The Sequel to The Children of Zol

Courteous Reader. This is a story about a man and a cast of strange characters who find themselves caught in an adventure mystery.

For reference, the hero of the story is the alleged author of The Children of Zol which is a Novella about a culture of people who have become addicted to their electronic devices. The Children of Zol can be accessed by following the link on the right or by clicking here.

Many thanks for reading!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Chapter Seventy Three. Bai Ling Johnson

Bai Ling was just six when Umpa rescued her from the savagery of her abductors. The slave brokerage company, based out of Romania, sold mostly female children through third party handlers in Europe and Asia.

Umpa didn't have to negotiate for Bai Ling.  He didn't make arrangements to cover the required down payment.  He simply took her hand and walked out of the filthy, damp room. No commotion, no excitement, no resistance. The pair walked out like Grandpa and child, happily clasped and smiling.

Raised as if she were his only child, Bai Ling lived an "other" worldly life, tethered as she was, to a wizard. She could fly at seven, transform into other beings at eight. At nine she could easily navigate between multiple dimensions. As a teen ager she translated the ancient Taoist scrolls known as the Black Cliff Legend.

"Umpa?," she asked him one day when she was fourteen years old, "Why is my last name Johnson?"

"Peach Blossom," replied Umpa, "Why do you think your name is Johnson?"

"Because my father's name was Johnson?," Bai Ling suggested as a question.

"Yes my child. And his father's name was Johnson."

"What was my mother's name?," she continued.

"We don't know, but she was from Romania, and rumored to have been a Tsarina, once married to a powerful monarch from Bulgaria," Umpa replied.

"Then why do I appear to be Chinese?," she wondered out loud.

"We can only assume that your mother was Chinese, because your father was originally named Johnson, presumed to have been from America."

"Originally named Johnson?," she enquired.

"Yes, he changed his name to Trontan, taking on the name of his master, Felipe Anjour Trontan, known as the Knight of the Lost Tribe."

Bai Ling had been sitting on the other side of the room but the topic was very exciting to her. At first she used the strength of her arms to lift herself off of her pillow. Then she projected her slender body as a mist, in a thin stream of gas toward Umpa and reconfiguring back to her sculpted athletic body. "Who were the Lost Tribe? From where had they come and why were they lost?"

"So many questions my precious Peach Blossom!," exclaimed Umpa. "Maybe we should have lunch and discuss this on a full stomach!"

Instantly at their feet was a feast of  exquisite Chinese delicacies. Woodland mushrooms in a bamboo and ginger sauce, shark oil fried starfish, goat lungs and red peppers and a dozen other rare choices.

Umpa smiled. The speed of Bai Ling's delivery informed him of the urgency she felt to receive this information. He reached out to brush her hair with his fingers. "My darling. We all have our roots planted in soil which precedes our parents genealogy."

Piece by piece, Bai Ling sampled the colorful bites. Carefully and cautiously, as if exploring a mine field, her fingers chose one delicacy after another. "Why do you wish to guard me from these secrets Father?," his pupil gently probed.

Umpa helped himself to a pickled snake eye. "You are as connected as am I to the great Spirit my love. Nothing is hidden from you."

With the poise of a ballerina, Bai Ling artfully applied the silk napkin to the edges of her mouth. "Why were they called the Lost Tribe? And what was the nature of the Kung Fu that my Earth father learned from his teacher?"

"You strike to the heart of the matter Peach Blossom." Umpa studied his adopted heir with tender affection. "The Knight of the Lost Tribe taught a forbidden magic, too sinister to be called Kung Fu. I can't pronounce the name or I will decay and shatter. Your own father refined the art and absorbed massive darkness known as Shi Ba. He is feared by all and has caused the ruin of many wonderful wizards. He is said to have reversed the progress of the universe by 10,000 years."

"And what has become of Judishante Trontan," Bai Ling asked.

"He continues to haunt the world and wreaks havoc on both mortals and ascended alchemists. Much of the turmoil we find ourselves in is because of his hideous influence. Do you remember line 47 of the Black Cliff Legend?," Umpa asked.

"From whispers and laughter comes the avalanche of the unknown stranger, whose words weren't planned, and yet will free the world," Bai Ling quoted mechanically.

"And so your ancestral father's magic will be buried beneath fresh snow."

"From where shall this snow descend Father?," asked the angelic child.

"Continue to seek the meaning of the Black Cliff Legend," instructed Umpa. "Perhaps someday you will penetrate the veil. The mystery still alludes me Peach Blossom," confessed the wizard.

"What is my destiny Master?," she persisted.

"To transcend the forces of Yin and Yang," came his simple reply

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Chapter Seventy Two. Oats Meets Zol

Oats Meets Zol

The look on Mark Sethlang's face was so terrifying that Tsu Yen spotted him instantly in the crowd as she stood staring in desperation, hoping someone could help Derby who appeared to be dead by a shot of some kind. Near Derby's lifeless body lay the rocking black marble which had been slung by a ferocious force and brought our hero to the ground like a 2,000 pound column.

With the agility of a circus tumbler and the speed of a short distance sprinter, Tsu Yen traversed the crowd and was up in the air with her legs wrapped around Mark's neck sooner than anyone else had even noticed the sling shot in his hands.

"Yo bettah ho he not die be cuz yo die if so," said Tsu Yen as the pair lay on the ground with Mark's face buried in the crotch of her pants.

Mark tried to talk but his muffled words were lost in her crotch, as if he was talking to her vagina.

Tsu Yen felt the vibration of his words in her pants and she shifted her position so his neck could turn. At that point, both Tsu Yen and Mark were turned toward Derby, who had started to move and was bringing himself up on hands and knees.

"Derby, are you alright?," yelled Mark. "I was aiming at the chick!"

Derby was struggling to focus. The black marble had hit him in the temple. At the moment he was blinded. The ground beneath was blurry and his head was pounding. His hand found the black marble by accident but quickly he grabbed it, as an instinctive reflex.

"Why yo shoot mawboh at me?," demanded Tsu Yen of Mark. "Misla Duhbey an me make baby. Why yo shoot mawboh at me?"

As he grasped the black marble, Derby's eye sight started to correct. He was aware of the crowd staring and he heard the scuffling nearby. When he processed the words he understood from Tsu Yen and Mark, he remembered the strange conversation he had just had following the kiss he gave to his pretty Asian abductor.

"Mark, roll me the white marble! Wait, ask the woman to bring me the marble!," requested Derby who was struggling to stand up, as if coming out of the grip of drunkenness.

Tsu Yen loosened her grip of her legs from Mark's neck and took the marble which Mark handed her.

With all the drama she could produce, Tsu Yen slowly approached Derby, who was staggering and barely able to balance. Holding the white marble, she extended both of her arms to support Derby.

"Wiff dis mawboh, I dee wed. Do yo sowem wee swayah to be my wawfowwee wed huzbin?"

Before him stood the out-of-focus woman who had stuffed him into a Goofy suit, then seduced him with flirty eyes, then promised to have his baby, and now seemed to be pronouncing him man and crazy person. He grabbed the white marble and started circling the two porcelain spheres in the palm of his hand.

There wasn't heat. There wasn't water. But his vision came sharply into focus and at that moment, he realized he was living his next story. All he could think of was how to get to a computer and start to capture some of this material.

"A story like this needs to be told!," he announced. Then he paused and looked at the woman who was facing him.

"What is your name, crazy lady? And what did you mean after we kissed, that your husband wants us to have a baby? Who is your husband?"

"My name Tsu Yen. My huzbin Justin Scobill."

As Derby turned the marbles in his hand he felt alternating sensations. The energy which was surging in his palm shifted between heat and the cool, slippery impression of water. Heat. Water. Heat. Water. Sun. Moon. Night. Day. Exhale. Inhale. Exertion. Relaxation. Fire. Rain. Over and over, tumbling smoothly in his hand, the forces of Yin and Yang.

"How did you find me?," Derby asked Tsu Yen, who seemed genuinely willing to be straight forward and answer his questions honestly.

"Me no fine yo. Gu Long fine yo. She telw me yo kill Jude-ee-shauntie Twontan, dee ebil man fwom histwee book, suppose toe be fwom ancient time. She telw me yo weel lead us to huh eenimee."

Derby continued to turn the marbles in his hand. In spite of how astounding the information he was receiving from Tsu Yen was, he maintained his composure and stayed focussed on his line of questioning. Simultaneously to his mental activity and what this meant. To find a connection to Justin Scoville, the man who had originally brought him to Hong Kong, his body was surging with energy. Literally, he could feel the synapses jolt with the transfer of electrical currents. Passageways in his body were opening. He was feeling stronger in every way.

"Who is her enemy," he asked, still turning the marbles which seemed to transfer a pleasant sensation of alternating current, warm/wet, pop/relax, stimulation/tranquility, tiger/dragon, sun/moon.

"Her name Bai Ling. She suppose to be dee human chile produce between ebil man an Hungarian Preen sess."

Derby's body felt like it was hooked up to an electrical plant that was infusing him with 50,000 watts per second. Images flashed on his occipital lobe of Judishante Trontan's decapitation, of Bai Ling above the laundry. Then he thought to himself, "Why is the reader seeing the expression "occipital lobe" from the Children of Zol?"

He continued to turn the marbles and he felt Mark's hand on his shoulder.

Mark pulled away with a jerk. "My God man, you're on fire and I just got shocked like touching an exposed live wire. You're sweating dude. What is going on with you?"

Calmly Derby handed the marbles to Mark. "Mark," Derby spoke slowly and methodically. "One more time. These marbles will help you. It is all about finding the equilibrium between Yin and Yang. Our experiences, our conditioning, our environment, our genetics, our "Karma," our circumstances, our daily dramas are one thing. But our physiology and connection to the great root of Being trumps all."

Mark took the marbles and they felt heavy and hot.

