Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Underneath and unexplored
Islands and cities I have looked
Here I saw
Something I could not over look.
Islands: The xx
Alois Dreher lay on white soft grass under the salmon colored sky, far above him hung a rosy hued sun filled with puffy gray clouds. Between him and the sky hovered his love. Her perfect porcelain skin was starkly beautiful it contrasted perfectly with her curly raven locks. Gravity pulled her hair down towards him. The scientist stretched out his hand to touch the mercurial lady. Her body was just beyond the touch of his fingers. She was worse than a ghost, real but untouchable.
The floating female form laughed a sadistic giggle that filled him more with lust than anger. She was teasing him, making him want her even more. In High German she proclaimed, “Soon my beloved, soon you shall embrace me in the way you desire, but first you must withstand the tempest and overcome blood thirsty cannibals.”
Dreher stretched his arm in a desperate attempt to grasp the woman. It was as if his brain had forgotten how to stand and all he could do was vainly reach for her. The object of his desire’s laughter was both maddening and encouraging. Then as if the earth was thrown out of its orbit, the entire landscape began to pitch and yaw, he was in the epicenter of some great tremor.
Slowly Alois Dreher opened his eyes. The ceiling of his room swayed, as his hammock began move back and forth. His mind began to cast off sleep’s stupor, he realized it was not just his hammock but the entire ship that was pitching violently.
It was not the divine face of his phantasmal lover that was before him now, but the bearded face of the old sea dog, Wiegmann. Dreher nearly entangled himself in the hammock before he could get out “How you could sleep in such fowl weather boyo, is beyond me” The gruff first mate roared over the noise of the storm. “Cap’n wants all hands on deck, even a lubber like you.”
As they made their way to the top deck Wiegmann called out over his shoulder. “Twenty-five years in the Kaiser’s navy and ne’r did I see a squall as bad as this, sprung out of nowhere. The natives of the Carolina chain believe that when a storm like this strikes, it is their Drowned God asleep on the ocean’s floor having a nightmare”
Little did the old salt know how close he was to the truth, Dreher thought. As they made it topside the wind and rain attacked the Hubris, with a vengeance. Hubris, Dr Dreher, thought what an appropriate name, what folly it was to think they could find what they were looking for.
The mainsail began to twist. The yardarms swinging back and forth Dreher could sense a large spectral hand reaching down from the heavens, twisting the tip of the mast, like a giant invisible child, spinning a top.
The mast split with a thunderous crack, raining splinters on the deck like shrapnel, a thick hemp line running to a yard, pulled out the cleat it was tied to smashing a sailor in the face. The man fell like the mast, his lamp falling to the deck. The hardwood began to glow blue as the kerosene burned on the deck.
At the bow a sailor began to waive his arms franticly and try to yell something, he cried out in vain, no able to be heard over the noise of the storm. Dreher stood transfixed, despite the loudness of the wind and his distance from the man, he knew what he was trying to warn them of, desperately and silently he proclaimed “Land!”
The planks in the bow began to crack as they struck the rocks. The sudden loss of the ship’s momentum threw Alois overboard. He hit the cold ocean hard. It felt as if something was pulling under the waves of the dark angry Pacific
The woman on the other side of Jack Mora was imposing, if not in a physical way, in a nearly tangible mental and emotional way. Jack had known people like her during his time with the CIA. In less than a minute of contact he as summed her up as, tough minded, thorough and not one to stand dissent. Dark skinned and small breasted Ahlam Patel was not a gorgeous woman, but neither was she unattractive. Her best feature was definitely her dark luxurious hair that if it was not confined in a tight bun, would have draped down to the small of her back. Though ostensibly in charge of The Morpheus Foundations project on Saudeluer Island, she wore the same brown unmarked overalls everyone else did.
Jack noticed that she didn’t have a wedding ring. Did Indian’s wear wedding rings? He mused to himself. His interest in her martial status was not indicative of any attraction towards the woman, rather the culmination of years training with the Agency, on how to take in the physical clues a subject was willing to give you and create and mental dossier of whom that person was inside. Jack was good at sizing someone up on their first meeting. Incredibly good when using only his instincts, but it never hurt to back intuition up with solid data.
