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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mission A1232Q: The Towers

Blue is the sky above Corfu. He stared at the spec of ash on the toe of his right shoe, waiting. His cigarette had another three minutes in it, and the priest had given him an appointment that would begin in four. He felt a surge of adrenalin in his gut, and smiled at how it had always been this way: timing.

Morrisey was known for making it by mere fractions of a second. It was why his employers paid him as much as they did: his success rate was at a hundred percent, and he never kept his window open long enough for his target to be intercepted. In the village of his birth, where he had had a different name, where he was now thought to be dead, he had always won at Russian Roulette. In his present employment, Morissey was known for his obsession with his rubik's cube, fingers moving ceaselessly as his eyes stared at the seconds on a stop watch he used to time himself.

Timing. He shifted his weight, measuring his breathing, making sure his exhale time was exactly recursive. Recursive counts were a bitch, like the time in Perugia where the ambassador had sealed off the June invasion plans in an old sea chest, using a battered set of recursive rusty iron links, joined to a wood panel with worn leather straps. Morrisey had a window of five minutes for the entire operation, a minute of which was to be dedicated to drizzling the links with machine oil. Barefoot, his sweat had merged, salt and oil licking the links to silence as his abonormally long fingers, second and third of which were the same length, rolled one link off to remove the one before, and so on and back again, the Doberman asleep, 2 doors down the hall. He had slid into the backseat of the waiting car, slick and trembling at 4 mins 48 secs, still barefoot.

Barefoot he was again, while wandering around Corfu; his superior had sent him there “to take time off”. Morissey had smiled as security had scanned the GPRS system implanted just below his collarbone, to ensure the 2 storey jump the night before had not disturbed the calibrations. Corfu had a patron saint, crystal blue waters, but it was still on the same planet. The GPRS would tell them if he stopped to take a piss. There was no time off. His assignment would come. And it did.

3mins 46 secs.

The butt was black cold ash by the time Morrisey took his place opposite the priest at the table inside. In front of him was a bottle of Ouzo, a bowl of nuts and a tiny model of the towers that Lucas the french mathematician had constructed.

Morrisey smiled.

“It’s not worth it”, the old man said, staring at Morrisey’s fingers.
“They want it done”
The man sighed, and poured himself more Ouzo.
“The end is not mathematical. It cannot be stopped, and it will come with signs of great despair and wonder, and the Evil One will reign for many--”
“According to you and your kind. I however have been made to believe that there is a formula for everything”
“They are using you, and you will die. Beware your pride, young man. The ground in that room is covered with human bones, sightless eyes and dust. Why would you disturb it?”
Morrisey’s eyes gleamed. He stretched out his fingers, lifted the first disk and dropped it down the middle pole. Gently, slowly. He raised his eyes to meet those of the priest’s, staring intently at him.
“Because, it has already begun”

In Corfu town he had met the woman he had been briefed about, a woman with breasts like young pears, between which had hung an ancient copper disk with Cyrillic inscriptions, on a black string. His eyes clung to the disk in wonder, and she, being a wise woman, had raised herself off him, and brought him to her grandmother.

Find the face of the goddess, on the lowest step of the bath at Moraitika, the old woman said in a quiet voice. That disk, pointing at her grand-daughter’s throat, is the offering.
And you will die. As it has been, once every 64 years. An offering, she added.

Morrisey had held out his palm for the disk, and left without a word.

Moraitika was one of the older sites in Corfu, and his feet stepped over the dust of Tribunes and the remains of amphoras as he made his way down to the ruinous great bath. He took off his shoes at the entrance, his shirt, his trousers. Wearing only his watch and a torch around his neck, he descended below. The carved stone was cool to his feet, the ruins abandoned by tourists because of the holy parade in the village down the hill. He counted steps till he reached 22, and then the dank lower level, hard floor. He turned and crouched, torch between his teeth, searching.
He smiled at the beautiful face blank before him. 22 was a lucky number; risky, it told of choices. He placed his fingers over the face, his eyes closed like so many times before. Tracing stone eyes, stone nose—stone mouth. There was a hollow, the width of the disk. The copper circle slid in easily. Ears pricked, Morrisey heard the dull low ‘chink’ below, and sprang onto the 21st step as the rock at his feet slipped away horizontally.
Morissey considered the darkness below. 64 years, the old woman had said.
He thought of his shoes sitting outside for 64 years. A magic square, this life, whose beginning was 1 and it’s end 64.

