Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘novella’ Category

Chapter-1
Gampa Guru Writes His Masterpiece

It is customary, though not necessarily the rule, for a master of great learning to found a school of thought. But modesty forbids some, ventures of such vast scope. They are instead quite content with leaving a book or two for posterity. Thus it was with Gampa Guru.
His disciples rallied around him from the moment he casually expressed his idea. They grasped its significance and from that moment not a day passed without their anxiously prodding the master to be out with it. How long can a master put such zeal with a laconic answer,’I am thinking?’
Pedda put it succinctly on the seventieth day after Gamp Guru tried to palm off with the stock answer,’ What is there to think?’
Yes since he took to define a school of thought that was quite his own, thinking was like a bull peeing non stop! It took a while during which his modest mind showed signs of wilting. But his five disciples were right behind him, urging him to set it all down for all time.
Milecha saw the name of the master spreading all about. He could even smell of incense burning. He fought the urge to wrap it about him as his due, No his master was worthy of homage and they were merely his disciples. Others were also affected by it.
‘Like a wild fire sending ideas helter- skelter’Maddaya sensed the ruckus his master caused in him.
‘No it is like a weighty stone sinking into the pool of serene thought’ Mooda added.
The master must be pregnant with ideas, that is for sure!’Maddi threw in his opinion,’May it be quintuplets.’
Pedda pooh-poohed these to say the master’s book should be like a glorious cloud in the intellectual firmament as he could visualize it. Sure enough a sudden rain made the four disciples accept Pedda’s similie the closest to the master’s yet-unwritten magnum opus.
Under the rack of scholarly solicitude and plain nagging Gampa Guru finally called for his stylus and palm leaves that soon materialized before him. Gampa Guru let out a deep sigh and looked at the disciples whose combined bated breath sounded in his ears ominous: like a hard wind from five disciples about to be broken on his neck. He curtly asked them to make themselves scarce.
Instantly he was alone under the peepul tree.
He took his pen and said,’Ahem!’
After a fortnight the work was complete. The first leaf carried invocation to elephant-god and a superscription: The Truth about Nothing.’
The disciple in taking hold of the work felt they were like Truth seekers who were given a taste of Truth in its infinite simplicity. Each took it by turns and reverentially pressed it to his eyes.
‘Blessed are our eyes to see Truth in her inward beauty’.
They gathered around Milecha who could read somewhat but they need not have worried. The remaining leaves were blank.
There fell painful silence.
Pedda exclaimed,’Truth about Nothing!
Mooda said somewhat bravely,’ Our master is so brilliant he has taken Truth inside out!
Maddaya,’He breaks new ground in Thought.’
‘Nothing!’ they all exclaimed in unison.
They walked in circles while their master felt cramp down in his legs.
‘The title itself encapsulated the wisdom of our sages.’ they beamed towards their master in admiration.
They were of one accord that no amount of dissertations or theses would do justice as a simple comment from the author. So they beamed and asked,’Master, what you had in mind when you wrote it all down?’
‘What does it say?’
‘Nothing.’ blurted out Pedda
The other five in a shock leaned on him and he said guiltily,’I meant the title. But what of the rest?’
The incomparable master shook himself up and his painful legs had somewhat swollen. He walked unsteadily and said cryptically,’ Why don’t you read it yourself?’
‘Ah!’ they exclaimed as if all their doubts had vanished with the gentle nudge of the Master once and for all into the abyss.
They said,’It is about Nothing! The great Cosmic Void>!’
(note: excerpt taken from my first full length work. I wrote this humorous tale in the early 80s. b.)
benny

Read Full Post »

One wintry evening in Ferrara Don Juan Belvidero was entertaining one of the princes of the House of Este. The sumptuousness of the banquet and the celebrated beauties who were present underscored the fabled wealth of the host. He could well afford to spend lavishly since his father who was old and decrepit could die any moment. His father had accumulated wealth wisely and let the only son of his late marriage live as grandly as his expectations warranted. The only trouble was that the old man was in no danger of dying. He lived in a wing of the palace alone as a recluse with only a dog for company. This indestructibility of his sire was well known and over the cups the guests could well tease Don Juan about his father.”Yes, when is that father of yours going to die?” asked one who was too lovely to offend any and the host somewhat drunk replied, ‘Oh! don’t talk about it,” cried Don Juan, the young and handsome giver of the banquet. “There is but one eternal father, and, as ill luck will have it, he is mine.”
At that moment the valet of his father rushed in horror writ large in his face. “My lord, your father is dying!” he said; and at those solemn words, uttered in hollow tones, a veil of crape seemed to be drawn over the
wild mirth.
Don Juan rose to his feet with a gesture to his guests that might be rendered by, “Excuse me; this kind of thing does not happen every day.”Don Juan closed the door of the banqueting-hall; and as he went down
the long gallery, through the cold and darkness, he strove to assume an
expression in keeping with the part he had to play. He became thoughtful, like a man involved
in a lawsuit on his way to the Court.
His father struggling to keep himself alive as though he had a matter of vital import to leave for his son fell back in his death bed somewhat relaxed.”Poor Juanino,” the dying man went on, in a smothered voice, “I have always been so kind to you, that you could not surely desire my death?” “Oh, if it were only possible to keep you here by giving up a part of my
own life!” cried Don Juan.
The thought had scarcely crossed his mind when the old poodle barked.
Don Juan shivered; the response was so intelligent that he fancied the
dog must have seen through his hypocrisy.
“I was sure that I could count upon you, my son!” cried the dying man.
“I shall live. So be it; you shall be satisfied. I shall live, but
without depriving you of a single day of your life.”

