THE ORACLE HOUR
That the quonset hut was located on salt flats could have added electrolytes to the boy’s own, or else it was a trick. There must be something more going on. And Jethro thought this: when you are grown without a belly button you’re not from this timeline. You are your own ancestor, which has to be harder than it sounds. For, despite returning with heterozygote vigor and apocalyptic expectations, your mission is sure to be lost along the way.
Polina was holding her hair above her nape. “I mean it’s hot, we’re all hot. Am I right?” She didn’t expect a reply.
They were all hot. That it was as hot inside the quonset hut as it was outside, only stuffier, was indisputable. Jethro scanned the floor wondering if all the moisture was really coming from the boy. He looked for a hose or a barrel. There was a lot of water. The boy was performing the experiment for a third time and now, as they had become focused on finding the trick, some other questions were beginning to unfurl. The abuse factor, for one. Let’s say, it’s true, the boy could generate electricity with his own sweat and a couple of copper wires, what’s in it for him, living out there where the temperature is so high it melts salt?
The electricity after so long was magical, but they were woefully outnumbered. They certainly were not the first to come looking for the e-boy, not the first to have tabulated all that could be powered with his technology. He was intercepted, so the story goes, after a celestial download, by a mercenary spy, rescued from men in black—operating outside of consensus reality (like non-fungibles, carbon tokens, or crypto)—back before the Acceleration.
They were being escorted to the house. The piñon-junipers and ponderosa pines were not happy. They laid around the compound like fallen soldiers, some with their middles cut open by chainsaws. Polina stepped in stride with Jethro. “What do you think?”
“There’s something we’re not seeing,” he said. “Maybe magnets?”
The main house had a peculiar design, with symmetrical awnings on either side that looked like wings. As the sun set, taking down the crimson horizon with it, the house all lit up (possibly the only one, in the world) looked spectacular. And Jethro mumbled a line from Dañ-xayaa’s last broadcast, If it’s darkness we’re having let it be spectacular.
Dañyaa never remembered what she said in her Oracle Hour trances. Jethro would replay them back for her. In the end there’s no treasure to uncover, nothing new in the ghost genome. Eternal paradise is a drag, boring without form, terror and beauty make life rewarding. The secret’s buried inside yourselves, without a second (or third or forth or fifth…) coming. Don’t forget to treat her right. We keep coming back to her. The earth is our messiah.
During the Acceleration of Solar Cycle 26, people disappeared, like they’d been raptured. One day you deliver them soup and the next they’d be gone, without a trace. Had they been taken somewhere to die? Were there still government officials or healthcare workers on top of that sort of thing? Even then, the word hospital had an old fashioned ring, like landline or record album. Hospitals were no longer what you pictured. Instead they were convention centers, taken over with beds and medical equipment. Initially they were packed, barely functional places, where the sick, who arrived with hope, died. After a while, people knew better than to go anywhere near them.
And now there’s this electromagnetic anomaly deep under southern Africa, where the e-boy is from. Some say he emerged through the land like the Chickasaw nation during its creation. The one thing that’s true, his belly’s as smooth as Dañ-xayaa’s. When the force field is low, the time is right, and some rise, some fly, others are captured by merciless mercenary spies. The child’s eyes are clear as a Pleistocene night, her’s are too, though blue, the blue of photons encased in bubbles and trapped in snow. Let the paleomagnetic record show, a long-long time ago, the last mag-flip occurred during the Homo antecessor rapture.
Here, now let me explain, during mag-flips and flops, the earth’s force field is low, and beings can pass through this window of visit-ability. For example, there’s a one-way worm hole above the electromagnetic blob beneath southern Africa. And another somewhere over Antarctica. From now on, for the sake of clarity, all reversals shall herein be referred to as “flips” while temporary, or partial, excursions shall be termed “flops.” It is not yet clear if the one happening in this story is a flip or a flop, but the cryptochrome 4 molecule in the eyes of migratory birds, which gives them a sensitivity to magnetism, suggests it’s a full flip. The birds and Dañyaa follow the same internal compass. She was keenly aware when they migrated in a reverse course-off. This is how she knew when the northern magnetic dipole had barreled past the equator, on its beeline towards the electromagnetic blob beneath the planet’s mantle.
