Monthly Archives: July 2016

186. Apollo 11

Apollo 11 was the first moon landing, but Apollo 13 got the movie because of the extra drama. Except for the absent landing, you probably won’t find a better picture of an Apollo mission than that film. This visuals are stunning and the portrayal of events is quite accurate.

Apollo 11, 47 years ago today, was a complete success, but it flirted with disaster twice, in two separate events, minutes apart during the landing. It was broadcast live, so everyone in America and half the rest of the world heard the crises in real time, but you would have needed to be an insider to understand them at the time. I was listening, glued to the TV screen, and I only later realized what was happening right in front of me.

The lunar lander separated from the command module as scheduled. Armstrong and Aldrin fired its rockets to slow its orbit. As it fell toward the moon, there was an alarm – a code 1202 – on the lander’s main computer. Only two men at mission control knew immediately what it meant. The mission was so complex that there were probably thousands of things only a few of those present fully understood.

The computer was overloading. Too many things were happening at once for it to handle. You need to remember the incredibly tiny capacity of 1969 computers. It could not keep up with events, the queue was getting long, so the alarm sounded. Steve Bales recognized that the computer was still doing everything it needed to do, that it would clear the queue in a few seconds, and said GO when most of those present were thinking ABORT. The mission continued, the computer worked through the queue, and then the alarm went off again. Bales said GO. A third time the computer overloaded and Bales shouted GO for the third time just as the lander was approaching touchdown.

The problems weren’t over. The lander had overshot its target and Armstrong found himself over a massive boulder field. There was nowhere to land.

An abort would have meant firing off the upper stage rocket and returning to the command module, allowing the now nearly empty lower section to crash to the moon, and missing the landing. Instead, Armstrong chose to adjust his rate of fall to a near hoover, tilt the entire lander – now top heavy and prone to flipping – to slide sideways and, just as the last of the fuel was nearly gone, reach a clear area where he set the lander down on the lunar surface.

On Earth, we had all been holding our breaths. We just didn’t realize how much reason we had had to worry.

Jandrax 70

Only the dilwildi on this island and the herbies survived. The winged people were utterly destroyed. Why?

The presence was not bound by the material world.

It did not perceive time as a unidirectional flow but as a stationary axis along which its perceptions could move at will. To the presence the winged people still lived at the height of their glory, as did the ice ages and the new law of antler and fang. All was not “good,” for the concept had no meaning. All was. It was enough.

But now there was a disturbance in the all. The presence was questing for the source and meaning of the disturbance.

Intelligence was moving again on his planet. It had no place in his projection of the future, for this was a planet that could never produce intelligence, save when the presence moved in the world and made it so. This he had done once and was satisfied. That intelligence had come again was a negation of his powers of prediction.

It was a discontinuity in the all. He would investigate.

He observed the works of man, wingless man. His power was great, but here was a thing beyond his understanding so he bided his time. For one to whom eons were as heartbeats, the wait of a generation was not to be noticed. Then one came to the island! He moved to draw it to him.

And it had defied him! An insignificant creature that he could have snuffed with a thought; it had defied him!

None had ever defied him before. Anger warred with curiosity.

So it was that he took up the creature and showed it the wonders that were himself. Then he arrowed his consciousness into the pitiful mind before him.

***

Jean screamed!

***

The world was rocks and sunlight; harsh, unrelenting. No living thing moved. The wind sighed through the ruins and the dilwildi had gone.

Jean was alone.

He stood; swayed; pain was a living river of fire surging through his body. The ruins lay before him, waterless and forgotten.

Dismissed. He had been tried and found insignificant.

Did Moses feel like this? Should I carve tablets of stone to carry back from my Sinai?

Jean’s stomach contracted and his mouth was sand. Surely much time had passed since he had climbed the mountain. Starting down, he stumbled.

His crooked leg. It could have healed him, had it chosen to do so.

Should he take back his revelation to those who had cast him out? Should he claim holiness and its fruits – food for his table and a woman for his bed? A bitter taste of unlaughed jest was in his mouth. What woman could ever make him forget Aeolios?

***

Swaying slightly, the Prophet came down from his mountain.

*****

Was this a God or a hallucination. You decide. I’ve said all I intend to on the subject.