“He is raving,” thought Don Juan. Aloud he added, “Yes, dearest father,
yes; you shall live, of course, as long as I live, for your image will
be for ever in my heart.”

“It is not that kind of life that I mean,” said the old noble, summoning
all his strength to sit up in bed; for a thrill of doubt ran through
him, one of those suspicions that come into being under a dying man’s
pillow. “Listen, my son,” he went on, in a voice grown weak with that
last effort, “I have no more wish to give up life than you to give up
wine and mistresses, horses and hounds, and hawks and gold—-”

“I can well believe it,” thought the son; and he knelt down by the bed
and kissed Bartolommeo’s cold hands. “But, father, my dear father,” he
added aloud, “we must submit to the will of God.”

“I am God!” muttered the dying man.

“Do not blaspheme!” cried the other, as he saw the menacing expression
on his father’s face. “Beware what you say; you have received extreme
unction, and I should be inconsolable if you were to die before my eyes
in mortal sin.”

“Will you listen to me?” cried Bartolommeo, and his mouth twitched.

Don Juan held his peace; an ugly silence prevailed. Yet above the
muffled sound of the beating of the snow against the windows rose the
sounds of the beautiful voice and the viol in unison, far off and faint
as the dawn. The dying man smiled.

“Thank you,” he said, “for bringing those singing voices and the music,
a banquet, young and lovely women with fair faces and dark tresses, all
the pleasure of life! Bid them wait for me; for I am about to begin life
anew.”

“The delirium is at its height,” said Don Juan to himself.

“I have found out a way of coming to life again,” the speaker went on.
“There, just look in that table drawer, press the spring hidden by the
griffin, and it will fly open.”

“I have found it, father.”

“Well, then, now take out a little phial of rock crystal.”

“I have it.”

“I have spent twenty years in—-” but even as he spoke the old man felt
how very near the end had come, and summoned all his dying strength
to say, “As soon as the breath is out of me, rub me all over with that
liquid, and I shall come to life again.”

“There is very little of it,” his son remarked.

Though Bartolommeo could no longer speak, he could still hear and see.
When those words dropped from Don Juan, his head turned with appalling
quickness, his neck was twisted like the throat of some marble statue
which the sculptor had condemned to remain stretched out for ever, the
wide eyes had come to have a ghastly fixity.

He was dead, and in death he lost his last and sole illusion.

He had sought a shelter in his son’s heart, and it had proved to be a
sepulchre, a pit deeper than men dig for their dead. The hair on his
head had risen and stiffened with horror, his agonized glance still
spoke. He was a father rising in just anger from his tomb, to demand
vengeance at the throne of God.

“There! it is all over with the old man!” cried Don Juan.

He had been so interested in holding the mysterious phial to the lamp that he had
not seen his father’s eyes fade. The cowering poodle looked from his
master to the elixir, just as Don Juan himself glanced again and again
from his father to the flask. The lamplight flickered. There was a
deep silence; the viol was mute. Juan Belvidero thought that he saw his
father stir, and trembled. The changeless gaze of those accusing eyes
frightened him; he closed them hastily, as he would have closed a
loose shutter swayed by the wind of an autumn night. He stood there
motionless, lost in a world of thought. When he was sure his father was dead he knew what must be done. Don Juan the sceptic shut the flask again in the secret drawer in the
Gothic table–he meant to run no more risks of losing the mysterious
liquid.
Don Juan Belvidero was looked upon as a dutiful son. He reared a
white marble monument on his father’s tomb, and employed the greatest
sculptors of the time upon it.
With such fabled wealth he was beyond reproach and knew all those principles that made man obey the dictates of the society and adherance to religion, morals were not for him. Like his father he married late. But of set purpose he was neither a good husband nor a good father. Don Juan had learned wisdom
from the mistakes made by his father Bartolommeo; he determined that
the least details of his life in old age should be subordinated to one
object–the success of the drama which was to be played out upon his
death-bed.

For the same reason the largest part of his wealth was buried in the
cellars of his palace at Ferrara, whither he seldom went. As for the
rest of his fortune, it was invested in a life annuity, with a view to
give his wife and children an interest in keeping him alive; but this
Machiavellian piece of foresight was scarcely necessary. His son, young
Felipe Belvidero, grew up as a Spaniard as religiously conscientious
as his father was irreligious, in virtue, perhaps, of the old rule, “A
miser has a spendthrift son.”
It was on a beautiful summer evening that Don Juan felt the near
approach of death. The sky of Spain was serene and cloudless like the expression
of his son a dutiful and obedient son who sat there watching him with
loving and respectful eyes. Towards eleven o’clock he desired to be left
alone with this dutiful being.

“Felipe,” said the father, in tones so soft and affectionate that the
young man trembled, and tears of gladness came to his eyes; never had
that stern father spoken his name in such a tone. “Listen, my son,” the
dying man went on. “I am a great sinner. All my life long, however, I
have thought of my death. I was once the friend of the great Pope
Julius II.; and that illustrious Pontiff, fearing lest the excessive

excitability of my senses should entangle me in mortal sin between the
moment of my death and the time of my anointing with the holy oil, gave
me a flask that contains a little of the holy water that once issued
from the rock in the wilderness. I have kept the secret of this
squandering of a treasure belonging to Holy Church, but I am permitted
to reveal the mystery in articulo mortis to my son. You will find the
flask in a drawer in that Gothic table that always stands by the head
of the bed…. The precious little crystal flask may be of use yet again
for you, dearest Felipe. Will you swear to me, by your salvation, to
carry out my instructions faithfully?”