Some say we are due for a full flip. The Earth’s magnetic field is in the habit of switching every 200 to 300 millennia. It’s been almost 800 since the last one. What more proof do you need, between the birds and the blob and the paleo particles? The Brunhes–Matuyama occurred when Homo antecessor were raptured. This triggered a round of hostile environmental scenarios. The ozone waned, electrical storms raged, and equatorial light shows were distributed for all longitudes to witness. The aurora equatorialis was especially fantastic. Ice sheets thawed, seas rose in retreating glacial troughs, like tidal drawbacks, only frozen. Then, once again, an icy surge advanced. You see? The weather prone to shifting wildly and rudely, was downright moody. Thankfully Prometheus had prepared us, with the fennel stalk-fire he’d gifted us. While wicked cold snaps went snapping down the continents, hominid brains became larger. Important milestones of evolution teeter on the sharp edge of environmental confusion, like when Eurasia nearly froze, roughly 600,000 years ago, and the humans there mutated to the cold, notably in their noses.
200,000 years ago, when the earth was falling in and out of glaciation, an immature species, numbering 20,000—give or take a zero—began proliferating, striding across the motherland. Every 20,000 years, during the extreme Pleistocene weather, Gaia’s wobble would open another green corridor, for her hominids to wander. In waves, sapiens meandered from Africa through the Arabian Peninsula, towards distant frontiers over yonder, Siberian caves, and islands down under.
Let the paleomagnetic record show, a long-long time ago, 74 thousand year-old particles and cosmogenic isotopes reveal a population bottleneck. Around the time of the Younger Toba eruption, the human population crashed almost to extinction. For the ones remaining, their lives no longer had the same meaning. Some hunkered in caves, waiting for the winds of change. Others survived in tropical refugia across the south of Africa.
On the earth’s surface Hostile conditions persisted, while deep below the mantle an electromagnetic blob exerted its underworldly pressure. 65,000 years ago, the next flop established a new green corridor near Bab-el-Mandeb. And again, a metaphorical door opened above the Sinai’s sandy floor, for the young sapiens to pass through once more. Some wandered all the way to Australia.
The next attempted flip was another flop, they call the Adam’s Event for it occurred 42,000 years ago. Much megafauna was lost. While some sapiens sought protection in caves, other hominids rose to a higher dimension, with the promise of one day returning. Truth be told, any giant Kauri tree—or hitchhiker across the galaxy—can tell you, human evolution and climate change are closely related. Let the record show this rapture of hominids, the Neanderthal extinction, was accompanied by an influx of cosmic radiation, lightning storms and crimson skies. But once the climate calmed, it was like Australia, 65,000 years ago, all over again, back when there were very few sapiens and no competing bands of local hominids, Erectus, Neanderthal or Denisovan.
With magnetic flips, for some, the process of birth is also reversed. Some things can’t be explained in the fossil record. Bow to the earth for she will receive you, cover you, subsume you and transmute you. Matter is indestructible and infinitely transmutable. As the world spins some are resurrected from the freed matter of the cosmos as it falls apart. Chicken Little sings a ripped off melody, a ditty about stars falling in the darkness.
On her final broadcast, Dañyaa, unaware that her voice had risen, had yelled into the microphone, “If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be spectacular!”
Jethro had chimed in, “Signing off from Paradise,” and ended with his signature salutation, “That’s all folks.”
They were both happy, full of Willa’s rabbit stew and the excitement of the news-seekers’ proposal. Jethro held a compact solid-state battery, marveling at the technology that made all this possible, wondering if he could make one out of graphite. Dañyaa mixed up a paste of egg yolk and clay. She knew things the others didn’t, like Jethro lacked sufficient melanin to be out in the barrage of invisible rays she could feel through her nostrils. She knew about aerosol shielding, and that fewer sunny days meant fewer starry nights.
Jethro ran his fingers through his wavy hair, dark as Snow White’s. “What about that kid? Is it possible?”
Dañyaa continued mixing a batch of sunscreen.
“Yeah,” he’d said, answering his own question.