by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
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Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
Chapter Nineteen: The Source Of Water
Tyler ducked fearlessly into the cave. His nearsighted vision was no handicap in the dark. The others were slightly more cautious. Mark had journeyed into these caves once before. He knew enough to gather several of the glowing green stick plants use as light. As the other three, glowing sticks in hand, approached the opening Tyler popped back out.
"Come on," he said, "what are you waiting for? We've got to find the source of the water. And I know exactly where it is." He slipped back in. The others followed.
The cave was filled with eerie green shadows cast by the glowing sticks. This mattered little to Tyler. With eyes closed, he deftly worked his way through the passages. The others followed behind with substantially less deftness. Everyone but Tyler travelled based on the green illumination of the sticks. They were occasionally surprised when a rock jutted from the wall, or the passage took a sudden turn. Tyler, on the other hand, had the direction already plotted in his mind. He knew the location of every rock and turn.
Almost nothing surprised him. Almost.
Except for the large spider.
"TYLER! STOP!" Cali screamed, being the first to see the overgrown arachnid. Tyler stopped on command, then opened his eyes, only a few feet from the spider. This beast, blocking the entire passage, was so large that Tyler knew exactly what it was, even poor eyesight and lousy illumination. He further knew it was time to retreat. The foursome scurried backwards along the passage until they were -- hopefully -- out of immediate danger.
"Evil professor," Cali said to Tyler, her voice trembling more than he had ever heard.
"Evil professor," Tyler nodded.
"Let's get out of here," Cali pleaded, turning to leave before anyone responded.
"Wait Cali," Tyler grabbed he arm and tried to calm her, "It's only a spider. I can find a way around it."
"It's a SPIDER!" Cali screamed. "I'm not staying in here with that spider!"
Tyler looked deep into Cali's wide eyes. "Spider, Cali? Are you afraid... do you have a... uh... thing about spiders?" he asked.
"I HATE SPIDERS," she said, leaving no room for doubt.
"The evil professor must have gotten to you, too," Tyler observed.
"I know that," Cali cringed, "But I still have to get out of here."
Tyler clutched Cali's shoulders and looked into her eyes, their noses almost touching. He spoke sternly, "He is only trying to scare you! We must continue! We cannot let him beat us now! The spider will not hurt you! I will not let it! Cali! We know how to save Leornia! We can't stop now! We've got the evil professor beat! That's why he's doing this."
Cali nodded her head slowly, still staring into Tyler's eyes. She took a deep breath. "Okay," she said, her voice trembling, "I'm okay."
Tyler looked at the dark spider image filling the passage several yards ahead. He closed his eyes to sense a direction around it.
"We will reach the river bed if we go that way," he pointed behind them. "It will take a longer, but we can get there."
"River bed?" Cali asked regaining her composure and her curiosity.
"Yes," Tyler responded, "That must be the source of the water. It's the mud-puddle I fell into when the puppy-snakes chased me into these caves. It has to be the source of the water."
Without further debate, they followed Tyler's retraced route several yards back, with a new detour around the large spider. With closed eyes, Tyler guided them around one unseen turn after another. He finally stopped in an area that was very familiar to him. Although it had not been lit with the green glow of the sticks at the time, Tyler would have recognized this area in an form of light or dark. He retrieved a pair of broken glasses from the dirt and handed them to Cali.
"I can't see a thing without them," he said grinning through the twilight.
He pointed to the muddy river bed. It was just as he had envisioned it. About four feet wide and not quite three feet deep. It looked capable of carrying a swift flow. But that had been some time in the past. Now there was only enough water to turn the bottom into mud.
"Is this it?" Cali asked.
"This is the river bed I discovered on my last trip here," Tyler answered.
Cali looked at the river bed, then at Tyler. "This doesn't do us much good," she said.
Tyler's brief moment of glory instantly faded.
"Without question, Tyler, water has traveled down this river at some time, but we still don't know its source," Cali shook her head, looking upstream then downstream as far as the green twilight would allow. She was a little disappointed that Tyler had not actually found the source. She wondered if his powers might not be fading.
Tyler felt like an idiot. No actually, he felt like a complete idiot. "How stupid can I get," he scolded. "When I realized the water came from the mountain, I just assumed that this river bed was the source. I wasn't looking for the source of the water. I was looking for this river bed."
"Oh Tyler!" Cali moaned.
Seeking a quick correction of his error, he closed his eyes. "The source of the water is actually in that direction," he said pointing directly at a large spider.