Felipe looked at his father, and Don Juan was too deeply learned in the
lore of the human countenance not to die in peace with that look as his
warrant, as his own father had died in despair at meeting the expression
in his son’s eyes.
“As soon as I have closed my eyes,” Don Juan went on, “and that may be
in a few minutes, you must take my body before it grows cold and lay it
on a table in this room. Then put out the lamp; the light of the stars
should be sufficient. Take off my clothes, reciting Aves and Paters the
while, raising your soul to God in prayer, and carefully anoint my
lips and eyes with this holy water; begin with the face, and proceed
successively to my limbs and the rest of my body; my dear son, the power
of God is so great that you must be astonished at nothing.”

Don Juan felt death so near, that he added in a terrible voice, “Be
careful not to drop the flask.”

Then he breathed his last gently in the arms of his son, and his son’s
tears fell fast over his sardonic, haggard features.

It was almost midnight when Don Felipe Belvidero laid his father’s body
upon the table. He kissed the sinister brow and the gray hair; then he
put out the lamp.

By the soft moonlight that lit strange gleams across the country
without, Felipe could dimly see his father’s body, a vague white thing
among the shadows. The dutiful son moistened a linen cloth with the
liquid, and, absorbed in prayer, he anointed the revered face. A deep
silence reigned. Felipe heard faint, indescribable rustlings; it was the
breeze in the tree-tops, he thought. But when he had moistened the right
arm, he felt himself caught by the throat, a young strong hand held him
in a tight grip–it was his father’s hand! He shrieked aloud; the flask
dropped from his hand and broke in pieces. The liquid evaporated; the
whole household hurried into the room, holding torches aloft. That
shriek had startled them, and the room was full of people, and a horror-stricken crowd beheld the
fainting Felipe upheld by the strong arm of his father, who clutched
him by the throat. They saw another thing, an unearthly spectacle–Don
Juan’s face grown young and beautiful once again.
An old servitor cried, “A miracle! a miracle!” and all the Spaniards
echoed, “A miracle! a miracle!”

Dona Elvira, too pious to attribute this to magic, sent for the Abbot of
San-Lucar; and the Prior beholding the miracle with his own eyes, being
a clever man knew how to turn this to profit. He immediately gave out
that Don Juan would certainly be canonized; he appointed a day for the
celebration of the apotheosis in his convent, which thenceforward, he
said, should be called the convent of San Juan of Lucar. At these words
a sufficiently facetious grimace passed over the features of the late
Duke.
On the day appointed the church was chokeful of people curious and deeply
reverential of the miracle. Above that blazing sea, rose the high altar like a splendid
dawn. All the glories of the golden lamps
and silver candlesticks, of banners and tassels, of the shrines of the
saints and votive offerings, paled before the gorgeous brightness of
the reliquary in which Don Juan lay. The blasphemer’s body sparkled with
gems, and flowers, and crystal, with diamonds and gold, and plumes white
as the wings of seraphim; they had set it up on the altar, where the
pictures of Christ had stood. All about him blazed a host of tall
candles; the air quivered in the radiant light. The worthy Abbot of
San-Lucar, in pontifical robes, with his mitre set with precious stones,
his rochet and golden crosier, sat enthroned in imperial state among his
clergy in the choir.
Te Deum laudamus!

The chant went up from the black masses of men and women kneeling in
the cathedral, like a sudden breaking out of light in darkness, and the
silence was shattered as by a peal of thunder. Even at the moment when
that music of love and thanksgiving soared up to the altar, Don Juan,
too well bred not to express his acknowledgments, too witty not
to understand how to take a jest, bridled up in his reliquary, and
responded with an appalling burst of laughter. Then the Devil having put
him in mind of the risk he was running of being taken for an ordinary
man, a saint, he interrupted the melody of love by a yell,
the thousand voices of hell joined in it.
Te Deum laudamus! cried the many voices.

“Go to the devil, brute beasts that you are! ” and a
torrent of blasphemies fell non-stop.

Deus Sabaoth!… Sabaoth!” cried the believers.

“You are insulting the majesty of Hell,” shouted Don Juan, gnashing his
teeth. In another moment the living arm struggled out of the reliquary,
and was brandished over the assembly in mockery and despair.

“The saint is blessing us,” cried the old women, children, lovers, and
the credulous among the crowd.

Just as the Abbot, prostrate before the altar, was chanting “Sancte
Johannes, ora pro noblis!” he heard a voice exclaim sufficiently
distinctly: “O coglione!

“What can be going on up there?” cried the Sub-prior, as he saw the
reliquary move.

“The saint is playing the devil,” replied the Abbot.

Even as he spoke the living head tore itself away from the lifeless
body, and dropped upon the sallow cranium of the officiating priest.

“Remember Dona Elvira!” cried the thing, with its teeth set fast in the
Abbot’s head.

The Abbot’s horror-stricken shriek disturbed the ceremony; all the
ecclesiastics hurried up and crowded about their chief.

“Idiot, tell us now if there is a God!” the voice cried, as the Abbot,
bitten through the brain, drew his last breath.
The end
Ack:based on the story by Balzac

Read Full Post »

Life begins at Forty ©

Helmut Hoffman was a problem of his times.
He thought of becoming a surgeon because his father spent several years struggling with a compulsive disorder: he imagined he was Jack Ripper come back with a vengeance.  He could not bear the sight of a knife and he thought if he ever took one in his hands it would be the beginning of mayhem. A devout family man when not under the delusion, he let Helmut follow his own bent. Helmut had seen his father in his deep suffering and it made him decide use the scalpel in ways never used before. He began modestly enough: first two years he persevered that it occurred to him that he might be as well able to withstand the rigors of his chosen discipline; He plodded along. Somewhere along it became clear that he had a mission in life; he had found that focus which served as a counterweight to his gypsy-like existence, which followed in wake of death of father who could not bear the struggle and chose a rope to end his life. And then his mother followed her man of whom she had nothing but pity. Pity is not love and they had left its deep scars. That point where youthful dreams one by one went through some wringer marked the end of his fugitive years; instead came his future in some curious symbols which to his relief belonged to a dream state; he could on waking up dismiss those dreams played often against backdrops resembling more like an abattoir. It was his internship. The clarity of his precision cutting at the operating table apparent then somehow in dreams morphed into shambles: blood and gore of it wetted his dreams and its arousal served as a counterpoint to his missionary zeal. He had to acknowledge apart from his surgical skills, which were acquired by sheer drudgery, he was just like every one else. In the end he had come out as a surgeon overqualified and god-like. His problem had just begun.