FYI, concerning the phrase, “But now there was a disturbance in the all.” This was written before Star Wars and its “disturbance in the force”. If you need know where I might have heard a similar phrase before, try Doc Smith. more tomorrow

185. The Flying Bedstead

300px-LLRV_2Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. For most of the followers of this blog, it is part of history. I saw it happen, on a grainy black and white TV in the lounge of a college dorm. (see 27. That Was My Childhood)

You can’t land on the moon by parachute, nor by wings. No air. The only choice the Apollo program had was to land tail first, by rockets, something that had been a science fiction staple for decades, but was nothing like easy to manage. (see yesterday’s post)

Designing a craft to do the work was within the limits of the technology of the day. Vertical landings on Earth had been successfully accomplished. Pilot control on Apollo was expedited by having the astronauts stand to fly the Lunar Lander; the problem with VTOL planes had been that the pilots were strapped into a seat that kept them facing the wrong way when they landed.

The craft could be built, the astronauts were the best test pilots America had to offer. But how do you train?

Simulators? Maybe. Resurrect Pogo or Vertijet? Perhaps. Build a new craft just to use as a trainer? Better. But how do you build a trainer to react as if it were in a 1/6 gee field while landing in on Earth? You can’t just make gravity go away – or can you.

The answer is almost, more-or-less, and good enough to do the job. The first iteration of the trainer was the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, nicknamed the flying bedstead. You may have seen it. Neil Armstrong ejected from one of them after the controls failed; the footage of the crash is both exciting and brief, which gets it a lot of air play in retrospective specials, especially on anniversaries like tomorrow.

If you see footage of the LLRV not crashing, or of the advanced version LLTV (Lunar Landing Training Vehicle), you can easily see what it is all about. The vehicle consists of an open framework of tubing with the pilot sitting upright in the front (in an ejection seat, thank goodness) with a batch of somewhat shrouded equipment balancing the rear. In the middle, attached vertically, pointing downward and clearly throwing flames, is a jet engine. The craft is uneasily hovering.

Note, I didn’t say hovering on its jet. That is what it looks like, but that is not what is happening. Not quite. When the jet is fired up at takeoff, the LLRV or LLTV simply sits there. The jet has 5/6 of the thrust needed to lift the craft. While hovering, the rest of the thrust is provided by a separate set of hydrogen peroxide thrusters which are controlled by the pilot. If the pilot were to simply turn off his thrusters, the LLTV would crash to the ground at the same speed it would crash to the moon.

The jet subtracts enough of the LLTV’s mass to make it react as if it were in a 1/6 gee gravity field, allowing the pilot to maneuver his craft as if he were coming in for a lunar landing. Armstrong made over fifty LLTV landings before he landed on the moon.

If you want to know more about this craft, there is a half hour special full of information, old footage, and interviews with retired LLRV pilot and an engineer from the project. Huell Howser is the host. If you live in California, and you watch PBS, you know Huell. He is an acquired taste that I have never quite been able to acquire, but sometimes what he covers makes up for his idiosyncrasies. This is one of those cases. The program is California’s Gold #13003 – LUNAR LANDING. Try your local PBS station or check with the Huell Howser Archives at Chapman University.

Jandrax 69

It was a temple or palace, no doubt, but it was not greatly different from the city at large. Before me was a parklike expanse of trees and grass; in the center of the park was a pavilion like the one I had found myself in when I arrived here.

The winged men were gone in a rumble of wings before I could ask them what was to come next. Either they feared this place or the felt that even one such as I would know what to do here. In that they were mistaken.

The pavilion sat in the center of the park and was the most likely place to go. No doubt those who had ordered my coming expected me to enter it.

I picked a fruit from a nearby siskal, eased myself to the ground and turned my back to the pavilion. The fruit was exceptionally sweet and I was glad to get off my feet.

The presence returned. I ignored it and continued to eat.

Are you unaware of us?

Of course not.”

Then why do you ignore us?

“Among my people it is a gesture of contempt!”

The fruit was snatched from my hand, the sky darkened, the ground heaved, and I was thrown prone. Fear was in me, more fear than I had ever known. I strove to conquer it in the only way I could, by hurling curses at the presence. There was sudden silence.

There was more than silence.

There was a complete absence of light or sound, touch or feeling of warmth and cold. My mind was somewhere, still within my skull perhaps, but utterly bereft of sensory input.

I was alone, as utterly alone as human can ever be.

I was afraid, but that feeling passed.

I was beyond fear, but not beyond loneliness.

I was myself, but without others to lend boundaries to myself. I was everything; therefore I was nothing.

I was a lone dust mote floating forever in interstellar space and I was God. Nothing and everything; in the realm of uttermost loneliness both are the same.

As I was unbounded in space, so was I unbounded in time. My consciousness stretched eternally forward and backward and in that vast expanse there was none but me.

