Jandrax 68

Aeolios emerged from her trance and crossed the park to me. There was a mixture of contrition and pity on her face as she touched my forehead. “I am sorry, Jeandubois. In my ignorance I think you mad, but in my understanding I know you are merely deluded. The masters tell me that you think the chronology to be real and that I should be patient with your lack of understanding. They say I am to tell you that, in your erroneous way of thinking, you are in the past, but that the term has no meaning. I am sorry, Jeandubois; it is all too much for me to understand, though I convey the message.”

“Who are the masters?”

She struggled visibly with her confusion, but did not break contact. “The masters are the masters! How can you ask such a question?”

“Have patience with my ignorance, Aeolios; I do not know your masters.”

This time she broke contact and fled, stumbling away, then taking to the air. I watched her spiral up and disappear beyond the trees that circled the park.

V

I wandered about the city, trying to make sense of my situation. At first I had merely accepted things as they were or seemed to be, much as one will accept the reality of a dream world. Now I was no longer able to do so, and my fear grew. Where or when was I; how had I come here; why was I here; would I be allowed to leave? Lovely as the city was, it was not of my world.

Wherever I went the dilwildi followed me, seeming to spy on me. Were they servants of the masters, and were the masters the same personages as the presence I had felt before?

A winged male dropped beside me, scattering the dilwildi in clumsy haste. Unlike Aeolios, he had no smile for me. “The masters wish your presence,” he announced.

“Excellent. I have a few questions to ask them.”

Irritation crossed his face at my statement.

“One does not ask the masters questions. One hears them and obeys.”

“Perhaps,” was my only reply as I sought to restrain my own irritation.

He guided me through the maze that was his city, moving ever upward. I lagged behind, hampered by my leg, and he waited for me, his face as cold as the stones around us. My fear had been growing since I woke this morning and was now a knot in my middle. I was unarmed. My rifle and blade were at the gig and even my antler cane was nowhere in sight.

We walked down grassy paths through the heart of the city. There were no boulevards, for the winged people would have no need of them, only the paths where the herbies roamed free. Finally we reached a wall twice man-height that stretched away in both directions until it was lost in the trees. My companion trilled loudly and a trio of others like him dropped down to his aid. They gripped my shoulders and, beating their wings heavily, lifted me into the courtyard beyond.

*****

Over the years, I have re-read Jandrax many times, but never with the intensity that serializing it demands. Now I keep hearing old Star Trek scripts in my head. Bow to the will of Landru!

That isn’t an apology. I would write the story differently today, but I stand by what is here. Either we created God, or God created us. One way or the other, there is a universal relationship between humans and a being who demands our loyalty and can strike us dead for failing him. We can deny his existence (and hope we are right), or write a script where he turns out to be a computer, or leave the matter undecided, but we have to address the question. And we have to do it in words and gestures and symbols that communicate. more tomorrow

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