He won his acceptance from his fellow scholars and his peers alike despite a disability, which however did not affect his skill. He was a mute but his cutting hand spoke instead. He was a mute who made his scalpel speak all that needed to be said of the man. It spoke truth and did not mince words. The scalpel was the man. Technology empowered that scalpel and whether it was guided by laser or a cryogenic medium his cutting hand spoke for him. Only technology needed to show the solution and Hoffman could make it work for him. He still was in control.
The year was 2285. The Space Age For All brought wealth of other galaxies to man. Funding of health care bigger and better than before was not the problem. The problem was man. He was disaster prone and to Hoffman it occurred so early that with so many disasters which the space age had brought he was too qualified for hacking away in some quiet corner. He worked out his own schedule and performed where his terms were acceptable anywhere across the globe. His life’s mission had taken a world- view glancing over the imperfections of his times.

It was a time where technology was a solution looking for a problem too.
It was inevitable that Hoffman and technology would come together and redefine their roles. The man who held the scalpel wanted to protect his hard earned skills. He had latched on to technology with as much as ease as lichens could find its nutrients from the rock. If the rock and lichens could find its common ground so could he with technology. His insight into where he was heading for was best exemplified in that section of a rock fossil that he always carried along. It showed some lichens some 64 million years old. In that fossil what minerals which once made up the plant had made its impression; it was thus he wanted himself to remembered: In such a fusion of his soul with technology if any one attributed a selfish motive he would have been the most perplexed; In different times he took long and hard look at himself and he could have said with a clean conscience that no selfish considerations had entered in his calculations in wanting to serve his times. At least till love entered in his personal equations. Himself, technology and love.