In the midst of nowhere, the presence came to sit by my side. It gestured with an absent hand and the stars shone about us. They wheeled in their courses and one grew until all others were occluded. About it swarmed planets and one of these grew until it blotted out the others. Gigantic polar caps receded and advanced and receded and advanced. Species were gained and lost until at last there rose a genus of winged animals capable of fleeing before the advancing ice. They multiplied and grew dominant. Species were formed and lost, but two outstripped the rest, one large and one small.

The presence made his will known on these unformed species and they worshipped him, but as their intelligence was imperfect their worship was imperfect, so the presence moved his will upon them and they were given speech. He made the larger dominant over the smaller and gave it intelligence far greater than the smaller so that even as the larger worshipped the presence, so the smaller would worship the larger.

Thus the world was made perfect.

Again the ice caps advanced and species were broken. The ice retreated and new species arose, horned and angry species, unlike the gentle creations of the presence. Only the dilwildi on this island and the herbies survived. The winged people were utterly destroyed.

Why? more tomorrow

184. Tail First

The first manmade object to leave the atmosphere and enter space wasn’t American or Russian. It was German. In 1942, V-2 rockets, first as prototypes, then as weapons, entered space routinely at the top of their high-arching flightpath.

That was the picture of spaceflight that lived in the heads of the kids of my generation. On Saturday morning TV shows, heroic young spacemen went off to save the universe and all their spacecraft looked like V-2 rockets. No wonder; this was pre-George Lucas and special effects were minimal. However, captured German footage provided plenty of shots of V-2s taking off.

These Saturday morning specials also landed upright on their tailfins. (Yeah, you guessed it. They ran the films backward.) On Dec 21, 2015, Elon Musk and SpaceX finally pulled that off in the real world. It makes me wonder what he was watching when he was a kid.

In the early days of serious thinking about space, when WW II was freshly over and the V-2 had shown the way, there seemed to be only two ways to land a spacecraft: either tail-first at a prohibitive cost in fuel, or by flying back in a winged craft. Neither was possible with the technology of the day, but the folks at Edwards Air Base were working on the latter, culminating in the X-15 (see 164. Flight Into Space). Later came the Space Shuttle.

In my novel Cyan, VTOL rocket shuttles are used extensively on Earth, and of course are the basis for landing craft on unexplored worlds. There won’t be any runways when we reach Alpha Centauri.

There is actually has a long history of craft designed to explore tail first landings.

X-13 Ryan Vertijet took off vertically, rolled over to horizontal while the pilot changed to a separate set of controls, carried out its mission in horizontal mode, then, at altitude, transitioned again to vertical mode. The pilot then slowly dropped toward the ground to land. The limitations that make this a technology demonstrator rather than a workable aircraft all become obvious near the ground.

Before takeoff, the Vertijet reached the airfield horizontally, hooked to and riding on a trailer. The trailer then lifted like a drawbridge until the Vertijet was vertical, dangling from a cable that hooked under the Vertijet’s nose. It took off from that position, and then returned to the trailer to land. As it approached the ground, traveling nose skyward, the pilot would slide his craft carefully sideways until the nose of his jet came in contact with a horizontal bamboo pole. Using that as a guide, the pilot then moved his craft toward the trailer until his nosehook came into contact with the cable. Then he cut his power; he had landed by reaching a condition of dangling from the cable, bellied up to the vertical bed of the trailer. The trailer was then lowered to horizontal, Vertijet attached.

Not very practical, but it did work. Only two Verijets were built and only a few operational flights were attempted.

The X-14 was of different configuration, with vanes to deflect its thrust. It took off vertically, but with the plane itself horizontal, in the manner of a modern Harrier.

The Lockheed XFV-1 had the power and the configuration for vertical takeoff and landings, but they never managed to work out the issue of pilot control. No successful vertical takeoffs or landings were made. It flew only conventionally with makeshift landing gear bolted to its belly.

The Convair XFY Pogo took off vertically, transitioned to horizontal, and made vertical landings, but only with great difficulty, and only with extremely experienced pilots. It was impractical, largely because the pilot had to look over his shoulder at the ground during vertical landings.

If we could salvage the rear vision camera from any 2016 sedan and send it back by time machine, any one of these craft would have been successful, but in the fifties the idea of looking at the ground while your eyes were skyward was pure science fiction.

Reaching on the moon would require a vertical descent and landing. They built a special craft to train astronauts for that mission. We’ll look at it tomorrow.

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

183. Roll Call for the Unremembered

Next week contains the anniversary of the first moon landing, and I intend to dedicate all posts to that event.

I grew up with Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, but even I could not call out the names of all twelve men who landed on the moon without a crib sheet. The past seems to fade from memory as soon as it disappears from the rear view mirror. In the case of the early space program, that is a shame.

