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         Unsteadily, his eyes only half-open, Chess followed Razor to the cafeteria.  It was useless to do anything but obey the guy, so Chess got himself a plate of food, and took a seat at one of several small tables that had been pushed together.  It seemed like all of Razor’s top management had gathered there at the same time, and the multitude of testosterone-driven banter made Chess’s already dizzy brain fill with white noise.  And the smell of the food on his plate only increased his nausea.
         Razor, at the head of the collection of tables, began to speak, and the chatter died away.  “It’s so tough to get all the team leaders together, here.  Anybody have an issue they want to discuss?”
         The level of voices rose again, and Chess wondered why Razor had ever felt the need to include him in this meeting.  He hated being around any of Razor’s men: besides despising what they did, he got the definite feeling from every one of them that he, like the mice that scuttled throughout the building, was a pest that the men would gladly rid themselves of, if only Razor allowed it.  Therefore, he just stared at his plate and paid no attention to the words that were being scattered around him, until one of the company grunted, “The witch was singing this morning.”
         “That’s new,” another guy commented, sounding amused.  Involuntarily, Chess jerked his head up, but his reaction went unnoticed as Razor jumped up, noisily scraping his chair back.
         “Dammit!” Razor shouted.  “You guys never learn.  Unbelievable!”  He pounded on the table, his face growing red.  “You guys just love to play this roulette.  When are you going to grow up?  Someday, she’s going to kill one of you -- if she hasn’t already.”  He straightened and looked around the room.  “Okay, so who is it?  She only goes after my top guys, so who’s not here?”
         Chess, furtively, glanced around, too, his nausea forgotten.  He knew they were talking about Sariel, and he could tell that it wasn’t good.  And the next question set his pulse racing in terror.
         “Why don’t you just kill her?” one of the men suggested with a smirk.
         “I should,” Razor spat out.  “But the customers like her.  They really like her,” he added quietly.  “I wish you morons had never brought her here, that’s for sure.”
         Chess sat as still as possible, as if trying to be invisible.  He wondered if the men around him could hear his heart pounding or the labored breathing that he was trying to keep quiet.  Apparently, they all thought Sariel was a witch -- a witch who might decide to kill them if they dared to… what?  Chess was pretty sure he could guess, but he didn’t want to think about it.  And, despite the momentary rush of adrenaline, the sick feeling in his stomach was returning.
         After an informal head count, Razor was satisfied that all of his team leaders were present, and he grouchily returned to his seat.  “Okay, great, so you got away with it,” he concluded, scowling around at them.  “Well, then, who’s in bad shape?  Which one of you looks like he’s gonna be sick?”
         Chess lowered his head even further.  He had the frantic thought that he needed to warn Sariel that she was in danger.  But, first, he had to get out of there.  He picked up his fork again, trying to look casually unconcerned as the entire company began glancing sideways at each other.
         And would she alter what she was doing, anyway?  Desperate questions flooded Chess’s brain.  Could she, in fact, do anything to change her situation?  Could he?  Vaguely, he noticed the motion around the room begin to settle down, descending quickly into an abnormal, pervasive silence.
         He raised his head, fork frozen in mid-air, and his eyes widened as he realized that everyone was staring at him.  Terrified, his glance automatically darted toward Razor.
         “Oh, Goldfish,” Razor intoned, shaking his head like a disappointed father.  “Didn’t I warn you?”

         As soon as he could get away, Chess began careening through the hallways.  But Sariel was nowhere to be found.  For several hours, he searched, at a progressively slower pace, until a fatigue that he could not ignore began to settle over him.  He had nearly given up when he saw her.
         They hurried toward each other and, when he was still a few feet away, he panted, “I need to talk to you.”  Then he stopped and blinked at her in surprise, because she had just uttered the same words.

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Dragons and Snakes

“Take a holiday from reality whenever you like, and come back without so much as a headache or a mythology.”
-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

         I have to give one more example of the type of story I mentioned in the last blog – it’s one that I really like.  In his book The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology, Joseph Campbell relates one version of the story of Tiamat.  Tiamat, in my mind, has always been some great malevolent dragon – all mixed up with legends of Cthulu and elder gods: evil, world-devouring creatures who have been banished to space somewhere, but might be working their way back.  But Tiamat was worshipped by human, non-evil people, once, as mother goddess and creator -- until the stories tell that her husband was slain by one of her children.  She then declared war on her children, but lost and was slain by one of her, um, grand-gods, Marduk:
Marduk cleaved her body in half, and from the upper half he created the sky and from the lower half he made the earth. -Encyclopedia Mythica
          And sometimes the story comes down to us in just a cryptic line or two in another story:
Genesis 1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep… and God divided the light from the darkness.
Psalm 74: Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.  Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces… The day is thine, the night also is thine… Thou hast set all the borders of the earth.
-The Holy Bible, King James version

         And if that’s all too subtle, here’s a more obvious example, straight from National Geographic:
 St. Patrick's dramatic act of snake eradication can be seen as a metaphor for his Christianizing influence.

         St. Patrick, whom we celebrate on his eponymous day, is said to have driven the snakes out of Ireland.  But there are no fossil or other natural records of snakes being native to the island.  It is much more likely that “snakes” are a symbolic reference to the old Celtic gods, whose holy sites of worship – at nearly every stream, pile of stones, and oddly-shaped tree – were as ubiquitous as snakes are in most of the rest of the world, and probably every bit as annoying to the early missionaries.  (Again, I’m just making an educated guess on that last part.)



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