Otto’s Cell excerpt from ‘The Sea of Lightning’
“all pain is geological”
In a future that seems very much like the present, the talents of convicted criminal masterminds are harnessed by NATO to develop new war and intelligence technologies. They are incarcerated in former monasteries where they may conduct their research in relative ease and peace. The former abbey of Vézelay is such an institution, and now with a mysterious problem on it’s hands: one of it’s inmates, Otto, is plagued by dark dreams, headaches and seizures—a condition that extends beyond her psyche, bleeding out into the immediate environment. The Abbey of Vézelay is in disarray, Otto’s interior angst has shaped a climate of unease and unrest amongst her colleagues and jailers: insomnia, depression, excruciating migraine attacks are suffered due to her proximity. Earth tremors have been felt in a region of the world that should be otherwise exempt… Research is disrupted and Otto has become a very risky and expensive proposition to NATO: how to contain her, even disposing of her—while keeping intact the vital nature of the technology that she has been developing…
Enter Pauline Diallo, a child psychiatrist enlisted to unravel Otto’s interior landscape—one she soons discovers to be a slippery slope. Pauline becomes privy to what it is that triggers Otto, and begins to glimpse the workings of modular blue—the communications technology that Otto has been developing for NATO. Modular blue: a system with the potential to change not only the face of history, but also geography…
The Directrix announces there will be no bargaining. I ask to see Otto’s cell. I am taken to her quarters and I realize I have taken the word ‘cell’ literally. The ‘prisoners’ of Vézelay, I keep forgetting, are actually VIP’s, who live like monks or clergy depending on their taste for the mundane. The standard issue accommodation is two rooms: A simple bedroom and a study. Simple but luxurious, considering the heavy oak, mahogany, maroon drapes and brocade beddings. There are adjoining bathroom and toilet facilities. The study usually overlooks a scenic vista. Otto’s is a view of a small enclosed garden—a rather tangled and neglected one, I might add, with an ancient pool at the bottom. I hadn’t been aware of that particular little closure, I make a mental note to investigate.
Curiously, the more I look at the pool, the more I have the impression of perceiving its bottom. It is the a mosaic of a dragon with it’s body vector separating day from night—night being some gold and indigo flecked astronomical detail of planets and whizzing asteroids and day, a congenial vista depicting the citizens of the world, oblivious to the splendors of outerspace, rulers, bureaucrats, courtiers, peasant and maritime commerce—
A vista… I am imagining things.
The pool is too far away to see what’s at the bottom.
The study wall is filled with sketches and notes neatly tacked on by push pins. On further inspection are Otto’s rendition of the globe with it’s latitudes and longitudes, the earth and charts of magnetic grids, magnetic force fields, points of convergence, reptile lines, ley lines; dragon tracks; dragon scales; a real python shedding; notes—
”it’s all saurian patterning underneath”…
On her desk, a neat stack of bible transcriptions, most of them apocalyptic from Old Testament prophets with names like Obadiah and Habbakuk—she has underlined verses which make no sense to me. The room seems relatively clean, I ask the orderly about housekeeping, she replies that the room is routinely swept and dusted everyday. Once a week the floors are scrubbed. I look down at the gleaming hardwood floors, scrubbed and waxed no doubt. I peer into the next room where Otto lies sleeping—hours of dreamy near dementia— what are you dreaming of Otto, over and over and over again? The sleep regulator crystal and a drip function blink discreetly. Elsewhere her neural activity is monitored on remote screens, prying for secrets—the Next Big Thing in cutting edge technology.
It is almost as if I have wandered into a crypt, she is a sleeping statue atop her own vault: hands clasped over her chest… or like King Arthur and the Knights of his Round Table, asleep in some enchanted cave in deepest darkest Wales, clasping their swords ready to spring into action at the moment of awakening—
a shepherd looking for his lost sheep stumbles into a large cavern—he catches a sight of a dim distant light. Advancing, it grows brighter and brighter until he finds himself in a vast vaulted hall. Thousands of warriors fast asleep in a large circle, their weapons and shields laying besides them, ready to lay hold—whenever the bell should ring. Their armor polished so brightly that they illuminate the entire cavern: flames beneath the earth—
One warrior, more distinguished than the rest, his golden crown inset with precious gems lying by his side. The shepherd summons up his courage and reaches for the crown. The king’s eyes open even as his hands grasp the shepherd’s wrist,
“Is it day?” the king inquires,
The terror as those peacefully shut eyes as they start—first slowly the whites flutter, then rapidly and then wide open—
A baleful stare.
I find myself running down the hill, through the orchard, (why?) Ahead of me, through the trees, a young red fox slashes streaks of orange lightning—I am chasing it. (Am I?)
It blurs to nothingness, deep in the forest. I am completely out of breath. Lost: verdant oak shadows; paths of confusion slaking across the forest floor; flashing webs—neurotic shimmers of fading sun: the rotating refractions of a memory and utter silence amplifying the boom of my heart.