And He Will Lead
by Tzvika Barenholz
"So let it be known that when the day comes to reveal the truths to the world, a prophet will be sent to show you the way. And he who is to come will come. And he will lead, and they will follow, and the world will prosper" (The Holy Book of Futures, first scroll) .
"You may go in now, sir."
Nelson Dam nodded to the secretary. Brown was the last man on his list, a list of millionaires all over the world who had a reputation for sponsoring the most unusual, unreasonable and, well, crazy expeditions. He had been to Munich, Beijing, Toronto and god knows how many more cities. He had met some of the most peculiar human beings alive, and none of them would pay for his mission . Robert Brown was his last hope, and he did not see any reason why he would act differently. Still, there was little point in backing down now.
He went down the hall and into a room that seemed as if it were taken from a roman imperial palace. Nelson did not find the luxuries of such rooms exciting, nor did he think any more of the men who live in them. He had spent the last couple of months meeting such tycoons at their lavish homes . You could say he had become accustomed to them.
"Mr. Dam, please have a seat." He looked at the old figure. The man must have been over a hundred. He could afford to be. He sat down on an antique wooden chair opposite Brown.
"I have read the papers you sent regarding an expedition into the Atlantic Ocean. Why don't you tell me what you expect to find there?"
"Gladly." Nelson knew that Brown's reaction to his next sentence would determine the results of this meeting. He took a deep breath and said the words slowly, trying to sound as serious as he possibly could: "I think there is something to find there. I don't know what it is, but I know that it does not wish to be found." Every time he repeated those words, they made less sense even to him. He could not, he thought in despair, expect others to accept them.
"And what kind of evidence do you have to offer?" The old man sounded like a schoolteacher.
"Well. As you can see in my letter, my target is an area in the Atlantic Ocean about 1200 miles east of Cuba - "
He was interrupted by the old millionaire: "Yes, I've looked into it. Let me be perfectly honest with you, I cannot see anything of interest there, financial or otherwise. It's just water. Miles and miles of ocean, no different than two-thirds of the earth's surface. What could be so interesting about that?"
Nelson considered his answer for a minute. "What kind of feedback do you suppose Columbus got when he suggested to head out to where there was nothing but open sea? Mr. Brown, the reason I want to go to that area, is simply because no one has ever been there before."
Robert Brown laughed and exclaimed: "The age of explorers is quite over, young man. I find it very hard to believe that a place unvisited by man exists on the face of the earth."
"Nevertheless. You may check this subject on your own if you wish. I have. There is no official record of anyone sailing to that area or through it for that matter."
The old man paused for a minute, and then he said triumphantly: "Even if what you say is true, we have satellites in orbit, you know. If there was anything on earth still undiscovered, would they not pick up on it?"
"I'm glad you brought that up. This is the most important point of all. I've helped myself to some satellite images of the area." He pulled a stack of pictures out of his briefcase and handed them to the old man. "Take a look at the first two. The first is an image of the area in question. The other is a shot of the adjacent ocean territory."
"They appear to be the same."
"They don't just appear to be the same. They are the same. Identical to the very last pixel, which leads me to only one conclusion. Someone replicated an image of one area - "
"So that they can delete the real image of the other." The old man was hooked. Nelson could sense it.
"Exactly. Now you understand what I meant when I said I knew something was hidden there, but not what it is. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to seclude a large section of the ocean. I want to know why."
"So do I, Mr. Dam. And we will."
"And they will place themselves in a cage imposed from the inside, to be broken from the outside. So that they will remain there, hidden from the rest of the world until he who is to come will come. And he will break the way outside for them. And he will lead, and they will follow, and the world will prosper" (The Holy Book of Futures, second scroll).
His ship left the New York harbor with only himself on board. He decided this was a journey best taken alone. Besides, he needed the room for all his sensory and analysis equipment. He spent his days thinking about what was ahead. I wonder, he thought, if those exact thoughts went through the minds of Magellan or Columbus. He knew that he would not come back an unknown dreamer, but rather a renowned adventurer. He thought of the kings who would greet him back. Then he remembered that there were no more kings in the world. Only prime ministers and presidents.
