Monday, December 16, 2013

Challenges from The Condo #11

Challenges from The Condo  #11

Chapter 4. A Popular Destination


The Condo: or...Life, a Sequel by Dalma Takács is available from (Pap. $17.99; / Kindle ed. $9.99)


More and more disturbed and confused by what he sees in the Condo grounds, Jasper goes back to his room and tries the computer to find answers.

He saw the familiar Futura web page and his mood began to soar. Here were the pop-up ads he used to hate so much, the offers that promised to enhance his sex life, boost his self-confidence, and ensure his financial security. He surfed to the chat page. He set up his profile, making himself as different from his real self as he could. When he was finished, he was Jason the Astronaut, 19 years old and loved to travel. He typed in his question: “I want to see the world beyond the Condo. I’d like some advice on how to achieve this.”
He pressed “Send” and waited. The first response was not encouraging: “You and me both, buddy. Let me know if you find out, and I’ll go with you. Medea.”
“Hi, Medea,” he typed. “I’ll keep you posted.”
The next message was from Pronto: “I’ve been talking to Roy Kerr. He told me that we got here through a rotating wormhole, which made it possible for us to stay in one piece, but he says we had a one-way ticket.”
“Great! Another crackpot. This one thinks he is a scientist,” Jasper muttered.
“Better watch out, Jason. This computer picks up sounds too. I beg to differ. Roy Kerr is a reputable mathematician from New Zealand. He has shown that it is possible to travel from one universe to another through a rotating wormhole.”
“Are you telling me that we are in a different universe?” Jasper wrote.
“Certainly. Why else is it impossible to leave through the barrier? Why else can we not make phone calls with a regular cell phone? Why did our watches stop? Why is time playing tricks with us?
A pop-up ad suddenly interrupted the exchange: “Enjoy the vacation of a lifetime! Book your trip back to Earth. Guaranteed to take you there and back safely. We use an exclusive wormhole recently discovered by our team of scientists. Hurry! This five million dollar offer ends soon.”
           Jasper barely finished reading the ad before another popped up. “I will act as your personal guide through the barrier. You will benefit from my years of experience as a condo guard. Swift and painless passage. No side effects. Reasonable rates. If interested, please respond to ‘Autolycus.’”If we are in a different universe, Jasper thought, it’s very much like the other. He deleted the ad from Autolycus, the god of thieves.
He saw another message from Pronto. “I know the theory sounds crazy, but I assure you I am not crazy. It would be great if we could get together and talk about our situation. Come and visit me some time. My apartment is # 31415.
Jasper kind of liked the guy. “Thanks, I will,” he wrote, and shut down the computer. At least with Pronto he could pursue a rational argument.
He walked out into the passage, looking at the numbers of the suites on the same floor. He passed Daren’s apartment, 3141 and was surprised to see that Pronto’s place was on the other side of Daren’s: 31415, the next pi number. The place was designed by an obsessed mathematician, he thought. The mysteries that refused rational explanation crowded in around him. To protect himself, he instinctively tried to push them away, and suddenly he was afraid of the rational explanation too. But before he had time to turn away from the door of 31415, the door opened.
A little shrunken man with a jarmulka stood there smiling. In a moment Jasper was inside the apartment, sitting in a wing chair upholstered in red velvet. For a few minutes all he was aware of was the man’s smile—a smile that made introductions unnecessary. Jasper’s arm brushed the velvet surface and he felt something tickling his elbow. He looked down and saw a hand-crocheted doily bunched up on the arm of the chair.
          Pronto jumped up and removed the doily. “You must excuse my decorations. I’m an old sentimentalist.” He held the fine lace piece in his hand. “This was made by my grandmother back in Europe. There is another behind your head.”
Jasper turned and saw it clinging to the velvet pile; it looked like a cobweb with a pattern of flowers caught in the strands. “It’s beautiful,” he said.
“It used to be called an antimacassar. It had a very practical purpose. Our grandfathers used a greasy oil called Macassar to keep their hair smooth. So our grandmothers, ever tactful, created these lacy works of art and put them on the chairs to protect the furniture without offending their menfolk. Here, let me take it off.”
“No, leave it there,” he said. “It belongs on this chair.”
Pronto gave him a grateful smile.
Jasper was conscious of something he had seen a moment ago, something significant, but he could not remember what it was. He tried to force his mind to recall some of the things that were floating in his mind. He grabbed one: Pronto’s bare arm emerging from the loose sleeve of his housecoat as he removed the doily. Jasper had caught a glimpse of a number tattooed on the skin. He did not know if he should remark on it.
Pronto saved him the embarrassment. “You saw my number. When people see it, they usually don’t know whether to say anything or pretend it isn’t there. Yes, I am a Holocaust survivor. But you know what’s really strange. Here, look at the number.”
Jasper looked and saw the numbers 31415. It hit him: “It’s the same as your suite number!”
“And you know what’s even more strange? You know what this number is? It’s the first five digits of pi!”
“So it is!” Jasper exclaimed. “My number is 314, and my next door neighbor, Daren, has 3141, the first four digits of pi.” Someone in this condo association has a warped sense of humor, to put a mass murderer next to a holocaust survivor, he added to himself.
 “I’ve met Daren,” Pronto said. “Nice guy.”
Jasper thought he ought to enlighten his new friend. “Do you know who Daren is?”
“Of course. He used to be what they call in America, a mass murderer.
 “You don’t mind living next door to him?”
“He is small potatoes compared to some of the other criminals of my acquaintance. Like Joseph Mengele or Adolph Hitler, for instance, or even the Palestinian suicide bombers. He is in treatment now, and doing quite well, I believe.”
“Treatment?” Jasper said. “I keep hearing that word. It seems to me there are a lot of people with mental problems around here.”
“Mental problems?” Pronto pondered. “I don’t know about mental problems. Our problem is not so much that we are not rational as that we are trying to be too rational. I think I’d rather call it a spiritual problem.”
“You mean we don’t accept this hokum about being in a parallel universe?”
“Oh that? That’s easy to accept. Sooner or later we all have to accept the fact that we are living a different existence from our previous life. I take it you are new here, and it seems hard for you to accept the fact that you are dead. Pardon me for not using a more polite word. But the really hard thing for most people, including myself, is to accept the fact that we must live forever, and all the decisions that involves. That is why so many people opt for hanging around here rather than go for the treatment and see if they can qualify for heaven. You see, most people when they get here, have this conventional view of heaven as a rather boring place where you sing hymns all day. Actually the idea of heaven is much more complex—”
Pronto went on to expound a mass of abstruse ideas, but Jasper gagged on one word: DEAD. 


This is where my excerpts will end. If you are interested in the "sequel" to Jasper's life, you might try to find out what great thinkers before us thought  about the nature and purpose of human life, and how Jasper might find his own answer. Or you could buy the novel and meet Jasper's old and new friends and even  people such as C.S. Lewis, Bernard Shaw, Emanuel Swedenborg and Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele. The question we are all trying to answer is whether evil necessary to human existence. Is it an integral part of our spiritual makeup?  And  if it is, how do we deal with it?


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