He had already surmised much from her office. Neat, tidy and orderly. On her desk there were no pictures of family or friends, not even a photo of a cat. Beige steel file cabinets, hinted towards a sense of nostalgia, and contrasted to the fastest possible computer setting on her desk. The only adornments on the walls were her PhD and MD diplomas. Doctor Patel ran a tight orderly ship and probably did not suffer opposition or fools gladly.
After scrutinizing the papers in front of her, she taped them on the desk so they were even in her two hands,. “I trust your accommodations were adequate?” She asked a slight Urdu accent leering behind her cultured Oxford one.
“More than adequate.” Jack replied, which was the truth. The foundation had provided a duplex for him and Helen. His side was completely wheelchair assessable. The other half had a full medical suite in what was probably originally designed as a living room to support Helen’s life support chamber.
The foundation had supplied round the clock medical coverage for Jack’s unconscious bride. Three med-techs in eight hour stretches. The first was the Australian girl who had flown in from Sydney with them. The next was a lean sinewy African, whose face bore ritual tribal scars. The third was a middle aged stocky woman from the American Midwest. All seemed superbly confident in their skills and training. By Jack’s estimate nearly a third of the island’s population was some how associated with some kind of medical field.
“Excellent.’ Patel said in an even flat tone. “We want to make your time here as comfortable as possible.”
“I want to get back to Helen as so as possible.” Jack thought about what he had said. Thinking that Patel might misinterpret it as wanting to get back to the new house. “Not her body, but back to where I can be with her…In the dreams.”
Patel took her time before replying. “How much do you know about the research that the Foundation is doing here?”
Jack tied to at least put as much effort in his response as the woman seemed to put into her question. “I know that… you believe that… there seems…seems to be a world of dreams, that you say you can teach me to enter…That I can be with Helen again.”
The dark skinned woman nodded, “There is not only a collective subconscious, there is a communal subconscious that certain people can access in their sleep. And you Mr. Mora, at least after your accident seem to be one of those people.”
Jack was incensed that the woman seemed to be implying, that something good had resulted in the accident that had taken both his legs but also left his beloved Helen in a coma. He fought to control his emotions. He had to make these people think they needed him more than he needed them.
“With your natural talents and our technology we hope to explore this world of dreams, in a mutual beneficial arrangement.” Dr. Patel explained, if she noticed the sudden sense of anger flare up in Mora, she tactfully did not acknowledge it. .
“Why did Helen disappear in this dream world?” Jack said more in a demand than a question. He gripped the tires of his wheel chair in an attempt to calm himself down.
Patel seemed to be going through a long internal struggle to decide how much to tell him, finally she replied. “We don’t know. There was no change in her body, so what ever caused it, can not have originated here in the physical world, but within the Dreamlands itself.”
“I she dead, in the Dreamlands?” Jack asked not wanting to hear the answer.
“We don’t think so. If she had been destroyed there, we should have seen some kind of physical response and so far we have not”
Jack sighed “I want to get to work on this right away.”
For the first time during the interview Dr. Patel smiled, but before she could respond there was a knock on the door. Diverting her eyes to the door, the doctor said “Enter.”
The man who came through the door was maybe thirty to forty years older than Jack. He had a long ponytail, almost as long as Patel’s hair would be if, she allowed it to hang loose. His once brown hair was now largely gray. Unlike everyone else, including Jack he didn’t wear the generic brown overalls, but a red Hawaiian shirt and faded 501’s. He seemed to have cultivated an image of an aging hippie. Though something in Jack’s internal warning system seemed to be screaming, that things were not as copasetic as they appeared to be “Dr. Patel I have that report you were asking about.” He said holding a Manila folder full of papers.
The woman nodded, “Dr. Cobb this is Jack Mora our new dreamer.”