Then one day, as he was nearing his destination area, his radar detected something. The beeps annoyed Nelson, so he went to check it out. The printout read only one word: "land". He couldn't believe it. Not even in his wildest dreams.... He was on his way to the deck to see for himself when a strong electric current went through his body and knocked him out.
"Can you hear me, Nelson?"
It was a pleasant female voice. He opened his eyes. It's amazing how a girl's voice would make a man forget himself. Suddenly it didn't matter that he had no idea where he was or who had captured him. His face must have revealed his surprise when he saw a man where the woman sounded to be.
"Hello, Nelson. Don't look so disappointed."
"Where did she go?"
"She was never here. We just used a female voice to wake you up. It worked quite well, even if I do say so myself."
"Care to explain to me how I got here?"
"Why, that is precisely what we woke you up for. We are holding a special meeting in your honor, Nelson. You will learn all there is to learn soon enough. Please follow me."
Nelson got up and took a look around. The room was unusual. There were no power outlets, yet there was light. The only piece of furniture was the bed he had slept on, which was little more than a board hung up in the air. He stared at it with astonishment.
"A simple magnet, my dear friend. Nothing magical." The man seemed to enjoy treating Nelson like a child. Nelson, however, did not care for his attitude.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"My name is Morat." He now sounded impatient for the first time. "Now, if you just follow me to the council house, your questions will all be answered."
As they left the room, a spectacular view was revealed before Nelson's eyes. They seemed to be on the roof of a huge building. The roof was a gigantic platform shared by many such skyscrapers. On the roof there were many gardens, parks, sports fields and small public buildings.
"I see you like our upper city." Morat sounded pleased with himself. "It started out as a means of transportation between the residential towers. We only developed it to be the wonderful public paradise that it is now during the course of the last century."
Nelson was too astonished to come up with a cynical reply. He was staring at the incredible lighting that seemed to come out of nowhere, just like in his room, and especially at the conveyors, that moved people and cargo around different areas of the 400-square-mile platform at lightning speed. "So you put the streets above the towers rather than below."
Morat laughed: "Simple, is it not?"
"If you have the building technology to make it possible."
Morat's face turned serious. He chose his words carefully, and finally said: "The idea came first, the technology followed."
"Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?"
"It is where you come from. But not here." Morat gestured Nelson onto the automatic conveyor. After they sat down on the bench, he said in a clear and loud voice: "council house". Nelson felt the bench pressing against his back as they accelerated.
"It does not have the best hearing. You have to speak to it as if it were a retarded person." Nelson detected an apologetic tone in Morat's voice, as if a problematic voice recognition system was a stain on his great culture, first seen by an outsider. Nelson caught himself in the middle of that thought. He didn't know he was the first. There was much that he did not know, come to think of it.
Their ride came to an end after a couple of minutes and Nelson was thrown away from his seat. He noticed Morat was still sitting calmly. Inertia must take a little bit of getting used to on high G-force public transportation. They got off and started climbing the stairs leading to what must be the council house. It reminded Nelson of the White House, only it was built of some sort of shiny marble. It was much bigger, too. Each pillar was about 300 feet tall.
Suddenly Morat started to speak quickly: "Listen to me very carefully, Nelson. We are about to enter the council house. You must follow the rules of attendance. They are three: you must not speak unless you have been asked a question or awarded the right of speech by the first councilor, you must not contradict me, as I will be presenting you and most important of all, you cannot contradict the Holy Book of Futures. Is that clear?"
"I think so," Nelson said, absent-mindedly. He was too busy trying to figure out what sort of a social and government structure he was about to face.
"Good. Let's go in, then."
For the next half-hour they went through stairways and hallways, corridors and chambers. Morat obviously knew his way around this maze, or they would surely get lost in such a huge complex of rooms. Nelson thought this was a trick to make visitors feel ill at ease, as unreasonable a thought as that was, since there were no visitors, or so he assumed. It worked. However, this was not the main cause of his discomfort, but rather the fact that every single person they passed by stared at him as if he were a ghost... or an alien. He shuddered as that last thought went through his mind.
