Monday, April 28, 2008

Soma: Part 1

Early in the spring time Soma walked up and down the dusty roads of a small town outside of nowhere. Luckily the dry Arizona heat had taken the day off. Sedona, Arizona is famous for its “New-Age” tourist traps, vortexes of positive energy, astrological predictions, psychic readings and the Secret. All of it bunk spirituality that sometimes worked thanks to positive thinking and the placebo effect. The man called Soma had come here to escape. He had been on the road for less than a week, but had traveled hard. He still had not been in any kind of automobile. He had made it further than you might expect.

He had walked for so long he’d escaped the densely populated city and had moved into area of uncharted home businesses. He stopped in front of a house to read a sign that had caught his attention: Free trips into outer space – inquire inside. “Hmm this could be interesting.” he thought to himself. Clearly there was no launch pad or alien spacecraft hidden behind this quaint small town home. He wondered what kind of scam these people were running and decided to check it out. So far his trip to the American southwest had been mediocre at best. He really would have enjoyed a journey into outer space, but a good laugh would probably do him just as well.

Soma walked through the gate of the low white picket fence into the front yard. It was quite a scene. There were lawn ornaments galore, bird houses and a small pond complete with a waterfall. In the pond, fish of all colors and sizes swam about and some even jumped up out of the water. The fish’s bounding desire to breathe fresh air seemed natural. The temptation was familiar to Soma, the temptation to escape from safety, leave your home, taste freedom, even if it put your life in danger. But all these fish can ever expect is a momentary escape. They always inevitably fall back into their watery prison. “And the story is no different for me,” Soma thought to himself

After a brief stand still in this strange and cluttered front lawn, Soma eventually began to walk down a curved path towards the house. He passed by wind chimes, bird baths and a sundial. He looked down at his watch and saw it was 3:30 p.m. He assumed the sundial would have told him the same, if he had known how to read it. Statutes of pagan gods stood next to the Virgin Mary. “Good lord this front yard has a lot going on.” Soma noticed, “it’s all eye candy used to draw you into their trap.”

Finally, after having stood spellbound for what seemed like an age, Soma approached the front door. As he reached to turn the knob the door swung slowly open. Rather spooked he peered inside, expecting nick-knacks. He was surprised by what he saw. Inside the door there was a small front room, somewhat like the reception area you might find in a medical facility, except there were no chairs to sit in and no T.V. hung up in the corner. No sign of any cheeky clutter. Truth be told, there was hardly anything in this room at all, only a small desk with an even smaller man sitting behind it. The man behind the desk was frantically drawing what appeared to be a map onto a sheet of paper. Behind the desk there was a door.

Soma approached the desk. The man did not acknowledge his presence until after he was standing directly in front of him. Soma reached his hand out to ring the call-bell, but before he could ring it the small man snatched it away.

With a flourish the man finished a line of his work and then spoke up cheerfully, “Welcome my friend! Have you come to inquire about your journey into outer space?”

Soma tried to muffle laughter as he replied, “I suppose, but if I’m going to be off into outer space could I please use your bathroom first?”

The man replied in all seriousness, “I’m sorry sir but you should have thought of that before you left, you’re going to have to wait. This way please.”

He motioned the aspiring cosmonaut behind the desk towards a door which opened again without being touched. “Please step inside. Someone will be with you very shortly.”

Soma felt himself being shoved into the room, but when he turned around to protest the only thing he saw was the tiny man sitting back down at his desk and the door slowly slamming shut behind him.

The room he was in was darkened. A small opening lined the top of the walls and a stream of light shown through from underneath the ceiling. The effect was that it emitted only enough light to illuminate the top half of the room. Slowly Soma’s eyes adjusted and he saw beneath the light, in the darkness, a man sitting crossed legged.

On the man’s right there was a stack of perfectly square paper. On his left was a large and growing pile of origami cranes. There must have been hundreds of tiny paper cranes already lying there. As Soma’s eyes refocused onto this strange scene he saw the man’s hands working at light speed, folding and turning and shaping each successive piece of paper into the form of a crane. The man did not look up from his work and he never paused, even to breathe.

His movements were mesmerizing. Soma felt his brain begin to swell. He remembered an oriental tradition, involving these origami cranes. If one person can fold one thousand of them, they will be granted a wish for having done a good deed, a sort of mental training exercise, in discipline and in patience.

There grew inside Soma the intense feeling that something sacred was happening inside this room. The man’s folding hands seemed to be gaining speed. Faster and faster he turned paper into cranes, each one similar, but slightly different than the last. Faster and faster the pile of square paper on his right shrank as the pile of cranes on his left grew. As his momentum carried him forward his movements seemed to reach a critical speed. He folded faster and faster but Soma’s eyes and his mind could not keep up with how fast the man’s hands were moving. For Soma the entire scene was played in a kind of time-lapse slow motion. Slow motion at super sonic speeds; Soma caught the occasional glimpse of a crane appearing, as paper rising up off the floor into the folding man’s hands then delicately placed onto the pile among the other cranes.

Faster and faster, more cranes, less paper, less paper, more cranes.

“There must be seven hundred cranes there to his left, no maybe eight hundred by now.” Soma guessed. His mind was racing, “Soon he will finish with his pile of paper.”

Suddenly Soma knew positively, there will be exactly one thousand cranes folded when this man is through.

Soma began to fear what would happen when the folding reached its end. He considered interrupting but feared what might happen then even more. “I will wait and see this through until the end.” Soma decided. He remembered he was supposed to be traveling into outer space.

Soma sat and crossed his legs directly opposite of the man folding paper into cranes. He squinted at his watch. It read only 3:31. The second hand had actually stopped, the watch was broken. “Damn it” he whispered quietly to himself. He thought “O well, I will take it to a watch maker sometime soon. Hopefully he can fix whatever has gone wrong.”

Forgetting about the broken watch Soma again focused his attention on this strange crane folding man; very soon he was going to finish his folding. Anticipation began to rise in Soma’s chest. He was excited, not because he thought he was going to outer space, and not because he thought this man would immediately have a wish granted for him. He was excited because of some energy inside the room. This powerful force made it impossible not to feel the sense that something important was about to begin.

Then: tick, complete silence, no more ruffling paper, Soma’s breathing stopped, time itself stopped, the blood in his ears stopped pumping shhhh……the hush sounds all ended sh. Silence. Sh. Ehhh-tock. Soma’s watch clicked one second as the last crane fell from the man’s hand onto the pile. The folding man stood up and blinding light burst through the walls and ceiling. Then an overwhelming darkness swallowed the entire room…

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