Zero Node: Chapter 27: "Infinite Wisdom"
by Jeff Rand
One of the challenges about writing about the future is making plausible predictions. The reader can be assured that Another Ten Seconds remains true to the known laws of physics, having to relate to our primitive level of understanding in striving to develop the TOE theory - that is the Theory of Everything. However, the story uses the personages of characters based upon real humans, who unfortunately do not all follow the same laws. In this chapter and others, there is implication that Doug Wilson lives in Farmington Hills, which was true at the time it was written. Unfortunately, he moved. At least the red Schwinn Le Tour still exists, and after 50 years, is in pristine condition.
The chapter title "A Familiar Hike" refers to the same route Doug and I walked in 1977 travelling from Allen Park to D-A Scout Ranch (now spelled D-bar-A.) The gear we brought weighed a total of three pounds for the two us. (Most of the weight was water.) As a result, we slept in painter's drop cloths on the first night, which is repeated in Chapter 27.
The text refers to Siberia and explains why Steve Donohue and I become conscious in Yakutsk, Russia at the start on Zero Node. There is a reference to the highest point in D-bar-A Scout Ranch, which I hope remains so in 2031.
May 4, 2020
Need a refresher? Here's the Another Ten Seconds chapter
Upon learning that he and his friends would be on their own, Steve invited his travelling companions to a potluck dinner or covered-dish as he learned to say when he worked in Western Pennsylvania one summer. It took some time to prepare the food, as everything had to be made from scratch but there was great diversity in the selections available. Steve made the main dish, which he termed Chicken Daha in an attempt to repeat the concoction he once created at Winter Camp. The Kings brought an assortment of raw fruits and cooked vegetables. The Reins were more ambitious since they had to churn their own butter to make crust for blueberry pie as a substitute for shortening. Of course, Ethan had learned this skill at Winter Camp. Indeed, as they enjoyed a fine dinner, they were thankful for the talents acquired from this unique Scouting experience.
Although they had enjoyed the opportunity to see some of the Zero Node, Steve, Ethan, and Leu were envious of Keith and Michaela in their new clothes. They were eager to replace their rags, which in Steve's case was all too true, especially for what he called footwear.
Steve was able to enjoy another light show before retiring for the night. On the next day, he was pleased to be on his own and asked Keith to take him to the clothing center. Michaela had joined the Reins to explore more of the Zero Node, at least where they were permitted access. Later that day Steve and his companions were invited to a beach party in celebration of Danielle's 224th birthday. The party included a game of four-way volleyball. During the exercise, Steve felt his years, but young Leu fought very hard to be competitive with the much taller residents of Zero Node. The party ended with a campfire in the ring near the escarpment.
Four more days passed or what appeared to be days and nights, with the change of light in Zero Node. Ethan and Leu had an opportunity to make some new clothes, while everyone had a chance to add to their food supplies and pursue some of the varied activities. Remarkably, they were able to adjust their circadian rhythms to the longer prodays. After the harrowing experience on Howland Island with their captors, they now believed they might be guests of these people.
Ethan had done some quick calculation and determined that it would be November 27, 2031 in a couple days, meaning it would be a Thursday, specifically the fourth in the month of November according to their familiar calendar. At once, it became apparent that they should share a Thanksgiving dinner and invite the Zero Node natives.
Remarkably, Wilbur and the other six natives were more than happy to join. Ethan offered a blessing and was surprised when each of the others added his note of thankfulness. Yet, there were no surprise guests, which added to the doubt of any corporeal existence for the Infinite Wisdom.
"The dinner was spectacular," remarked Doug Sutton. "My research of your customs suggests that this tradition goes back more than 1,373 blue moons."
Ethan responded, "I am not sure how you base your measurements, but I must say that this was as close to the original as I could imagine. We had no processed ingredients. Everything was fresh. I even forced my son to capture and prepare one of the live turkeys."
"Well at least this didn't happen at a Scout camp. I recall an incident at a Scout camp of an animal being killed by the son of the Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee," added Steve.
Steve enjoyed a breakfast of oatmeal and leftover turkey, indulging himself with one of Michaela's blueberry muffins. After all he had been through during the past year, he could get used to this life, real or not. Suddenly, his moment of self-actualization was disturbed by an image of Wilbur appearing on the glass overlooking the Great Space.
"Steve, you are about to take a journey of great significance. It is an adventure of far greater importance than you can now know. Later when the light begins to dim in the Great Space, I will come for you."
Uncertain of his future, Steve spent the rest of the day on his own and told the others he would not be joining them for dinner. The first priority involved a visit to the library in an attempt to find some evidence to verify Wilbur's wild story. It took him most of the day searching the vast collection. Photographs of Wilbur's colleagues were few and difficult to pin to a date, especially given the unusual time measures used in Zero Node. However, there were photos of Wilbur and his ancestors, and some were dated using familiar chronology. It was possible these were fakes, but Steve became convinced that he was looking at the same people at various times in their lives. He found photos of Wilbur's great grandparents, Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart. He recognized Howland Island and the lighthouse with the sign showing "Earhart." This photograph was marked "Christmas 1977." A plaque displayed in the library gave a brief biography of the pair, describing their death two days later. An adjacent plaque provided a biography of Wilbur's parents, the same date of death for both as May 4, 2020. There was a plaque with a picture for Wilbur's grandfather, Charles, but no mention of death.