1.
Ménage a Trois

Love came to Hoffman much late though he grew up in its midst. He fell in love with Mathilde, his guardian’s daughter on whom he at first had not entertained any notion of sharing his life let alone his innermost thoughts. As a medical student he would be at weekends a guest of his guardian, a banker. Sometimes he would be with the family at their vacation house in Cannes. He had from the beginning marked her as a hoyden and neck deep up to mischief. His attention of her, he could later recall with a smile, had begun on a curious disability of her, as the only one in his knowledge who never dreamt.
She was rather vain about it. Her governess did dream and so did all her friends and even the ones who disliked her in school had something nice to tell. She was 13 and she wanted to know if it was a medical condition. He thought she was putting him on so his opinion was merely dismissing such a state did not exist. He did not think it was necessary to give reasons for his conclusion. She laughed it off with a retort, ” Why you are only a tyro. I shall ask you the same question when you finish your college. Perhaps you may have another opinion.”
He shrugged his shoulders to reply, ”Perhaps? Who knows? You may even grow and recall your dreams.”
Somewhere along her adolescence she found his presence did much good to her. Her age seemed to bring out its inchoate creases as a matter of course. It was to Hoffman she could throw all doubts. He could distance himself to think from her angle. In matters of great or small he advised her as if it all came from her own. He could dissemble well that she only saw how easily he could think objectively. It was an effort for him. At her coming of age party it was his choice that made great impression on her. ‘You are so selfless!” she said hugging him and kissed him which took him by surprise at first. He had nothing against love but he hated being taken in surprise. When he saw her dressed as he had suggested he had to agree that she was right after all. He hated magenta but it did accentuate her skin its right tone. Why did he hate magenta? It was the color of the nylon rope that his father chose for his death. To comment upon that color without its painful associations required great effort. She asked her opinion and he just gave that. Not his opinion.
Matty was 19 when he had finished his college. There were so many days, weeks and months the happy pair spent together and her hoydenish hectoring did thaw his stiffness. He at first took it in good sport and thought she was very inventive and her smile and pranks all set her youth to advantage. Then it was love pure but not simple. He had to agree with Matty that in appearance they were a match and cut of the same clothe. Of medium height but able to carry himself well with aplomb that gave no hint of its depths; if their youthfulness were to be molded by a chisel, would have fitted the hands of Phidias but Rodin would have shown their inner life better.
At that time he had graduated from University of the Nations that sprawled along the Loire Valley where scholars came from Abidjan to Zagreb. Merit was only consideration. It had the pride of place among academic circles as the ultimate in two disciplines, – in particular of molecular biology and medicine. Hoffman entered its halls fully realizing that his life was in his control and he was on a quest, a scalpel that was his holy grail. When he graduated he was ready for his next phase in which marriage was not given a place. Hence at the time our story begins he still held his reservations, a priority. Matty found his excuses of profession having his priority hilarious. One day she with a laugh said that no man could have his whole life mapped out before he was ready to settle down. ” In fairness to the man he agreed that she had a point. Life is more than one man’s resolves for one’s future.
Ii
Jurgen Mannheim Griswold ran Griswold Conglomerates with ruthless efficiency to which his daughter had no partiality. He was widowed pretty early in life and he realized as soon as the period of mourning was over that he would not repeat his mistake ever again. He did love his wife too well; he came to observe that his investment in marriage was hardly secure with uncertainties of life that shredded emotions not to speak of time and his energy. So he remained a widower devoting more time for what he loved most. His business.
As soon as his only daughter came of age she took over the role of a hostess to lavish parties he gave at home and were well attended by every recipient of his invitations. These guests were gilt edges to his security as a banker and he loved to keep that image alive by bringing in interesting people from other walks of life. In such fusion the public relations man in Jurgen saw his daughter was an asset and his ward a rising star. They stood out. She was smart and chic. It was this image that Hoffman came to equate with Mathilde.
Hoffman was mute. He did not speak but he communicated through a microchip implanted under his arm which spelt out what he wanted to say through a monitor as large as a pocket book. That chip could send electrical impulses of his brain in a language that spoke as he did; technology had made it sound as masculine as she thought she could fall in love with the voice alone. That voice came to be a signature tune of a man whose strength she saw in his solidity. She could lean on that and feel his heart throbbing with life. She saw his life as twin aspect of her life. He called her butterfly and he could make technology speak caressingly or even in a matter-of-fact tone.
One evening coming from their usual walk from the woods he asked out of the blue, ”Do you still think you do not dream?”
“Of course I do not” she replied.
She had held her hand hooked to his and she gave a tug and said, ”No matter. You dream on my behalf. It is enough for me.”
He to his dismay realized that she was still intent on marriage.  What was more she was so besotted with him she wanted the same technology by which they could communicate in a higher plane as she put it. Beyond senses her love sought that mystery of his companionship. Which all nodes his past touched? Death of his parents and a few stray incidents of his pubescent years. Those scatological dreams blood and gore of it mere shadows of his aseptic life style? Did those light and shadow of his memory make her at one with his? She wondered. She well peeked into complexity of his mind and her love didn’t wince.
She desired him more than ever. Technology could translate language of senses in a way she could follow: how else could he have talked to her with his clear dark eyes and it said yes? Or with his smell?  Her eyes understood him as her smell found in his smell her soul’s delight. In implanting the same chip she thought it was like saying their mutual vows at the altar of Technology.
The banker had no inkling that his ward was the object of Mathilde’s affections and let him come often, which Hoffman could not always comply with owing to his other engagements. Mathilde was as necessary to him and served his needs as his work and even while he was deep in his tasks he was connected to her. The thought of technology playing cupid added a certain thrill. On her part, she glowed while he did surgery; she could sense as though the way his hands skillfully cut or torched and grafted organs to his patients it was as though she herself was present.
While Helmut stayed away from parties he could picture Matty just as well from where he labored, as a hostess at the mansion at Princehof Plaza Hamburg. It had no history but wealth had created its own which was clear from the moment one drove in and left one’s carriage into garage and let oneself led by the liveried servants into its primly pruned front garden enclosed by high walls. One may not more than cast a cursory look at the old fragments from ruins of other ends of the world and proceed to the portico that made its statement. Had one paused to look closely at the grey figures sprawling here and there one would have realized that a few of the victims of that volcanic eruption which devastated Pompeii have become objets d’art in Hamburg! Wealth of the banker had revised history of Pompeii to suit his own needs. If the grounds of his villa spoke of his interest in archaeology the house spoke of his indefatigable industry. What is kitsch to a serious art collector to the banker was something to take his mind from serious aspects of his profession. He let them merely to rest his weary eyes from looking no more than cursorily. For the very reason he shut his eyes from every impressionist or post impressionist painter of the nineteenth century. Wealth of Jurgen was hard won and in expending it over frivolities served its purpose. Marble and gold plated accessories all filled its occupant and master with a feeling that he had arrived.  If there were banquets and people wore formal and made small talk it was the hostess who made it all fit. Her down to earth liveliness and poise allowed the formal enjoy without letting their hair down.
iii
Did Helmut felt bound to marry and settle down for all that ? Well no! She brought some sort of purity in his life that his work could not provide. He had a goal of becoming freed from his past. In that age where nations had learned to think as one to which their Space Age For ALL was a case in point, his parents had funded Cybernetics Applied Industries and they left it to Jurgen. He wisely lent for expanding the business when at a time space programs had hit a bad patch.  He saw to CAIN had created robots with AI to assist them in their Interplanetary Research Programs. There were too many casualties and heavy loss in human lives. But accidents were beyond one Bank’s sole purview. It was then he had floated Space Age for All ( SAFA) for the public and was underwritten by all the nations to tap every interstellar galaxy for its mineral wealth that initially showed great promise.  Then crises one after the other at a point did unnerve Jurgen. If the Bank did not foreclose rather too soon CAIN could still be operative.  Perhaps not. Anyway it always hung like a bad cloud in his mind. He undertook custody of Hoffman and his career owed solely to his financial support. Hoffman felt no embarrassment in receiving aid from one who had killed his parent’s dream.  He considered that he was his own man only after he had carved a name for himself, He had money too he took possession of all those robots and other properties held in custody of the Bank. He had discharged outstanding arrears to the last cent and he got rid of all except those robots. They were part of his ménage in the house set in the new up market section of Pretzen Ober Rijn. It was large with rooms modestly furnished but with great subtlety to which he had only to thank Matty who had become his second best interest outside the aseptic surgical wards.
She was connected to him by her physical desires and by technology. Thereby she had cast out the parental hold over her. Only after he had come into his own and secured the dream child of his parents he started thinking of marriage seriously.
iv
One morning the divine surgeon to his shudder realized that he made a slip up at the operating table. The operation was what in other times he could have done blindfolded and his knot had slipped. In the next try he had got it right. None had noticed but it brought home on what uncertain ground he had his reputation built up. It took greater part of the day to leave its bruise from his mind. So when Mathilde suggested that evening he might as well make the robots earn their keep he looked at her wondering if she had sensed his near fall from grace.
“I had a difficult day,” he said as he flopped in his favorite chair. After some time he wanted to know what was about the robots that she found so remarkable.
“ These seven make me feel as if I am Snow White” she commented, ”don’t you think it is a good idea to make them specialize?”
Helmut knew she had caught up with him very fast. He asked her what she meant and she explained and said finally,” It shall not compete with you. Only you need map out different aspects of surgical procedures and guide them through a transponder. You are still the master.”
He just stared on. He had thought about it earlier and it was now coming back to him. He could not help smiling at her new found interest in a field, which was till now totally alien to her world. She had switched her position from that of a technophobe. Neither she nor he did go overboard except to squeeze as much out of technology for their main goal. She added,” If our chip implant is good for us it could be good for them too?” She was right.
One of the balmy days of spring Matty and Hoffman called on Elvirez Da Cunha who specialized in robots. He came around one day to take a look at the seven robots and he said that they could be restructured for their specific requirements. Elvirez worked out a detailed program and estimates that they agreed upon. Code Med was his solution. He said it worked in tandem as a system. Each unit had its own identity and receives its own signals to work independently or work as part of the herd in which each robot has specific scaled down function.
“ Each letter in Code Med stands for specific signals. It is a self-contained unit. C has its character as distinct and different from O and so on.” Elvirez said with emphasis.
“What of letters E and D which figure twice?” Hoffman cut in.
“E coded blue is the shepherd dog to the herd. It processes the signals from individual units and interfaces with D which is linked to your transponder.” Turning to Mathilde he added, ” The other D is what connects to you. You can scan from your notebook.”
“While I engage D suppose Mr. Hoffman wants to contact me will that be a problem?”
“No,” replied the expert,” The system will automatically transfer the call what E coded yellow, receive. One is for receiving and the other for sending signals which you both can clue in.” He added, “If needed it can be linked to a network for feedback if second opinion is required.”
He explained other essential features, which made the specific strength of one as the strength of all. Code Med he said has its abilities to convert non –verbal clues of its handlers, “in this case you both which derives from the common transponder.” He explained,” I can see you are wondering if it would not be an invasion of your privacy. Yes it is.” Elvirez paused to allow them to digest implications of what he had just said. He continued,” Your transponder is your world which is all the more indispensable because of Mr. Hoffman. If your transponder makes your interior world into a verbal mode Code Med taps it in order to perform as intended. One unit will always maintain its capacity to sense from signals of microchip implant and convert into a verbal mode.” The pair who listened intently their expressions ranging from surprise wonder had come to admire its immense potential. They looked at each other to say,” Our world is private and yet the outside world is only a signal away!”
Elvirez held his hands up to correct,“ Your private world will always remain inviolate.” He said with a chuckle, “You may want a second opinion but what leaves your work station is edited thoroughly, automatically of course.”
Hoffman wanted to know more about the manner Code Med perceived non- verbal cues. Elvirez explained once over and said, “What you might read from thought patterns of your wife has its particular fingerprint as she has her own value system. Code Med has to set down a coherent text, and right too for specific problems, considering value systems of each being different. These they do from data available from what is perceived for given time and context: each of you serves as database. Code Med will search and make sentences.” They heard Elvirez explaining working modalities in silence. Elvirez could realize the last bit was far out for them to take in. “I know you must be thinking that the machine has undue control over processing its data. No! We should always be in control. Shouldn’t we?” They nodded.
In the end he said with a chuckle. “I have provided a sting which the system cannot get at. “ He explained in so many words it considering they have gone farther than their level permitted. A few days later to a query that Matt asked on the sting system he said thus:” It is an active digitizer which retrieves the parameters it has employed in setting a text and scanning the worksheets we will know if Code Med has done a proper job or not. It cannot tamper with signals AD collates from it”
“Why such a precaution?”
“Code Med is an assembly of AI and its different facets. It can pose conundrums such as an independent mind can pose from so many alphabets to stump its handlers. But in keeping its transcript in its development we can trace the source and intents.”
“Then there is darker intents possible?” Hoffman asked curtly.
Human intelligence has its downside so will what is artificial given its state of the art.” Elvirez replied.
He produced a digital pen and he admitted that he had it assembled since their last session that he could understand had made them somewhat uneasy. He patiently explained. “Each of the signals, which Code Med sends in-house and for the network is recorded by it. What this scores over others is its leaving markers through their transcripts for a handler to draw his or her own conclusions.” In the end they were happy that they had a system which made their world dovetail into each other efficiently.
v
One morning the banker asked for an interview. He had found the time when Matty would not be around. She had that day left for Paris to shop around for her trousseau. Perhaps it were merely a casual meeting between two men who had nothing common except some mutual interests which an alliance would entail in some roundabout way. Helmut could guess what was in his mind and did not feel any perturbed. The banker made it understood that he was complete in agreement with his daughter’s wishes and came to the point.
After he defended his actions briefly which had killed the dream of his, he said the CAIN would not have survived long given the down turn of events. “IPR died its natural death and what I did was to soften the blow that hung over your parents’ dream.”
Hoffman well knew every argument even before it was laid out. He patiently heard him out.
Jurgen said: “ It was not any guilt that made me appoint myself as your guardian. I saw that you represented future. Investment in one who has a future always brings its returns. I believe it as a banker. I will swear by that. You are the future son.”
Hoffman replied that if he had any animosity to him he would have not let him take the role of his benefactor. “Besides hatred is a powerful emotion. As a surgeon I cannot afford its luxury.”
The banker understood him. He made it clear in so many indirect hints that Matty was his heir presumptive and her mother had left a sizeable fortune to her. Hoffman heard him out as he got through a painful interview with his customary good nature which left the older man realize that he was indeed superior to him.
Hoffman had pushed his work back of the mind as he discussed the coming wedding. The Banker wanted to give them as wedding present Code Med which as he facetitiously said, ‘was his contribution to the health care.’
It was thus while the wedding took place their nest was all in disarray with a family wing added to the existing which was to house Code Med.