“Please to meet you.” The man said extending his hand to shake.
“Likewise.” Jack replied, putting away his initial concern about the man, at least for now. He was surprised that for an old hippie the other man had quite a strong grip.
“Mr. Mora wants to get right to work, can you take him to the lab?” Patel asked in a voice that made it clear this was not a question.
“But of course.” The doctor replied, depositing the file on Patel’s desk. Jack was deep on thought, Patel didn’t come off as the type of woman who just allowed peons to barge in when she was in the middle of an interview, was this a set up of some kind, some type of a ruse maybe? But more than likely it was at test, though Jack didn’t know what they would be testing him for.
Cobb wheeled Jack’s chair outside, the air moist and hot. “I couldn’t help but notice you don’t wear the uniform of the day.” Jack mused.
Cobb chuckled. “You see, once when I was much, much younger, I did a favor for a very important man. When I finally decided to cash that chip in, I was vain and petty enough to use it to get an exemption to the dress code. It bother’s Patel to no end.”
This seemed to be Jack import intelligence to figuring out this island and the people who lived here. “Then why do you do it?”
“Because it bothers Patel to no end.” The man said with another chuckle.
“You have a beef against her?” Jack asked bluntly..
“No more or less than against any other authority figure.”
Jack needed to know more about what he had gotten himself and Helen into. He needed to keep the man talking, to tell him more about the island and the foundation and the best way to get someone to talk was to get them to talk about themselves. “So, Dr, Cobb what are you a doctor off, medicine?’
“First, dear boy call me Tobias, and secondly no, I am trained in the classics of Western society, I am the project’s historian.”
“Historian?” Jack replied. “Why?”
“The things that the dreamers find in that…Other place, sometimes it takes someone of my expertise to identify and explain them.” He stopped pushing the wheelchair and took off his glasses then and began to clean them on his Hawaiian shirt. “Also, I would like to think that when all is said and done, we will be able to let the public know what it is we do here, though Lord knows the powers that be wouldn’t want that to happen, but if they ever do release their firm grip I would like to think that someone should get the story right, and that someone might as well be me.”
“What exactly is it that we find in the…Other Place?” Jack demanded pointedly. He was curious about the statement the doctor made about the powers that be, but felt it was to early to push that one.
Dr. Cobb just smiled and placed his glasses back on his nose. Instead of answering he pointed to the three black stone ziggurats past the Morpheus Foundation’s compound. “You see those temples, they were built by Stone Age tribesmen using obsidian chisels and vines as rope, makes the Egyptians positively look like slackers.”
Jack realized he wasn’t going to get an answer to his question, not yet at least. “What were they built for?”
“Observatories, meeting places, temples, human sacrifices, unholy sexual acts but mainly the ancient shamans would lay someone on this bed made of stone on the top, the person would sleep and his soul would travel to the land below the sea, where the great drowned god lived.”
Jack listened maybe the old man was telling him what was on the other side after all. Cobb continued. “The place was considered sacred, very sacred. There are no marks, or writing anywhere on the temples. To leave something on its surface would defile it making it mundane rather than sacred. In the Egyptian pyramids you find quite a bit of graffiti, things like, ‘The Green Falcon work crew is the best’ or “I slept with Tamit last night.’ But here, on this island, to the people who built it, the temple was so sacred that to defile it in anyway was punishable by death.” Jack thought about the planes without markings, the overalls without names or insignia and the nearly barren office walls, was this a carry over from these ancient beliefs. Cobb began to push Mora again.
“Who built them? Where are they now?”
“The Saudeluerian people are not genetically nor culturally Micronesians, they seemed to have emigrated here from Asiatic mainland around eight hundred CE, and are believed to been affiliated with the Burmese people known as the Tcho-Tchos. They scared the hell out of their Micronesian brethren, despite their miniature stature, they fearful warriors and cannibals…” Cobb began to drift off seeming lost in a sea of thought about the ancient people.
“What happened to them?”