Here’s that crib sheet —-

Apollo 1 — Almost two dozen unmanned launches by various boosters tested hardware during the unmanned phase of Apollo. The scheduled first manned launch, AS-204, was renamed Apollo 1 after the capsule fire which killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White on February 21, 1967. There had been growing anger in the astronaut corps over shoddy workmanship in the Apollo capsule, which boiled over after this unnecessary loss of life.

Apollo 7 — Don’t worry about the numbering oddity. It’s a mare’s nest which is not worth untangling. Apollo 7 was the first manned Apollo flight. Apollo 1 was not a launch, since the disaster took place on top of an unfuelled rocket. Wally Schirra, Walt Cunningham, and Donn Eisele left the pad on October 11, 1968 to spend eleven days in orbit. Schirra had been particularly relentless in pushing for quality and safety during the year and a half delay. He retired from NASA after the flight, the only man to fly for all three programs.

Apollo 8 — The lunar lander was not ready and the Russians looked like they were about to attempt a moon landing., so NASA decided to gamble. Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Jim Lovell launched December 21, 1968 for the moon without a lander. They entered lunar orbit, circled the moon ten times, then returned to Earth. They were the first humans to see the back side of the moon directly, although pictures had been sent back as early as 1959 – by the Russians.

Apollo 9 — James McDivitt (Commander), Rusty Schweickart (Lunar Module Pilot), and David Scott (Command Module Pilot) launched into Earth orbit on March 3, 1969 for a ten day mission. This was the first flight of a Lunar Excursion Module, and the first time the designations of individual astronauts became fully meaningful. After entering orbit, the command module with service module attached, moved away from the final stage of the Saturn, reversed, docked with the lunar excursion module which had been carried beneath it, and extracted the LEM. This head to head orientation allowed McDivitt and Schweickart to enter the LEM, detach it and test it in free flight while CM pilot Scott stayed in the command module.

Apollo 10 — The dress rehearsal. Launched May 18, 1969, Apollo 10 achieved lunar orbit, where Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan entered the lander, leaving John Young in the command module. They fired retros and descended to within 16 kilometers of the surface of the moon, did not land, reentered lunar orbit, and rendezvoused with the command module.

I have always felt that this has to be the most frustrating event in the history of space travel. Except, maybe, for Apollo 13. Or, maybe, for the six command module pilots who watched their crewmates successfully land on the moon.

Apollo 11 gets its own post next Wednesday, and the rest of the crib sheet comes after that.

Jandrax 67

We sat in silence, she enjoying the beauty around us, while I tried to make sense of it all. Across the turf from us a group of children was tumbling playfully upon a long suffering herby, clearly one not only domesticated but a pet. The children’s backs were deformed (to my alien eye) by crumpled growths, clearly wing buds. The herby looked at me as if for delivery from his small torments and a flock of dilwildi settled down in the park, capturing the attention of the alien children.

My companion apparently felt that I had had enough time to adjust to my surroundings, for she wiped the fruit juices on her bare thighs and reached out to touch my forehead.

“I am Aeolios.”

The sound was in my head and I answered aloud in my own language, “I am Jean Dubois.”

“Welcome to our land, Jeandubois.”

“Where – or when – am I?”

She paused, considering. “You are on an island, the same island to which you sail. Your second query has no meaning to me.” 

Ignoring her odd, tenseless grammar, I tried again. “When I arrived on the island, your city was not here. I went to sleep in a ruined building and when I woke the building was not a ruin, nor was the city. I surmise that I have been transported to some past time.”

She broke contact and screwed her face in thought.

Clearly baffled, she raised her hands to her own head and seemed to be in communication with some other person or thing. For long minutes she remained thus, then she opened her eyes and extended her hands to me again. “You refer to the theory of chronology, wherein time is seen as a linear process. That theory has no validity. Could you rephrase your question?”

“Of course it has validity. What was here yesterday is gone today and what is here today is gone tomorrow. Men grow, mature, and die, leaving behind descendants. Nothing is more basic in the world.”

She broke contact again, her face a mask of horror and pity. Immediately she raised her hands to her forehead and once more went into her trance.

She remained thus for so long that I gave up on her and wandered around the park. The children had gone but the herby remained. As an experiment I approached him and he turned to meet my hand, though clearly disappointed that I had not brought him some tidbit in exchange for his attentions. I touched him hesitantly, but he took no notice. I stroked his neck in amazement. We have no pets on Harmony, having nothing to feed them. I had never touched a living animal before, save the dilwildi who seemed more than animals. I was struck most by the herby’s indifference to my attentions. He paid me no more mind than he had the playful children.