"TYLER!" Cali screamed, scrambling away from the beast.
The other three also backed away. They caught up with Cali, who was huddled in crevice.
"I'm sorry Cali," Tyler apologized again, "This is all my fault. Some hero I turned out to be. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!"
With the spider out of sight, Cali calmed down enough to console Tyler. "It's not your fault Tyler. Just find us another way around the spider."
Tyler closed his eyes to identify the direction. He turned in a circle, but did not stop.
"We're trapped," he said finally, "There's no way around the spider. There's no way to get to the source of the water. I can see it, but we can't get there from here."
He sunk to the floor of the cave, then buried his face in his hands.
Cali felt complete, absolute despair. A hundred thoughts passed through her mind, each blacker than the other. All involved death.
When the small explosion echoed through the caves, Cali was certain her life would soon be over. She fell to the floor of the cave next to Tyler and covered her head.
"Hurry," she heard a familiar voice say. "We haven't much time."
It was the Professor Francis!
With this realization, Tyler and Cali popped off the floor of the cave.
"PROFESSOR!" they shouted in unison, running to the professor like two small children greeting their beloved grandfather.
"Hurry!" he grabbed their hands.
"But the spider," Cali stopped and pulled away, when she realized the direction they were headed.
"It's gone," the professor said matter-of-factly and grabbed her hand again. Then he turned to Tyler, "Which way?"
"What happened to the spider?" Cali asked, still unwilling to budge.
"Werner is young. He still has much to learn." the professor observed. Then he turned to Tyler, "Which way?"
Tyler jumped into the lead, followed by Cali, the professor, and the two Leornians.
They soon emerged from an opening in the mountain. Tyler grabbed onto an a rock for support. What should have been the firm side of the mountain was soft and mushy. He touched Cali's shoulder. It too was a great deal softer than it should have been.
Tyler scanned the valley before him It was gray and bleak. As feeble has his wits had become, he still recalled his first view of the valley. The bright red of the foliage had sharply contrasted with the bright purple of the locator's villages, the bright pink sky, and the blazing blue sun. But now, everything was gray. It was nearly impossible to see where one color stopped and the other started.
"Cali," he screamed in a frightened voice. "What's happening here?" He motioned to the mountainside, demonstrating its lack of substance.
Cali touched it, then touched Tyler's hand, all of which looked to be part of a fog.
"Oh no!" the professor said through clenched teeth that were also becoming less substantial, "The others... We don't have much time. Tyler where is the source of the water?"
Nervous and frightened, Tyler knew that a great responsibility fell to him. For what he hoped was one last time, he closed his eyes and 'looked' for the source of the water. His anxiety distracted him to no end. He was also distracted by Cali's continued encouragement, "Tyler concentrate, you must find the source of water!"
He pointed in the direction that he felt was the source of the water. Then opened his eyes. His arm was pointing halfway up the side of the mountain toward a crudely built purple structure.
"That's it," he said.
Cali scanned the side of the mountain. "This looks familiar," she said.
"It's the village we visited yesterday," Leonardo said.
"Let's not delay," Mark said feeling a bit immaterial.
Leonardo and Mark scampered rapidly toward the purple structure, with the professor, Cali, and Tyler following quickly behind.
Before they reached the structure, a lone figure appeared between them and their goal.
'Stop,' the figure commanded without speaking.
The figure was dressed in a black robe with three stripes on each sleeve. His white hair was partially covered by a mortarboard. And his pale blue eyes peered at the group.
The professor stepped to the front.
'I knew it was you, Werner,' Professor Francis answered back, also without speaking.
Tyler, Cali, and the Leornians could hear the words, even though none were spoken.
'You cannot save Leornia,' Werner continued, 'Give up, John.'
The professor countered, 'Don't try your mind tricks on me. I can crush you to dust. You know that. But, I hope it will not come to that. Do not force me, Werner.'
Werner laughed aloud. 'Leornia is no more,' he thought. 'It no longer serves its purpose. The council agrees with me. Look around you. Leornia is dying. It is all but dead.'
'NO!' the professor's mind shouted, causing Werner to take a step back. 'Leornia can be saved. Leornia can serve its purpose in the education of our students. We now know why it was not working properly. And we can remedy the problem. Leornia can work. Leornia must work.'
Werner laughed again, 'It's too late. It's time that we implement a new program. The one that I've wanted all along. Leornia is doomed.'