For honey moon the couple went to Egypt. Sailing down the Nile they went back in time and thence to Aegean islands. Hoffman had a passion for rocks, which he collected and it was his way connecting with the past. He showed fossils of sea creatures that were ferreted from the rocky cliffs. Matty was a willing pupil as he was of her world. She looked at him in wonder that his mind had found a varied diet of natural world as stimulating as the sanctity of his theatre. They communicated still because of his disability but technology gave them much more nuances to it. Their personal digital window opened to soul of the other. In her notebook his thoughts were sentences and speech as virile as she had imagined of him to be. He could read between lines of her words her soul. She held nothing of her fathers home.
One week after returning from honeymoon it was like coming home. Pretzen villa was her own nest and even the strange places they traveled together at a leisurely pace did not remove altogether her tryst with domesticity. With love which each felt from pulse of other made its prosaic features more attractive with each day.
One month away from their villa was keenly felt since Mathilde could feel the need as much as her husband who had revised his busy schedule and could not stay away any further. She felt as if she were deprived from her own busy schedule.  Still fresh with glow of their honeymoon Hoffman wanted to know on the morning after the night if she did dream.” No, I didn’t.” He shot a searching look at her.” Is it possible?”
“ Why should I now bother with dreams? It is more likely that the robots may see dreams before I.”
“Would you mind?”
“Oh no.” was her answer.

