Yet Another Day
by Dale C. Andrews
The visitor waited in the cluttered livingroom overlooking the busy west end street. The visitor marveled. Over the fireplace the sabers were still crossed; the Thiraud portrait still stared with eyes that reached every corner of the room. The visitor watched and waited.
After ten minutes the old man was wheeled in. The man in the chair was ancient. His clothes - dapper tweeds - hung on a skeletal frame. But the head was held alert; the eyes piercing. The visitor was struck by the fact that were the old man to be added to the Thiraud portrait any subsequent visitor would surmise that three generations, not two, were portrayed.
The nurse left from behind the chair and extended her hand. "I am Nicole Porter, his nurse." The visitor looked aghast. "That's right," she said in a manner that conveyed that she had seen that look before. "I'm her granddaughter." "He normally doesn't receive visitors and I must insist that you only take ten minutes." The visitor nodded, inexplicably now, of all times, at a loss for words. The nurse left the room through a swinging door. The room was plunged into awkward silence as the visitor and the old man looked into each other's eyes. The visitor had not intended it this way, but it was the old man who first spoke.
"So they found the valley."
"Yes. Two months ago when we came through doing the first excavation for the new I-667 corridor. The town had been deserted but, from the looks of it, only for several weeks. The cabins were empty, everything was left broom clean and in order. No one knows what happened to the people. The speculation is that they heard the surveyors coming through several months back, surmised what was happening, and just packed up and left."
"This does not surprise me in the least." Said the old man.
The visitor continued: "I'm an engineer. I work for the State of Nevada. Everyone on the crew was incredulous that a village could have been lost there, in the middle of an oasis that we never even knew existed. It made the news in both Nevada and California for a few days. Strangely, the village lies precisely on the boundary line between the two states, yet no one anywhere knew that it existed. That and the 'Marie Celeste' nature of the exodus made it sort of a 'ten days wonder.'"
The ancient lips forced a smile. "For an engineer, who deals perhaps more in numbers, you choose your words carefully."
The visitor smiled and forged on. "For me the mystery had a deeper and even more troubling aspect. When I walked through the town I grew more and more certain that I had heard of it somewhere before. But when I went into the meeting room . . . I guess I should say the Congregation House . . . then it hit me. Then I knew."
The visitor waited until the old man engaged his eyes.
"I read your books, sir. Every one of them. But I never knew any of them were real."
The old man smiled. "Well, some of them were, some of them were not. But of all of them that were, I never dreamed that the reality behind this one would be discovered. Why, I didn't even write of Quenan until nearly 20 years after it all took place. And that has now been what, 40 years ago, nearly."
"That's why I had to find you," the visitor continued. "I can't believe you're still alive," he blurted, and then blushed in embarrassment. But the remark prompted only a smile. "Neither can I. And I am not even tending bees."
"I re-read the book, for the first time in 35 years, after we found the abandoned village. It's fair to say I became obsessed with the story, with the fact that it really happened. And then I had to try to find you. That was not an easy task, this house isn't even on West 87th - that's blocks away."
The old man smiled. "Well, it's closer than Italy. And Poe gave good advice. The best place to hide a book is on a shelf, among the other books. It works with brownstones, as well. So now you have uncovered my lair. What can I tell you?"
"There are troubling aspects to your book," the visitor said. "Particularly now that I know the story was true. I mean, these were real people. It made sense for you to destroy the copy of Mein Kampf. It would have crushed the community if they had ever discovered what the book preached, what it caused. But you left them with nothing in return."
"What could I have left them?" The old man asked.
"The right book; or at least an explanation of what that book was. I've been combing through your book, and there are clues that you didn't follow up on. I mean, you didn't even understand the significance of the name 'Storicai'."
The old man grimaced and for the first time his voice took on a disdaining edge. "Oh come now. That omission was purposeful. It was a matter left for you to discover."
"But are there others. Other omissions, I mean?"
The old man simply stared.
The visitor plunged on. "As you found out, the real name of the sacred book, the book of the Wor'd, had something to do with MK'N, not MK'H. But you left the Quenanites without ever telling them what the right book was, the one they had lost. And there were clues. I mean, the Carpentersmith told you that N means "50", and that it is a sacred number. And N is part of the name of the book. Once you knew that, and knew that H was never part of the title, you had a path. You could have followed it."
"So do you," the old man said. "And what have you found?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. As you noted, engineers are supposed to be good with numbers. But I am getting nowhere. M, of course, is a Roman numeral signifying 1,000. And K is a symbol for 1,000 as well, though properly it signifies 1,024, but that is all part of the computer revolution. Back in 1944 you weren't even to the stage of plugging black wires into boards with tubes. And besides 1,000 plus 1,000 (or for that matter 1024) plus 50 gets me no where. It's meaningless."
The swinging door peaked open and Nicole Porter announced "3 more minutes. Please wind things up."
The visitor slumped in his chair, both hands extended palms up. "Do you know? Can you tell me?"
"Of course I can, and of course I will. You had only to ask."
"When you discovered that N signified 50, a sacred number to the community of Quenan you jumped to a natural conclusion. Unfortunately, where you went with that conclusion was as misdirected as where I ended up when I missed that right turn 58 years ago."
"The N in the book title has nothing to do with the number '50.' To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, remember that like the cigar that is also a cigar, an 'N' may also be simply an 'N.' As should be apparent to a dutiful reader like yourself, the Quenanites' religious beliefs were premised on those of the 12 tribes of Jerusalem, more properly, the 12 tribes of Caanan. (One of those tribes was called 'Dan,' by the way. It occupied the area surrounding ancient Joppa. But I digress; that would be a different story.) While the Quenanites' religion had evolved in different directions it was premised on Jewish roots. And Judaism is premised on . . .?"
"Well, the Bible. I mean, the Old Testament," the visitor answered. "But while that is obvious, what does it have to do with 'M," 'K," and 'N'?"
"And the Old Testament is composed of . . . .?"
"Books. I don't get it."
The old man sighed and smiled at the same time. "I am sure that you are a very good engineer. The Old Testament, at least that followed by the Jewish and Protestant religions, is comprised of three collections of books. The Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox, have a fourth set of books - the Apocrypha - or hidden books. But while Jewish scholars wrote the books of the Apocrypha in the first and second centuries, the Apocrypha itself is not viewed as canonical by either the Jews or the Protestants. So that leaves the Jewish Old Testament, like the Protestant Old Testament, with three compilations of books: the "Mosaic Torah," commonly referred to as the "Mosaic Laws," which covers the first five books of the Old Testament, the "Ketubim," or writings, which is comprised of the psalms, proverbs and other literary genres, and the "Nebiim," or prophets, which includes all prophetic works."
The old man fumbled with a swinging desk table affixed to the wheel chair, swung it around and wrote on it:
"That is what the Teacher saw in Otto's store. But it wasn't what he was looking for. Time had erased much of his memory and (hearkening back to Freud) what he saw in the store looked close enough to be the cigar. But the book that the tribe lost - who knows how - actually looked like this:"
Mosaic Laws (or Torah)
"In other words, the books that comprise the Old Testament of the Jews."
"When did you figure this out?" The visitor asked.
"Right after I discovered the book - Mein Kampf - that was actually in the Sanquetum."
"And yet you did nothing about it?"
"I didn't say that I did nothing."
"But there's nothing in the book about it."
"Nor is there anything in the book about the hidden significance of Storicai's name. Of course I did something about it. I left a Bible, my own, though I had to use the Teacher's knife to carefully excise (exile?) the New Testament portions. It should be evident that some things that happened are told in the book, but other things that also happened are left for the reader to discover."
"So when the Carpentersmith told you that "N" signified "50," and that "50" was a sacred number, it was irrelevant?"
"I didn't say that either," the old man replied. "The numerical aspect of 'N' to the Quennanites is certainly relevant, just not to the mystery at hand. The fact that only the Teacher was allowed to wear buttons with an 'N' on them has a very good and lofty basis. There is only one book in all of the Old Testament, New Testament too for that matter, that has precisely 50 chapters. It is the first book of the Mosaic Laws. The book that tells us what happened, beginning on the first day. The book of Genesis."
At that Nicole Porter entered with a stern but smiling warning that, like it or not, the interview had just ended. But the old man waved her aside as she approached his chair and turned once more to the visitor. "Do you know what day it is today?" he asked.
"Well, March 31, 2002. The day before April Fools Day."
The old man shuffled in his pocket and drew out an object, covering it completely with his boney hand. "The day, of course, has a significance of its own." And into the visitor's hand he pressed an Easter egg.
T H E E N D
(Courtesy of Dale C.Andrews - 2002 - All rights reserved.)