'I demand a council meeting,' the professor's mind said firmly. 'I want the entire council to hear the evidence.'
Werner laughed once more, but with much less confidence. 'So be it,' he said.
This small group instantly found itself in an environment devoid of physical reality. For the two professors it was a familiar setting. They were able to shed the sheath of physical sensation and let their minds shape reality. Tyler and Cali were stunned by their nonphysical being. They were conscious and aware. They could sense nothing, yet they could sense everything. The two Leornians adjusted surprising fast. Although they had never attended a council meeting, the experience was much like the process of transferring information to learners.
After a period that could have been an instant or it could have been an eternity, a voice penetrated all minds, 'A council meeting has been called by Professor Francis.'
As the words entered their minds, Tyler and Cali received a visual sensation as well. It was the face of a bald man, with grayish-blue eyes set in a puggy face. Tyler recognized the face, but did not know why. The face faded.
'All members are present,' the voice continued. As it did, the image of the face sharpened.
Tyler remembered the face now. It belonged to his biology professor. Professor Watson. Of course, it made sense.
'State the reason for the meeting,' the voice said.
Professor Francis' face entered their minds has his voice said, 'It concerns the continued existence of Leornia. Professor Wilhelm has proposed that we abandon Leornia and implement his system of simultaneous subliminal dissemination. Everyone here knows how I feel about his proposal. You also know that I would support it, if I felt Leornia was no longer effective.'
'You have presented your case to the council before,' the voice Tyler knew as Professor Watson said. 'Do you have anything new to add?'
'Yes, I do,' the voice of Professor Francis answered. 'Many of you have grown disenchanted with Leornia. And for very good reason. Leornia has not functioned properly. I will be the first to admit this fact. But, two of my students have discovered the cause of this malfunction.'
Accompanying muffled laughter, a series of faces flashed quickly through their joined minds.
'Continue,' Professor Watson's voice said, silencing the laughter.
'As we know, Leornia has been operated by mammitts since our departure. They have disseminated information to millions of students in our classrooms and provided specialized instruction to others in Leornia itself. They have performed their tasks well, leaving us free to pursue other valuable activities -- until recently. Now they are ineffective.' Professor Francis' voice paused. 'Let me allow one of my students to explain why. Cali, I believe you discovered the reason for Leornia's problems. Would you please inform the council?'
'What?' Cali's voice could be heard, even though she had not tried to speak.
'Please, tell the council what you uncovered,' the professor beckoned.
'Well... uh....' Cali paused, trying to get used to this form of mental speaking. 'Well... I don't want to die... we figured out that... oh jeeze, I really like Tyler.... instructors... the evil professor... drink water and the locators eat.... what am I saying... fruit.' She had difficulty pulling out only desired thoughts from the thousands that seemed to be racing through her mind. She calmed down slightly, but still aware of the fact she was addressing a very powerful group -- on that literally held her fate in the minds.
'I'm afraid I'm not being very clear about this,' she apologized.
'Do not worry,' Professor Francis encouraged her. 'Just tell us what you discovered.'
'Okay,' Cali tried again. 'We found out, Tyler and me, that instructors have the ability to teach because of the water they drink. I drank a lot of water and I acquired many of the characteristics of the instructors. We also discovered that locators have the ability to locate learners because of the purple fruit they eat. Tyler ate a lot of the fruit and he started acting like one of them.
'It seems as though there isn't as much water as there once was, which means the instructors can't teach as well as they could. Leonardo used to be an instructor, but he isn't able to teach anymore. At least he couldn't until I gave him a drink of my water.
'I figured it was a simple production possibilities problem, like Professor Francis talks about in class. Leornia had too many locators and not enough instructors. All we need to do is produce more instructors by letting them drink water. But there isn't enough water. That's the ultimate cause of the problem. I suppose that's where Tyler comes in. We think Tyler can find the source of the water. If we can figure out where the water comes from and how to make more, then Leornia can have more instructors.'
'And Werner was aware of Tyler's role in the solution,' Professor Francis added. 'Werner tried to divert Tyler from discovering the solution. Although, like the rest of us, he did not know the reason for Leornia's malfunction, he did know that Tyler could help. Werner has misused his role as a council member. He deviated from his subject matter. He threaten both students. And he created situations that caused them physical harm. He is not fit to be a council member.'
'If what you say is correct,' a new voice entered their minds, 'then what should be done with Professor Wilhelm? No one has left the council except by death. Is that what you are proposing Professor Francis?'