They finally entered the assembly. It was a huge room containing little more than a round table and chairs. Nelson counted 13 chairs, wondering if these people were taking shots at human superstitions or just unaware of them. The round room had 13 doors aligned precisely against the chairs. Men and women in white gowns entered the room through twelve of them. He and Morat went through the thirteenth. It took almost two minutes for everyone to walk to his or her seat, all walking in a straight line, all walking at the same pace. Everyone but him stood by a chair. Morat gestured him to stand on a small podium three feet away from the table. After he got on it, one of the men, whom Nelson assumed was the first councilor, started to speak.
"The twenty-third meeting of the holy council is hereby officially open." Nelson could not believe the ruling body of such an advanced civilization had only been called to meet twenty-two times before that day.
"Councilor Morat has brought to our attention a meeting of identification was in order. He will now state his case." And as he sat down, everyone but Morat and Nelson sat down as well.
Morat looked around the table and said: "With respect to the council." Then he paused for a moment, as if he was waiting to see if one of his peers was going to interrupt. Satisfied that this was not the case, he began what seemed to be a well-prepared speech:
"As we all know, the holy scrolls tell us that we are to wait for the One Who Is to Come before we can break free from this island. The scrolls call for a meeting of identification in which the council must decide whether a certain outsider is or is not the selected one. I come before you to claim that this man is none other than him -"
One of the members, a young woman, stopped Morat. Nelson noticed that this behavior surprised him, as well as the other council members, and was probably regarded as disrespectful.
She said: "With respects, Morat, we have convened before to discuss this issue. I do not need to remind you that all of those meetings led to a disqualification of the outsider. We just erased their recollections and sent them back. How is this one different?"
"With respects, Amana, you do not fully understand this situation. There is a reason why Nelson was not simply mind-treated and sent back. What makes him different from the others is that he is our first repeat visitor." Morat took a look around the table to see how they responded. Everyone but Amana nodded, staring at Nelson with disbelief.
"This was before my admission, I gather."
"Yes. In light of his return and with respect to the council, I hereby suggest we name Nelson Dam the selected one." Morat sat down.
"The scrolls call for a sign to single out the one who is to lead. Do you honestly think that a coincidental return qualifies?" The speaker was the first councilor.
"I hardly think it coincidental at all. It is far more reasonable to assume that we could not completely delete the experience of visiting our land from Nelson's mind because he is the selected one."
"And because of this incomplete mind-treatment, he had the urge to return."
Amana spoke again: "How do we know we didn't just do a defective job deleting him?"
Morat now seemed to be angry with her. "Were there a problem in our mind processing system, we would have had a thousand repeat visitors, not one."
The first councilor stood up, an action that clearly took some effort at his age. He said: "We will now vote on this matter. All against please raise your hands"
Three of the council members raised their hands.
"It is settled, then. In the year 9605 of the separation, the holy council has named this man," he pointed at Nelson, " to be the one who will lead. With respect, Morat, I trust you will bring him up to speed. This meeting is now closed."
Morat and Nelson stepped out of the council house and headed towards a nearby park, where they sat on a bench and started feeding what looked to Nelson like ducks. A closer inspection proved this prognosis wrong. Their head was nothing like a duck's head and they swam with the help of a powerful tail rather than their legs. They just sat there for a while and then Morat spoke.
"I wouldn't try to recognize them if I were you. There are none of their kind anywhere else on the planet."
"They were engineered by your people, then."
Morat laughed: "Why would we waste our times on such ugly creatures? They evolved here."
Nelson gave Morat a look of disbelief. "That sort of process takes some time"
"Well, we have been separated from you for ten thousand years, you know."
Morat's casual, seemingly unimportant remark left Nelson dumbfounded. "You've been here since the times of the cavemen?" He sounded dubious and unbelieving. "How could a bunch of cavemen build this?"
"They didn't. If you just let me put two sentences together it'll all be clear."
"Start at the beginning, if you don't mind."