True to his word, early that evening Wilbur arrived at Steve's apartment. Wilbur led Steve back to the entrance to the orchard. Rather than visit the orchard, they took the elevator down to yet an unexplored part of Zero Node. Steve wondered if he had seen just a portion of this mysterious place. Would his beliefs be further stretched with some new spectacle?
The elevator door opened to an unremarkable hallway, ending at a doorway reminding Steve of the entrance to an exam room in a hospital. After enjoying a few days of luxury, perhaps he was going to be tortured or maybe dissected. A small glass case next to the door caught Steve's attention. He stole a quick glance while Wilbur ushered him through the doorway. A book was displayed in the case with a shape in the form of a rhombus on its cover. Steve did not have a chance to examine the details, but the book turned his thoughts to Winter Camp. It had a remarkable resemblance to the chronicle of Winter Camp - Encyclopedia WinterCampica.
Jeff Dryden stood just inside the door and walked with Steve and Wilbur through a narrow part of the room until it expanded significantly to the right. Although the walls were very dark, the floor was not one to be found in a building; it was grass, scattered with detritus from a forest. Ron Olds stood along the wall at the back of the expansion to Steve's right. Tom Wilder held to the wall along the right side of the expanded room, while Doug Sutton was standing at the forward edge.
Further in the large room, an alcove jutted to the left. Here a dog sat among several crosses placed in the ground. Steve could hear music and a vocalist. Although the number may have been popular before his time, he believed the singer to be Annette Funicello. As the song ended the dog rose and walked over to a black shroud spread on the ground in the center of the big room. The dog took a moment to sniff it.
"Jo Jo is preparing for the arrival of the Infinite Wisdom," said Wilbur, as the dog left the shroud and approached Wilbur. Looking at Steve, he continued, "It is for you, from this moment onward, to search your soul in judgement. Aided by Him to whom your most secret thought, worthy or unworthy, is an open page, you, yourself, must measure the sincerity of your purpose. From this moment onward, until the ban be lifted, let no word pass from your lips." With that, Wilbur turned and left the room with Jo Jo.
Steve stood facing the black shroud and Doug behind it. Jeff moved forward to stand beside Doug, while Ron and Tom flanked Steve. Doug began the ceremony.
Doug: "So solemn and so serious is our purpose, that it is but right, that before we admit you to the Infinite Wisdom, we should put you to the test, and that you should submit yourself freely and willingly."
Tom: "Come we now with words of warning, and we bid you henceforth keep the strictest silence."
Jeff: "O my young friend, you are starting on a long and toilsome journey. But, before you undertake it, you must be prepared completely."
Hearing these words, Steve prepared himself for the worst. Seeing the dog leave what looked to be a graveyard, could be the final resting place of others who failed the test.
Ron: "Bare your left breast."
Steve remained uncertain of his fate. Now, was he going to have to be naked for some dangerous ritual. And why was this kid calling him young. Regardless, he lifted his new shirt. Jeff dipped a cloth in a cauldron and walked around the shroud to approach Steve.
Jeff: "I now apply to thy bosom; water pure and ever sparkling, as a symbol of thy need, for cleansing of all evil."
"I have seen your trials and struggles with the powers and works of darkness; therefore, to increase your courage and to guide you onward, I shall teach you where to find a root when imparted, taken inward, shall increase your strength and vigor, which combined with faith from heaven, shall assist you ever onward."
"Forth into the mighty forest strode the ancient redskin fathers; sought until last rewarded found the root which shall be given."
Jeff pointed to a dirty stick laying in the grass in front of Steve. Steve took the hint and picked up the small root.
Jeff: "Take and chew until its essence is absorbed into your body."
Jeff: "Now cast forth what remains of the old rootstalk."
Jeff: "You whose heart is young and trusting, who has faith in the Infinite Wisdom, who believes that all men's hearts are tuned to goodness, that even in savage bosoms there are longings, yearnings, strivings for the good they comprehend not."
Tom: "You will now prepare to follow me as we approach the Infinite Wisdom."
Tom and Jeff flanked Steve, as the trio approach the shroud strewn on the ground.
Jeff: "Call we now upon the Infinite Wisdom to make his presence known, as he directs and rules and guides us."
All stood motionless in the poorly lit room now getting darker, except for the black shroud in the middle. As Steve observed throughout the Zero Node, there was no defined source of light. Yet it appeared that a spotlight was shining directly above this shroud. The shroud began to move as some manifestation of the Infinite Wisdom rising from the earth. Steve's tortured mind began to wander, "Was the shroud covering the exit to the outside? Had the Infinite Wisdom discovered the escape from the confines of the earth only to return for Steve?"
The shroud continued to rise and take the form of a human. When it stopped growing, Steve reasoned that it was about his own height, much shorter than the other four in the room. Now he wondered if the others would kneel to their deity. With all their talk and the special ceremony, it seemed appropriate that they would worship this god, probably some false idle created in this great place. Yet they made no movement and no sign of prayer.
A hand extended from beneath the shroud. It was human or least shared the same characteristics. Again, Steve's thoughts wandered, "Was the Infinite Wisdom just some old man sitting behind a curtain controlling the Zero Node? Was the Infinite Wisdom just a fake as in the classic Wizard of Oz? Certainly. he would not show his face." But he did.
The hand pulled a piece of the shroud to expose a face, one that shocked the foundation of Steve's very existence. He recognized the face. It could not be true. He broke his vow of silence, "Charles, I thought you were dead!"