The Meeting

The carriage arrived at its destination and Stepney and Harlow made their way out, watching as the vehicle departed into the night, floating on invisible tracks laid in the ground. The power of magnets, opposing forces brought to use in a common good. They made their way into the tavern before them, a sign floating gently in the breeze.

As they entered they saw the meeting in progress. At one end of the tavern stood a man, paused momentarily in mid-performance. His eyes were cold, grey, without spirit or emotion. To his left sat six women, to his right, six men. All wore simple clothes, a single garment fashioned in grey and white. A letter G adorned it, drawn in crimson, placed over the left breast. Before them, an audience sat in silence. They spanned all ages, all colours, all shapes and forms. Their expressions were somehow vacant yet eager, oblivious to the world yet desperate for knowledge from the teachers who stood before them. Harlow and Stepney took their place at the back of the crowd, watching, learning.

Harlow released a soft moan. Stepney turned to him; he was bent almost double, his eyes streaming. His face was a deep red. Stepney watched, dumfounded, as a trickle of blood began to make its way from the young man’s ears. He whispered to him urgently. “What is wrong?”

Harlow turned his face to Stepney. His eyes were bloodshot, his mouth a contorted sneer. “I…it is this place. These people. All of this. It is not right. Something is very, very wrong here.” He paused, swallowed, breathed deeply. “I will be fine. We must stay.”

The man at the front of the tavern rose, addressing the crowd once more. Stepney felt a sense of unshakeable power, of conviction, of a confidence which could not be shaken.

“In our time humanity has progressed further than could have been dreamed. While others fell to disrepute and disrepair after the war, fighting amongst themselves, succumbing to one form of tyranny or another – the tyranny of the despot, the tyranny of ignorance, the tyranny of the majority, the tyranny of the gods of days gone by – the city of Celestis has grown, moving from one strength to the next. Soon we shall explore the stars, perhaps one day to settle on worlds far beyond this. Perhaps one day humanity shall be found in other realms, and the days of today shall become as obscure as the days before the war are to those who stand here.

“Two forces swell within this city. There are the men and women of science, of reason and logic, those who deal in what is seen and believe in what is known. Those who push back the barriers of human existence, who have sculpted this world and the splendours of its technology for us. And there are the mystics, the visionaries, those who see beyond what may be seen and dream beyond what may be dreamt.”

Stepney glanced at Harlow. He was bent double once more, whispering the words of some long-forgotten prayer. He rocked back and forth gently, tears streaming down his cheeks. The man continued.

“We do not claim to bring utopia. Nor to we claim a wisdom or insight beyond that which is found in each of us, carved through the millennia by nature and divinity. We simply seek to release the potential of the human mind, to allow each man and woman to live as they truly are, to reach the potential for which destiny has chosen them.

“For what are we, but the agent of forces at work in the world – the force of god, the force of evolution, the force of time, the force of change, the force of society? The teachers of old taught us as above, so below. That which occurs on one level may be found writ smaller than man may see and larger than man may comprehend. The atom, the man, the city, the universe. Each dependant on one another, each in power over one another. Yet for those who act with true consciousness, those who take destiny as their own, the universe itself is but another challenge.

“On this night one young woman has chosen to accept this challenge.”

Stepney glanced to Harlow once more. His head lay in his knees, his hands folded over it, as though blocking out the words of those who spoke before him. He was pale. Yet Stepney could still hear the words, whispered, invocations to some unknown deity. Stepney returned his attention to the speaker and watched as a young woman approached. She was beautiful in her adolescent way, unfinished, caught in flux between childhood and the world of adults. As she turned, Stepney saw her face. It was her. Hypa. Closer to the front of the crowd, he saw a figure jerk alert, as if snapped from the trance created by the preacher. The figure turned to the girl, yet she seemed blank, unresponsive, walking as if in a dream.

The preacher spoke. “Behold! For today this young lady has chosen to cast off those chains which restrain her, those chains which restrain us all. She has chosen to move beyond the laws which limit us, the principles which govern us. She shall now be known only as one of many. For together our power is beyond anything others could imagine.

“Today we welcome you into ourselves, for your heart belongs to us and ours to you.”

The expression on the face of the people did not change. Yet they stood, cheered; a mechanical sound, a hollow mockery of human emotion. Stepney was hit by a sense of power, a sense of power without feeling, humanity without soul. For a moment he was lost, overwhelmed, the sight before him silencing his spirit and stilling his mind.

As he came back to awareness, he turned to Harlow. His eyes had closed, his breathing troubled. As the crowd erupted around him, a cold, lifeless energy, Stepney took his friend in one arm and made his way from the tavern. As they came into the street beyond, Stepney blinked. Somehow their time in the tavern, as brief as it was, had made the world seem a very different place. He looked about him. Carriages made their way in silence, floating imperceptibly. Messages beamed their way into the world from projectors hidden from sight. Above him, towers spiralled into the clouds above, their lights mere pinpricks against the night sky. All was as it should be.

Stepney made his way into the night, supporting Harlow at his side. Unseen eyes followed them, stalking through the shadows, following them in silence.

Published in: on May 20, 2009 at 7:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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