A winged male wandered into the park with a female and they settled beneath a tree, eating the fruit that hung down, then entangled in love making. I turned away, but my scruples were entirely my own. They were aware of me – they had made hand motions toward me that seemed greetings when they entered the park but they were apparently without notions of modesty or privacy.

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. more tomorrow

182. Vulcan Academy Murders

The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah got some bad reviews when it came out. I like it very much, but I can see their point. It all depends on what you you are looking for when you come to a Star Trek novel.

Personally, I buy Star Trek novels that have Spock on the cover. When I watched Star Trek in its first run, the only character I really liked was Spock. I’ve mellowed since, but I still feel he was the core of the series.

On this cover we have Spock, phaser in hand, facing a le-matya under the light of T’Kuht. The le-matya is in the story, and important, as is the light of T’kuht. Spock is in the novel too, but not in this scene, and, although he has his moments, he is probably the least important character in the novel.

That was a surprise, but not particularly a disappointment, as there is plenty of McCoy, Kirk, Sarek, T’pau, a bit of backstory on the minor character M’binga, and half a dozen interesting new characters, both human and Vulcan.

If you love a good plot, with interesting twists and turns and a fast pace, TVAM may not be for you. If you want a good murder mystery, TVAM is definitely not for you. The attempts at detection are lame and the culprit stumbles to (his/her) doom. Nobody sees the obvious until it falls into their laps at the end. The arc of the plot actually reads like one of the old series episodes.

None of that matters to me. This is one of those novels that lets us see old friends again and spend time with them. It delves deeper into Vulcan culture, especially mate bonding, and shines a light into the shadows thrown by Vulcan stoicism. We get to tie up a lot of loose ends regarding Spock’s childhood and his relationship with Sarek and Amanda. We also get a chance to see Kirk and T’pau get a chance at a mutual reevaluation.

Besides that, the new characters are fascinating. This is a novel that brings backstory into the foreground, with just enough plot to keep things moving. What more could you want for two dollars, on sale at your favorite used book store?

Now I’m looking for a copy of its sequel, The IDIC Epidemic.

Jandrax 66

She beckoned me to rise and I did so, following her outside. The city spread out before me, an aching mass of color. The piers I had so laboriously climbed were now at the water’s edge. Tied up to them were ships of all sizes and descriptions, others lying at anchor in the bay beyond, under which lay, or would lie, the jungle I had trod.

She turned to me and extended her hand, fingertips touching my forehead. “Welcome,” was the sound that echoed in my head with suggestions of a lark-bright voice. “We are pleased that you come.” Then she withdrew her fingers and spoke, watching my face intently as she did. I heard in my ears the lark voice that had been in my mind, but her words were a meaningless trilling pleasant but unenlightening. She cocked her head.

Another of her race joined us, floating in on wings of fiery color. He landed lightly beside her, his wings making soft thunder in the morning air. He, too, was beautiful; like her he wore only a loin strap of chain, but supporting a lingam. His body was hairless and the hair on his head was white and tangled, but gave no impression of age. His eyes were varicolored, changing as he turned to speak to her. His voice too was lark-like and incomprehensible, but there was no trace of femininity about him. Fine muscles moved beneath his skin as he shifted his weight. They conversed in their own language for several minutes without attempting to translate for me, then he left, flexing his legs to bound into the air, spreading his moth-wings and catching the rising sun on the iridescent fur that covered them; he was gone with a muted rush.

Across the city I could see many like him fluttering here and there, making the morning bright with the colors of their wings. No two were alike and each was an intricate working of several colors, not all of which would have been considered appropriate by a terrestrial artist; yet here they were. I realized that I was looking at the original pattern from which the rugs on which I had lain were taken.

Not all the flying shapes were humanoid. The air was filled with the soft cries of tiny furry things singing out their unending paean: “dilwildi, dilwildi.”

Was she the presence? The instant I asked myself the question, I knew that she was not.

She motioned for me to follow her and, taking pity on my wingless condition, led the way walking. Apparently this was the same city I had seen in ruin, nor was my memory in any way damaged. This was either an intricate dream (which I did not believe) or I had somehow been transported spiritually or bodily to the time when it had been in full flower. And flowering it was, with such a profusion of plant life as to make my jungle seem a desert by comparison. It was like a giant park, with every tree, and shrub and ground hugging turf designed to please human or quasi-human senses.

My winged companion led me to a park where we sat beneath a tree that seemed to have ancestored the lal, although its fruit was larger and seemed more succulent. We sat in silence, she enjoying the beauty around us, while I tried to make sense of it all. more tomorrow