“In 1941 a small group of scientists from the Japanese Army Group 731, came ashore with a hundred Imperial Marines, by 1942, every member of the Saudeluer tribe was dead.”
Jack mentally paused, he had received his bachelors degree form UCSD, in Military History, and he was familiar with the atrocities that the 731 had inflected upon their victims, mainly in China and Korea. How they had experimented on people with a cold ruthlessness matched only by the Nazis. Cobb continued. “The small island was of little strategic importance to the Americans who bypassed it on their ‘island hopping campaign’. Hoping to either starve the Japanese out or that the empire would waste valuable resources trying to resupply the garrison. By the time Marine Scout reconnaissance patrols explored the island in 1944, every Japanese soldier was dead. To this day no one knows what happened to them, some theorized that one of their experiments had gone terribly wrong, maybe it was a mutiny, or some other tribe from a different island killed them, but those are just theories. After the war the Carolinians became a UN Protectorate. In the seventies when The Federation of Micronesia was formed, Saudeluer, stayed under UN mandate.”
“Is that who we work for the UN?” Jack asked cautiously.
Cobb began to push the wheelchair again “We work for Morpheus Foundation.”
“And who are they?”
“The foundation is the foundation.” Cobb said in a low conspiratorial tone.
Jack was getting mad at the academic but was trying to hide that fact, the old man definitely knew more than he was letting on. Changing the subject he asked, “As a classicist may be you know where this is from. I heard it in a dream yesterday on the flight here….’Our life has two-fold; Sleep hath its own world’…”
“…A boundary between things misnamed, death and existence, sleep has its own world.” Dr. Cobb continued.
“Then you do know it. I knew I didn’t just make it up in my sleep, what is scripture? Shakespeare?”
“Lord Byron. Tell me about, how you heard it.”
Jack was used to remembering his dreams and recounting every detail to the Morpheus Group, during the little time he had been with them. “There was this woman, this breathtakingly beautiful woman she was standing on the top of a hill. She wore this dress out of the model ages of purple and gold. She was beautiful but I sensed a cruel steak in her too.”
Dr. Cobb nodded, his features were placid, but somehow Jack detected a deep internal response from the academic when he had said this. “She has many names, Ishtar, Morgana, The Queen of Air and Darkness, They say she spoke the words of that poem to Byron when he was asleep, Be careful, young man, with that one, your instincts serve you well, if she gets her hooks into you she will destroy you from the inside out.”
In front of the laboratory, was an old rusty hulk of a World War Two Japanese tank. It looked positively tinny compared to the Abrams and the Paladin self-propelled guns that Jack had seen in the army. For nearly seven decades, it had been assaulted by the island’s sun and humidity. Someone was trying to restore, it to its original military appearance. The rust on the front of the turret had been removed, revealing a dark gray oiled metal.
Dr. Cobb stopped in front of the old armored vehicle. “There is an intriguing story about this old tank.” He explained. “The Japanese, felt the Saunderlese Islanders where basically primitive savages. They thought they could impress them with their mechanized tank. The soldiers took it around the island in a shock and awe tour as it were. When they stopped, the islanders fell to their knees and begin praising the tank. The Japanese were aghast and told them not to worship the tank, to which they replied, they were not worshiping it, we are honoring it because it would be there longer than the islanders and army would be. Then asked why the Japanese didn’t honor their temples that would be here long after mankind had been wiped of the face of the Earth.”
Mora took this in, wondering if it was more than just an interesting antidote of culture clash. The doctor began pushing his chair to the lab.
Outside the building was a small dark skinned man, wearing tiger striped camo fatigues, held a M-4 carbine and on his thigh was a large curved knife. Mora recognized the sentry as a Gurhka from Nepal. The Navy had hired some as guards for some of their bases in Afghanistan. Proud fierce warriors, they swore to never unsheathe their Kukri knives with out returning them with blood on the blade.
As the Doctor wheeled him up the ramp to the lab, Jack wondered if anything associated with the Morpheus Foundation was what it seemed to be on the surface.