|In the Ekcolir Reality. Cover reconstruction based upon|
a verbal description of the original provided by Gohrlay.
During the past few years, I have been exploring the means by which the Secret History of Humanity was revealed through science fiction stories that were published in the previous Reality, the Ekcolir Reality. For example, 'The Gohrlay Circle' apparently provided a detailed account of Gohrlay's Escapist friends in the First Reality.
In the Ekcolir Reality
According to Gohrlay, within the Ekcolir Reality, Isaac Asimov and Mary Bradley (the analogue of Marion Bradley) collaborated to write a series of anthologies showcasing stories that were inspired by the writings of Escapists in the First Reality. In those anthologies, "Golden Age" had a dual meaning, simultaneously referring to both the golden age of science fiction in the Ekcolir Reality and the Deep Time era when science fiction was first written in the First Reality.
|The Triatom Intervention|
Original cover art by Howard Brown
and Margaret Brundage
Fanciful cover imagined as it
existed in the Ekcolir Reality.
For the past few weeks, Gohrlay has been teasing me with the idea that I should be able to guess the names of the writers in the Final Reality who are the analogues of Rol, Jaqy and Meppen, her Escapist friends from the First Reality. My suspects are that Rol was the original precursor of Asimov and Jaqy was the first version of Jack Vance. All Gohrlay will say is, "Have fun guessing. What difference does it make?" That kind of enigmatic behavior is Gohrlay in a nut shell: leading me to think about a puzzle and then leaving me wondering why she bothered to lead me to that destination in the first place.
That clue from Gohrlay triggered in me recognition of one such "story within a story" ('Out') that Ivory had passed on to me with her ifites. About gender: in the story 'Out', the author (apparently Asimov) insists on referring to Jaqy as 'he', even though Jaqy is described as a Preland hermaphrodite.
|Rol, Jaqy, Meppen and Gohrlay|
Everyone knew that Earth was a dead-end. The historical archives of Observer Base were clear on that point: over the course of millions of years, species came to Earth, existed there for a span of centuries and then went away, back into the dust. The humans would soon be gone; replace by the Prelands. Then, of course, eventually, the cycle would turn once more. After their own time in the sun, a cruel and deary time, the Prelands would also become extinct, replaced by the next and more perfect ape.
The poor Prelands on Earth did not even have written language. As a writer, Jaqy certainly would not voluntarily choose to live out what remained of "his" life on that dirty plague-infested planet. By the time when Gohrlay came into his life, Jaqy had already spent decades looking for his way out. He was certain that the Overseers held the key to his personal exit from Observer Base. Jaqy had tried every trick he could think of to annoy the Overseers and win himself a ticket out.
One day, not too long after Gohrlay and Jaqy had first met, they sat together on a bench that provided a dramatic view of the ocean. What ocean? A virtual reality ocean; part of the bars of Jaqy's cage. Gohrlay and Jaqy were discussing Gohrlay's desire to return to Earth.
Jaqy said, "You can have Earth. What a dismal little planet! There's a universe full of billions of worlds and I'm going to visit them. All of them."
Gohrlay was vastly amused by Jaqy's enormities. She reached down and scooped up another handful of pea gravel from the dusty ground near their feet. After tossing a few of the little rocks over the cliff, she commented, "That might take a long time."
Jaqy heard a barb in the tone of Gohrlay's voice, but when pulled his gaze away from the bank of clouds that hung on the horizon and examined her face, she appeared innocent and respectful. As should be the case. For a moment he was distracted by the rather awesome beauty of her face and her entire being. He sighed and for just one breath allowed himself to remember that he was getting old. That irritated him vastly. "Yes, I'm old, but I'm not going into retirement. I'm not going to be forced into retirement."
Gohrlay had grown up reading Escapist stories and she knew well several of Jaqy's most famous stories. Since meeting Jaqy, Gohrlay had even read some of his more obscure stories, ones that were not even available to readers in the literary databases.
Jaqy's stories were full of characters who never went into retirement and who were immortal. Gohrlay was well aware that Jaqy had sympathies with the Numerists who cataloged the oldest know Observers. The Numerists claimed that their databases went back more than a million years, to the time when Observers were still humans. The claim was that many human residents of Observer Base had lived for thousands of years. Gohrlay had quickly learned not to question Jaqy's belief in eternal life.
Gohrlay mused, "If we Observers are immortal, we could get ourselves into trouble."
"Trouble?" Jaqy liked the sound of that. He despised the complacency of Observers and how they accepted the absurd conventions of life at Observer Base.
Gohrlay continued, developing the idea. "Yes. Well, it could never happen on Earth, but here....' She threw a few more bits of the gravel into the sea. "If everyone became a Numerist and avoided retirement.... in a short time all the domes would fill up with people."