"What has happened to these marbles?," asked Mark, who opened his hand to study the little globes in his palm. "They feel like they're charged particles?"

"What you feel," replied Derby, "is your own internal energy. "Now focus on an image for a second. Right now you feel heat and as if the marbles are very heavy, right?"

"Uh-huh," said a dazed Mark, who was starting to think that something whacky was going on and for some reason he was seeing himself as Elmer Fudd in a cartoon strip.

"Well now imagine that the heat and weight of those marbles burns through a piece of ice that is sitting on the top of your head, exactly at your crown chakra," instructed Derby.

"My Cwown What?," responded Elmer, who could have been in an episode with a twicky wabbit.

"Chakra. Just think of where your soft spot would have been as a baby. Now let that heat burn through the ice and when it does, feel yourself dive into cool water."

"Something whacky is going on here you wascal," said a dazed Elmer, almost as if he were back in the Children of Zol chapter.

"Now look back up into that passage way of the ice over your head. You've cleared the first opening. Look below you and you'll see a flaming pit. Now you need to go through the fire."

"Wabbit twacks!," declared Elmer, who was looking down at the ground and taking on more and more of a cartoon personality.

Derby looked back at Tsu Yen. "Take me to Gu Long."

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Chapter One. The Puzzle

The Puzzle

Derby Joshua Clearwater Ripley sat at his computer. Actually it was his daughter's computer because two of his had recently bit the dust. He has an office full of computers but he only uses one of those actively, and that is a fairly new development for the Ripley family. Derby (Derb as his old friends called him) had worked from home for twenty years until just about one year ago when he bought a downtown building in the thriving megatropolis of Tiny Town, Missouri.

What was on his mind at the moment was the thought from his meditation earlier. It was when he tuned into the particular sound of his daughter thumping down the stairs while she hurried to get ready for school. It meant a lot to Derb right then. That thumping sound. "Will you remember that sound?," he wondered. He tuned in again because she had gotten whatever it was she needed, eye liner or whatnot and had returned to her room, but now the thumping sound of her coming back down reverberated again.

"Yes," he thought "That is a unique sound. No one will quite make that same sound." He listened for his wife and imagined the sound she makes coming down from (Need to look up daughter's name from Zol)'s room. But he didn't get to because he heard the scuffle her slippers make across the carpet.

"Ah," he thought, "the sound of Pam crossing our living room is very familiar too. No one else will ever make that sound except her. I hear her make that sound all the time."

He fell deeply into his meditation because it was the moment he was in and realizing those unique sounds were all there was at those moments. But now those moments had passed and he returned to stillness.

But now the blinking cursor reminded him. "What was it significant about those observations?"

Beauty. Simply beauty. His life was filled with such abundance. Those sounds are music. Those sounds are poetry. Those sounds are gifts. Learning to honor those gifts and growing to a point that he will be content with that poetry, that music. That was the significance.

He had written a story, earlier, called The Children of Zol. In a way he had predicted certain events. For instance, at the beginning of the story, the IPad hadn't been launched. He had "imagined" a personal information system called PIS which was actually implanted in people's brains. At the time smart phones hadn't evolved to the point they are now. By the time you read this dear reader, the most current and amazing technology will have been replaced by something even more amazing. It is moving very fast. But back in the Story of Zol, he integrated the IPad into a quirky chapter. Now he sat contemplating what new ap would soon be invented for the smart phone.

This is really the beginning of the story dear reader. Because it is what happened next that makes the story worth telling. His smart phone brought him the good news. Justin Scoville, from Planetary Publishing had read Zol. "We want to publish it. We think its great. We'll have a car for you next Thursday and you'll fly in our private jet to New York. From there we've chartered you a flight to Hong Kong. Can you make it? We can offer you an advance of $10,000. At our meeting, depending how things go, we can talk about real money."

Derby looked at his watch as he processed this news. His wife sat in her office in the house talking to the phone company about the new problem since Derb's in home office line had been cancelled. It was 10:30 and the meeting he had scheduled is nearly an hour away. He is supposed to be there at 11:30. He should have been in the shower 20 minutes ago and yet he is typing these words now for a reader which is actually just a follicle on an unidentified body part. What to do? be continued.

Chapter Two. Snoring with Zol

Snoring with Zol

Ten thousand dollars isn't very much money. Who am I kidding. Right now I'll accept work for a hamburger on Tuesday, which I'd even gladly pay you for on Wednesday--no that wasn't it. A hamburger today which I'll pay you for Tuesday. Gladly. Cept I don't eat hamburgers. And I don't have any money so all I could really give you on Tuesday is an IOU. Or I can download the entire subscription base for my publishing empire and trade you that. Do you know either of them? Beautiful people.

So yeah. Derby set out to talk to the wife.

"Yes dear."
"How's your tea?"
"Fiiiiiiiiiine?" She drug it out, meaning, "do you have something you want to tell me?"

Pam always knew when he was going to come with a doosie.

"Remember Zol?--I know you haven't read it, but I've told you about it."

"Don't be silly. I've read PART of it?"

"Anyway, some guy called and offered $10,000."

"That's nice. Was it the president? Or David Korten?"

Pam knew that Derby is a very loyal Obama fan and also worships a thinker named David Korten.

"No seriously. A man called. Says they're sending a plane for me. I have to go to Hong Kong."

"Can we talk about this after my tea? I think you're about to spring something on me?"

Derby stopped. Closed his eyes. Took off his glasses. Kind of massaged the squinty space just under his Third Eye Chakra.

"Pammy Poo. I'm not joking. I really think some publishing organization likes the story. The man didn't talk long. Said his name was Scoville. Vermin Scoville? No, he was a guy from high school But it was for sure Scoville. Still, the point is, if they send us certifiable funds for $10,000 to prove they're serious. I'd take their flight to Hong Kong. We can always delay our plans for the launch until after I get back.

I know 10 grand isn't that much but right now it could hold us steady for a month or two. Easily I could swing to Hong Kong. Probably after we find out if the ten is real, and we've got it deposited, I could call for more details. What's to lose. We'd have the money in the bank?"

"What is Zol about again?"

Derby felt uplifted. This is the most she'd ever shown of interest in the story, that he knew of.

"It is about a culture of people who have become addicted to their electronic devices. In fact they use their electronics much like a drug addict uses drugs. They get high from their jet phones, and Tai Wii's, and their LapZols especially.

And they have a mythological God like entity that most of them worship, named Zol. And Zol only communicates in Beatle Speak. It is written as if it is far off in the future, but it is only ten or twenty years  off. It speaks of the time of 2011 as very early days of Zol. Oh, and Zol came to save them by forgiving them thru their electronics. Zol is all.

She was asleep, so he covered her with the alpaca throw and put her tea bag in the trash and washed her cup.

Chapter Three. The Trouble with Fantasy

The Trouble with Fantasy

Have you ever flown to China? Long trip.

"Thank God they put me in business class," he told himself as he snuggled with the snifter of cognac, reclined in full layout position. "Man, this is the way to fly."

So it always goes on the first two or three hours of international flights, if you're lucky enough to be in First Class or Business Class. By the way, on trips to China, business class is equivalent or exceeds what is passed off for First Class now on domestic trips. "Oh yeah," Derby thought to himself as he enjoyed the amenities of Flight 1622 to Hong Kong with a stop in Beijing.

Starting about at hour four though, no convenience seems to cover up the fact that you want down. Mommy put me down. I want to walk or go to sleep or not have to go through security again or wait for a car at the terminal or whatever else is about to happen after 15 more hours of Hell.

But his fears soon faded. Seems the brandy and the music and the new leg room which goes with Pan Francisco Airlines new business class program had all added up to a lovely little new sum. You see...Derby plus XO Cognac in snifters plus Mozart plus really really nice airline bed making business class seating plus 1500 thread count Egyptian Cotton bedding equals night night Derby Doo. See you in Hong Kong.

And so it went. It was 11:20 pm Hong Kong time.

"Mr. Ripley. Mr. Ripley. Mr. Ripley, wake up. We've arrived. Time to deplane."

"Deplane?" He was so disoriented. All he could think of was that little creepy midget dude saying De Plane! De Plane!"

"Arrived Beijing?" He was looking for his watch. He was all tangled up in lovely quilt and pillows and someone had strapped seat belt things to him.

Audience aside:

Have you ever heard about Pan Francisco Airlines? The merger took place toward the end of last year. Have I told you what year we're in? Sorry Reader, I think not. It is 2013. February 4, 2013 to be exact. In case you were wondering, nothing too dramatic happened within these last few months. Well Obama was re-elected...Thank Zol...I mean God. And Sarah Impalen is standing trial for inciting violence by voters. Seems too many people starting using her website map which identifies key democratic senate seats with rifle target symbols as actual targets with their real life rifles.

No, turns out December 2012 was no end time. Oh, one other thing. They DID find the rest of the Mayan Calendar. It now goes all the way until March  20, 20,205. But then it seems to stop again. Or maybe around then we'll find new clues to an extended calendar or whatever. But yeah...Pan Francisco Airlines is a good company. Really really great seating in business class.

Back to the story...

"No sir. We're in Hong Kong. We thought about waking you in Beijing, but we put you in take off position and back to full recline after we reached cruising altitude and you never flinched. So, welcome to Hong Kong! Our Captain asked us to inform you that Mr. Scoville notified the president of Pan Fran that you'll be met at the gate. We've informed baggage claim to bring your luggage to our valet service. If your driver doesn't have them before you pull out of the terminal, we'll send them to the Penninsula."

Derby was starting to snap out of it.

"I've been asleep for...wait a minute. What time is it again?" He was feeling around for his glasses. Surely the time couldn't be...

"It is 11:20 pm Hong Kong time. Yes you've been asleep for about 15 hours. Nearly everyone on the plane joined the raffle. The winner won $1,200 by guessing you would sleep all the way."

"Sending my bags to the Peninsula?"

He was scratching his head and thinking, "These people know where I'm staying?"

Just then a very handsome young lady in business dress appeared next to the flight attendant.

"Mr. Ripley. Jeninqua Florentine. How do you do?"

He squinted. "Is that someone's name? really?," he wondered. He continued thinking to himself, "Wow, she's beautiful." Then he asked her, "Jeninqua? What is that American Indian?"

"We'll see you on the other side handsome," spoke the lady. For a fraction of a second he contemplated her words. He noticed he felt a little noxious. Then dizzy. Then he was out.

Chapter Four. Zol with a Capital Z

Zol with a Capital Z

Waking up in a hotel room and watching a magnificent naked young woman leaving the same bed can be a very disturbing experience (mixed with a secret kind of delight).

Number one. You're in a stupor from whatever it was that caused you to pass out in the first place. (Or was that the cognac?). Two, you don't have your glasses on anyway, so things are slightly blurry without all the extraordinary experiences. Three My GOD she's perfect! Scratch that. Call Pam. Wait. Don't call Pam. What would you say? Raising the blankets to look downstairs. Yep, sure enough. I'm naked. With an erection. Oh boy. I'm in trouble.

"Excuse me. Miss?" Derby hadn't been in a situation quite like this one before. He continued, "Pardon me miss? Jeninqua is it? Doris? Whichever, excuse me."

She had walked to the bathroom. The rear view was exceptional. She must have been in her twenties, probably late twenties. Long dark hair. Caucasian though some exotic blood in her. He searched his memory banks. Nothing. Totally blank. Never spoke to her that he knows of. Can't find a whiff of her. The only smell is the fragrance of the fresh flowers in the room. Is she Asian? Mideastern? American Indian? She doesn't seem Italian...but maybe Italian...she had said Florentine. Spinach?

"Miss. Sorry. This doesn't look good. I saw you getting out of the bed. We both seem to be naked. But I remember everything. I never touched you."

Still no reply.

He persisted. "I was a total gentleman. Never even noticed you. My eyes were sealed. I even closed them this morning when I noticed you were leaving the bed. Haven't a clue what you look like. Nope. Never saw your wonderous rump. I mean, er, excuse me. I'm guessing at your age your rump may be wonderous. I just remember your age from the conversation we had on the plane. Yes. The plane and getting off. I had consumed way too much cognac. Good stuff. XO, what was the brand again? A french brand that I'd never had the pleasure of meeting before Pan San flight 1622. Miss...Miss...please Miss, I need to call my wife.

Yes, my wife. Such a wonderful lady. Pam. Pam Ripley in the good ole US of A. Pammy Bammy. Yep. Sure do love my wife. Miss...Miss?"

She walked back in. Oh my Lord she's still naked. The front view is even better.

"Please Miss. Cover yourself."

He pulled the blankets over his head. His little man seemed to be pulsating. "Stop that," he tried to send the energy down to his one eyed appendage. His brain was racing. "Who the Hell is this and what is going on?" From under the sheets he offered,

"Look. Jeninqua. Right? It is Jeninqua. Not Doris. I sort of remember something about Doris or Jeninqua...I know we've become good friends. I remember everything. You're a very nice person. Thanks for sharing. Very interesting story and all. But like I said, I'm married. That is why I was very careful not to ever touch those picture perfect boobies of yours, er, I mean, your breasts. No not your breasts. I've never layed eyes on them, let alone my little short fingers. See, my fingers are very short..."

holds his hands outside of the sheets...

"Yep. Short fingers. Little hands. You know what they say. That is why you wouldn't ever have anything to do with me. And besides, I don't have any interest. Nope. Married. True Blue. That's me. Derby the True Blue American patriot. Blue as goo. Yep Pammy. My true love. Man I love her so."

Silence. Was she still out there? "Don't take down the sheets," he told himself. She's still there. He could feel her staring. My God she's burning a whole in the linen. "What is she? F*cking A, She's a hotty, that's for sure...

Oh God he knew he shouldn't have pulled down the sheets. She was standing there, in extreme simplicity. Thin and voluptuous like a James Bond lover. Mysterious. Confident. Smiling.

"Why are you smiling?," he trembled.

"I've been sent by Zol."

Now he was bolstered. "Zol. Haha. Very funny. OK, so Scoville set this up? You've been retained by Planetary Publishing? So you're a prostitute. OK. Makes sense. Well, I didn't do a thing. Never touched you. Yes you are a splendid specimen. I'm a man. But I'm also totally in control. Never moved in your direction. I'm in total control. I've been awake this whole time. Even when I was sleeping, or you thought I was sleeping, I've been fully awake. When we were AWAKE and we were...talking. Yes, we talked, but that is it. We talked and talked. Wow, you're quite the talker. So Scoville sent you and you discovered that I didn't except his offering...

That must have upset you. Then you went to sleep. Yes, you slept soundly. Right next to me. But I've been here fully awake and not the least interested in that snatch of yours. Excuse me. I mean that latch. The latch on your hand bag..."

He searched the room. No sign of her clothes, no bags. Just an emaculate luxury suite adorned with all the trimmings. Oh no. Is that an empty bottle of champagne turned upside down in an iced bucket. Oh God I'm in trouble. I'm dead. I'm soooo dead.

She was still smiling and climbed back in bed. She tried to move toward him but he jumped up. Boner at full attention. He scrambled for something to put on. "Where the hell are my clothes," he thought quickly to himself as he raced to behind the curtains. My God what a view. "This is the way to see Hong Kong!," he thought to himself.

From under the linen and with quite a charming and shy facade, she spoke gently.

"Derby. Stop being silly. You couldn't possibly know what you're dealing with. By the way. You're an amazing lover. What is that technique. You never ejaculated? Are you a Taoist? Oh baby, come back to bed."

He looked out on the balcony. Too high to jump. Get to the house phone. But my erection? He just simply was at a loss.

"No. By the way. Scoville has no clue either what he's dealing with. He was contacted by the Polish Police and has been retained by the firm of Shenkenmeyer, Bizzle and Blassford. Nope honey. This is all Zol."

Derby was trying to think what kind of gag this was. Who is behind it. Of course anyone could be saying these things who had read the story. No mystery there. Even though he was certain only a handful of people had read Children of Zol, anyone COULD have read it. Its a blog for Christ's sake! But what is really going on. Oh please, please, please tell me I haven't touched that woman...

He came out of the curtains. Put a pillow over Mr. Stinky. He composed himself--

"OK, I'll play along. You're a high priced prostitute and you've been hired by the Great Sneeze. Zol himself. Beatle Speak right? He communicated in Beatle Speak. So what did he say, for you to explain that you wanted to hold my hand?"

He tried a bluff. But he couldn't remember a thing since taking one last long pull on the Cognac about four hours into the flight. The rest, except for briefly waking up at the gate at Hong Kong International, is a total blank.

"Well. No, not exactly. The Beatle speak was your approach. But you couldn't have known. A very ingenious technique you used though. We liked it. But yeah. Zol sent me."

"Zol?" was all he could squeeze out.

"Yes Zol." She waited.

"Zol with a Capital Z?" he asked?

"Yep. Zol with a Capital Z and that rhymes with C," she toyed with him.

"Rhymes with C?" He was about to give up. Derby felt like a teenie tiny little mouse and some big cat game was going on.

"Yes dear. Rhymes with C and that stands for Cool. You've got a cool thread in your Facebook community."

"Facebook? I stopped using Facebook."

"Sure you have honey. And it has made a bubble. Bubble right here in River City."

Chapter Five. Talk About Butterflies in Your Stomach

Talk About Butterflies in Your Stomach

No sooner had Jeninqua made the River City comment than a horrendous force broke down the door to the suite. Shards and splinters ripped through the room and Derby laid face down (bare assed) on the pillow he had grabbed to serve as the fig leaf of Eden. He thought the hotel was engulfed in an earthquake or was under terrorist attack or some kind of other disaster. Whichever it was, poor Derb was shaking.

"Put these on." Derby wasn't in a state to focus on whose arms had picked him up or to even ask questions. The pants fit and he was glad for them. He looked over at the bed to see what had happened to the prostitute and he was mortified by the shocking transformation which had taken place. Jeninqua had changed into some kind of Exorcist model or something. Her pupils were glowing slits of energy which resembled the piercing eyes of a cat and claws extended from her fingers. Her hair was puffed up, exactly like a cat's tail and her fangs were exposed.

"Hssssschhhh, reaooooowwww," she squealed.

The arms which had rescued Derby now seemed attached to some supersonic streak of light and was facing the cat monster, while they both squared off on the bed. A knife flashed and Derby was barely able to stay focussed as the knife tore open Jeninqua's abdomen.

He fully expected to see blood rush out and probably other internal organs too but instead what exited from her mid section was translucent color. The light seemed to be butterflies released, though not on wing but on Tinkerbell like sparkling bells or little dancing reflective dust particles. The energy seemed to be an organized dance of light and it gathered in a space just outside of her abdominal area.

As Derby watched the display of light leave her body, for a fraction of a second the whole of the room seemed to be "sucked" inside of her. For a flash of a moment, the room lights were out and it could only be described as some sort of "black hole energy" that removed all the matter from the room which swooshed to the  space previously occupied by Jeninqua. Then the dancing, reflective light show also seemed to follow the train of all that energy and then--PLOP. A white marble-like piece of shiny porcelain fell back on the bed and she was gone, along with the dancing butterflies of energy.

His mouth was open and Derby tried to say something but the man who seems to have been the superpower that tore down the door, covered our hero in pants and wielded the knife had sprung to his side. Just as Derby was about to hear himself ask "What is happening?," the man thrust a clinched fist into Derby's stomach. The force felt like a bullet or a speeding rocket and something hard catapulted out of his mouth which seemed to have chipped Derby's tooth on exiting.

Whatever it was ricocheted off walls and furniture before landing on the floor in the middle of the room.

"What the f...," Derby was able to finally choke out, holding his stomach, bent over in excruciating pain.

"Take these," said the man. "Keep them in this pouch. These are all that stands between you and the Polish Police. You're in grave danger."

Derby Joshua Clearwater Ripley looked down at what appeared to be two marbles. A white one and a black one. In his hands they felt heavy and warm.

"Is this a dream?," he wondered.

Chapter Six. The Cloud

The Cloud

"Who ARE you?"

Derby studied the man as if he were a science project. He wore what appeared to be a uniform from a Mission Impossible organization. His muscle tone and physique were accented by the clothing  but this wasn't gym attire as much as action clothes. As Derby considered who what how and why about this man, he couldn't help but wonder about the material and design of the uniform.

"And what are you wearing?"

Who stood before him was a man who appeared to be in his early thirties with short cropped brown hair and eyes as green as emeralds. Medium heighth and build with the body of a champion fighter. His jaw was extremely strong and his brow made him appear Germanic or Russian. He was clean shaven and amazingly at the moment seemed cool and collected, showing no sign of fatigue after his stunning performance of rescue.

"But wait a moment," Derby thought to himself as he studied the stranger. "From what have I been rescued? She didn't ever turn on the Cat Monster facade until after the door was blown open. The only reason she seemed scary was because Super Action Hero Guy attacked her and reduced her to a white ball. And what they hell was that butterfly light show?"

"What the hell was that butterfly light show? And why should I believe you? And what is going on? And what is this nonsense about the Polish Police. I invented them for a story and it turns out they didn't even exist in my OWN story? Is this all some kind of elaborate show put on by Planetary Publishing as a PR stunt?" Without even meaning to, Derby ripped lose. He was jabbering and sweating and his stomach still felt as if Mr. Rockem Sockem had torn a hole in it.

"My name is Fredalnte Muscadito. At your service." He clicked his heels and made a slight bow with his head. His arms remained at his side. "The reason you were given the story of Zol was because it had to be told. But now there are forces at play from even a higher source than from the organization which transmitted the idea to you in the first place. One of these higher entities will fight to protect you. The other one will try to destroy you. Please don't take this the wrong way, but the chances of you surviving this battle are very small. We're not sure yet from whom Planetary Publishing is taking their orders. We think they are oblivious to the cosmological implications."

Unconsciously Derby was rolling the marbles in his hand. To his amazement they were generating heat. Their weight was surprising. They appeared to be glass or porcelain-like but they were extremely heavy... like lead. They felt good. There was an electrical sensation which moved from the palm of his right hand --up through his wrist and into his forearm.

"Look Mr. Muscodito. I like a good joke and show as well as the next guy. I love the movies and action adventure stories and all that. And hey, by the way, this little episode has been top notch. You guys had me going there. I was...well, from the waking up with a beautiful woman to thinking I was about to be killed by terrorists and watching the seductive black hole energy show to these little amazing marbles..."

At that moment he opened his hand to look at the white and black balls and the air above them was warped. A three dimensional crackling of images distorted the view and what seemed to be miniature clouds or smoky air floated above his hand, like from another dimension.

"What the...," was the best Derby could come up with.

"Mr. Ripley." Fredalnte started deliberately and cautiously. "It is never easy to discover that our view of life and universe have been greatly restricted. As a species, mankind is in a very early stage of development. But the time is crucial and his consciousness is about to leap to a new level. Everything adds up but no one, from any level...actually NO THING from any level...has all the answers. We wonder how and why there was a start. We don't know if there will be an end. But we have learned many things. Hold onto your balls. We promise you are going to have a wild ride."

Chapter Seven. Festival of the Red Dragon

Festival of the Red Dragon

As the limo pulled away from the Penninsula, Derby sat alone in the "suite" of the limo. He had asked Fred to arrange a call to Pam. It was 2 am in Tiny Town and Fred wasn't supposed to set up the call for another six hours.

Derby had been informed that the driver would explain where he was to be taken and what would transpire over the next 24 hours. The marbles were back in his right hand. Subconsciously he was rolling them again in his palm.

At the moment, he was thinking about Jeninqua. Who was she? What was she? Had he really had sex with her? He found himself being aroused at the thought of her. He had no recollection of any waking connection to her except from inside the plane for those few moments between waking up and passing out again, and then later waking up as she got out of the bed in the hotel.

All of a sudden he thought some water had spilled from inside the limo. He looked down to see what the source of all the moisture was because it felt as if his right hand was reaching down into a creek bed. As he continued to roll the balls, the sensation was as if a running faucet was spouting out a gushing stream of blue icy water.

But there was no sign of moisture as he looked at the marbles, except that same visual distortion he had noticed before, as if the air was fractured and the light was being refracted and "bent."

Just then his meditation was disturbed as the driver opened the pass thru window from the cab to ask, "Mr. Derby--Fred is on the line and wants to know if you can take the call?"

He didn't feel like correcting the driver that Derby was his first name. "Yes, Howard. No problem."

"Just pick up the handset sir. On your right there."

Derby put the marbles in his pocket and lifted the receiver to his ear.

"Fredalnte at your service sir. Are you quite comfortable?"

"Comfortable? You want to know if I'm comfortable? Who are you people? I need to meet with the publisher. What is all this really about? I know that all of this is some kind of hoax. It is actually very good material and I'm thinking of using it for a sequel to Children of Zol. But at the moment I really just want to meet with Justin Scoville and discuss the publishing deal I've been flown here to negotiate."

"Have you handled your balls Mr. Ripley? You've been playing with them haven't you? Notice anything unusual?"

Immediately Derby transferred the handset to his left hand so his right hand was free to take the marbles out of his pocket. "They've got a tiny receiver in these things," he thought to himself as he stared at the white and black balls. His urge was to throw them out the window and as he started to do that he realized the window switch was locked and he couldn't roll them down. He tested the door handle and it too was secure.

"Am I being held prisoner Fred? Have I been kidnapped? Is this about the money for the book? It is isn't it? This is about a ransom?"

"Mr. Ripley please. Don't let your imagination run so freely. Zol has value but not for the reason you think. And no, as I've tried to tell you repeatedly, we mean no harm to you. We're ally forces. I just thought that you may have started to notice a different sensation from the balls, under a different state of mind."

"What do you mean?" Derby's mind was racing. He KNEW what Fred meant but he wondered how Fred knew.

"You entered a state of stillness. Depending on the activity which surrounds you, the marbles will generate various sensations. Last time you had them in your hands, you were surrounded by action and movement. While you've been seated in the darkness and relative calm of the car, your mind would have naturally started to fall into a state of calmness."

Derby found himself rapidly rolling the balls again as the conversation was taking place and heat was mounting again in his hand. The balls felt heavy and good. He liked this sensation and he wondered if he had really even noticed whether he enjoyed it when they produced the sensation of water. But as he rubbed them together and around and around the heat was building and again he noticed it was sending energy through his wrist and to his forearm.

"I want to know about Jeninqua," he heard himself demand into the phone. "Who was she. What was she? And why did you attack her. I liked her. I really don't think I like you."

"Mr. Ripley. You need to put the marbles away for awhile. Within a few moments you won't be able to tolerate the heat you're generating with them. Part of my job is to train you how to use them. Howard will explain next steps and I'll see you tomorrow. Try to get some rest."

Derby knew Fred was right because he felt as if his hand was scalded. He even worried that they would burn a hole in the pouch but as soon as he dropped them in the bag they seemed to cool instantly. Deliberately and almost in a trance-like state he hung up the receiver. Just as Howard slid open the window.

"We're coming to the Festival of the Red Dragon. This will be a great chance for you to buy some souvenirs."

As he looked out the window Derby remembered for the first time he was in Hong Kong. They had pulled into a parking area and a parade was going on. They were surrounded by booths and swarms of people. Music and lights and endless gizmos on bamboo sticks...and the colors! Everything was festive...and LOUD.

Chapter Eight. Ancient Chinese Secret

Ancient Chinese Secret

Derby had to shift gears. He could continue to wonder about Jeninqua and whether Fred is a good guy or a problem, but he'd have to do it in the background. Because at the moment the door of the limo was being opened and Howard was ushering him through a throng of brightly costumed Asians.

"This is Opie, he'll take you to meet Umpa. I recommend you be on your best behavior with Umpa (he pronounced it Oo-mpa and distinctly left the impression of a tuba sound). He isn't to be trifled with," said Howard as he joined Derby to the young Chinese boy. Just as quickly as he had produced Opie he  disappeared in the crowd, leaving Derby in the hands of a young man who couldn't have been more than fourteen.

"But wait a minute!," yelled Derby to the vanished driver. "Howard! Please, Howard, wait!"

It was useless, Howard was gone and Derby found himself being pulled by the sleeve through the crowded and noisy street.

"Mista Ween-co. Pwees hoowy. Tis way, pwees," said the boy as he weaved and bobbed the pair through the parade.

"Winkle? Did he just call me Winkle?," Derby thought to himself. His capacity to "deal" was thin at the moment. The sounds and sights of the Festival were jubilant. He found himself wanting to escape into the mass of activity and just let the colors and aromas and feeling of the festivities swallow him.

"Young man. Slow down if you please. Can we sit down for a moment and review? I have some questions." Derby had planted his feet firmly and had caused the young Opie to bounce back into his side after the elasticity of his arm and sleeve acted like a rubber band.

"No time for Meddo Yeddow Mista Wink-co. Must hoowy. Pwees," said Opie in his charming dialect.

"Who is Mr. Winkle Opie? Do you think my name is Mr. Winkle?, " asked Derby.

"Yo name is not a nice name fo Chinese pee-pow. Can not say yo name. I caw yo Wink-co. O-K? Now Mista Wink-co we go, pwees." Opie was tugging on Derby's arm but not moving him.

"No. We no go," said Derby. We stay and sit. Ova dare...," Derby had adopted Opie's dialect and was pointing through the crowd to a restaurant.

After convincing the young man that he wasn't going to proceed without gathering some information, Opie had relented and had arranged for a table in the busy restaurant. Derby watched the face of the hostess dart back and forth to his and Opie's as she listened attentively to Opie's Chinese explanation and insistence that they be seated, in spite of the fact that many others seemed to be ahead of them in line to eat.

"Now yo mus ee da noo-do," said Opie as he pushed the noodles that were swimming in a clear liquid in the small bowl to Derby. Chop sticks were all there was for utensils. But Derby found himself quite hungry and eager to fumble with the chop sticks and noodles.

"Mista Wink-co. Why you see da Wed Dwagon? No too many pee-po see da Wed Dwagon. Vewwy impo-tant man. Why yo see him?"

"The Red Dragon? Of whom do you refer? Who is this Red Dragon? Tell me more," enquired Derby.

"Wed Dwagon is Wizz-od man. Magi-co wizz-od man. Vewwy owd. May-be fie hunled yees ow'd." Opie's eyes were large and he was leaning forward toward Derby. By now another course of strange food had been served--a bowl of sea creatures, none of which looked familiar or appetizing to Derby at all. Opie continued,

"Now yo mus ee da weet-to fishies, Mista Wink-co. You like?," and his smile seemed to be a dare in which he took great joy.

Derby's interest wasn't in little fishies at the moment. A new mystery was about to unfold and he wanted to prepare himself for what new bizarre twist was about to take place. He shoved the bowl aside which seemed to disturb young Opie.

"Opie. Please slow down. What do you mean Wizz-od man? What is wizz-od?"

"Wizz-od. Wizz-od. Wike Mew-win. Wike Wizz-od o Oz. Wizz-od," he explained, as if he was a frustrated tutor.

"Ah, Wizard!"

"Yes Wizz-od. Is what I say. Wizz-od."

"OK," continued Derby. So he performs magic? What kind of Magic?"

"No poo-fohms. Magi-co. Wed Dwagon is vewwy o'd. He fwies in da sky on dee win. He wivs wih dee Ainjo's."

"Wait," interupted Derby. Ainjo's? What are ainjo's?"

"Ain-JO's! Ain-JO's!," demanded Opie, again as the frustrated tutor. Wike da Ainjo's in heahwan. In da kwouds. In da sky," and he pointed up as he emphatically insisted that Derby understand. "Da Ainjo's. He dwea-o's wi da Ainjo's in heawan!"

"Angels?," clarified Derby.

"Yes Ainjo's. Is wha I say Ainjo's. Yo no like da fishies?"

"No," grimmaced Derby. "No likey. Where are you taking me. Where is this Red Dragon wizard?"

"We go up stairs fwom waundwee house. Down da stweet. To waundwee. Up stairs," Opie seemed scared as he explained where he was to take Derby.

"Laundry? The cleaners? You're taking me to the cleaners?"

"Mista Wink-co. We go now OK?"

Chapter Nine. Follow the Bouncing Ball

Mitch Miller, American musician, singer, conductor, producer

Follow the Bouncing Ball

"Mistuh Wink-o, wemembuh, be cautious like de deeuh cwossing de stweam and awweez ack wike de kitty cot." Opie was bulldozing through the crowd, moving toward the laundry building.

"Like a deer crossing the stream. Got it. Act like a kitty cat. OK. Will do." These terms were familiar to Derby from his Taoist readings. But he wasn't 100% certain what acting like a cat would look like, once he was in the presence of the Red Dragon wizard named Umpa.

"Oh and one moah impo-tant de-tay-o. Mistuh How-wer tell me. He say mose impo-tant de-tay-o for you to wemembuh. Ask Wed Dwagon to bwow on your baws." Opie had stopped in the midst of the activity and faced Derby to tell him this. He held out his short arm and looked up to make eye contact.

Derby needed clarification. "What you mean bwow on my baws?"

"Bwow. Bwow." Opie was pushing the wind out of his cheeks to demonstrating blowing.

"Aha, blow...blow on my baws? What are baws?"

"I not know what Mr. How-wer mean ee-duh. Mose men not likey other men bwow on their baws." Opie was embarrassed at the subject and Derby could tell because he was blushing.

"Ah. My balls. Now I see what Howard is talking about. I am to ask Umpa to blow on my balls." Opie wouldn't have known that at that moment what Derby was grabbing in his pocket was his packet of white and black marbles.

"Yes. You co-wect. Wed Dwagon mus bwow on you baws. You likey that Mr. Wink-o?"

Derby was smiling and reached out to pat Opie on the shoulder. He was starting to like the boy. "Opie. It isn't what you think. I have these marbles...," with that he dangled the little bag in front of Opie to show him. Just as he held them to Opie's eye level the arm of someone in the crowd knocked the sack from his hand and the marbles went tumbling. It was almost as if he watched the action in slow motion. One marble then the other, flying through the air and the little pouch floating down and lost in the mass of bodies surrounding them.

Derby frantically tried to catch the marbles in mid flight but after the initial slow motion view of them leaving his hands, now there was no sign of them. Just then he caught sight for a fleeting moment of the white marble on the ground near a stranger but then again, as if in slow motion, he watched a foot kick the marble and it went rocketing along the paved road.

"Opie. Please look for a black marble near us here. I'll try to find that white one which just got booted down the street."

"OK weow do Mistuh Wink-o. Bwack mahbow. I weow fine fo you!," said the young man enthusiastically. As he kneeled down, Opie saw the black marble and was proceeding toward it on hands and knees, looking like a child at play imitating a dog on the run, when he watched with horror another child scoop it up and start running away with it at full speed.

Opie looked back for Derby but didn't see him. Not wanting to loose sight of the thief he decided to chase the lad with the marble. In the meantime Derby was excusing himself with strangers right and left as he tried to clear a path at their feet so he could find the white marble. He was so relieved when he spotted it near a sewer drain but he was nervous about its vicinity to the sewer, for fear that another foot would inadvertently send it down the drain.

He too wondered about Opie's location and he considered for a moment that he was stuffed like a sardine in a crowd of loud Chinese people in the midst of a colorful celebration and night was approaching. "What if he wasn't reunited with Opie?," he found himself wondering. "Stranded and balless and only can speak a little Opie, but not a lick of Chinese."

As he paced deliberately toward the marble, with these thoughts on his mind, the surreal incident which followed stopped him cold in his tracks.

A jet black mouse or rat (he wasn't sure which) ran up to the white marble and swallowed it, then disappeared into the sewer drain. While he stood there in disbelief at what had just happened, he felt the tug on his sleeve.

"Mistuh Wink-o. Wook. Wook Mistuh Wink-o! I tow you I woo fine it. De mawbow. Wook I fine!."

For the split of a second Derby was relieved until their enthusiasm turned to surprise as another arm in the crowd knocked the black marble from Opie's hand. Both stood in shock, with mouths open because the clink of the white marble bouncing in slow motion seemed to be as loud as the other fireworks which surrounded them. Clip-clop-clank and it too disappeared in the sewer drain.

Chapter Ten. Place Your Bets

Place Your Bets

"Mistah Wink-o?," prepared Opie for his next statement.

"Yes Opie."

"Mawbow go bye-bye. What for de mawbows? Why so impo-tant? Mawbows fo Wed Dragon?"

"No, mawbow, er marbles are for me. Well. I really don't know. But strangely, I feel very empty now without them." Derby's skin felt as if his pores were opening and instead of sweat coming out, it felt as if energy was leaking. "Opie. I've got to sit down. I'm getting light headed."

Opie led Derby to a bench  near the side of a building. "Heah Mistah Wink-o. Yo take ee easy now, OK Mistah Wink-o. Yo not wook so good Mistah Wink-o."

The fireworks were more prominent as dusk progressed. The exploding lights, the people in large costume heads and shoppers speaking their rapid fire Chinese to vendors seemed to accentuate Derby's feeling of weakness. "Opie. Maybe we better hurry to Umpa. How far is it? I'm feeling very tired from my trip."

"Mistah Wink-o. Doan wook now bu-wee hab bizituhs," said Opie in his best English.

"Biziters? Have biziters?" Derby felt as if the Festival was circling him like a big merry-go-round. "What are biziters?"

It didn't matter that he failed to understand the word "visitor" because the mystery was solved when he looked down to see what was tugging on his pants cuff. Two little rodents were standing at his feet, wiggling their little mouse whiskers. A larger black one and a cute little white one. They were distinctly trying to get Derby's attention. A jet black mouse and a shining white one were actually standing up and moving their little arms as if they were practicing their balance, like trained puppies.

Both Opie and Derby stared down at the pair of mice in disbelief.

"Opie," Derby started to explain, wondering if Opie would understand. The white marble was swallowed by the black mouse before he jumped into the drain. Do you think the white mouse here swallowed the black marble?"

Such a preposterous notion would have quickly been rejected by most people, though children usually have a more active imagination. Still Opie seemed very thoughtful. He bent down to offer his palm to the white mouse which readily climbed on board and easily accepted the offer of being raised to eye level of Derby and Opie.

"Missie Mouse," Opie addressed the rodent in his hand. "Ah yo magi-co? Do yo swawwo bwack mawbow?"

Now whether Chinese mice can understand English is one thing but understanding Opie requires quite another level of education. But to their amazement, the mouse stood up on his hand on back feet and seemed to bat the air with its front legs.

When our adventurous duo was about to continue the probing with the mystery mouse, their attention was diverted to the larger black mouse, which seemed to be indicating that they follow it. Opie and Derby looked at each other and shrugged a "why not" motion. Just as the pair was standing up, ready to be led by the piperless mammal, the pretty little white mouse leaped with tantalizing agility into Derby's breast pocket. From there she arranged herself so that her paws were attached to the top of the pocket and her head was peering out, as if she was on an amusement park ride. She actually appeared to be smiling.

The black mouse was now fifty meters down the street so Opie, Derby and passenger had to hurry to catch up.

"He taking us to waundwee house!," exclaimed Opie in surprise. And so it was they were soon traversing the outside stairs of the laundry house.

Derby noticed that, oddly, his strength returned once he found himself on this new escapade. As crazy as it seemed, he noticed he was feeling quite happy about being accompanied by the congenial mice.

As the four approached the door to the upstairs office, Opie continued, " Mistuh Wink-o. I wike deez mouses. Yo wike?"

Derby didn't have a chance to answer because the door was opened for them and the ensemble of mice and men was led into the dark chamber of the musty building on the third level of the laundry house.

In perfect English, a sweet Chinese young lady greeted the group. "Ah, Mr. Ripley, you've brought an entourage! Welcome. My name is Bai Ling. Umpa will be right with you. Can we get you anything? Coffee, tea, cheese?"

Opie and Derby were cautiously reserved but still offered smiles for Bai Ling.

"No thank you Miss Ling," said Derby. "But you'll have to ask our guests directly. I think they may be full at the moment. You don't happen to have any marble remover do you?"

Before Bai Ling could answer, a deep and loud voice, also in perfect English resounded, "Jeninqua, Trevor--Come!"

Derby and Opie turned to hear from where the voice had announced itself and as they did so the two mice leaped up to the table where the man was seated. Derby really couldn't contain himself,

"Did you call that mouse Jeninqua? And the other one Trevor? You know these mice? Also, Jeninqua seems to be a very rare name but now I know a mouse and also knew a beautiful woman with that name?"

"Hahaha," echoed the robust man. "This is that woman! And Trevor is also an accomplished talent!"

The man sat on the edge of his seat. He seemed to be about forty years old with a stubbly chin and matching black stubble on his head. His shirt was open revealing a round belly. He had a broad smile and his dark eyes could drill a hole in steel with their piercing energy.

The mice were chasing around the room, or appeared to be until they jumped up on a large  device. It was a roulette wheel or something similar, except the landing compartments were all either red or blue. But on closer examination two of the landing spots were brightly marked and different than the rest. One which was at the "12 o'clock" position was black and on the opposite end at the "6 o'clock" position was white.

"Spin the wheel!," shouted the man who could have passed for a laughing Buddha.

To Opie's and Derby's amazement, the mice obliged and chased each other on the outer rim of the wheel. Soon they appeared to be a streak of white and black lines of energy until they had reached a speed which eliminated a distinction between black and white.  Only a gray light revolved around the turning wheel.

Back and forth Opie and Derby looked to each other and then back to the spinning wheel, which started to slow and instead of mice, what was now circling the rim were two marbles, black and white. Into the white hole fell the black marble and into the white--the black.

"Bravo," exclaimed the large seated gentleman. And Bai Ling joined with a hardy applause. As the wheel came to a rest with the marbles snuggly in their compartments, Opie sat with his mouth and eyes in wide amazement.

"Act like a cat. Act like a cat," Derby sat thinking to himself. No longer sure if he was dreaming or hallucinating.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Chapter Eleven. Koan of a Different Color

Koan of a Different Color

Long, the stillness in the room stayed. After the wheel had come to a stop with the black marble in the white hole and the white marble in the black one, it seemed to paralyze the moment. All stood still. Derby wondered who would break the silence.

As for him, he sat motionless. "So a black mouse swallowed a white marble which now sits in a black hole...what does it all mean?," he wondered to himself.

Opie was fidgeting and finally got Derby's attention. Derby's brow wrinkled as he tried to understand the signal Opie was sending him. Opie was wiping his hands together like he was washing them, except they were at his mouth. And his head bobbed up and down. He seemed to be motioning that Derby should immitate him licking his hands and he cast his glance toward Umpa and Bai Ling. "Do it for them to see," he seemed to be saying.

"Act like a cat. Act like a cat," Derby reminded himself.

And so he did. First he got down on his hands and knees and bowed his back up in the air. Then he sat back down and ridiculously made the motion of wiping his hands with his tongue and proceeded to go through the steps of a cat cleaning behind its ears. Next he raised his arm and acted like he was licking his arm pit. He tried to lift his foot with his hand to see if he could scratch his ear with his toe, but that proved to require more agility than he had. Still the total awkwardness of his attempt was pretty embarrassing.

"What ARE you doing?," Ompa finally asked. "Have you gone mad?"

"Act like a cat. Act like a cat," Derby kept thinking to himself. He put his hands between his feet and and his butt on the floor. "I think I look more like a frog," he thought to himself. He watched with fear as the laughing Buddha approached him. Umpa's big belly hung out of his shirt. Derby noticed he was wearing flip flops and wrinkled shorts. His biceps were as big as Opie's waist.

"What's he going to do," Derby wondered as Umpa continued to move close to him. Then WHAP. Derby was on the floor from the slap of Umpa's mighty swing.

"Stop that," demanded Umpa. You look like some kind of embicile. "Now get up. Grab your balls. I have to show you something."

Derby gave Opie a mean stare. Opie was on the floor, besides himself with silent laughter. Bai Ling seemed to enjoy the humor of the moment as well.

As Derby stood up, he was squinting and rubbing his jaw. "That hurt. I don't think that was totally necessary."

Just as he said that, without a hint of warning, Umpa's fat left palm slapped Derby on the other cheek.

"Wake up Ripley. What is the sound of one hand slapping?," spoke the flip-flop-bedecked fat man.

Derby was about to complain again about the pain when he felt the wind of one thousand tornadoes blow through his brain. He saw, in slow motion, the naked energy of the whole world swirling inside himself. Then as if he was invisible, he felt as if he were pulled into the cells of all matter outside of his being.

Nothing separated him from everything else and for the split second of that episode, he couldn't for the life of him, imagine ever having fear or anxiety again. He loved. He even thought to himself how there wasn't a thing to love because there was no thing. There was only love. There was NO thing! He said it to himself, "There is NO thing!," and he felt like laughing.

He noticed the others in the room and nothing had changed as far as he could tell, in the arrangement or order of the universe, except that he was missing from it, or it was missing from him, or "what is it about this?" he thought to himself...but he was utterly content. He didn't feel the pull or push of anything. And this wasn't a state of bliss, or at least he always thought bliss would be different and more spectacular. But THIS was just exactly the same as before, except there was NO thing!

He glided over to the wheel and removed the marbles and he held them up to Umpa.

The slow steady hoooooooo of Umpa's breath blew across the white and black marbles.

"Coo-O!," said Opie. "Wed Dwagon bwowing on Mistuh Wink-o's baws!"

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Chapter Twelve. The Times--They Are Auspicious!

The Times--They Are Auspicious!

Derby fell into a deep trance. Dear reader, to feel the vibration of Umpa's breath, simply make the hollow sound of the wind blowing slowly across an open field. Imagine the early stage of a storm brewing and go ahead now and make the sound. Pucker your lips into a wide whistle shape and slowly exhale that hooooooo sound. Close your eyes and feel the vibration. Alter the pressure and the opening so the sound varies, just like the wind.

It was this feeling which thrust Derby into another space and time. He was peering out from glistening winter leaves on nearly bare trees. He found himself wondering from whose eyes was he seeing the landscape below him. He was looking at the snow covered woods behind his house. He had named it the road to Giverny once, because of a Monet painting a friend had pointed out.

Something different about that trail in the woods though....

"What was it?," he found himself wondering. He pushed down further into the vision. It was an unusually early snow, last year. Right after the election. Obama had been re-elected in an historic battle. It was the 57th quadrennial presidential election. It had been accompanied by thirty three Senate elections and the 113th Congressional elections. There were also eleven gubbernatorial races and dozens of state races.

The republican candidate had been a late arrival on the scene. The obvious contenders all had a contentious run by having their hats in the ring. Impalen had withdrawn early because of the scandal over many of her new business customers and their extreme violence toward the public and democratic officials. Her rifle selling empire had made her very wealthy, especially after she got the new contract with ValuMart. Huckaberry was the next to fall out of the race due to the controversy which had arisen over his influence to get a rapist released from prison, who subsequently raped and killed another victim, Wanda Drummer.

Grinch Neuterhead had only lasted a few months, after his political action group Ransacking the Future had gotten caught with its hand in the pork barrel jar.

Wilford "Matt" Hominy held on the longest from the "Birds of Pale Feathers," as the republican contenders had come to be known by. His comparisons of Muslims to Nazis over the ground zero mosque debate had finally worked against him in his own party, as the tide started turning away from violence and name calling.

Obama's opponent was a son of the South, named Wilson Nathaniel Tallulah Savannah. He had been a hero in the Iraq war and had amassed a fortune as a video game manufacturer. His video game SNIPER had outsold all other electronic games of all times, even though it was just introduced in early 2011. He ran on the slogan, United We Fall which had become the marching song of the Tea Party.

As Derby peered into the woods from "leaf" level, he found himself contemplating the landscape of the fresh snow. He had been hopeful for the future after the election. As trying as the election had been on him, the candidates and the whole country, it had been the flurry of activity around the predictions of Armegeddon which had made December 2012 so pregnant with anxiety.

"What does the discovery of the continued Mayan calendar mean?" As Derby heard himself ask the question, he pictured the ancient invention which had been unearthed near Campeche, Mexico. Its ornate carvings, depicting the Mayan Earth and Moon Goddess, Ix Chel, were illuminated in bright colors, which had survived its burial for 2,100 years. The discovery of the "Hub" as the invention was informally named, also led to the religious movement of invoking the feminine power of intuition.

Suddenly, from his celestial position, his vision of the Hub transformed into the roulette wheel in Umpa's chamber. The wheel was turning and he instinctively knew that the streaking light around the rim of the wheel would soon separate into white and black marbles. As he saw the white marble land into the black compartment and the black into the white, exactly as they had just moments ago, he realized that all of these visions had taken place with the whoosh of Umpa's breath.

"Yin inside Yang inside Yin. Yang inside Yin inside Yang. How well do you know your I Ching Mr. Ripley?"

Umpa was no longer blowing. Derby suspected he was about to be freshly educated by a mystic of great power.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Chapter Thirteen. It Was a Little Bit Frightening

It Was a Little Bit Frightening

"Choose the road less traveled by," she had told Derby. He had been less than gentle with his reference to Republican candidates on a new blog he was writing, called Oats, a sequel to The Children of Zol. Belle was a friend from high school. They had their 40th reunion in 2011.

"Yin inside Yang inside Yin." He pondered the meaning. His thought pattern continued, "The feminine inside the male, inside the feminine. Know the white but keep to the black--and then all of that further embraced by the arms of the Great Mother." Derby knew that the black represented the female and white the male but this concept of one more extension, such as that represented by a white mouse swallowing a black marble landing in a white hole--this seemed outside of the Taoist teaching.

Derby allowed himself to slip out of his meditation and let his thoughts run away with him. "So what of Yang inside Yin inside Yang? The male inside the feminine inside the male? With just one more line in either the top trigram or the bottom, you could go further--black inside white inside black inside white. Hmmm," he thought, "like Chapter 42 of the Tao te Ching--One produces two, two produces three and three produces the ten thousand things..."

At that point, the horse ran free and his thoughts degenerated into a full fledged conversation he had in his mind. He imagined talking to Belle:

"Belle have you ever heard David Attenborough describe the dance of the male Bird of Paradise of New Guinea? He tells us that because of the unique environment of New Guinea, the birds have been able to evolve freely, without fear of survival. They have been able to divert all their evolutionary energies into the mating ritual.

"The male is the one with the spectacular plumage." Here Derby had to emphasize a point. "If you haven't seen this PBS special, you really should find it. It is sooooo amazing!" So out of accord with his meditation was he, that Derby even imagined Belle's response, which was a gesture of kindness. She had either seen the special or would see it, but either way, she wanted to allow him his rant...

Derby continued the imaginary conversation. "Now it isn't only the plumage, which by the way works because of how the male positions himself in the light. Yes, the light. It is critical that the feathers capture the light. The colors are unimaginably beautiful and it is how they reflect the light that gives the impression of precious metals and lustrous, brilliant, iridescence."

Derby continued his long explanation. Belle sat patiently, awaiting the punch line. "Then the male actually transforms himself. Different Birds of Paradise take on totally different shapes. Some have breast plates that swell out like huge glistening shields. Others turn their wings into mirthful or whimsical shapes. And the dances vary between subspecies also. Some hang upside down and vibrate, others make peculiar sounds, some bob, others weave."

Then Derby paused and considered exactly how to phrase his next thought. "This is what I'm getting at though. Attenborough tells us that for thousands of years, often the male will put on his light show just for the universe! Without the female being present!"

He could hardly contain himself at that point in his imagined conversation. He was so overjoyed by the meaning of the observation. As he writes these words now, he giggles to himself, aware of his ability to stay self entertained...

Derby continued to talk in his imaginary voice to his imaginary friend. "Now, of course, the purpose of such tremendous detail being developed into the ritual is finally all about reproduction. You see, the female selects the male with the most impressive plumage and best dance. And then that particular male mates with all the females. In this way, the species has developed the most vivid colors and most fanciful plumage. But even without the mating, the male can't help but put on the show, even when no one is watching!"

Belle finally had a chance to interject. "That is amazing." Her gentle reinforcement was all Derby required at that moment in his imagined conversation. So he was able to continue...

"It just occurred to me, just now, that the male's bright colors and plumage is the first Yin. His doing the dance for the universe is Yin inside Yang. Attenborough telling the story along with a documentary film crew's art form is Yin inside Yang inside Yin!

"But Belle, that section of the chapter devoted to the last election is meant to entertain, not to inflict harm. I am glad for your reminder, and I will change one name from Mutt to Matt and rename the group from rat pack to Birds with Pale Feathers. These changes are made in your honor. I'll also apologize to anyone who was offended by the chapter. You are correct, that names are called. But this whole fantasy is name calling. Besides that, I must protest. I must stand and be heard. It is what I do. I'll die if I have to sit still, when corruption is allowed to be positioned as justice. When brutality is promoted as the American way.

And I ask everyone to be light. For the story is just a dance. And dances are spontaneous. Too much analysis can dull the overture which could trip up the dancer."

Again, Derby paused in his imagined conversation. Then added, "And we wouldn't want that, would we?"

To his surprise (triple surprising because the conversation transpired in the imagination of a character inside a novella), Belle did her best not to hurt his feelings. "Great story, my friend. But that isn't what I meant."

Derby has described these kinds of conversations which have taken place with eyes closed, at times reserved for stillness and control of the mind, as "walking on broken glass." But he was soon rescued by the voice of Umpa.

"Tell me your perception of the passage from Wen Tzu which says

A ringing chime ruins itself giving sound, a tallow candle burns itself out giving light. The patterns on tigers and leopards bring hunters, the quickness of monkeys brings trappers.
Derby smiled because Umpa's question was especially poignent given the imaginary conversation he had just had with Belle.

"Colors blind people's eyes, sounds deafen their ears; flavors spoil people's palettes, the chase and the hunt craze people's minds," was Derby's reply, from the Tao te Ching.

"Exactly!," confirmed Umpa.

Unfortunately there was no time for celebration, as Derby had hoped would be the case, as he awaited more nuggets of teaching from the fat man. Because as fast as lightning, Six Ninja fighters in black attire were surrounding Bai Ling, Umpa, Opie and Derby after the dust of the explosion had splintered the door. Soon they would be Kung Fu fighting.

Ah, the dance continues!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Chapter Fourteen. Mighty Mice

Mighty Mice

He could have been in one of his stories. Explosions everywhere. First at the Peninsula on the morning after Jeninqua (had he spent the night with her?). Then as fireworks at a festival with the Asian people who had named the Year--Snake, who were parading with snake-like dragons. Now with six Kung Fu villains dressed in assassins black and standing in the ready-to-kill attack position.

To cap it off, music arrived, from an unknown source. And what music was it that Derby heard as if from heavenly loud speakers?

But he found there was no easy way to "write" himself out of danger on this one. Faster than he could think, let alone find a computer, he watched Bai Ling rush to spin the Hub, the roulette-like wheel with the black and white marbles on it. She moved with the speed and precise agility of a seasoned martial artist. In one swift movement she flew to a cabinet after her swing had started the mighty wheel, and picked up a dress. She yelled, "It's Jade, protect your groin area. Their aim is deadly."

Bai Ling had flung the wheel with so much power that the velocity was too great to contain the marbles which shot like two rockets, one toward her and one toward Umpa. Within that fraction of a second, Umpa had managed to secure a set of elastic trousers and he was holding them open.

"Hey," Derby thought to himself, "those look like the stretch type of pants that Fredalnte had worn," which  were like no other clothing he had ever seen. The only description he could give them were Super Hero action pants.  They resembled what runners or athletes would wear in the USA, except with the protection of fortified leather.

As the black and white missiles neared their targets (the open dress in Bai Ling's hands and the action pants in Umpa's), Derby and Opie were amazed to recognize the projectiles not as marbles but once again as living mice--Trevor and Jeninqua. As the mice flew into the clothing held by Umpa and Bai Ling, they changed again.

Who or what it was that landed, clothed in the dainty black dress with small shoulder straps and in the white leather-like action pants were the original Jeninqua and a strikingly handsome hispanic man with lustrous black hair and mysterious dark eyes, so brown they seemed black.

Jeninqua, Trevor, Bai Ling and Umpa were tumbling and chopping and slicing the air with their razor blade like limbs. Arms, legs, and their whole bodies seemed like fierce weapons. In spite of all the gymnastics of the good guys, Opie was trembling inside a small cabinet he managed to squeeze into. Derby faired less well. A heavy, spiked, miniature cannonball had been catapulted by a sling from one of the assassins and had hit Derby between the legs with such a crushing force that it threw him up against the wall.

As if one of the other assassins had been waiting for him to be slammed into that position, Derby felt the noose of a synthetic rope grip his neck and drag him out the door. As he was pulled down the stairs by a rope with such violent and chaotic force, he agonized with each bump and flip of his body on the hard metal structure of the stairwell.

One eye had been badly cut and his right arm felt broken. His nose was bleeding and he still suffered excruciating pain from the blow of the spherical weapon. As he was being stuffed into a vehicle on street level he heard scuffling outside the car. While he was clipped and strapped into the back seat, the other back car door opened and a bloody Jeninqua was thrown in beside him.

She was wounded and barely able to hold her head up. She murmered, "Jade fighters are ruthless. We'll be dead soon." And then she was silenced by a black gloved fist of one of the Ninjas. The quiet purr and sleek black body of the Mercedes limo was respected by the crowd, which yielded and parted to let it speed away.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Chapter Fifteen. Oh Give me the Wizard of Oz, Please!

Oh Give me the Wizard of Oz, Please!

"What was it about that roulette wheel? What is the significance of slots which are either red or blue? I see the polar ramifications of white at one end and black at the other, but what about the red and blue?"

These thoughts streamed through Derby's consciousness as he fell into a kind of unconsciousness. The pain of his broken arm and his swollen testicles from the direct blow of the spiked metal ball was so intense that he, more or less, blacked out. But he was able to watch these dream questions, scroll like a ticker tape in his brain.

"Man, I need to be writing some of this stuff down," his thoughts continued."This could be a movie. Am I hallucinating? Mice turning into marbles and then people? What is going on? Great material for a sequel to The Children of Zol. I wonder, will anyone read it?"

In a sort of half waking state and half dreaming, he noticed Jeninqua stirring next to him. He fell back into the questions in his unconscious consciousness. "So Jeninqua is the black marble, in the white slot. She's a Kung Fu fighter and one helluva sexy lady. The cutest little mouse you ever laid your eyes on too!"

He chuckled to himself at this little lapse into lightness of spirit.

"But wait, she's a white mouse!" Derby found himself caught up in a challenging math problem. His thoughts continued, "So is she the black marble or the white mouse? The white mouse swallowed the black marble. She can't be both marble and mouse? Or can she?"

He felt Jeninqua's hand softly nudge his which brought his awareness back to life. "Oh God," he thought. Let me sleep so I don't have to live through this Hell!"

Jeninqua's small thin dress was ripped and smudged. One of the shoulder straps was missing. She had a lot of blood in her hair and she looked bad. He could see bruises on her legs and arms. Her head was down so he wasn't able to see how bad her face was beat up. In spite of her condition, Derby noticed her body. She was practically naked. What was left of the tiny dress was no more than a fragment of a slip.

Her features were small but seemed perfectly balanced. "Who is this?," he heard himself ask himself as he looked at the damaged human who sat coughing and struggling with her breath next to him. He was worried that any touch would hurt her, but he turned so he could lift her chin with his left hand. He couldn't move his right arm at all. It seemed to dangle like a weighted object on his shoulder.

"Jeninqua. Can you hear me? Jeninqua. Hang in there. We'll get out of this somehow." As Derby quietly whispered these words to her, he felt the lurch of the limo thrust into a garage. He heard the heavy metal doors of a warehouse closing behind them and there were lots of voices, both men and women outside the vehicle.

Suddenly the agony of his aching shoulder from his broken arm was multiplied. A hand had grabbed his right arm, from outside the limo and pulled him out of the car as if he was a sack of potatoes. The intensity of the pain was so acute that he felt himself unable to control the nausea.

As he threw up on the legs and feet of the person who had grabbed him, he heard for the first time one of the voices of the Ninja. It was a woman's voice and it had an edge to it which was husky and raspy.

"You asshole!," she yelled. And before she had finished the o-l-e sound, she jammed her knee into Derby's sore groin area. She was able to use such power with the thrust that he was sure he felt his nuts in his mouth. He wasn't able to say a thing. Literally, he saw little dancing stars. There were popping circuits in his head and the lights seemed to be flashing. He could tell there was great activity around him and the limo. There must have been two dozen bodies, busy with preparations for him and Jeninqua, but the whole scene seemed to be on a spinning disk.

"I"m melting. I'm melting," is all he could think to himself before passing out.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Chapter Sixteen. Oh God Derby. You're not going to try to teach me something are you?

You're not going to try to teach me something are you?

It was pitch black. Derby couldn't see a thing. He had regained consciousness and it was COLD! He couldn't imagine where he was but it felt like a dungeon. His left arm was grappled behind his back to his useless right arm. The pain in his groin wasn't as pronounced as the pain associated with his broken arm. But now what was getting his attention was the cold.

As he tried to stand up, he realized that with his ankles also in shackles and without the use of either arm, it was impossible to stand up. He rolled on to his side and as he did he hit his head on the adjoining wall. "How small is this room?," he wondered.

Like an inch worm, he maneuvered himself on his stomach and knees. Whereever he was it was damp. The walls and floor were wet. With his face close to the floor, the first cockroach had managed to climb aboard his cheek and was exploring around his eyes and nose. He shook his head to release the bug, which was huge. It left behind what reminded him of scratchy foot prints on his skin.

He determined that the room was only about four feet by four feet. No sounds except the insects and the occasional drip of some water, coming from he knew not where.

To take his mind off the throbbing pain of his shoulder, Derby decided to explore some more mental gymnastics. "Wait a minute! Jeninqua was a white marble! It had to have been Trevor, the black mouse that swallowed the white marble! So Jeninqua swallowed the black marble!"

This changed the dynamics of the lesson Umpa had started to teach Derby. "So Jeninqua is Yang--White. That's weird! and she swallowed the black marble--Yin. So at that point Yin is in Yang. Falling into the white hole, the nested "holon" of the situation is Yin inside Yang inside Yin."

Courteous Reader:  I know this material may seem rather esoteric, but we're talking about the most basic fundamentals of life and culture, sex and reproduction, arts and science. We're talking about the pairs of opposites. You know...big and small, hot and cold, boys and girls. Let's see if we can make it interesting to read about....

Let's say you're at work and one of your good friends makes a comment that is inappropriate. At first you let it go because this is a good friend. But again later, he or she says something that makes you go "Yuk," to yourself. You don't want to say anything because you've got history with the person. But you start thinking that maybe you don't have that much in common after all. "How can you like someone who feels that way?," you ask yourself.

So what has just happened? You sort of "woke" up to something you hadn't been aware of. Is it likely that it was always like that but you hadn't gotten deep enough into the relationship to allow yourself to be intimately connected to the person? And what does it mean, to be intimately connected? Are chemistry or laws of attraction at play by chance?

Now let's say you're in another position. Let's say you're married but you go out with friends, outside of the marraige. You've noticed this one person, in the group, who is a friend of a friend. The person seems to very subtly make eye contact with you often. Nothing inappropriate has happend but you feel a little "charge." Sort of an electrical stab, which you might describe as a kind of attraction, if you let yourself.

So what just happened? Two members of the opposite sex felt an attraction. That's all. Before the mind games and the guilt, before the analysis and psycho babble, there was a polar attraction. The negative and positive poles had a little transfer of a "zzzzzz."

What transpires in the head after that or in culture is another thing. What is currently a cultural norm or viewed as appropriate behavior isn't something I'm suggesting to take lightly. We should live in the place we find ourselves. Living somewhere else is something that is very hard to do. Not to mention the pain and anguish that can be caused by human behavior when relationships are involved.

No, I'm not talking about anything after the initial "zzzzz." I'm just talking about the charge. Now let's explore this sexual thing a different way. Have you ever watched two male dogs in a yard? Especially the yard of one of the males? What happens? The ancient game of defending the turf is what happens. But with dogs, the extreme violence of the situation can be seen so quickly. Teeth exposed. Very deep growling. Hair on the neck standing up. Walking in circles until one or the other makes an advance.

So what is happening here? Do you think dogs get caught up in cultural norms? Is it about, "Don't you think you can come in here after I've bought her this house and have sent Johnny and Molly to the best schools?"  Probably not. Probably just inbred defense mechanisms. Now as it turns out it actually IS about reproduction and survival of the fittest, but the stimulus comes quick, as if it is electrical. Two male magnets repelling each other.

Now let's take an art form. Perhaps the most beautiful and complex art which exists and has existed for centuries--Ballet. At a glimpse, you see ballerinas, delicately and nimbly dotting the stage with the smallest fraction of their being. The only thing between their toes and the floor is a toe pad and soft leather, canvas or satin material, tied with a whisper of a ribbon around their ankles.

You think to yourself, "Pretty!" Oh, and it is lovely. Beyond description, the movement and grace, the fluidity and music of the flow utterly charms you right out of yourself, and you find you've been transformed by the experience. The male dancers are extremely masculine, usually, with leg muscles pushing their tights out so that the image of the dancers themselves are art. And the ballerinas--pure feminity. The epitome of the female form...or so it seems.

But wait. Watch the dance. Watch the control. The strength required to raise a leg to eye level, slowly and hold it there for the count of one...two...three...sometimes five or more! This is strength that most athletes don't have. I say athletes because I'm choosing a vocation whose members are known for their strength. But far and away more strenth and control is required by ballerinas than our football superheroes or our basketball giants or our million dollar baseball stars.

Years, yes, years, ten, twenty, usually at least are required to refine the form to the level of mastery. And with that, with those long constant hours of practice comes strength. Muscle strength but mental strength too. Because your body will yell at you, "Put the leg down. This hurts. This is too much. Stop." But the teachers over the years have helped you learn to control that chatter. "Why?," the teacher will remind you, "Why is it saying stop? Because it is hard! But who is in control? YOU! Hold it there. And relax into it. Don't fight it. Fighting it is much harder. Find the relaxation in the pose!"

Aha. So what is happening there? The ultimate feminine symbol, the ballerina which appears soft and fluid--That's Yin. The strength and hardness of what is inside, for instance the muscle, that is Yang!

You see, these examples above, are all instances of "nestled" holons. Holons is a word which has been coined to represent something which is whole in itself but part of something both larger and smaller. Everything in life is a smaller part of something larger, isn't it? And everything in life has both the elements of male and female, Yin and Yang.

It is discovering how to balance things which will make the difference when it comes to finding joy. When things are out of balance, there is struggle. When things are in balance, we're in equilibrium. This is when we are able to be still. It isn't automatic. To be still requires practice also. But finally, in stillness, we can find contentment. In contentment, there is true joy. Please don't confuse jubilation and a "high" emotional state that we may refer to as being happy with true joy. True joy is much more rare.

So back to Derby. As he contemplated Jeninqua as a white marble, turned into a white mouse swallowing the black marble (which had shot out of his own mouth) and then fell into a white hole, the sound of a heavy door on rusty hinges put him on alert. The creeking door sound came from a nearby hallway. Some light trickled under a door into his dungeon chamber and he was able to see just how bad things were for him. Cockroaches were swarming the floor and walls. Cracks and grease and dripping water marked the antique concrete interior of the room.

Derby was blinded when the solid door of his cell was opened, but he was able to distinguish the silhouette of a massive figure, raising the butt of a rifle. "This is it," he thought to himself. "Jeninqua was right. We're dead."

What felt like the final blow of the full brunt of force concentrated in the heel of the rifle crushed his cheek, making the cockroach tracks seem like angel kisses.