"Where else would I start? The beginning, as I was about to tell you, is around ten thousand years ago. Let me ask you this, according to the standard history and prehistory you must have been taught, how old is civilization?"
"What's that got to do with your people hiding on this little secret continent of yours?"
"It has everything to do with us."
"Well, the first civilizations were formed in Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent around 4000 BC. That makes it six thousand years ago."
"You are a learned man, but you can only tell me that which you have been taught. In reality civilizations were formed four or five thousand years earlier than that. Began to form, I should say."
"What stopped them?"
"They stopped themselves. You see, in that period, people started to get organized into social structures larger than tribes and families. All they saw around them were primitive cavemen. Only a small minority was civilization-ready. So in order to speed things up, they got everyone who showed signs of intelligence and progress together. They were just hurrying the process by collecting all the capable minds and hands."
"And those gifted cavemen are your ancestors."
"So they robbed mankind of all its talents, anyone who could do anything. You may have helped yourselves, but you set the rest of us back four thousand years. It took us that long to recover, and for what? So that you may have nice elevated streets."
"But we didn't do it just for ourselves. The holy scrolls tell us to come back someday. Our edge over you, attained, I'll grant you, by means less than fair, will be used for your benefit as well as ours."
"Not long, Nelson, now that you're here. Once the one who will lead has been determined, there is nothing to stop us from leaving this island."
"Still, don't you think the world would have been better off if you had just let things evolve the way they were meant to be? We would now be four thousand years ahead of the game! Your intervention, much like any other intervention, was bottom-line harmful, not to mention risky."
"Well, after you've put all the genius in the world on this island, any number of things could have killed them. A volcano could have gone off. There could have been an earthquake. You would have set the world four thousand years back for nothing."
"Maybe so. But look at us now. We have a society with no crime, no hunger or poverty, no classes and no discrimination. We've worked out all the answers and now we are going to let you copy our work. There was no sense in all of us trying to figure it out."
"I don't know, Morat. Maybe you're right."
"We're going to broadcast our existence tomorrow. You will tell the world what I've told you, Nelson. Maybe you are right. Maybe it was a gamble. But we got lucky and it paid off. So there's nothing to regret, is there?"
They left the park and got back on the conveyors, when suddenly they saw the bright white light in the sky.
"Give me General Robins."
"One moment, captain."
"What is it?" The old general sounded tired.
"Sir, it's about the nuclear test in the Atlantic."
"What about it?"
"Well, I don't know how to put this exactly... the test area... well, there's an island there."
"Our maps only show water. How big an island?"
"It's the size of California, sir."
"That's impossible!" The old chief was furious, not to mention embarrassed. "You mean to tell me, we nuked a damn continent and we didn't even know it?"
"It appears that way."
"Any idea why?"
"Well, our experts say that someone went to a lot of trouble to hide it. This area, sir, has been kept well out of sight. Planes don't fly over it, our planes, not to mention airliners. Ships never go there and most peculiar of all, our satellites have been programmed not to watch it. We only started looking at it now, because of the test."
"Surely you're not suggesting...."
"There were people living there. Someone was living there, anyway."
"Some sort of advanced culture?"
"More advanced than us, most likely. Or they wouldn't be able to hide from us the way they did."
"Have you prepared a crew to go there?"
"I have prepared a pillage crew, sir, I know the drill. But it'll be at least a month before it is safe for them to go in. You and I both know what sort of a bomb it was. Besides, with all the nukes we set off over there, I doubt we'll find anything we can recognize, much less use. Whatever was there before, is gone now."
"Well, captain, a force that advanced would have probably been more of a threat than a resource."
"Maybe so, sir."
"Let not the day be hastened, for the choice of the wrong one will result in nothing but devastation and grief. They will wait until the time comes and they will select only he who has already been selected. And he will lead. And they will follow. And the world will prosper" (The Holy Book of Futures, ninth scroll).
Story © copyright 1999 by Tzvika Barenholz <email@example.com>
Artwork "Overlook Castle" © copyright 1999 by Ryan Bliss <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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