When I get older losing my hair
many years from now
will you still be sending me a valentine
birthday greeting, bottle of wine
If I'd been out till quarter to three
would you lock the door
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four.

Morissey hated the Beatles, but couldn’t help grinning. Holy numbers and British pop. The end of the world and 3 iron poles. Death. Recursive Death recursive death recursive Stop.
He went below, knowing exactly what he would find, knowing there would be no booby traps, no hidden treasure. If he came out alive he would go back to the girl of sweet pears and dark eyes. If he came out alive.

His eyes adjusted to the dark. The walls of the passage way were smooth, damp, cold, the plastic of the torch in his mouth wet with his saliva, for he needed his hands alive and awake to any possibility, any trick the romans had found, and strengthened, and reused. He refused to look down when his feet kicked at something that immediately collapsed into dust with a little sigh of displaced air. He was 32 and Romany: death was like the unwelcome relative who always outstayed his visit, who you got used to like a painful corn, or nail on the wall. He refused to look down, but instead counted his steps. The passage widened just as he mouthed 260.

He gaped. The three poles were as tall as he was, ancient standing sentinels. He touched the middle tower: iron. Pali script: they had taken these from the priests of Brahma, carrying them in secret ships to this island for safe-keeping. To ensure the life of the world was maintained, once every 64 years, by moving a single disk.

He had 3 minutes. One, to lift the uppermost disk. The second, to slide it down the middle pole. The old man had told him there were rumors of poison vents in the ground he stood on, so intricately balanced that any sudden increase in weight would release the fumes. He could not let the disk fall. He suddenly wished for machine oil, for the comforting feel of modern European floorboards under his feet, for the warmth of the jail-cell he had spent a night in, in Krakow. Whatever time he had left, was the time he had to race up the passage, and jump onto the 21st step, before the goddess swallowed him forever. He knew the countdown would start the moment he touched the first disk. He knew that these towers were diabolical: the old man had warned him how hypnotizing the sight of the incomplete ancient puzzle was to the quick-fingered, how intense the desire would be to try his skill at moving all 64 disks, to change the course of history, to end the world with numbers. Beware your pride, he had said.

He closed his eyes, and stretched out his hands. He did not need the light. Fluid like oil, fluid like the sleek head of the sleeping dog, fluid like diving into the grotto outside Corfu town, like the disk in his hand, cold and large like the head of some great gentle beast, eased over the middle tower, gently, slowly. Fluid like feet on sand, feet against dust-bone running panting up the passage, the rumbling of earth already begun in his mind, fluid like her arms, her face, recursive like sex, this running
15 seconds.

After he got his breath back, Morrisey decided to leave his shoes behind. He walked down to the village in his shirt and boxers, entered the first bar and demanded Ouzo. His fingers trembled so much he couldn’t pick up the glass; instead, he went outside, midst angry yells about the unpaid tab, and hailed a taxi for Corfu town.

He smiled out the window. Maybe his son would return for his shoes, one day.

6 comments:

Manish Bhatt said...

Masterful!

the still dancer said...

This is Arka from S&C on ryze. I'm also
here by the way

the still dancer said...

and nought to say on my latest offering to the porn industry?
I mean this

? said...

:)

Pranay the Srinivasan said...

bon jour...

une question pour vous:

why did the chicken cross the road?

pouvez-vous le dites-moi?

utekkare,
pranay

note: utekkare has answers to most questions in life... its usually the most apt phrase to use in life for non commital goodbyes..

http://utekkare.blogspot.com

Jugal said...

hey :)
udhaar chukta karne ka time aa gaya :D
zabaan diya tha comment karega - toh yeh lo kiya :D

this is cool stuff!
towers of hanoi - math and computing problem :)
tell me more about this - myth? you created fiction? and a lot more. these are mystic stories I like to hear.