Jaqy complained, "But that will never happen. Observers are drones. After a few decades they grow tired of their boring lives they are ready to retire and put an end to their wasted lives."
Gohrlay had grown tired of throwing rocks over the edge of the cliff. She was afraid of the high cliff face and the roaring waves far below. She tossed what remained of her handful of pebbles onto the trail, stood up and hit her hands together, brushing off the dust. Wordlessly, Jaqy also rose to his feet. Showing no fear, he stepped right to the very edge of the cliff. The was no railing at the edge of the path. He looked down at the waves where they smashed against the foot of the cliff. Then he looked over his shoulder at Gohrlay and said, "Come here, my dear. Let me show you something."
Gohrlay bravely inched her way across the gravel path until she stood beside Jaqy. "I'm afraid of heights."
He laughed. "Bah, this is all fake."
Intellectually, Gohrlay was aware of the fact that Observer Base had been carefully constructed so as to simulate various environments, many of them modeled after places on Earth. Conventional wisdom held that behind all of the simulated vistas of the various habitation domes, the Base was actually located on the Moon. Not actually on the surface of the Moon, but underground. Suddenly Jaqy took hold of Gohrlay's hand and pulled her over the edge of the cliff. As they fell, he said, "Hold your breath."
They left behind the bright simulated day and fell into a dim, reddish world. Gohrlay found herself splashing into a warm, sticky pool. Following Jaqy, she swam through a curving tunnel and surfaced in a small cavern, what looked like a kind of spa or sauna. Wiping the gooey fluid off of her face and sputtering a bit, she shouted at Jaqy, "Are you insane?"
Jaqy climbed up out of the liquid, which seemed to activate a lighting system that flooded the room with white light. The pool of slimy liquid still glowed red. Jaqy pulled Gohrlay out of the water. Jaqy stood for a minute enjoying the sight of Gohrlay's body, sparkling in the light and dripping wet. "Relax, I've explored all of these passage ways, searching for a way out." Again he took Gohrlay by the hand and led the way up a set of narrow stairs that soon began to spiral. "Hold on." The spiral staircase began to turn and they were lifted upwards.
The lights flicked off and Gohrlay fell, landing with a thud against Jaqy. Light returned and Gohrlay was surprised to find herself sprawled on the grass next to the walking path, not far from the bench where they had been previously sitting. Jaqy helped Gohrlay to her feet and numbly she followed him along the path back towards the resort. For a minute Gohrlay tried to remember what had just happened, then she wondered why she was dry, with no residue from the viscous liquid remaining in her hair or on her clothing. Feeling like she had just awoken from a dream, she tentatively asked, "Did you just try to kill me?"
Jaqy put an arm around Gohrlay and replied, "No, my dear, I just wanted to show you that there is no way out. In fact, I doubt that you could die, no matter how hard we tried to take that way out."
Gohrlay's legs felt rubbery and she struggled to hold on to her swirling memories of their fall off the simulated cliff and their return to consciousness. She was certain that she had lost consciousness. The simulated day in the resort dome had shifted through time: they'd somehow lost half of the day. Jaqy was talking. "...believe that all of the domed environments are surrounded by a kind of scaffolding. However, most people who manage to get into those passageways can't remember being in there."
Gohrlay felt something trying to erase her memories of the red pool and the spiral staircase. Suddenly another memory intruded in their place. She could almost remember a similar event; a previous time when Jaqy had tried to show the world beyond the simulations that were presented to Observers. Gohrlay asked uncertainly, "You showed me... yesterday." But all she had was a vague memory of trying to push her way through a soft spongy wall.
Jaqy exclaimed, "Good! See, I told you that it is possible to remember. The ancient Numerists figured this all out, long ago. Still, it is futile. We've never found a way out. Always, I am returned to the simulation. However, a few lucky ones have gone searching for a way out and never returned. Thus, our belief that there is a way to get out. Or, maybe a way to win a ticket for escape from the Overseers."
Gohrlay shivered. "I'm afraid." She had a ghostly memory of feeling trapped, unable to breath. "Maybe you can die in those hidden pools and passages."
Jaqy giggled. "Not hidden very well. You know, I think our memories could be completely erased. For some reason, a few of us are allowed to remember our escape attempts. It is as if someone wants us to be intrigued by the idea of escape, even if escape is impossible. Escape, as a dream, as a goal, is apparently part of the design. I wish I knew who the designer was."
|Gohrlay on Earth (First Reality).|
Note. I edited out all of the obscure numerology that is in the story 'Out'. I don't understand it. Gohrlay suggests that Numerist lore was allowed to become increasingly convoluted and weird in order discredit the Numerists and allow most Observers to dismiss the Numerists as religious extremists; ultimately providing an efficient way to hide truth in plain sight.
Next: the clones of Gohrlay
|visit the Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers|