A more than one-hundred-year old woman reaches out in holographic form from another world. She says that Atlantis exists, but it in no way resembles what everyone thinks it is. And she wants to bestow a gift.
A former self-help teacher, turned religious leader, claims to have a way for people to speak directly with God. Yet he lusts for power and would take the technology if he can get his hands on it.
A jaded journalist is offered a way to believe in people again.
A very special dog teaches an extremely valuable lesson.
The environment continues to crumble and the economy continues to sink. People in America have lost hope.
But hope might be making a comeback. In a big way.
She communicates with the dead. But they do all the talking. She just listens. They speak through the things they've left behind. The utensils, the art, the weapons, the inscriptions on clay tablets.
When she studies an artifact, an arrowhead, some pottery, anything, she feels a connection to the people who used it, who handled it every day. It's as if she inhabits their lives and becomes them.
She sees connections between an artifact the archeological team might find and a pattern of behavior, a clue as to where they walked, where they hunted, where they spent the night. They tell her of their brief moments of glory, the birth of a child, a battle won, a home defended. They tell her of the daily hunt for food, the injuries, diseases and the deaths they all suffered and they tell her of their fear and wonder at what lies beyond their time in this world.
But that feeling of being connected to them is what matters because she doesn't really feel all that connected to the living in this world. The dead are always there for her and they will never trouble her, bother her, demand of her, or ridicule her. They invite her to become a part of their own distant lives. And this connection diminishes her loneliness, if just for a moment.
Some people say what she has is a gift but that's not how she sees it. For her, it is an escape from the world where she is a prisoner of her own personality, of her own shortcomings, of her own futile quest to change herself and break out of this prison. A prison she made for herself and cannot unmake because there are three dead who do not speak to her, who will never speak, who would be alive today if she hadn't been so foolish twenty-two years ago when she was eleven years old. Her mother, father and younger brother.
Jane Ozzimo——most everyone calls her Oz——rides in the back seat of Mervin's gas-guzzling Chevy. One of the last few thousands of petroleum-powered cars on the streets of Los Angeles. Most every other vehicle these days is electric. Trying to reduce carbon emissions and slow down global warming, but the horse is already out of the barn.
So she is kind of embarrassed riding in this polluting pig of a car. But Mervin stubbornly holds on to this piece of junk——he likes the sound of the engine——and will probably do so right up to the deadline at the end of the year when the city is forcing all gas-using cars off the road. Tough to buy gas anyway.
Mervin Chimney and Melissa Canovoot, her roommates and fellow archeology grad students at the University of Southern California, sit in the front. Roommates being a financial necessity for her.
Many of the students in the department have been called to an excavation site downtown. A city inspector found something on the grounds of an abandoned building about to be demolished and the city called the school to come take a look.
Maybe she'll see something interesting at this site. Not likely, but the city is very jumpy about preserving what they think of as historical artifacts and are halting construction projects every time something pops up out of the ground. So this is probably nothing.
She hopes to graduate with her PhD in December. Less than two months away now. But she's worried that she'll never find the acceptable evidence that will convince Dr. Eisenbarth. Worried that maybe it was a mistake to have changed her thesis topic.
What she had was safe. Very safe. But safe was so boring. Her taking a stab at deciphering the two mysterious Minoan languages, Linear A and the hieroglyphic language seen on the Phaistos disk.
What realistic hope did she have of unraveling these languages? No one else has. But just the attempt would have gotten her the degree.
However, after the experience in the cave on Crete last summer there was no way she could continue with that. A transformative experience that let her escape the prison of herself even if it lasted only for maybe two minutes.
And with the change of topic, she's gotten a lot of resistance from others in the department. Sure, Professor Vasquez, the head of her dissertation committee, believes in her. Go for it, she said. But, Dr. Eisenbarth, the graduate adviser, doesn't like it, doesn't want it, and has warned her to drop it. Threatens to reject it. He has that power.
And if he does that she doesn't graduate. No degree, then no job in archeology. And in this miserable economy, then what? Back in the gutter. Go full-time at the kennel shoveling dog shit? Become homeless again. No hope, no future. No way out. No thanks.
Oz looks out the window. Worries. It's only through archeology that she will ever find anything like what she found in that cave up on Mt. Ida on Crete. That one moment when she was free of all the garbage in her life, when she felt real joy, when she experienced a powerful sense of vitality, when she was free of herself.
What she saw on the floor of that cave, those drawings, and that experience, that powerful experience by the pool of water, showed her that the Minoans of thirty-five hundred years ago were exploring the workings of the mind and had progressed pretty far, so far that their technology——if that's what you want to call it——gave her the best moment of her life ever since the day that her parents and brother died. Deaths that never should have happened. Wouldn't have if she hadn't been so insistent on going down into that canyon. She should have died too.
But once that Minoan cave collapsed in the avalanche the door to freedom and most of her evidence disappeared in the dust.
Before that she had run down the mountain in sheer excitement at what she had discovered and brought Dr. Eisenbarth back up. He was right there in the cave. Saw the drawings. But him stupidly swinging that flashlight beam everywhere somehow turned off the technology happening in the pool of water and he never experienced what she experienced. If only he had then he would have believed.
But she didn't hallucinate anything. She knows what she saw. She knows what she experienced and more evidence has to be out there somewhere. That technology couldn't have all been in just that one sanctuary cave. The Minoans must have had it in other locations. She just has to find it. Must find it.
Just ahead, on the side of the Santa Monica tollway, she sees one of those King Zee Whitehead billboards. This guy seems to be everywhere lately. Here he's standing up, arm upraised, gazing out into the infinite as if he sees a vision, beckoning all to follow him to God. Of course, it's animated and 3D, like they all are, imparting a strong sense of motion which, with that weird 3D sense of depth, gives it a sort of unreal feeling like it's not grounded to anything but just hanging untethered up there in the air.
"He's getting more popular," Oz says.
"Who?" Mervin says.
"This billboard we're about to pass. This King Zee Whitehead."
Melissa says, "Yeah, I have a friend——you remember Nancy." She nudges Mervin. "And she did one of those ceremonies, private one I think, not one of those public extravaganzas that he puts on, and she, well, I think she liked it but thought it was pretty intense. Not that she spoke to God or anything, like he claims you can, but still."
"I wonder what God would say if you could?" Oz says gazing out the window.
"Fucking scam," Mervin says shaking his head.
Melissa uses her thumb and forefinger to pinch his cheek, a big smile on her face. Mervin smiles too and uses his right hand to scoot his fingers up her leg to where the seams on her pants meet in a big Y.
"Oh." Melissa's forehead arcs in surprise beneath the bangs of her hair. These bangs tend to puff out a little like a tent on a windy day. Kind of matches her puffy cheeks.
Mervin is a little squat, a little heavy, long dark-blonde hair dipping across his shoulders, and a face that often looks quizzical even when he's not.
Since they share the same first and last initials in their names, they have taken to calling themselves the M.C.s. They laugh uproariously almost every time they say it. Oz found it funny the first time she heard it.
She feels a brief ache of longing watching Mervin and Melissa. A long ago memory. But she stomps it down. Stupid foolish feeling. Her former boyfriend. Sam Delgatto. She must have been delusional. Must have thought she was in love. But she doubts it was love. That's not really what she was looking for, but maybe she thought it was at the time.
She realized he was just another trap. A substitution for a family she did not have.
And she let this feeling of being trapped grow and grow until the rainy January morning when she whispered to him she had to leave, and he became increasingly furious, as she could not explain to him why she was doing this.
Within minutes she was gone. Out on the street. Out in the rain. Nowhere to go.
She planned that really well, didn't she?
His first published book is The Minoan Zero Mind Tool. There are five or six other novels that are hiding on a shelf, too shy to come out. But maybe someday. Some of them are still in shock from when John papered the walls with agent rejection letters. But those days are gone.
Now, living in the Los Angeles area, he frequently hikes in the Santa Monica mountains and will occasionally drink an exquisite microbrewed beer. He is especially fond of reading the works of Neal Stephenson, T.R. Pearson, and Stephen King.
And he does not own a smartphone.