19. Grassland [IV]

Zara shrugged, rather moodily, but shook her head all the same.

“I doubt it. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing they’d do. Not that I really know ‘them’.”

“You can’t see the institute building from here-” Aidelle refrained from getting up and peeking out the steamy window at that dreary day once more, “-But that grassland is so sparse that it could not possibly be good for anything… Unless…”
Se pondered for a second, and then said, “Even if that conclusion goes against all my better judgement… But things can change…”

Zara stared quizzically at Aidelle. It hadn’t been the first time in her life. Meanwhile, the notebook was discarded off to the left of Zara’s hands, which she now clasped together, and placed on the surface in front, in anticipation.

“What?”
“Think about it again, Zara. That grassland has always been a special feature of this town- even of the surrounding city area. It never matters to anybody that nothing can be built, or grown, there; that’s all part of the mystery, and the mystery is all part of the grassland. Well, in my time it is. In yours, I gather that the institute of time has covered the mystery of that heath.”

“I had no idea… The ground there, for me, has never been, in any way, ‘sacred’. It didn’t occur to me that it contained such mystery.”

“Exactly. Your generation has not been open to such a curious place. I recon that was their intention all along. Those ‘scientists’ that you mentioned…well, you remarked that they did not seem particularly considerate.”

“So… You’re saying, once again, that the grassland is something to do with time, and our troubles?”

“Do consider it for a minute, as widely improbable as it may be.”

Zara frowned as she tried to do as Aidelle was suggesting.

“But how,” the former asked, as no sense had made itself known in her mind.

The other woman shrugged. But her shrug lacked the limpness of Zara’s previous ones, and was full of proud decorum.

“I’m not quite sure myself yet, but think of it like mining (one of my father’s good friends is quite a figure in the oil industry, and so, I hear a lot about mining); see, imagine the world as a rock-face, or a rock ravine that holds that secret keys to life’s oil. Those stone structures are shot through with the oil or with some other precious liquid of a metal that runs through their centres as thick as our life-blood…

“Now, we’re imagining the world as this rock-face, and imagine too the time-energy you described as gold, or some sort of raw ore. Like the plain rock, time tends to keep itself concealed, flowing (I presume, because time doesn’t seem to have the proper movement the same as we, or the concrete objects of our planet, do) in the usual linear path that fate has set out… But let’s not get into the complexity of fate at this moment… In places of this fictional rock, of the earth, there are cracks, through which the time-energy might seep, glistening, and one day escape…and then, like any runaway fuel, there are going to be problems. Of course, to have the time-energy buzzing around, away from the predefined linear route, would cause so much trouble; I guess that if the time-energy is captured and harnessed (does that sound correct?)- How, I don’t know, but that institute must have its ideas- I suppose that it could be kept in one place.

“When I was a little girl, my mother scolded me for reading scientific, and science-fiction, books. She suggested that women were not to work, but to be keepers of their husband’s house alone. Even though I heard her words (as one should), I had been tempted to rebel. I would dream of flying to the stars in nitrogen and oxygen-powered space-rockets, and I tried to read as many astrophysics books as I could get my little hands on. In that time, I also encountered general physics, and the complex logic puzzles that my father would set for my sisters and me. Of course, I was the one who always came out on top; the others preferred their needlework, and followed my mother to the letter with her marital ideas. Oh, instead look what happened to me when I tried to marry!

“When I met Phillip, I knew that my dreams were obsolete, and he was my new dream, my new goals; I suddenly understood everything that my mother and sisters had garbled about love. It’s as mystical as the stars, but that’s why I adore the feeling of being in love, like something great fallen straight from Orion’s belt. One day, you too may experience the overwhelming power of that sensation.

“Even so, I still had a mind filled with the intrigue of technology. I’m surprised that it has taken this long to activate those of my senses that are sharpened to mystery and mechanics. Perhaps…it was overrun with thoughts about the wedding…and then the silent abyss of screaming isolation,” Aidelle paused, absent-mindedly putting a hand to her head, as though she was checking her temperature, or cooling a headache.

“It was surprising that it took me so long to see the sense of our situation. But now I get it all,” she concluded.

Once again, Zara frowned. And the girl put a hand to her own forehead. It wasn’t to say that her brain was overheating, for she could understand every little bit of Aidelle’s speech, but Zara had no idea in what way it tied in to their problems.

“Forgive me for sounding dumb,” she replied cautiously, “But some of us haven’t been trained in logic or the physics of the mind, and my train of thought is missing a vital piece of the track. What has ‘harnessing’ the time-energy (if it really does exist) got to do with our predicament?”

The End

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