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A Man of Science
A Man of Science
The magician stood head and shoulders above the crowd as he walked through the throngs of people in the small village. Men and women in their thirties could tell the thin figure was elderly by how he towered over them: old people were tall and young people were short. This upside down fact was a reflection of the hard times that had befallen the planet since scientists had brought on the current ice-age almost a century ago. There was only enough food to barely keep alive the small population left. So the reward of 10 bags of tubers seemed like a fortune: and all a person had to do to claim the prize was make the crystal river sing again.
The magician carried a falcon on his left shoulder whose face was hidden under a small leather mask. Having a bird that size travelling with you was usually enough of an oddity to bring a good meal in any ale house, as birds had also fallen victim to the harsh weather conditions since the ice age began, becoming basically extinct. Scientists had brought on the freezing weather by fragmenting the moon, supposedly to quickly cool the surface of the Earth and slow down Global Warming, but the effects of decision could be seen on the faces of the starving crowd that the magician moved through now. People hated scientists – with good reason.
The tall stranger added his name to the roster at the base of the hill overlooking the crystal river. He watched others climb the hill and say ancient magic words, barely remembered words like, “democrat, socialist, republican, neo-nazi, baptist, catholic” - all words that had no real meaning now except as echoes from a happier time. No one, however, could make the crystal river below them sing, no matter how hard they tried.
When the tall magician’s turn came to try his luck, he used a walking stick to push his old body up to the tree standing at the top of the hill. For a moment he looked over the beautiful crystal field below him: hundreds of see-through mathematical forms, shot up from the base of the cliff, some as tall as 40 feet. Once long ago, they had produced wonderful clear tones that floated over the village beside it and drew in audiences from across the globe. But the river had fallen silent two generations ago. Beauty and mystery had left the world, forever it seemed – hence the huge reward to anyone who could bring it back.
The magician raised his arms, startling the huge falcon that flapped his wings, slowly lifting into the air, flying across the crystals in front of the man. “Gross national product,” he shouted. “All shipment prices are based on destination.”
Then the long dead music of the crystal river started slowly at first, as one tone sounded which triggered another and another. Within thirty seconds sounds filled the air that were similar to the ringing of an army of magnificent crystal bells. Even the falcon appeared to enjoy the music as it flew south for a moment and then north then south again…before eventually finding its way back to the tree behind its owner.
When the cheering had died down and the magician had descended the hill into the crowd’s loving embrace, he had five of the bags of potatoes loaded into his cart – giving the other five to the crowd. Later, as he was ready to close his eyes for the night, lying alone on his cot, the magician saw a shadow pass across his tent, blurring out the light from the campfires outside.
“May I come in?” whispered a voice softly.
“I was just getting ready to sleep,” he answered back quietly.
“I will only take a moment of your time,” came the soft voice a second time.
He put his feet on the ground, sitting up. “Enter.”
The figure pulled a stepstool from a corner of the tent, before pushing back the hood of the cape she wore. “I enjoyed your music today…” the woman began. “But I don’t believe it was magic.”
The old man’s eyes widened a little with interest. “You heard my words that brought the crystals to life. I shouted and the river of gems began to sing.”
“Tell me if I’m wrong but I believe your spells were just a ruse. I believe the wings of the huge bird you carry with you pushed enough air downwards that it started a chain reaction inside the crystals, allowing them to vibrate and produce the music.”
The magician was obviously shocked beyond being able to speak, but he was also pleased at the maiden’s insights. “What do they call you, my dear?”
“Elem,” she answered. “I was named after my mother.”
The man nodded with affirmation. “I once knew a woman named Elem who lived in these parts.” He looked at her in the dimness of the tent and smiled. “You must not use terms like vibration and chain reaction my dear. People will accuse you of being a scientist, which is most dangerous during these perilous times.”
“It doesn’t matter what they call me, I can no longer stand the smallness of the minds that surround me. Allow me to travel with you. You have five bags of potatoes –I know how to cook potatoes a dozen different ways.”
“And when the potatoes are gone, Elem? – what then?”
“The potatoes need never be gone. We can farm them together, heating the tent, growing them in boxes. I will prove my worth given the chance. And we can talk about the world, and what makes things tick. We can reason together, where no others can hear us.”
The old scientist smiled to himself, secure in the knowledge that he would finally have someone to pass his knowledge on to. “You can sleep in that corner of the tent,” he told her, as they began their journey together.
"We can reason together". That and potatoes and what more can one want? Really, really liked this one.
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