We meet in Prague. It wis in that time-band of 1997 somewhere; I should go and check but nevermind. Nowadays, since NS Time has been graped by even the “You are wanting fries with that?” kids, the exact displacement is not so critical. And I continue here with the old tenses, to be back-compatible for any challenged readers.
Sooo.. yes, me in my rags and Olin, well he did look a bit more “likely to succeed” stepping off of Air Force 2 at the VIP Terminal. My old high school buddy, we’d been neck and neck in most events; He’d had a better time in the half-mile, but I, for my part blew him, (and most of Pennsylvania) out of the water on the SATs. Big deal. I always feel kinda odd around him, try to remind myself that yeah, so he did negotiate the NAFTA for Bush the Dad, so what, he still has to decide what he wants on his pizza. Anyway, after a quick catch-up, he was whisked away to the Intercontinental, while I took a taxi to my old haunt, the Kafka Hotel. Familiarity breeds content, or something.. I’ve gotten used to waking up as a giant bug, plus the breakfast is adequate. But this night I barely slept. We had a mission, a quick adventure to venture. Olin Wethington, fluent in enough Oriental languages to slay a dragon, had somehow arranged with the Mongolian Embassy to let us and a Danish forensics whiz-kid have a first-hand look at a relic which has fascinated those who knew about it for centuries.
So bright and early the three of us set off for Ulan Bator. I did somehow pity Olin’s having to travel sans the perks of first-eschelon US State Department big-wigs. Ok, he looked a tad silly in his new back-pack. I kidded him “If you hadn’t copied my Poli Sci homework, I might never have thought to drag you into this.” At that he laughed in his noblesse oblige mock-sheepishness. He could have said no, after all.
Bombay and North. Seven modes of travel in six days, including, for the final ascent, our Sherpa, Ninezig Oyweh, without whom we would have surely died, I’ll admit. Out of breath, faces sun-burned and lips cracked open we arrived a day late at the Mongolian border. The Ambassador was all handy-shaky but his first words were “Why is so long coming?”
“Because it was there, I guess” I joked, pointing South toward the Himalayas. This was 1997, remember, before the Hilary Breezeway was cut through K-2. At any rate it was a relief to climb into the Royal Land Rover for the trip to the capital.
A word on the Object. Found lying out on the steppes, near the ancient Mongolian village of Tur-Engh by a wandering yak herder, the brick-like artifact was immediately recognized as something strange, wrapped as it was in an almost microscopically finely woven.. well.. shroud of yak hair. It weighed more than anyone thought it should, among other anomalies, and so its first incarnation was as a religous relic for the Yawouz worship prevelant in 2nd century Mongolia. Thought of as a brick left over by Yawouz from the building of the Great Yurt, it was kept guarded for more than a hundred years, until a monk chanced to see what seemed to be inscriptions, through the fabric of the shroud. I owe a debt to Olin’s father, a lifetime scholar in these matters, for furnishing me with Figure 1, an artist’s rendition copied from the earliest drawings. As you can see, there was something compelling, a message, obviously from on high, in the geometrical markings then visible at the top right. And so it was that the Yawouz panopoly was ‘enhanced’ to incorporate this new revelation. Best sources have it that the solid figures in the three boxes represented states of man: The right side was Mastery, the figure trapped in the center represented Slavery, and the object in the left position represented a limbo, an uncertainity, a fate to be selected by others. A new Grand Yurt was even built in Ulan B’Tur, named incidentally for the Tur of the object’s discovery, now a small-town Mecca known as Ulan Tur-Engh.
But all was not well. You have certainly heard of the hordes of mongrel Mongols with their herds of yaks, yakety-saxing down from the steppes to vanquish the Saxons, the Vandals, and even the Visigoths, who were known for their penchant for seeing and being seen on the scene. And as the various Atillas and Schmatillas had their day, so the Shrouded Whoozie-whatsie found its way into other hands, oddly enough the rabid clutches of an off-the-wall religous sect in 15th century Prague. For them it was the Be-all and End-all, the crowning jewel. Their cosmology posited an (at first) Ineffable Divine Entity, a female goddess with suspiciously brick-like build. Called disparagingly “The IDEers” by the local doubters, they too had problems with the Divine Brick and its ethereal incarnation. See, Miss IDE, in a turnabout on the Virgin Birth, turned out to be only too ‘effable’, and was discovered by their prophets to in fact have had a Daughter, by unknown means. The leadership quickly rolled with the news and announced the New Duality, to the amusement of unbelievers. Who ever heard of Dual IDE’s? But luck was with them; in just a few decades, during the Defenestration of Prague, as the rains poured through the newly opened windows, the Shrouded One somehow was allowed to ‘get wet’. (Not the most respectful word-choice for a Holy Grail-let, but so it was. The monk who had been charged at the time with keeping it safe was re-castrated,then beheaded, and finally whipped publicly. However, a week after his hasty demise, his replacement was astonished to see new markings on the Shroud. Readily readable, though none-the-less open to interpretation, they were plainly legible as the Ambassador led us into the Hall of the Shroud, with its climate-control and subdued lighting. But let’s finish our history, shall we.
Glance again at Figure 1 and agree that one could not blame the new safe-keeper for seeing the letters: “C”, “G”, a greek Omega, and “D”. This was obviously a cryptic message: “See the Infinite God, Who is Good.“ So it remained, un-challenged, until a daring Bulgarian team stole it in 1787. What happened to it for the next roughly two hundred years is anyone’s guess. Somehow word got out to the West in 1988 that it was back near its discovers, in Ulan Bator. And with the development of both better investigative techniques and also a warming of relations, a fund was organized to finance the solving once and for all of The Mystery of the Shroud of Tur-engh. All that was needed was a little diplomatic string-yanking by my good friend Mr. Wethington. So let’s fast-forward to the impromptu laboratory, where Lars is now surgically cutting open a seam in the shroud. Absolute silence, please! We wait, breathless behind the thick glass. Finally, he pinches the object with the swedish-steel pliers and ever-so-carefully pulls it, for the first time in 2000 years, out of its shroud.
And I laugh out loud! I can’t stop myself.
“Is some funny thing?” The Ambassador, his face immune to contagion as I bravely hold my hands over my face, trying to stop. Olin looks at both of us. I have to tell him.
“That’s my old “C” Drive! I’d recognize it anywhere. See where I wrote “C-Good”. It was only two weeks ago, I swear to God, I’d just downloaded some wacko Time-Machine plans, a link from Sceptic.com, they called it a particularly silly joke. The next morning the hard-drive was just gone! I thought someone stole it, Oh god, I wonder if it’s still got my e-mails on it , I mean, it’s been 2000 years…. or has it?