'I can not propose death,' Professor Francis said. 'I leave it to the council.'
'This is outrageous,' Werner's previously silent voice broke in. 'John has made accusations that he has yet to prove. If Leornia's malfunction is due to the lack of water, then I challenge him to prove additional water is the solution.'
'We will get to that in due time,' the voice of Professor Watson said. 'But first, if the charges are true, we must consider a suitable punishment. We have no precedent for this. A council member has never flagrantly violated our code of ethics as Professor Wilhelm has been charged. It is not possible to expel a living member from the council. Such would be futile. As long as any of us remain alive on this planet, we are synergistically a part of this council.'
'If I may speak,' a new voice said. The voice was recognized only by the two students. 'I think I may be able to help.'
'My name is unimportant. It is also unpronounceable in your language,' the voice said with the face of a bored cat entered everyone's mind. 'My world has been searching for a means of information transmission. We have, of course, heard about Leornia. I came to your world a short time ago to study this ingenious method of education. At first, I thought we might create a similar setting.
'But,' the cat-frog continued, 'I do not feel Leornia is suitable for us. My time in Leornia was enjoyable, but we need something else, something like a system of simultaneous subliminal dissemination. I am intrigued by Professor Wilhelm's system. I believe it would work in my world. If you have no further use for Professor Wilhelm, I would be happy to let him implement his system in my world.
'But he would remain synergistically connected to the council' a voice said.
The cat-frog responded, 'As a matter of fact, no. My world is far removed from yours in both time and space. I assure you that if Professor Wilhelm came to my world, he would not, could not, have further connection with your council.'
'Comments?' a new voice asked.
No voices. No images
'Is there a consensus, then?' another voice asked.
This time numerous voices could be heard with words of agreement.
'John,' Professors Watson's voice said, 'We must first address our immediate question. It is now up to you and your students. Find the source of the water. If you do not, we will have to disband Leornia. And we will be forced to consider retribution against you!'
The physical reality of Leornia returned. The small group was back on the side of the mountain, as if they had never left. The substance of Leornia remained a murky shade of gray. Obviously the council had yet to be convinced.
'Tyler,' the professor spoke with his mind, 'It is up to you, find the source of the water. We are counting on you. I am counting on you.'
The professor remained behind as Tyler, Cali and the two Leorniansheaded to the purple structure halfway up the mountain.
"I recognize this place," Cali shouted as they grew closer. "This is Adam's."
"Adam's?" Tyler questioned, then nodded in agreement as Adam himself, poked his head through one of the openings.
"Adam," Mark said, trying to speak calmly as they reached the structure, "Tell me truthfully, are you the one who makes the water?"
"Water?" Adam asked in puzzlement, "What water?"
"The instructors' water. The water in the basin on the other side of the mountain," Cali explained.
"The instructor's water?" Adam asked, still puzzled. "I don't make the instructor's water. I make estoffe."
"Tyler," Cali said, not certain if she should be angry.
Without further prompting Tyler closed his eyes and pointed his finger. But instead of pointing at Adam, who was poking his head through one of the openings, Tyler's pointed just to Adam's left, at the middle of his structure.
"The source of the water is inside your home," Mark concluded.
"But how?" Cali asked, now confused.
"The estoffe," Leonardo reminded.
"Of course," Cali exclaimed, "You make the estoffe, don't you Adam?"
Adam nodded, still bewildered.
"How, Adam?" Cali asked, "How do you make the estoffe?"
"I can't tell you," Adam said indignantly. "I paid a lot for that information."
"You crazy old locator," Mark chastised, "That does not matter now. If we do not find out the source of the water, Leornia will be gone. I'll pay you for the information if I have too."
"I don't know," Adam thought for a moment.
"Please Adam," Cali pleaded, "Take Mark inside and show him how you make estoffe."
Mark gave Cali a curious look, then realizing that she and Tyler were both too big to enter Adam's structure, he started toward an opening.
Adam reluctantly nodded and motioned for Mark to enter.
Mark spent an infinitely long period of time inside Adam's structure, easily a month's worth of economics lectures. Occasionally a muffled conversation would emerge from inside the structure. Cali could barely breath. She thought it was only the excitement, but as everything around her faded, she feared it might be otherwise.
Mark finally emerged.
Everyone waited. Tyler waited. Cali waited. Professor Francis waited. The council waited. The future of Leornia waited.
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Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not
to be quoted without permission of the author.