2.
Conspiracy

Matty kept the house while Hoffman traveled distant places; wherever he went she traveled with him via the robot that he took along and he could assist in performing specific functions.  Where she was redundant her actual value derived from her surrogate whose AI made her role more than a homemaker. She was in a manner of speaking had become susceptance, the imaginary part of the complex surgical procedures which bound her husband to a robot.
Six months after they were married Hoffman had gone for three days on a case, which she knew was exacting and demanded much from him. Besides death anniversary of his father came in its middle. She was before her work- station catching up with the news. It was O who took her call and in an instant she was beside him. Her implanted chip made her scan his thoughts had she had to smile,” A case of burns. Trying out skin graft.” The essentials came out as if he dictated right then in the middle of it  “Be back on Friday. For funeral.”
Suddenly her expression froze. She knew somewhere an error had got in.
“What was the funeral you talked about?” she asked when he had come from his trip. He thought for a while and scowled. He could not remember of any funeral. It was while he checked his watch for their evening party with some of their friends he thought what it could be. Funeral of his father was on a grey November. The date was exactly 24 years ago. “What Code Med has to do with reminding funeral or any other engagements?” Hoffman was astonished. It was as if one intruded into their private space for no reason.
Hoffman later in the evening recalled all those painful recollections, which had attended his last rites. She pressed his arm as he fidgeted while they had a nightcap. “ You can talk to me about it if you want to.” She said. He merely shook his head and she understood from her notebook that he was a trifle irritated. “Let lying past alone. Love.” She knew that his parents were mere shadows and Code Med merely raked in dead ashes. Hoffman talked of his case at hand and O had interpreted wrongly. Their tragedy was merely dragged in by some strange malapropism.
Next day Mathilde referred into transcript. Hoffman had not logged in as yet. They brought fresh to her mind her conversation with her husband and it was exactly true.
Only one line seemed a mistake which after she had rearranged read as, “Helm/ hath/ no/ fury/ like/ a/ woman/ scorn’d/” This had crept in the text whose continuity could have been discernible only from the slight variation of its typeface from the rest. All those words when set in order were clear enough. The clue to its intention was clear from the usage of old English hath instead of ‘has’. That evening Matty had it before Hoffman and they had a laugh over the pun. Matty said, “I know the line is from Shakespeare, Bob,” he agreed. He commented, ”Code Med has an attitude.”
They dismissed outright as too ridiculous for notice.
For a week everything seemed working all right. Then came a series of errors, which warranted Elvirez to come in. He checked the whole system and found that AI had indeed its own fingerprint. “From the incident it may look as if the system recognizes the presence of our sting operation.” It was the way of Code Med to make outsider take a bum rap. They had ganged on the digitizer to make it seem redundant.”
He continued, “I could abort the sting operation if you want to.”
“Oh no,” Hoffman said as if it was a preposterous suggestion,” Active Digitizer is crucial to us as Code Med. We are not afraid of our own dreams or work of our hands. It shall remain at our control.”
“Do you think it can ever get out of hand?” Matty wondered when they were alone, “ Suppose it read our thoughts wrongly? She asked her husband. He hugged her and said, ”We think better than they. Do we not? Then what is the problem?”
Matty smiled and he said, ” They are not here to correct us but for our convenience.”

