Part 5After a few more days of travel, something rather odd happened.
Ileana had been walking a little faster than Chess and Sariel, because she was attempting to test herself on her skills of spotting edible plants. Suddenly, she slowed her pace and dropped back to them.
“Do you hear music?” she asked in a suspicious whisper.
Chess shrugged. “No, just the voices in my head,” he sighed.
Ileana ignored his comment and beckoned them on. And, within a few meters, Chess did hear music: an electronic sound, like a radio, but more full, and somewhat echoing. And then, just behind the next stand of trees, they came to a large, open area, with a low, box-shaped structure at its center. The music was emanating from there. They all stopped, staring at the building in surprise.
“Do we dare…?” Ileana asked, but Sariel was already moving on ahead of them.
“Music!” she called back to them insistently. Chess shrugged at Ileana, and they followed.
The large door was unlocked, and they pushed it open. The switch on the wall within lit only a single bulb, and Chess blinked as he peered into the darkness before them. There were no windows.
“They are hooked into some forgotten electric line out here,” Ileana said, raising her voice to be heard over the volume of music inside. “Let’s see if we can find more lights.”
After a few minutes of searching, Chess found a panel of switches in an alcove. He turned on, first, a rainbow of colored lights, and then flashing strobe lights, and, finally, some normal overhead lighting, which lit up a cavernous room. Ileana and Chess shared a look of wonder and confusion.
“It’s a nightclub,” Sariel pronounced, and she ran out onto the dance floor.
“Well, if anyone’s here, we have just announced our presence,” Chess said. Gratefully, he next found the switch that shut off the loud music, evoking a cry of protest from Sariel.
Ileana began to wander away from them, winding among the now-visible sea of tables and chairs. “It looks like people left here in a hurry… recently,” she observed.
Off the main room, they found the kitchen, which seemed full of gleaming silver metal appliances, and was partitioned into separate areas. Chess watched Ileana disappear down a hallway, and decided to try the other direction. With Sariel beside him, he made his way past a length of countertop, which ended in a large double sink. He stopped, then, in front of a smooth steel door.
Chess reached out to touch the surface of the door. It was cold… and vibrating slightly.
“I think it’s a freezer,” he said, frowning thoughtfully. “And it’s working. There might be --” Suddenly, he grinned at Sariel and pulled on the door handle. The heavy door opened slowly.
Chess shivered at the icy breeze as his eyes adjusted to the lighting within. He scanned the shelves, and then cried, “Ice cubes! Actual ice cubes. And so much food. Packages of… steaks!”
He turned to Sariel and saw that she was already pulling a large cylindrical container from a low shelf. He stared at her in amusement, watching as she ripped off the cardboard cover and settled onto the floor of the freezer with it. Only then did she look up at him. “Ice cream,” she explained, pointing to the tub. And then her face disappeared inside the container.
Chess began to grab the steaks and turned around just as Ileana appeared in the doorway.
“Nice,” she commented. And then she turned and lifted a bottle of chocolate syrup, squirting the brown liquid into her open mouth. Chess, hugging the steaks to his chest, blinked at her.
Sariel pulled her head out of the tub of ice cream just then, gazing up at them with white foam across her upper lip and dripping off her chin. “Chocolate syrup goes well with that,” Ileana giggled.
But Sariel just hugged the container to her chest. “Nyeh,” she muttered.
Ileana, still laughing, took the steaks from Chess. “There must be a Rapid-thaw around here, somewhere. I’ll see about cooking these.” She looked down at Sariel. “Try to get her out of here before she freezes to the floor, okay?” Ileana stepped through the doorway, and then turned back.
“Did we die and go to paradise?” she asked. Chess shrugged.
Continued next page...
And our friend the sociologist said to his friend the Shinto priest, “You know, I've now been to a number of these Shinto shrines and I've seen quite a few rites, and I've read about it, thought about it; but you know, I don't get the ideology. I don't get your theology.”
And that Japanese gentleman, polite, as though respecting the foreign scholar's profound question, paused a while as though in thought. Then he looked, smiling, at his friend. “We do not have ideology,” he said. “We do not have theology. We dance.”
- The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology by Joseph Campbell
Earlier, I mentioned some parallel stories where the plots were essentially the same, but the intended messages of the stories were fairly divergent: The Tower of Babel vs. Zeus’s splitting of human beings, and the two stories of the great flood.
Another story where the message seems to be very confusing -- even without any similar counterpoint stories -- is the Biblical story of Eve and the apple. In the story, after the Lord had created the first humans, Adam and Eve, he warned them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Not long afterward, a serpent came by and started talking to Eve, convincing her to disobey and eat the forbidden fruit. She does, and, as a consequence, both humans get evicted from the Garden of Eden. This is usually taught as a story about obedience. (Of course, it is also much more important as the story of “the Fall,” which is worthy of a blog unto itself.)
But the weird part is the central message, which, as Joseph Campbell points out in Masks of God: Occidental Mythology, sounds like a central plot point in a fairytale: you may open every door in the house except this one. Of course, then, the hero of the story opens that door, not so much to be disobedient as to seek answers. As a consequence, the main conflict of the story -- which could have been avoided for a long while by maintaining ignorance, but is still the elephant in the room -- is faced and overcome. So, then, why not eat from the Tree of Knowledge, since that would assumably bring, you know, knowledge... wisdom... and wouldn’t that be a good thing?
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