander had the house rigged with as a security measure. He never planned on being there to witness the effect himself.”
The verse of a poem intruded in Michael’s consciousness:

And when at last that murder’s over
Maybe the bride-bed brings despair,
For each an imagined image brings
And finds a real image there

“I do not have much time, Michael. That kindly nurse Kathy will return soon. She has big sad eyes, you know . . . A little like yours.”
Isabella stopped talking. He heard trolley wheels moving and something like a plastic bag been ripped open. Her breathing came in short excited breaths.
“I nearly had them all, Michael. But for your interference, all the Voices would be mine. Syrbeth, Abrape, Nergimmel, Ayatau, Nefradaleth and, of course, Saclaresh. I could never allow an evil man like Alexander to have their power.”
You don’t have Saclaresh!
 “It doesn’t matter though, Michael. For all his faults, Charles Alexander showed me that. The only link left to the ancient images of Saclaresh’s legacy are those that are burnt into your hand. I just need to see them.”
Michael suddenly remembered Alonzo’s story the old man Ebabu’s instructions to the six pathfinders of the Weiministan people to learn the marks of the others. That’s what Alonzo had meant in the story! It is the marks and not the seals themselves that are important.
“Exactly, Michael. I just need to record the ideas and now I can . . . ah there . . . that’s the bandage off. Let me finally look at the legacy.”
Please keep my hand closed!

Sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup.

“Good.” Isabella sounded pleased with herself. “The burnt tattoos are as clear as the day they were carved in stone. I can copy them easily and then I will have them all. I will be the gatherer.”
What about Ammonkaph? Isabella had never mentioned the last seal.
“You never really understood, Michael! Did you? Alonzo suspected but he could never be certain. Nefradaleth and Ammonkaph were always together. Twin destinies: sunrise and sunset. Ammonkaph is the judgement Voice waiting to welcome you over the Bridge of Separation. I am also Ammonkaph. There! That’s the copying finished.”
What about me Isabella? Don’t I exist? Don’t I have a choice?
“You did exist once Michael. But now look at you! Your hearing is the last gift of Saclaresh. Without it you do not have a definition and when it is gone so will your being.”
But that is nothingness! His father was waiting by the black funnel. I can be something again. Please Isabella!
“I’m sorry Michael. This is the turning point. Being something is nothing like being.”

Sheshhshup . . . . . sheshhshup . . . . .……. sheshhshup

The rhythm slowed.  Michael was unable to fight anymore. His father was smiling at him as he came closer. There was a wonderful light on the horizon. He could walk again.

Sheshhshup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . sheshhshup . . . . . . .

He saw a bridge. His father and mother were waiting there, waving him forward. He moved towards them, feeling safe. Caroline was also there.
 I’m ready, Caroline. He tried to call out.
 Isabella is beside him again, her breath in his ear.
“Goodbye, Michael. You were the last of the Magi and we will meet again on the Bridge of Separation. There we will be bathed in the essence of the Creator. Receive your consolamentum and trust in my intuition.”

The night has fallen; not a sound
In the forbidden sacred grove
Unless a petal hit the ground,
Nor any human sight within it
But the crushed grass where we have lain:
And the moon is wilder every minute.
O! Solomon! Let us try again.

Sheshhshup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . shesh . . . . . . . . . .sh