Two years of their marriage was idyllic and Matty could enjoy in her husband’s success as much as she were an associate who did equal contribution to Health Care. They bought a vacation villa on the isle of Elba. He was at the point was onto something big. He was day and night devising a sustainable recovery program for age related damages to the brain. As a surgeon he thought in terms of technique and background information, which he needed of neuronal dysfunctions he could tap from Code Med. He needed it for his development in research as Mathilde who smoothened every wrinkle of frustration. But for her constant encouragement he would have had left off half way. She was his ear to various schemes in its inception. She was also present as it evolved into a workable stage. If he scrapped it in the middle for being too complex to be of practical use she could understand that his reasons were right. She stood by inspiring him to give it another try and yet another. Code Med was part of their world in making their togetherness more rewarding than ever.
The first holiday was like going back in time. Their sailboat the Eight Bells carried them and their dreams. One week was all that they could take from their self- imposed research program. Two years he had allowed himself no break from his profession and he had said, ’my life really would begin at 40.’
Matty to her disappointment saw that her husband was more like a man possessed since it was clear to them that two years will not be sufficient for putting the research complete. Hoffman assured that it is but natural that much time spent in his research, from initial stage to a break- through would not show as worthwhile. “ Every day wasted over the preliminaries is absorbed in that final moment of breakthrough. So back to square one.” Matty could understand it was still gnawing his mind since his ability to make love had almost ceased. She knew him well and she knew that he would be all the more embarrassed to be confronted with it at that moment. She recalled those early days and he was as exciting and overpowering, which was as if his speech disability had sent every available resource as if in compensation to her fulfillment. She let herself carried along by his intense concentration that was infectious to say the least. Her husband’s mission had rubbed on to her.
One morning Hoffman logged in his notebook and he was mystified by what Code Med had transcribed from her conversation to him. She was away on a sailing holiday. She had been to their villa to check the ongoing renovation that the contractors had promised to finish in a month. In such a straightforward prosaic detail there were a few garbled information. Code Med was at it again. The pieces when put together made him wince. It was a bad joke. “Able/ was/ I/ ere/ I/ saw/ Elba/” Matty
Hoffman knew that Code Med had palmed off a corny palindrome in this case. In putting Matty’s name it merely showed its bad attitude. He in his reply casually mentioned to her that Code Med had slipped again.
What upset Matty was that she could not get out of these taunts of Code Med because it was too vital for Hoffman than for her. To expect him to work on without it was to undo all those years, which had made him an extension of it as she was. It was only in matter of degrees. Such unequal partnership to it made any suggestion for its removal as unfair.
Her mind was in turmoil and to her surprise while she was in the villa she saw a dream for the first time which she could recall after she awoke. She wrote it in essential details and sent it over to her husband. If he did not take it as unusual it was different for her. It was a dream. Nevertheless it was hers. She could not get rid of it and in its simplicity and surrealism she felt that she was as marked as by a brand of iron. She wanted to be near her husband. “Perhaps it will cease to be of any consequence with my love around.”
That noon she set sail to the mainland. Hoffman knew that she coming home and he had decided to take the day off.
He knew that she had cut short her vacation in haste. She needed him as much as he needed her. What he did not understand what set off a full-blown dream so late? Was it any premonition of sorts which he should take note of?
That night he went to bed early since he had to be at the airport to receive her.
Hardly he had drifted into sleep he awoke with a start. ”I saw a dream!” he said loud. It took a second too late to recognize that he could speak again. The gift of speech was not so fresh or meaningful as the sting of his dream. He shivered and blurted out, ” I saw her dead.”
He spoke the truth. News came to him that the Eight Bells was found drifting in the sea and Mathilde was dead when she was found. “Cause of death is unknown. No foul play is suspected.” It said.
“Is my speech as result of it, her gift?” Hoffman was too stunned to think of it further. He collapsed under shock.
3
The Orion

Hoffman did not realize, as one week after Mathilde’s funeral that she left a void which nothing could replace. Her death had connected to his own loss; and with his parents.  But it had not prepared him for what lay ahead. The living and his own dreams. His life and hers had touched much more than he had any inkling of. It still left him incomplete.
He was still connected to Code Med which merely brought fresh his past and it was intolerable. The first task, which signaled that his mourning was at an end, was when he asked Elvirez to check Code Med for worms. “It seems to me that it was not any virus but worms which gave its attitude.” The surgeon came straight to the point.
Elvirez stared at Hoffman as if he was incoherent. He asked, ”What makes you say as if it is a fact?”
Hoffman said, ”I had a dream.” The expert could not believe it.
One week later Elvirez came back to him to say he was right after all.
He explained that the culture of worms, which he said was hatched between the robots and had passed on between them to pass detection.
“Who could have thought you would see it in a dream!” The expert was dumbfounded,” it took me almost four days of sweat.”
Hoffman nodded to say, ‘yes it seems so.’ What Hoffman did not say was it was Mathilde who dreamt of the conspiracy of robots. It was all that one dream, which her life could hold on to. It must have affected her beyond belief that she cut short her vacation.  She had said, “I need a hug so bad that I can cry.” What it had lead to! Mathilde needed a window into her lover’s soul. She had wished for a dream. She had often told him in their most intimate moments that.
She had realized her dream. It was only that it was to Code Med that she opened her window instead. It made him shudder.
Elvirez asked a favor from him to report of the worms ‘Code Med’ in a scientific journal. He agreed.
In the end he instructed Elvirez to break up Code Med into individual units to serve him for surgery alone.
He said to the banker who had called on him to enquire that he was through with his research. “I shall stick to my profession and nothing more.” Before parting he asked him a personal question, which made the banker a shade embarrassed. ”Do you dream?” Hoffman asked him
“No,” the older man replied with a somber expression,” unfortunately no.” Then he was gone.
Later On his fortieth birthday he was invited to take up control of the Orion which he did. It was the answer to the accident-prone age of his. A ship of immense size and a law unto itself. It was entirely in his control. A floating Health care entirely manned by robots made sense to him. In the appointment order one line made him smile inwardly. ‘To one who dream this will come as no surprise.”
It was the Banker’s manner of apologizing for that curious disability which was somehow passed on to his daughter.
The End

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts