I can tell about a dream I had in the desert. I was ion a meadow, and the earth was dead. All the trees were dead. And nothing had any smell or taste. Then suddenly, a new forest began to grow, spreading everywhere. The Earth was full of life. And senses and tastes were much more powerful than before.
Antoine de Saint-Expupéry, 1943
The Woman and the Forest
“The underbrush is growing, but there’s still a lot of blueberries here.” Citation, anonymous brown bear, Alaska
‘The gleam in her eyes held a spectrum of colour so bright it could blind, but no one saw her;…’ The eyes are those of the young, near-feral 20-year old woman warrior OONI, as she
stands watching hidden in the wreckage of an outpost at the edge of the great sand desert of the Sahara, while executions are carried out by a death squad led by COLONEL KWOONO. No one is spared – half the victims are children. The last two killed are a young boy and an old man; OONI observes that only six soldiers are left. Showing great determination, OONI, leaping up on a wall, surprises the soldiers. Startled, they only react after she has bolted through the group. She leads them on a chase through the ruins on a well-thought out escape route that channels her pursuers between two stone walls. Following a path marked out by rusty cans, she avoids the trap she herself has previously set. The half-crazed soldiers, bent on rape, are blown to bits by the 37 mines placed by OONI. One surviving soldier with a foot torn off comes creeping after her; OONI draws her odooji knife without having to use it – the man is blown away when he sets off a mine. Alone in the heat, OONI smiles, and walks away from the ruined town and its stinking cadavers out into the desert, where she has been hiding out the last several days, preparing her raid. All the towns to the south are empty; sand shall soon cover them all. Ahead of her to the north are the mighty Tibesti Mountains. West of them are the haunted Mountains of the Moon, where no one dares go. OONI is thin, long- legged, golden-brown in colour, with long blue-black hair bound up by a knot. She is almost nude, wearing only a goatskin skirt. Her feet are unshod. No man has ever seen her smile. She prepares her primitive but efficient kit for a journey: a seven-litre skin water bag, a belt from which depends her sharp long knife, various small leather bags filled with dried fruits, honey, rice, manioc, and the like. Remembering, she digs out an illustrated manuscript notebook, obviously important to her, placing it inside a skirt inner pocket. She is setting off towards the Mountains of the Moon to the north, off the caravan routes, through the trackless desert on foot, without camel, a formidable undertaking. Crossing the sand dunes in the dusk, she comes to a lone acacia tree. OONI digs a pit about four foot deep near the tree. She then rolls small balls of rice mixed with a powder, setting these out on the ground before lowering herself into the hole, covering herself with sand completely except for her face. The heat retained by the roots keeps the sand warm at night, preventing her freezing. She awakens at
dawn with flies covering her face. The poison powder in the rice ball bait has killed several lizards and a dove: food for the traveller. She eats part, salting the rest for later. She continues north in full knowledge that there are no more soldiers to be met: all human activity in the desert has ceased; the nomads are gone, and more indicative perhaps than anything else, the contrails that once crisscrossed the African desert skies from jet planes flying high overhead, are now gone completely. Standing on top of a dune, alone, she lets go a shout through perfect teeth towards the mountains. The shout is unheard. [The description of OONI on the mound, silently shouting under an empty sky, is repeated in the text three times with small variations as a transitional device, to indicate both OONI’s adventure as being the veridically experienced dream of JONAR SNEFANG, and the dream’s breaking off.]
Single-parent JONAR awakens, looking at the clock: quarter to five on a Tuesday morning in June. He sees his son ERLAN in a bunk nearby. JONAR is shaken by the dream, unlike any other he has had – thinking OONI’s thoughts, feeling her bodily sensations, he had been the woman. The thickness of dream detail convinces JONAR he is onto something very strange indeed. Getting up, JONAR prepares breakfast, while ERLAN pesters him to carve a third piece for ERLAN’s two-part interlocking puzzle, a difficult task. ERLAN works at building
his minnow pond, and JONAR contemplates the execution of the carving.
They are far up in Rydalen in rural Norway, deep in the wilderness and tens of miles away from people; they have been there for a year. They have isolated themselves in JONAR’s great-great grandfather’s cabin by a mountain tarn, so that 30-year old JONAR, a botany PhD, can pursue medical-grounded research on juniper galls, and also to retreat from the slow breakdown of civil order in Norway, symptomatic of greater disturbances and even civil war on the continent of Europe. Complex technical systems have broken down everywhere, and
ERLAN is allowed to take now-useless equipment to pieces, for objects of play.
JONAR sits at the tarn the next day, looking out to where a Cessna 180 seaplane used by South American forest fire guard MINO is parked, floating, and anticipates something serious is about to happen. JONAR experiences a waking dream, a momentary flashback to the desert world of OONI, and has a panic attack. He wonders if he is going mad, but the sight of his son
playing in the minnow dam reassures JONAR, and he calms, convincing himself the dream is 3
only that. The SNEFANGS swim, and then watch their four hens, whose egg-laying is duly and faithfully recorded by ERLAN. (Here, Nygårdshaug, in the first of many authorial asides, describes himself as someone who likes to work with stone on his property, more than with words.) JONAR’s nearest neighbour, living several kilometres down the road, is dairy maid HILDRA HULDENG, disliked, along with her milk, by ERLAN. JONAR discusses with concurring ERLAN a possible move from their home commune of Vanndal to take up a college research post nearer Oslo, should civil unrest come to an end. JONAR goes out to his juniper bushes, of which he has planted several varieties, checking their root systems and taking gall samples. Relaxing, he doses off on a bed of moss, and reenters the world of OONI.
The beginning of the new dream overlaps with the end of the previous one: OONI, waking, determines she will be like the scorpion, digging at noon for protection from the sun in emptiest of empty deserts; she smiles at the thought. Underway, going north, standing on a dune top, looking to the distant ranges under a blue sky unblemished by planes, she calls out to the mountains: ‘Come! Come! Come! Come to me!’ OONI continues walking; sand turns to gravel as she traverses an endless plain, discovering the skeleton of a camel with human remains beside. She is beginning to feel the heat, and must find shelter from the sun. A stone appears to be deceptively close, but is in fact far off; OONI makes for it, and reaching the giant rock in the silent waste, rests in its shade half the day. Hugging the stone in thanks, she sets off in the late afternoon, through a landscape of rough gravel and large stone blocks, where she spots a snake and kills it, drinking its gushing blood before flaying the creature for its meat. Going forward, she rounds a rock, and suddenly halts, exclaiming No! [Here again, the action is repeated once in the text with slight variations to indicate JONAR’s transition
from the dream desert of OONI to wakefulness.]
A voice saying ‘So, here’s where you slack off’ awakens JONAR, who wanted to stay within the dream. The voice is HILDRA’s, who adds that JONAR ‘looks strange – was it a bad dream?’ The very short (1.5 m) but attractive and well-built blonde, blue-eyed young woman has brought up milk for ERLAN and JONAR. After small talk HILDRA bluntly proposes al fresco sex, thrusting herself at JONAR provocatively. Having resisted HILDRA before, he yields this time, and a wild coupling follows over the next half hour, with the pair going through the positional repertoire. A sampling of postcoital dialogue gives the flavour: ‘I’ve never had an ox like that before!’ ‘Ox?’ ‘You’re worse than Olaf Starreng’s stallion.’
‘Stallion?’ ‘Your cock deserves a diploma.’ ‘Yeh, a diploma.’ and so on. Clothed, the pair continue walking towards the cellar with the milk, when HILDRA announces that JONAR will now become a father. The astounded JONAR is informed by HILDRA that she had planned their escapade thoroughly; this is her period of greatest monthly fertility. She throws off the line that ‘of course they will have to marry’, leaving with the observation ‘Perfect timing. Right on the dot. Going to be results, you know – you randy goat!’ as she leaves in her car. JONAR is still nonplussed and incensed as ERLAN comes up from the tarn with two freshly caught fish.
JONAR later curls up in front of the hearth with the 700-page book Cosmos, Knowledge and Being written by one of Vanndal’s worthies, world-famous ex-priest GOTVIN SOLENG. The book has a dedication to JONAR: he and the author often fished for graylings together in a local river when the nearly 80-year old SOLENG visited Norway each summer, coming up from Spain; the two had many interesting conversations. Part of SOLENG’s text is quoted, wherein it is stated that claims for the random origins of processes such as life and complex crystal formation are statistically near impossible. Solving the puzzle of Rubik’s Cube with a blindfold over one’s eyes would be more likely than these postulated random processes. A geometric solution to the mysteries of origins is proposed. JORAN has read the work many times before, and likes to dip into it; he is reading it now in the hope that his recurring dream of the desert will take hold once again, and also to put the day’s regretful occurrences with HILDRA behind him. He ponders the greatly detailed dream and the impression of its occurring in real time, as if he were living in it. Again, JORAN has a premonition that some undefined danger is near, that some strange organism has possessed him. Going to the armagnac cabinet for a steadying nip, he returns to SOLENG’s book, reading the author’s review of claims of the qualitative progress of scientific knowledge over the centuries, which SOLENG rejects. Now frightened by the possibility of the dream’s recurrence, JORAN struggles to stay awake. Anxiety gone, he goes out into the summer night, and notes the temperature is very warm; he also detects a trace of an odd scent in the air. He stiffens with
anxiety again, but controls himself and goes to sleep.
The next morning ERLAN announces the air temperature to be 36o centigrade; over breakfast JORAN warms to ERLAN’s appreciation of the puzzle part JORAN had carved. ERLAN is demanding a fourth construction block to add onto the existing three, but that would be too
complicated a piece of work. The puzzle was inspired by a riverside conversation between JORAN and SOLENG one night, when they philosophised over the possibilities of exceeding the limits of human understanding. SOLENG told a story then about a test, set by an Assyrian king to choose a new vizier. The king asked for figures to be made, where each one would be a recognisable object; so when any two such figures were put together, they would form a new third object and so on, with any added or subtracted pieces. The king’s chosen one would be the person who could fabricate the largest number of such combinable interlocking pieces. Such, SOLENG claimed, was the origin of the puzzle bricks, like the ones JORAN has carved for ERLAN. JORAN and ERLAN swim, and JORAN reviews the boy’s geographical knowledge. JORAN finds himself listening for fire watcher MINO’s car; MINO brings up weekly supplies, but has not been by for many days; the larder is running low. JORAN thinks it odd that a fire spotter plane should be stationed in the tarn – the area has never experienced any fires previously, although the current heat wave might justify the expense for once. ERLAN asks why his mother is dead – obviously a sensitive issue, since JORAN glosses over it, brushing his son’s question aside. Inspired by the last night’s reading, JORAN spends time in his laboratory/workroom, trying to apply SOLENG’s geometric principles to his own botanical work. While thus engaged, JORAN notices the strange scent again.
The morning after, MINO arrives in his jeep, bringing three cases with food instead of the usual one, a present from MINO for ERLAN’s ninth birthday, and a heavy, mysteriously carved locked coffer, one-half metre long, richly decorated with figures, from GOTVIN SOLENG, via VIOLON, GOTVIN’s brother, about which object JORAN feels sudden inexplicable discomfort. There is no key; MINO says he will perhaps bring it up the next morning. MINO takes ERLAN up for a plane ride while JORAN works with his plants outside and in the laboratory. Back from the flight, MINO takes a cup of coffee, clearly with his thoughts elsewhere, pressed for time and in a hurry to leave. MINO gives his young pal ERLAN a hug, and wordlessly departs. ERLAN has often gone aloft in MINO’s plane; JORAN, bemused, asks if they ever spot fires. ‘Fires, no! We just fly – he teaches me a lot, but there now was an awful lot of fog in the south, a thick white carpet in the valley below’
ERLAN replies. It must be the heat, JORAN thinks, condensing all the humidity.
At midnight, JORAN puts his work aside, and notices that the now-familiar odd smell is within the house; running outside, hairs rise on the back of his neck – the smell is strong,
there is a much too warm wind blowing up from the south. Something is going on! (Authorial aside no. 2: Nygårdshaug leaves his PC, going to his garden to work placing natural stones for flood control and decoration, into the embankment of a stream he has newly channelled through his property. In preference to writing, ‘Stone is exciting.’) JORAN is afraid, but does not awaken ERLAN. Rather, running uphill with binoculars to the experimental juniper patch, he looks down the valley. He cannot believe what he sees, thinking he is going mad – the hills and tops around him, bare only hours before, are covered with greenery! An optical illusion? JORAN refocuses the lenses, but sees the same sight. He sits unmoving, stunned, until daybreak, the whole valley below covered with thick blue-green forest. JORAN falls into bed fully clothed, and asleep, reenters OONI’s world.
[As before, the new dream overlaps slightly with the previous one.] Rounding a rock, OONI suddenly halts – a fallen drilling rig lies before her. The wreckage will eventually disappear into the sand, she thinks, and rummaging about, she turns up a barrel with U.S.Exxon Oil Co. on it. She leaves, heading north. After hours of walking, OONI is halted by the cold. This time, no tree warms the ground: she buries herself in the sand as before, and keeps an all-night vigil, not daring to doze until sunrise. She goes onward in the cool morning over endless waves of drifted sand – hills of sand, mountains of sand so steep she must crawl up them, sometimes tumbling back down before creeping up again. After spending midday in the shelter of a hole dug out of a consolidated dune, she follows the trail of a fox until late at night, again freezing and not daring to sleep under her sand blanket. She continues on animal instinct, in a trance, with water running out and food going mouldy, for many days. She is aroused by the clear view of her mountains ahead. She must march or die. Leaving the sand behind her, she again enters a gravelly basaltic region and overnights in a warm hollow, setting out her last poisoned bait. Unsleeping, she sees back into her youth, when she wandered naked as a small girl along the shores of a great lake. A Tuareg caravan, the entourage of the NOMAD QUEEN herself, halted there. While the men watch, the queen dismounts. She and OONI approach each other. The queen: ‘There you are, our daughter! We have searched long. Finally we have found you.’ Resting on carpets, the queen strokes OONI, remarking that her skin is light, like hers. In this dreamlike episode, OONI is given a notebook, and told that she must never lose it. She must learn its words. Thus will OONI master the desert, and find the source. Thereafter, the notebook has directed her life. While she reminisces, an antelope eats OONI’s bait and collapses in front of her. The drinking of its blood, together with its butchered meat, saves her life. She is perhaps two days march from
the mountains, where there must be water. Lack of any shelter forces her to continue walking through the night. Morning sun out, she collapses flat on a stone on her stomach like a lizard, and restlessly dreams she is floating in darkness, with the notebook drifting before her. It is essential that she grasps it, or she is lost. Carnet in her grip, she reads on the first page in a clear hand the name ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY.
JORAN awakes in the middle of this to ERLAN’s words ‘Papa, you’ve got to wake up!’ JORAN sees ERLAN is afraid, and runs out. The forest is coming at them, growing at an unbelievable rate, green plants sprouting up before their eyes, with attendant snaps, crackles, odour and steam. Holding ERLAN’s hand, JORAN tries to swallow, and cannot. Absorbing all empty space, but apparently leaving already established native trees and bushes alone, the green wall approaches at about 100 metres per 15 minutes, and will overwhelm their cabin in an hour. ‘Not dangerous’ JORAN says. ‘I think it’s very dangerous’ ERLAN replies, adding ‘What a racket it’s making.’ Mind in high gear, observing the phenomenon through binoculars while reassuring frightened ERLAN, JONAR asks himself what can be done. He suddenly realises that he has eight plastic jerry cans of the extremely powerful herbicide atraxin, that sterilises soil for 5 years. Things happen quickly: donning plastic suit, protective gloves and mask, JORAN sends ERLAN inside, and fills a sprayer with the poison, slinging the tank on his back. JORAN starts spraying a zone going outward from the house; he double doses, then triple doses. With the green inferno coming near, JORAN remembers to sterilise a path leading to the tarn, while fearful ERLAN watches through a window. Spraying done, fighting the impulse to bolt northward, father and son watch the plants move toward them. The roots spread forward like horrible underground snakes with unbelievable force – a single, wide, wall-like front. ERLAN cries as the vegetation nears, wanting to run to his minnow dam. JORAN holds him tight. (Authorial aside no. 3: Nygårdshaug stops writing again. He’s getting lazier with the years. Doesn’t bother with paragraphs or stops. Fifty-six now, he doubtless would go into another line of work were he 20 years younger. Too late now. Words lie, stone is immutable. He thinks of building a dam, just the thing! Words die, stone lasts. Working with stone is fundamental, responsible. There’s certainly stone enough for a dam, or basin.) JORAN hears hissing from the tarn, like red-hot iron being quenched in water, as the writhing new greenery touches it. The tarn is by now almost totally hidden by the plants. ERLAN trembles and cries, rampaging plants only a few metres from the sprayed zone around the cabin. JORAN watches bug-eyed as the green wall stops, touches the zone, and then pulls back and away – not a single shoot penetrates the area JORAN sprayed! The poison
worked. Hopping with excitement, JORAN runs up to edge of the zone: a living wall rises up around the clearing.
JORAN and ERLAN observe that they are, except for the metre-wide corridor to the lake, completely encircled by plants so high, they cannot see out. A two-metre specimen has a soft, green, vertically grooved trunk, hollow like bamboo, with large leaves the consistency of paper. Their clearing is an island in a jungle so thick that movement through it requires hacking with a blade. Remarkably, insect life is profuse, and bird populations seem increased. It is safe enough to release their hens. Wading out in the tarn, JORAN sees that the plants have sent brown-grey mangrove-like roots into the water. These bubble, faintly effervescing. Fish seem not bothered. JORAN stops ERLAN from broadcasting corn for the hens, making him pluck up every kernel; JORAN’s unjustified fear is that feed might grow rapidly under new stimulus, overwhelming the zone from within. Nerves. Over lunch, the two discuss what they have seen. ‘Do you think there’s forest in town?’ ‘I suspect so.’ ‘Then most everybody’s dead.’ ‘What makes you think that?’ ‘They didn’t have atraxin’, is ERLAN’s sage comment. ERLAN spends the afternoon playing, taking apart a useless CAT monitor, to invent a
machine to make their hens lay more eggs.
Alerted by the water bubbling in the tarn, JORAN subjects samples to tests. JORAN’s scientific analysis of the water detects a chemical process involving the roots system of the new plants: they contaminate water with kaldite, a systemic poison. Only the hypothalamus of
large primates is affected. Without treatment, death in 3-8 months results.
Taking stock, the SNEFANGS realise they have only a month’s supplies; two, if supplemented with fish. All their water must be distilled to remove the kaldite. There may be other survivors of the vegetative catastrophe, if these fail to distil their water, their future is dim. JORAN hopes inwardly that his tests are wrong. ERLAN goes to bed, and JORAN reads to him, per request, from ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY’s children’s book, The Little Prince. Unease runs through JORAN as he remembers that the book deals with the desert. He becomes more unsettled, reading aloud, when he comes to the passage describing the beobab tree that took over the Little Prince’s asteroid home. At this, ERLAN suggests they stop reading. ERLAN puts on his sleep-induction device. (These postulated inventions, worn on
the head, are regularly used by the SNEFANGS throughout the novel whenever they retire for sleep.) JORAN runs over in his mind the many uncanny coincidences interconnecting his dreams, the desert, recent plant growth run wild, and SAINT-EXUPÉRY. JORAN, awake late at night, reads SAINT-EXUPÉRY’s biography in the book. The famous author’s exciting career as a pilot included a stay with the Bedouin after a crash landing in the desert. SAINT- EXUPÉRY disappeared flying a reconnaissance mission in a P-38 Lightning from Corsica for the Allies in 1944. JORAN is struck with the idea that OONI’s dream notebook is in French, in the handwriting of the famous author whose name appears in it. Staying up late, JORAN experiences a mild euphoria when he thinks that life will now be peaceful, basic and primeval. (Authorial aside no. 4: It’s no joke moving 100 kilo-weight stones around. Nygårdshaug will plant flowers and bushes around them, as in nature.) JORAN asks himself what will become of ERLAN when he is alone and isolated.
ERLAN awakens JORAN, complimenting him on the third carved figure. Any combination of the three pieces creates a new and separate figure: a car, a house, a bus, a tractor, a chair, a fortress. ERLAN insists on getting a fourth puzzle part; JORAN tells him it is out of the
question. JORAN admonishes ERLAN to avoid all contact with the tarn’s water.
Studying further analyses of the strange plant growth, JORAN concludes that what he calls Arborea rapidea is a mutant of the Duranta tree/ Grammatophylum symbiosis, drawing nutrition and energy from soil, sunlight and air. A test shows the water unchanged, still
JORAN and ERLAN build an observation tower on top of the cabin; going up the new structure, they look around them, seeing only an ocean of green everywhere, except for the tops of a few very distant mountains free of vegetation. ‘No one’s going to visit us anymore. We’re maybe the only ones left in the whole world’ says ERLAN, adding that it’s too bad their telephone doesn’t work; otherwise he would call MINO. At the mention of the flyer’s name, the SNEFANGS remember the GOTVIN’s locked casket – they rush down, eager at once to open it. It draws them to itself, pleading to be opened. In the midst of this, JORAN suddenly finds himself overtaken by a rapid rush of tableaux of imagery from his dreams of OONI and the desert, hearing her repetitive call to the north ‘Come to me!’ He is aroused
from this reverie by ERLAN saying ‘Papa, you’re gaping like a fish out of water; aren’t we going to open the casket?’ JORAN nods, and gets an axe and knife.
The Forest and the Casket
“I smell earth. And this earth scent is totally new.
In it, my senses are sharpened and my fear is vanished.” Badger with an old gunshot wound, Gjersøv\ola
During the flurry of desert images, and the work to open the coffer, JONAR decides he will write down the events of the past days, starting with his first dream of OONI. The SNEFANGS initially are careful while trying the lock of the solid chest – although ERLAN is quite ready to use the axe, JORAN restrains his son, wanting to preserve as much of the
artefact as possible.
While prying at the lock, JONAR’s thoughts drift to the invention of the commonly used sleep induction devices. Two decades before, 27 NASDAQ brokers suddenly went to sleep at their posts during the market’s busiest period, running up huge losses. Investigation showed all were using a new advanced mobile phone at the time of their collective snooze. Suspicion devolved on a new alloy blending organic and non-organic materials; developed into prototypes, it was eventually produced commercially, with resulting elimination of sleeplessness, nightmares and other sleep disturbances, making sleeping pills obsolete. Might there have been, JONAR thinks, hitherto unknown side effects after long use that could account for his remarkable dreams? Something that made brains act as receivers for thought? If so, ‘then right at that very moment, a woman named OONI was trudging through a desert!’ JONAR, sending ERLAN off for pliers, feels his own eagerness taking over, but holds back
from smashing the object open out of respect for GOTVIN .
He thinks back to a summer night nine years before, when whilst fishing along the banks of the Vandøla river, GOTVIN engaged a sorrowful JORAN (who was weeping over his pregnant wife for some unspecified reason) in a long discussion, the gist of which is that the Goddess, under her various guises of Lilith, Ishtar, and Aphrodite was originally dirty, bloody, and angry. Unwilling to share her knowledge, she retreated from history and humanity. ‘But traces remain: there are traces of the basin she built to cleanse herself. One fine day it will be rediscovered, and history will be written anew.’ The conversation made a
deep impression on JONAR; on later occasions, SOLENG elaborated on his theory. Back in the present, various attempts to open the cedar box with knife, awl, pliers and screwdriver fail. (Authorial aside no. 5: PC shut down, it’s down to the garden again. Nygårdshaug is stuck on whatever it is that will be in GOTVIN’s box. He’s thought about the contents for two years. It’s obvious that the objects found there will be critical to the rest of the plot – it is a trap Nygårdshaug has set himself – perhaps to get out of writing, so he can work with stone. If he gets it wrong, makes it too complicated, it’s curtains for the book. Sitting by his stream, he concludes his solution will work.) JORAN finally uses the axe and bashes the lock, opening the mysterious box. Removing protective old linen padding. They find a browned sealed envelope, a thick album, an old map, four small leather-bound books, and an elaborate small ebony intarsia box with a little ivory latch depicting a fat man sitting with legs crossed, like and unlike a Buddha. ERLAN opens it, and the SNEFANGS look within, astounded. Sunlight hits the contents that glitter like rainbow-coloured glass. It is a sort of fairy tale castle, with miniature towers and battlements. ERLAN, lifting the box, causes the object to tumble out, disintegrating into pieces. There is no harm done: pieces of the construct are like ERLAN’s puzzle blocks. There are twelve bits, all of them able to interlock in any and all combinations with the others, forming discreet, meaningful and identifiable objects! Who could have fashioned such a fantastic thing? Leafing through an accompanying carnet, he sees in SOLENG’s hand the notice ‘ADENOSIN. Reproductive geometrical structures.’ Incomprehensible illustrations follow. JONAR reckons out that 4095 combinations of the 12 pieces are possible. No existing computer could create a plan so intricate. JORAN proposes that ERLAN start noting down the artefact figures he constructs in a notebook. ERLAN manages 63 before sleep; one of these represents some unidentifiable apparatus.
JORAN opens the envelope, reading the contents four times. It is by SOLENG, written in Santiago de Compostela two years before. It states that the important contents of the box must be entrusted to the right individual. The four notebooks are meant for the abbot of the Cistercian monastery near Riva at Lake Garda, ALFONS DE AGUILLARD, a lapsed monastic who will perhaps be able to make use of GOTVIN’s geometric discoveries. Other objects in the casket are the most important finds of his deceased archaeologist wife LUCIENNE, who found the 12-piece crystal construction deep in a cave in the middle Sahara, a little north of the Tibesti Mountains. Copies of cave paintings important for researchers of the Aphrodite myth discovered at the same place are included. LUCIENNE died during on an
approach run to Santiago’s airport; a map was also found in her effects, retrieved from the 13
plane crash. JORAN sees that the map bears the initials A.St.E. – this must have been ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY. Sipping armagnac, JORAN has a pleasant sense of being steered by something outside himself.
The next day, from the tower lookout, the SNEFANGS see 4 new bird types and perhaps a deer in the all-encompassing forest. ‘Do you think anyone is left?’ ERLAN asks. In comment on his father’s affirmative reply, ERLAN says ‘Too bad. We could have owned the whole world!’ JONAR calms him, saying ‘What is a king without subjects?’ ERLAN runs off assemble more combinations of the puzzle. JONAR thinks someone must have survived: enclaves, ships at sea, people who didn’t poison themselves by drinking undistilled water. There are no planes in the empty blue sky, though, just as in OONI’s desert vistas. Was he OONI? Was she a projection of himself? (Authorial aside no. 6: Nygårdshaug is tired and irritable. Too early to know if he’s painted his plot into a corner. Kabob would be nice, and he fixes some after his own special recipe: sauce made of mashed bananas, chilli, oil and vinegar, peanut butter and lime. Ready in 10 minutes. He feels free to leave his writing for days now.) ERLAN is now up to 122 constructions. It rains with tropical force. Inside, ERLAN admits he is afraid that they will never escape their little compound. JORAN sees he has treated ERLAN – only a little boy – as a surrogate adult. With fatherly love, JORAN reassures his son. They fish, avoiding contact with the water, which is still tests as contaminated. JORAN wonders how old LUCIENNE’s ancient cave paintings are. 20 000
Over the next quiet days, ERLAND reaches 432 constructions; one is represents a sundial. The wild energy of the forest has subsided; JORAN is able to clear a vegetable plot without any sudden growth recurring. JORAN tries burning cut vegetation, but does so only with difficulty. A water test shows somewhat less kaldite; if the decline continues at the same rate, the water will be potable in 2 months. JORAN fruitlessly waits days for the dream to recur. ERLAN’s birthday comes: there is a package from MINO, a model of the fire watch Cessna seaplane, and a fishing reel bought long ago by JORAN. (Authorial aside no. 7: Don’t use too many periods. Don’t give the readers any break in the action, the author comments.) JORAN examines the map from the box more closely. It covers the central Sahara. The Tibesti Mountains. There is a pencilled line, the flyer’s route, with an “x” marked on a peak. This map must be SAINT-EXUPÉRY’s, found in a desert cave. Aware he is treading deep waters,
JORAN folds the map and gives ERLAN, back from fishing, permission to raft to MINO’s plane. It is intact, but roots have grown around its pontoons.
Late in the evening, JORAN, wondering what has happened to HILDRA, suddenly finds himself getting up, looking into the dusk. He hears a drawn-out howl. He realises it is HILDRA, in need, and taking a flashlight and bush knife, cuts his way through the forest, blazing marks for his return. Calling that he is on his way to help, JORAN hears HILDRA spouting senseless repetitive phrases: ‘The milk is sour, the milk is sour, the blood is spouting, the blood is spouting!’ He stumbles upon her half-sitting against a tree, naked, blood running from deep self-inflicted wounds. JONAR tries to grab her knife from her, and is badly bitten, losing a chunk of flesh from his left forearm. Falling back, he watches horrified as HILDRA draws her guts from her sliced abdomen, dying as she falls into the water, her hair spread around her like seaweed. Retching, JONAR somehow finds his way back to the cabin sans knife and torch. Avoiding waking ERLAN, JONAR treats and bandages the wound as best he can; he is fortunate in that he has very abundant medical supplies at hand. A few stiff
tots of armagnac, and he sleeps.
OONI’s food is gone; she has gone waterless two days in the rocky landscape. She spots the trail of a desert fox, a fennec, and follows it. It is joined by the tracks of another; they lead her to a bush – it means water! She discovers snails on the branches, and voraciously grabs them, sucking them greedily for moisture. Looking about, she sees more bushes, with more snails – this small infusion of liquid revives her. The first outcroppings of the mountains are only a few hundred metres away, green grass is visible. Reaching them, she ascends, then crossing a plateau, and moves through a petrified forest. Slowly continuing, at the limit of her reserves, dizzy, she finally reaches a rock face where there is grass, with water trickling through a crack. OONI takes water in slowly, coughing, and smiles. She is here! Refreshed, she sleeps, and then sets out poisoned bait, bagging some birds, gophers, and a fennec. She has enough food a long time. Four days later, she is too far west, and sets her course northeast. OONI must cross a new desert to reach the Mountains of the Moon, avoided by everyone – while there were still people. Mistress of all around her, she smiles – there is only her, the fruit of the desert that will seed far into the future, as the NOMAD QUEEN once told her. At the sight of her shadow, full of herself, OONI runs her hands down her breasts, slim midriff and thighs; she calls again to the north: ‘Come! Come to me!’ Resting against a stone, with her
hard-won literacy she again reads the words and studies notebook’s pictures; who was SAINT-EXUPÉRY, she wonders? The NOMAD QUEEN, giving OONI the carnet, only said the book was OONI’s, that OONI should do as the book said – it was the wish of the desert. OONI decides to cross the mountain by going in an arc to the west, perhaps a 3-day march. At the end of that day’s leg, OONI finds shelter under a rock shelf, and tired, not paying much notice to her surroundings, drifts off, a sharp smell in her nostrils. Waking, OONI finds signs of a former camp. Going a bit further along a mountain wall, she stumbles on the remains of the main encampment, ribbons of cloth that were once tents fluttering, and worse, a sad jumble of mutilated corpses – men, women, children. A recent massacre has taken place; she finds a crashed helicopter further on, with the bones of the probable perpetrators of the slaughter mixed in the wreckage. At dusk, looking for shelter in a ravine, she hears a child crying. Stealing up closer, she finds a cave, and listens to the children’s voices within. She purposely stamps her foot, and the voices cease – whoever it is, knows OONI is there.
JONAR abruptly awakes, dripping sweat, his bandage soaked through with blood. He is thirsty; his lips are dry; he is feverish. He pictures HILDRA’s horrible demise, trying to shut it out in denial, and in a red haze, dozes until woken by ERLAN, who immediately sees something wrong with JORAN. While ERLAN prepares breakfast, JORAN – nauseated – vomits outside. His arm and head throb, and he changes the dressing on the ugly suppurating wound, injecting himself with a pain killer and dousing himself with antibiotics. Gripped by his situation’s unreality, JORAN wonders whether HILDRA’s madness stemmed from kaldite-contaminated water. Could he himself be infected through her bite? JONAR fights the panic welling up within. He sleeps five hours, experiencing nothing but a roiling red mist, until aroused by ERLAN. Too weak to get his antibiotics, JORAN has ERLAN give him medication, and drifts in and out of consciousness, mumbling about HILDRA’s attack, unintentionally revealing some details to ERLAN. JONAR, somewhat recovered, is able to walk about. (Authorial aside no. 8: Nygårdshaug sees himself different from other authors. Their writing is a vocation; for him, it’s drudgery. Not much fun at all. He putters about in his kitchen, throwing together a culinary delight based on thin slivers of trout, shredded cheese, olive oil, and basil. Outdoors, he regards a large stone he must move. He’ll need neighbourly help. No rush, he’ll start in on a waterfall instead. A ninety year-old neighbour strolls by, but there is no point in asking him for help. The old man comments on the large stone – it’s not been there forever, has it? The author thinks over whether his writing is thrown-away effort. The other writers he knows work much harder than he does. It’s a vocation for them. He uses
his own grants to indulge in travel, or in expensive toys. If he’s broke, he’ll fake an antique to scrape by, rather than write for needed money.)
JONAR takes a turn for the worse, his vision blurs, and the next day he is near delirious. ERLAN, although frightened, bravely gives his father medicine, gives him water to drink, and changes his sweat-soaked bedclothes. In a period of lucidity, JONAR examines the wound, and finds it turning gangrenous, with the forearm red. Sending ERLAN out, JORAN anaesthetises himself, and proceeds to cut away the dead tissue with a scalpel, redressing the
Four days later the fever is gone, along with the pain in JONAR’s arm; he is recovered. JONAR brings himself to tell ERLAN the truth about the encounter with HILDRA, adding that if it was indeed the water that had maddened her, then perhaps almost everyone has suffered the same way – they must prepare themselves for the worst. Talking with ERLAN about their crisis assuages the boy’s fears. ERLAN tells JORAN that he also has repetitive dreams: his is about a basin or pool with wonderful water, where he bathes. Each time ERLAN awakes from this dream, he finds his thoughts going by themselves to the 12-part puzzle. (Authorial aside no. 9: The author reveals a secret: Nygårdshaug had first planned to call this novel Pi, after the mathematical symbol. The title came before the plot, however, and the novel has taken its own direction. How will he ever connect the two? He hasn’t mentioned π or any other mathematical symbol at all. That won’t stop him: there’s certain to be some smart type who will tease some hidden symbolism out of the book, so that the title will fit the plot like a glove! He’s learned a lot about his own books by reading dissertations written about them.) Even though things are going well the SNEFANGS agree they cannot stay in Rydalen forever. ‘The plane,’ ERLAN says – ‘We can start up the plane’. MINO taught him enough start it, take off, and steer it. JORAN, without mentioning it, had considered the same possibility, but was less sanguine. If they decide to fly out, JORAN says, they will have to do it in a systematic, thorough fashion, learning the procedures perfectly from the manuals left onboard. The next day they hew a path to where the plane is anchored –
they are finally doing something fundamentally new.
After many regular tests of the water’s quality, the last one shows it returned to normal with the kaldite essentially gone. JORAN wonders whether all water sources were contaminated. Perhaps others got away more lightly. The mystery of the epiphytic mutant plant deepens: neither of the two species is native to Europe – they are South American. JORAN cannot think how the symbiotes might have spread. Previously southern European range birds now inhabit the forest by the tarn. Wildlife is more profuse, the fish are bigger than before – the
kaldite has had no ill effect on other species.
DAY 1: ERLAN decides to start a new era, with reckoning to begin from the day the SNEFANGS definitively decided to fly out. Months will have new names. Father and son go through the instruction manuals. Their craft is a two-seater Cessna 180 seaplane, that cruises at 180 km per hour. Its regular fuel tank takes 220 litres, good for 5-6 hours’ flying. But this plane has extra tanks! Four months ago, MINO removed two of the original 4 seats, mounting two 90-litre tanks in their place – with the increased capacity, they could go 1440 km, deep into the Continent, the middle of Germany. If they refill the tanks underway, they could reach the Med without landing. On his last visit MINO had left behind extra jerry cans of fuel, so there are at least 480 litres available. Examination shows that the pontoons are only overgrown, not damaged; the SNEFANGS work to release them. Seating themselves in the Cessna, JORAN realises he must show authority, convincing ERLAN that all is under control. They go over the instruments, using checklists and manuals. ERLAN is impressed; at home, satisfied, JONAR takes a cognac, wonders about how he became the person he is. JORAN
rolls up his shirt, and fingers the many ugly scars on his torso.
JONAR thinks back to his last riverbank talk with the ageing GOTVIN, who tells JONAR that many have problems with the problem of evil. The Goddess, GOTVIN says, is a human abstraction from the primal stuff. Humanity puts a positive aspect on Being, and worships it. Men have shaped the concept of divinity. GOTVIN refers to JONAR’s scars as healed. JONAR replies that what happened was unavoidable. JONAR’s wife is dead, he is alive, the
sagacious GOTVIN replies.
Day 2: With breakfast over, the SNEFANGS go over the flying manuals, with ERLAN feeding JONAR questions from the books, drilling and testing him. Their daily schedule now consists of two hours plugging away at the books, a pause, and then time in the plane’s cockpit, to go through the instruments and routines. ERLAN asks and receives permission to take a shotgun up to his tree platform, to hunt. Deliberating, JORAN gives in, and sets to studying the contents of GOTVIN’s coffer, steadily getting associations with the 12-part puzzle whenever he looks at LUCIENNE’s colour photos of the cave paintings. GOTVIN believed that geometry was at the basis of explaining the world and existence; one of his pet projects defined the human genome through geometric principals. JORAN tells himself to think differently, to abandon traditional logic to solve the interconnections between the box, the world, and his dream. He considers hooking up his Lex-Cube, the world’s most comprehensive electronic encyclopaedia, to research SAINT DE EXUPÉRY. (Authorial aside no. 10: Nygårdshaug shuts down his PC, thinking about the dramatic potential of putting a shotgun in the hands of 9-year old, not to mention the symbolism! He once more considers moving the large stone.) JORAN sets up the Lex-Cube, and about to start it, he hears a shotgun blast. Down from the tree, ERLAN exclaims that he shot a buck. Right in the head! He’s sure! Bashing through the bush, the SNEFANGS find the animal, stone cold dead. The
rest of the day is spent flaying, quartering, salting and smoking the remains.
With ERLAN the hunter in bed after a long day, JONAR calls up the file on SAINT- EXUPÉRY. JORAN reads that on 31 July 1944, SAINT-EXUPÉRY was declared missing on a photo reconnaissance mission over south France. The 2/33 Squadron’s logbook notes him taking off from his base in Corsica at 08:15 in his P-38 Lightning; radio contact was soon lost. Colleagues claimed the flyer was distant and withdrawn before the evening before, only talking of ‘the absolutely last flight, into the desert’s rose, the heart of being and civilisation’s cradle’. They thought he deliberately turned his radio off, steering for Africa. Given the P- 38’s range, he could have come far into the Sahara. That he was shot down by Germans, who had no planes out, was impossible. A note by the pilot’s commander states that SAINT- EXUPÉRY pushed himself too hard for a man his age, someone past his prime as a flyer. JONAR sees that the old US Army Air Force map is most probably SAINT-EXUPÉRY’s. There is pencilled route with a terminal “x”, and a hand-written date: 16 August 1944 – two
weeks after the pilot went missing!
Day 6: The STEFANGS drill piloting the seaplane, and start the engine for the first time. Their confidence builds; they agree to seriously discuss departure plans. ERLAN mentions having his dream again, in the basin with palm trees and sunshine, hearing this time laughter of unseen children. With a map on the table, ERLAN puts his finger on south Italy, asking JORAN where he had got the herbicide that saved them. JORAN had received it from the Lake Garda prior, ALFONS DE AGUILLARD. AGUILLARD’s now-secularised monastery has continued as a top-flight biological research centre; if the mystery of what went wrong with the biosphere can be solved, it might be there, where – with atraxin at hand – the monk- scientists may have survived. The STEFANGS decide to fly to Lago di Garda, to the
monastery, on Day 20.
In OONI’s world, having silenced the voices by stamping the ground, OONI begins to sing, wondering what she is doing, why she is bothering. An inner voice tells her to go, but she continues, and her crooning draws from the cave two ragged, half-starved children, girls – sole survivors. OONI’s inner self says leave it, this is not in the notebook, I must remain alone! The girls sleep cuddled up with OONI, who is awakened by a straw held by the oldest girl – 7 or 8 years old – tickling her nose. OONI’s food is wolfed down by the girls. The three do not share a language, but OONI learns their names: WANA and younger ZAII, who is 4 or 5. Through various clues, OONI understands the girls were out with their goats when the helicopter wiped out their clan. Hiding, they survived on a crock of water and rancid goat meat. Leaving the shadows, she encourages the skittish girls to follow her, taking their hands, and leading them on in spite of inner misgivings. WANA, grabbing OONI’s arm, steers her to a small canyon, where the stony bottom turns to grass. OONI doesn’t want to deviate from her route, she should decide where they go! The path narrows, there is a strong stench, and
looking in further, OONI sees – what?
JORAN awakes from the desert dream on the date 20th Cessna, Year 1. Removing his sleep induction device, he wonders when the dream will ever end. On their last morning in Rydalen JONAR mentally sorts over their baggage: GOTVIN’s chest, first aid supplies, food for several weeks, rifles and shotgun, research reports – everything was ready, all possible preparations and training done. Nothing more, except to fly. Father and son eat breakfast in silence, gripped by the seriousness of their undertaking. They have a 1600 km flight ahead of
them. At seven o’clock, they go around the area for a last check. There is a clear sky. Finished, they lock the cabin door, leaving the key in a safe place, and walk down the path to the seaplane, where all is ready. They row a small rubber raft out to the plane, and take it onboard the aircraft. ERLAND, tearful, says ‘I’m sure we’ll come back here some day, papa, don’t you think so?’ Choking, JORAN only says ‘Yes’, and pushes the starter button.
The Casket and the Cloister
“I’ve got a calf. Now my calf can drink all the milk I’ve got.” ‘Engelfrau’, former dairy cow, now wild in the forest along the Rhine
20th Cessna, 08:01: The motor starts, and JORAN throttles up, checking the instruments: the altimeter is set, the gyrocompass is functioning properly along with the magnetos, and they begin to move forward slowly. JORAN turns the plane 180o. The small lake has twice the needed length for takeoff. JORAN wonders if they have the weight right, and gives the plane gas. They have to reach a speed of at least 73 mph to lift; excitement builds almost to the breaking point as they gain in speed: 65-66-67. The plane begins to shake at 74-75-76, and JORAN pulls the stick back gently, giving more gas simultaneously. They’re up, the shaking stops, and ERLAN yells out ‘To the right, papa, swing fast!’ JORAN does, and they just clear a nearby hill. Climbing up to 750 feet; JORAN notices he is sweating profusely from the tension of taking off. Everything is right, the plane is steady, they are on course. JORAN: ‘It worked!’ ERLAN: ‘You’re incredibly good, papa!’ JORAN realises that without ERLAN’s experience and tips, acquired from MINO, takeoff would have been rougher, and he is grateful to his son. The sky is perfect. They will find the Glomma River, follow it to Mjøsa Lake, and from there go south to Oslo. Getting comfortable, JORAN takes a good look outside. There is only forest as far as the eye can see. Here and there, lakes, rivers – the rest is gone, no fields, houses, or roads – everything is covered with green. How could it have happened? They move at 110 mph, normal cruising speed. ERLAN uncorks a bottle of soda pop he has saved. Flying over their local community of Vanndal, they look for any structures, but all buildings have vanished into the green. The 11-storey town hall is a pile of wreckage. (Authorial aside no. 11: Nygårdshaug is still nowhere near touching what is supposed to be the main theme, the number Pi. It worries him little. While lifting a stone to carry to his stream, the odd thought strikes him that perhaps he is not the author at all – perhaps there is a meta-author standing offstage, directing everything. He dismisses the thought. Nonetheless, a vague unease grips him when he later prepares an Admiral butterfly, a south European
migrant that he caught in the apple tree that afternoon.)
20th Cessna 08:30 – JONAR, pleased at cloudless conditions, sets the plane on autopilot. There is no sign of any human activity, no radio signals. They are alone in their machine, and
flying over Lake Mjøsa, see no trace of its towns of Hamar, Gjøvik, or Lillehamar. ERLAN, crunching a carrot, wonders how the hens are doing, who were set free to fend for themselves. Soon father and son will be at Oslo fjord, where they will adjust course for Italy.
Suddenly the SNEFANGS simultaneously spot the Tryvann broadcasting tower, still standing to the north of town. The tower had been protected by thick original forest growth around it from destruction by the invading new plants. Oslo itself is gone, a city of 700 000 collapsed into a chaos of overgrown ruins. Smoke is spotted, probably from fires caused by the initial destruction. Then, at the head of the fjord, they see City Hall, with its massive twin towers still intact! The plaza between it and the sea is clear of vegetation. Using binoculars, JONAR sees small dots moving below – people! Going down to 600 feet, the SNEFANGS circle, counting as many as 14 individuals. A decision must be made, and JORAN takes it – they will land. With ERLAN going through the checklist sequence, they come down hard, bouncing a few times, but make a safe landing in the sea at 10:07, about 500 metres from the Town Hall dock. Surrounding the plaza and the single building there are only ruins and greenery, greenery, greenery. People are moving about, but oddly no one stops to look or wave at the SNEFANGS. JONAR taxis the plane in closer, 50 metres from the dock, upon seeing a long- haired man in a brown winter coat, sitting on a box with a bottle in one hand, waving. JONAR smells a horrible, heavy, sickly sweet stench hanging in the air; using the binoculars again, he sees there are 20 corpses lying about on the fringes of the open plaza. JORAN has sudden misgivings: with the loss of an hour, they might not make Lago di Garda in daylight. After hesitating, JORAN puts on a plastic bag over his hair, dons rubber gloves, and sets off in their inflatable raft, loaded shotgun along, with ERLAN remaining on the seaplane. The seated man gets up to meet JORAN. (Authorial aside no. 12: Sitting by his brook, he sees that the book is taking off in an unintended direction – it is was not Nygårdshaug’s intention that the plane should land in Oslo fjord! Is he writing the book, or is it You – some unknown other? This could have a domino effect on the plot line, not to mention the title and chapter headings – very bad indeed! Watching the stream helps. He could just stop writing – he doesn’t need to do it. He thinks about planting wild thyme, and a memory returns: that late summer leave from his base in Corsica. The Germans are in retreat. Taking a batch of his published books, he goes to the beach at Nice, and playing on his authorship picks up a young blonde woman. They make love in the hills above, amidst wild thyme. Not bad, having memories like that, thinks Nygårdshaug, as he putters away by the stream.) The man who meets him is ragged
and unsteady, and in slurred dialect, asks if JONAR is the doctor. It’s about time! he says 23
taking a hit of vodka from his bottle. The man’s friend, Roy Olav, died weeks ago when a stone block crushed his head, digging in the ruins for alcohol . All the other people are crazy. JONAR asks ‘How long is it since you drank any water?’ The man – LARS KENNETH – laughs. ‘Water? Can’t remember the last I drank water. Been taking beer for my thirst the last few years. Who you going to shoot with that gun?’ ‘No one’ says JONAR, putting his arm around LARS KENNETH and steering him to a bench. JONAR slowly pries the story out: weeks, maybe months ago, the forest came from the east and slowly choked Oslo. People wandered aimlessly in the ruins, but then there were fewer and fewer, and the ones now in the plaza – only men – are totally off by themselves, distant, impossible to speak to. Most women are dead – they became extremely dangerous when alive! They clawed and bit, and constantly wanted sex. LARS KENNETH saw two who serviced hundreds of men until the women died in the plaza’s pool. The horror almost sobered him. JORAN realises he cannot take LARS KENNETH to Garda because of the extra weight. Before leaving, JORAN goes to talk to the listless zombies in the square. He doesn’t succeed: the thin men are fixed in their own private worlds, droning on obsessively about the now useless routines once important in their lives. JORAN and LARS KENNETH visit several of these in turn. One is a broker, gabbing incessantly about shares markets while walking in a circle. Another is a preacher, booming away to an invisible congregation. They’ve been at it for weeks, LARS KENNETH tells JONAR. They observe a clothing salesman and a car repairman spouting their now- meaningless sales pitches to the air. LARS KENNETH says he kicks the bodies into the sea whenever one expires. Asked, JONAR tells LARS KENNETH he cannot take him because of ERLAN, and the drunk pathetically accepts the excuse, and goes in search of more drink. JONAR yells ‘Wake up, damn it’, and fires a shotgun blast skyward in frustration at his own helplessness.
20th Cessna 22:15. The SNEFANGS taxi to an island in the fjord where there is a small marina, and breaking into an unmanned sailboat, avail themselves of onboard luxury and provisions. ERLAN is now up to 1172 combinations, duly noted, of the Saharan 12-piece artefact. One of them is a precise replica of the Sphinx and pyramids, newly found to be thousands of years older than previously realised. JONAR looks again at the photos of sophisticated cave painting, reminiscent of Miro. The day’s events tell him that kaldite has affected the population according to the individual’s sex: women become aggressive, euphoric, and self-destructive; men go apathetic, dull, and repetitive. Going out on deck,
JORAN sees only dark where Oslo once stood.
21st Cessna 08:30 The SNEFANGS, up in the air on autopilot, have continental Denmark in
sight. During their crossing over sea, they saw no boats at all.
At 13:45, near Munich, they meet with clouds, and ascend to cross the Alps, whose peaks, some with chalets and ski lifts visible, are devoid of life. (Authorial aside no. 13: The rain outside is growing in strength, and Nygårdshaug nervously runs his finger over the spines of his books, fearing a flood might undermine his streamside garden.) The Cessna is tossed about by the wind near the peaks; JONAR maintains control. The course is adjusted, and at
14:55, ERLAN calls out ‘Lake Garda!’
The monastery is near Riva in the north; the SNEFANGS, make a tricky landing complicated by local topography and waves, in the narrow mountain-enclosed northern end of the lake, at
Hungry after the excitement, the SNEFANGS indulge in an orgy of eating tinned food. A storm comes up on them; they taxi the plane into a small bay, where the outer end of a dock with a few luxury yachts sits intact. Soaked through by the storm, the pair manage to anchor their plane, and break into the largest of the boats, smashing its teak door with an axe. Inside, thick carpets, expensive art, full larders, a well-stocked bar, and soft beds. In the evening, JORAN goes out, only to quickly step back inside, when he sees corpses floating about, food for scavenger gulls. Snug onboard, JORAN and ERLAN discuss the creation of the world, and JORAN relates an North American Indian creation myth involving the birth of twin demiurges, Earth Doctor and Spider, sons of Heaven and Earth. Earth Doctor shaped the World by shoving sky and land further apart. A quarrel between the Twins resulted in the first deluge, after which Spider, climbing up to heaven, created the Milky Way. Peace was made between the Twins, with the threatening hand of Manitou over them; Manitou controlled the growth of seed, and could destroy all by covering the world with plants, if the Twins did not manage their spheres of influence – earth and sky – prudently. ERLAN views the story in
light of the recent events: Manitou, sure enough, has overwhelmed the earth as punishment
In JONAR’s dream world that night, OONI follows the girls into the narrowing stone-choked canyon, smelling animals ahead. These are WANA and ZAII’s two camels, goats, and sheep, grazing. There is a stream running down from the mountain, into a small pool. Ecstatic, OONI removes her skirt, and stands naked by the water, eyes closed, face towards the sun, and then enters the pool. She cannot get enough of lolling in the pool, and convinces the girls to join her. OONI washes them clean, and once out of the water, anoints their sores and scabs with ointments from her kit. Consulting the notebook, OONI remembers the words of the NOMAD QUEEN: ‘Your grandmother, child, was the most bewitchingly beautiful woman in these parts; your mother was also beautiful. You were taken away; we searched for years but could not find you. We cannot bind you; such is the way. You must, however, preserve your grandfather’s book, that flyer who came from heaven. It will someday lead you to a place where there is only love, the basin where your grandmother was conceived, protected from all winds, hidden by sands for aeons. Never give up the book; it will be your guiding star that will someday fulfil all your wishes and dreams’. OONI wonders what the NOMAD QUEEN would think if she saw OONI with two small girls in tow. OONI’s inner voice is silent. OONI decides to stay at the small oasis several days. They slaughter the smallest camel, and gather fodder for the other animals, together with dried dung and branches: fuel for their crossing of the next desert. They set out from the ravine, OONI leading, WAMA with their remaining camel OM’WABBI, and the goats and sheep tagging after ZAII. Gaining altitude, the trio rests on a plateau, the high point of their crossing of the Tibesti chain. Looking south, OONI sees to her astonishment the unprecedented sight of clouds below, stretching from east to west across the desert, something incomprehensible in her experience. The Mountains of the Moon shimmer on the horizon. The three go down from the high point to find shelter, while the clouds climb behind them, up to the foot of the mountains. In camp that night, WAMA, using a few words of OONI’s language, requests OONI to sing. OONI’s song has no beginning or end, it shapes itself. The girls are lulled to sleep. OONI lies down, and has almost drifted off, when she feels something crawl over her body, something unknown, sticking to her face; she rises suddenly and screams. [The incident, from the girls sleeping and onwards, is repeated in
the text again to indicate that JONAR is exiting his dream.]
22nd Cessna, 07:15 – JONAR awakes on the yacht to bad weather, and checks to see the plane is safe. He is now convinced his dream is somehow real, that OONI and the girls existed, exist, or will exist, and that he is somehow tied to them, perhaps is even responsible for them.
It dawns on JONAR that he is falling in love with the beautiful dream woman. ERLAN arises, and the pair breakfast on provisions and juice, kept fresh by onboard photovoltaic refrigerators. ERLAN takes the initiative and suggests starting the boat up, something landlubber JONAR is loathe to do. Looking down the length of the lake for signs of a clearing, he sees nothing but green up to water’s edge. JONAR freezes at the thought of what might lie under the vegetation: this part of Italy was tightly populated before the catastrophe. Sitting in the cabin, JONAR wonders who MINO really was: there are all too many coincidences involving his appearance with his plane, too many implausibilities that interlink the various circumstances defining JONAR’s and ERLAN’s present situation. JONAR feels himself a helpless player, pawn of forces he cannot comprehend or guess at. His ruminations are ended by a shudder of the boat and ERLAN saying ‘I’ve found out how to start the engine’. JONAR tells him to leave it, but permits ERLAN to find out more about running the yacht. Somehow called from within to explore the nearest land, JONAR invites ERLAN along on an expedition into the forest. Visibility is poor because of tight forest cover; animal and bird life is profuse. (Authorial aside no. 14: Nygårdshaug’s stream has flooded, taking away a chunk of his garden. The stone-banked section weathered the flood well. He plans to make chutneys, fruit liquors, and jams. Looking out of the kitchen window, he sees the Mediterranean – Corsica is not far off from North Africa.) Deep in the jungle, the SNEFANGS hear a thin long howl. A person, perhaps. Using the axe, JONAR and ERLAN hack through to the ruins of a supermarket. From within, the same howling voice cries out a stream of Italian words. Father and son cut their way through a window, past a chaos of scattered boxes, tins of food, shelving and collapsed walls. They find a young boy with a plastic bottle of spring water in his hand. A grey film covers his eyes, and the child collapses when the SNEFANGS reach him. With great effort, they bring the lad back to the dock; he is very ill.
JONAR and ERLAN tend to the scratches and cuts of the 8-9 year old boy. JONAR, very touched by ERLAN’s solicitude for the restlessly sleeping child, hopes the unfortunate local did not drink a fatal dose of kaldite-contaminated water. JONAR asks himself what can be done, and concludes that with the boat, they could get to the monastery quickly, if it still stands. Drinking cognac JORAN slowly overcomes his reluctance to take the water route, while ERLAN nurses the boy, never leaving his side. The young boy awakens, and begs for bread – ‘Vorrei pane, papa!’ – but the request goes unheeded – the SNEFANGS do not
understand Italian. That evening JORAN is into his fourth glass of cognac when ERLAN discovers and flicks on the lighting system, illuminating the vessel.
Over dinner, ERLAN describes papers he has found onboard, establishing that the boat belonged to one BRONZOLETTI; JORAN looks over to the bar, where a picture hangs of a heavy-set, well-dressed middle-aged man, with a very young white-bikini-clad girl beside him, smiling. Daughter? It no longer matters. What counts is getting the boat running, an easy
job, according to ERLAN.
23rd Cessna, 01:30 – The young Italian lad awakens, going into spasms, drooling, and JONAR, not waking ERLAN, stays up with the invalid through the night. At breakfast, JONAR tells ERLAN they will leave to search for the monks immediately. They are the sick
boy’s only hope. Answering ERLAN’s question, JONAR says he the child might die.
23rd Cessna, 08:30 – Overcoming his fear of the boat, JONAR fumbles about, narrowly missing crashing into the Cessna, before he gets the hang of steering. As they cruise along, ERLAN comes on deck with the news the boy is vomiting. There is no view of any clearing along the shores of the lake. (Authorial aside no. 15: Nygårdshaug’s book is turning into something entirely different than his planned minimalist novel, meant to suit the tastes of trendy minimalist readers in minimalist cafés, although he has no idea of what such a novel might entail, other than having a title like Pi. He is hoisted by his own petard, by complicating traps in the plot, the last of which is the cabin cruiser, which he hadn’t planned including at all! The opposite of minimalism! Not that he ever felt a vocation to write in a minimalist or postmodernist way – he doesn’t even know what the words mean. The autumn evening is mild, and the brook runs on by. Water makes him thirsty – he knows thirst well, from the first time he made an emergency landing in the desert with his plane. If the Bedouin hadn’t found him, he’d be dead. He bends and drinks from the waters of Leirelva.) If the monastery is wrecked , JORAN thinks, he and ERLAN can take the boat by river route to the Adriatic, and cruise the Mediterranean where, sooner or later, they are bound to find others. Rounding a point, they look into a bay, and there, there, JORAN sees with pounding heart an enormous open area with fine medieval buildings, free of forest. The monks have managed it! ERLAN
hops up and down; elated father and son babble and laugh. Even as JORAN starts to worry if 28
the monks know about the water contamination problem, ERLAN yells out ‘Look, papa, they’re waving!. People have begun to stream out of the buildings to greet the travellers.
The Cloister and the Desert
“There’s food enough, alright, but wherever I hop,I wind up in a tree!” Marvelling kagaroo, Queensland, Australia
23 Cessna, 09:45 – JORAN reviews mentally what he knows about the monastery: it was founded about the year 1100 by Bernard of Clairvaux, a Doctor of the Church. Several decades ago, however, publication of revolutionary ancient texts gravely undermined the historical foundations of faith; in the space of a few years, Christianity was totally reorganised on a basis free of dogma and superstition. At the Lake Garda monastery, long home of many of the Cistercian order’s best intellects in agriculture, biology, botany and pharmacy, the monks elected to secularise under the continued leadership of their former prior, the biochemist and Nobelist ALFONS DE AGUILLARD, and to continue as an all-male lay research centre, still operating under the rule of celibacy, but no longer cloistered from the world. These forty-odd men are the ones waving from the dock at JONAR and ERLAN. The SNEFANGS dock, and are met by the erect and bald, 70ish AGUILLARD, who expresses great pleasure at their arrival. JONAR identifies himself as the Norwegian researcher who received the herbicide atraxin from the monastery. He confirms that Europe is totally forest- covered. AGUILLARD asks if there are any healthy women along; JONAR’s negative reply occasions visible disappointment. ERLAN is introduced, and they suddenly remember the sick boy, who is carefully borne away to the infirmary. ERLAN and JONAR are accompanied by AGUILLARD, along with good-natured First Botanist BROTHER FRANCES and BROTHER HECTOR, chronicler and secretary, to a parlatorium, or reception room. There, without haste, JONAR is interviewed regarding the details of his recent experiences. Eyebrows are raised when he mentions MINO; the monks break out in laughter. Accepted into the company of fellow researchers, JONAR is told to address the others as Brother. He is addressed as Brother JONAR. Mention of his connection with GOTVIN SOLENG is cause for further monastic amusement; the famous writer’s name is well-known to AGUILLARD. AGUILLARD, showing the SNEFANGS around the monastery’s buildings and grounds, tells the worried ERLAN that the sick boy may well survive – since the catastrophe, the community’s scientists have learned much about kaldite poisoning, enough to perform a life- saving brain operation. It would have been worse if the poor unfortunate had been a girl, he whispers, before leaving the SNEFANGS with BROTHER FRANCES as their guide.
23rd Cessna, Vespers – The monastery compound is about 1 square kilometre in area, inhabited by 43 monks. These had immediately applied antraxin when the forest approached from the north, saving the monastery. The monks are self-sufficient, with animals, herb and vegetable gardens, and even a vineyard and oyster bed. BROTHER FRANCES’ exaggerated gesticulations and jocular manner make him a favourite of ERLAN. The SNEFANGS pass on the offer of a room, electing to sleep in their boat. (Authorial aside no. 16: To get his mind off Palestinians currently being massacred by the Israeli prime minister, the author goes outside with a pry bar to move the large stone down the embankment of his stream, in spite of the contrary advice of his watching 93-year old neighbour.) ERLAN goes off to play table tennis with BROTHER FRANCES, while JORAN goes to the well-appointed scriptorium for a
formal interview with AGUILLARD, with BROTHER HECTOR recording.
23 Cessna, Compline – JORAN reiterates in detail his experiences and research conclusions regarding the type and origin of the invading forest to the two monks; AGUILLARD questions him closely on points of detail. AGUILLARD surprises JONAR with the results of research done by the monks: the new growth will almost certainly die out in 2 to 5 years. The new growth, together with the greenhouse effect, will result in a massive reestablishment of the original biotope, with the earth scoured clean of man. Ice cap melt will raise the sea level by 5 to 12 metres. Talk about factors that limit the mutant plant’s spread, such as wide daily temperature swings, aridity and the like, makes JONAR suddenly realise that the desert combines these inhibiting factors. The monastery some years ago received – via SEÑOR YENSO – a report from the Manaus, Brazil plant research institute ARBETFLO of a fast- growing plant with characteristics similar to that which has taken over the world. A roster of ARBETFLO workers has the name MINO listed. AGUILLARD’s conclusion is that the world
has experienced the ultimate terror action.
23rd Cessna, 23:40 – JONAR ponders the irretrievably changed world, and despairing at his lack of sense of loss, runs into the darkness, crying, breaking down in the stable, hugging a
horse while he weeps.
24th Cessna, None – The SNEFANGS and several of the brothers regard the unconscious boy, asleep from his operation. Down at the dock, the monk’s boat tows the seaplane in to monastery dock. JONAR thinks the survivors of the cataclysm as being akin to Noah and his
ark. He and ERLAN forget themselves in a game of football with the monks.
24th Cessna, Vespers – A second intensive interview takes place between AGUILLARD and JORAN, who has brought the artefacts and SOLENG’s letter. AGUILLARD asks JONAR to recount the episode at Oslo City Hall. AGUILLARD goes into the different behavioural effects kaldite has on the sexes, mentioning that two women, who swam to the monastery after the disaster, are preserved in the cryotorium, having suffered a tragic end. AGUILLARD hammers home two points: the problem of celibacy, and the continuation of the human race. The absence of women has made these problems acute. JONAR, facing the issue directly for the first time, has an emotional outburst, leaping up from his chair, cursing violently. After JONAR calms, AGUILLARD repeats the premises of SOLENG’s riverbank discussion of a male-created female deity. The idea of woman on a pedestal, innocuous, positive qualities apotheosised, ignores her chaotic and dangerous aspects. Time is, for the real nature of woman to emerge again. If women have survived, they will be after the original template of their sex, not after a male-created myth. Such primeval women will be the race’s salvation. JORAN, walking in the rain, thinking that OONI is possibly real, feels warm in spite of being
24th Cessna, Compline – News is brought by medical team member BROTHER AHMED that the operated boy has regained consciousness. The SNEFANGS visit his infirmary sickbed. The boy calls out in Italian, pointing to a moth on a lamp, ‘Look out, a butterfly’ – an
amusing sign of his recovery, drawing laughs from the monks and the SNEFANGS.
[Overlapping with the previous dreamworld incident] OONI awakes suddenly, screaming at the wetness – blood? – sticking to her body. It is not blood – it is rain like she has never experienced before. Standing under it, she welcomes it, letting it pour down over her. OONI, the two girls – who have never seen rain in their lives – and the animals find shelter under a
rock overhang. Outside, OONI finds water running up to her ankles. OONI reads the terrain, 32
and feeling they are safe, stays put, enjoying the shower, standing in it all night. At daybreak, the sky is grey, and the ravine has turned into a river. It is still raining. The girls remain asleep between the warm bodies of the goats, and knowing they cannot travel under these conditions, OONI retires to the rock shelter with them, sleeping dreamlessly, but smiling. The three and the animals wait out the rain three days, eating, sleeping, talking, until the downpour stops in the late evening. Clearing, the sun comes out, and OONI sees faunal profusion around the place. Waking the next day, preparing to move on, OONI halts in her tracks at the amazing sight of colourful mountains: the desert is in bloom. The two girls soon have their arms full of flowers; before long, the animals join them, to munch on the sudden bounty. Seeds dormant perhaps hundreds of year have sprouted. It was the planes, OONI thinks, that kept the rain away and caused the desert. Now they are away. OONI is filled with the sense of her own powerful womanhood. Coming down from the mountains, the little caravan crosses gravel fields and basalt plateaux in the heat. OONI hopes they will find water in the inhospitable landscape. OM’WABBI solves their problem, taking off through a crack in an escarpment, leading to a small grassy oasis. As the light shifts, OONI and the girls see signs or writing come into view on a rock face; as the light changes, the signs disappear. Walking over, running her hand along the stone, OONI feels small irregularities, proving the reality of what they had just seen. By the campfire that night, OONI teaches the girls more of her language, which they are picking up fast. The next day crossing the dunes is the hottest OONI has ever known, with the mountain goal just barely visible to the north. (Authorial aside no. 17: The author wonders why he didn’t push the stone over at the first sign that of its moving. What’s more, he’s wonders about postmodernism. And minimalism. What do such texts really look like? He admits to himself he has no idea. He’s lagging, literary theory-wise. He’d better get a grip on things, if he wants to continue writing. His suspicion is that OONI is postminimalist. No! – actually, postfuturistic. He’s certain about it, as he stares over the Mediterranean from the window.) Where did all the rain go? OONI thinks, advancing across the desert sand. Her answer lies ahead of her: there to the north is a marvellous carpet of greenery! They spend a cold night out amidst the thick green growth and flowers of a hollow, the two girls tight up against OM’WABBI. The next day they experience a frightening sandstorm, and OONI fights constantly to keep the group from being buried under the mounting sand. Nearing the end of her strength, OONI suddenly feels rain that wets the sand, saving them, although they have to run to avoid a damp sand avalanche. The next morning brings more rain with it; they sit it out until the sun breaks through, with mist rising from the warming sands. OONI has to help a lagging he-goat up the soft surface several times. Consulting her notebook, a glad, excited
OONI sees that a drawing labelled Mountains of the Moon corresponds with the skyline 33
before her. She tells the girls they will arrive in two or three days. The terrain is firmer underfoot now, with more plants about. OONI that evening sits the girls down, and opening the notebook, reads to them, translating from the French, the words of SAINT-EXUPÉRY: I have to find the place I crash-landed the first time…where I found the nomad princess who gave me real love…Together, you and I found the ruins of the old city under the cliffs, and I am sure the sand hides something big, something beautiful, that people have forgotten…You will give birth to my daughter, you told me, and that will make this place holy. I will draw it in this book, so that my daughter, and her daughter’s daughters, and all their daughters following, will be able to find their way back here to the source of all that is and all that shall be…’ OONI reads, pointing to the pictures of the beautiful woman, the mountains, the landscape, and to the corresponding places around them. The next morning, using the notebook as a guide, the three ascend, and reaching the top of a rise, suddenly halt, speechless.
25th Cessna, None – The small boy, now recovered and about, is named ANDREA. He remembers nothing of his ordeal in the supermarket, asking constantly for his mother and father. Mechanic BROTHER GUY tells JONAR there is a depot with extra aviation fuel. JONAR wonders what actually had occurred in the desert in 1944, and fights the hold the dreams have over him: he knows following his growing impulse could be disastrous for JONAR and ERLAN. ANDREA is coming round quickly, gorging on ice cream with ERLAN. Occupied with the problem of a womanless future, JONAR thinks over what he has been told about the possibility of cloning the two frozen women in the cryotorium: highly unlikely. JONAR shudders at the thought of the ERLAN and ANDREA growing old alone in
25th Cessna, Compline – A third interview takes place in the parlatorium between JONAR and AGUILLARD. Going over the objects from SOLENG’s coffer one by one, AGUILLARD, mentioning the fundamental import of SOLENG’s geometrical interpretation of the human genome, reviews LUCIENNE’s background as a Palaeolithic specialist, pointing out that the figure of a woman hovering in the air in one of her cave painting photographs is in all likelihood not a goddess figure, but a female creator. The box the 12-part puzzle was packed in has been carbon-14 tested by the monks, giving a date of 13000 years. The conclusion is reached that the puzzle set was invented by a woman in an ancient, unknown culture, using a
different logic than that developed since by men. If, as a result of the current catastrophic conditions, some women have survived on their own by reviving the previously suppressed feminine logic, then there is still hope for the race. The fault has been the masculine linear logic, with its concepts of causality. A new logic is needed.
27th Cessna, Vespers – JORAN is teaching the boys English and Norwegian; ANDREA is fully recovered. Going to bed ERLAN asks difficult questions about his mother. JONAR says ERLAN’s deceased mother was very nice, and deflects the conversation to other themes. (Authorial aside no. 18: Nygårdshaug is determined to move the big stone down the embankment today. He looks around to make sure there is no meddling old neighbour. Proud of his working class background – no effete city intellectual he! – the author gets a good purchase with his pry bar, and sends the stone rolling downhill. Looking into the deep hole remaining, he sees a green case. Momentarily confused, he then comprehends, realising it is his own. He lifts it up, reading on the cover US. Army Air Force 2/33 Squadron. Opening it, he sees an aviator’s uniform, goggles and helmet. He puts on the goggles, knowing he must return to base – his last mission awaits him.) After wine and oysters with BROTHER FRANCES, JONAR grows morose thinking about the eventual and inevitable breakdown of
the monastery’s technology over coming years.
27 Cessna, Compline – AGUILLARD takes as the theme of his fourth interview with JONAR the SAINT-EXUPÉRY map, which he claims is the most important object in the box. AUGUILLARD comes to the conclusion that the objects are linked together with JONAR’s dreams. OONI exists; the brain sends out waves that because of overpopulation, were drowned out in each other’s noise. With the world mostly wiped clean of people, wave transmission interference gone, such long-distance telepathy works once more. Woman’s transmitting power for telepathy is greater than men’s. OONI is a creator of the type previously suppressed by male logic. She is unaware she is transmitting her experience, with some time-lag delay, to her soul mate JONAR, the surviving male with whom she has the greatest affinity. AGUILLARD reveals that one of the monks has had similar dreams, involving a woman and her child in a place that must be an inaccessible Pacific island. But JONAR’s woman is within reach, AGUILLARD underlines. ‘You can go to her!’ The new regenerative logic, as AGUILLARD calls it, indicates that none of the events involving
JONAR’s dreams, the map, or the arrival of SOLENG’s casket, are coincidental. JONAR 35
reels under the implications, seeing where this is leading, protesting that he is responsible for his 9-year old son. No way, thinks the dazed JONAR, will they leave the safe cloister.
30th Cessna, Sext – ERLAN has told JONAR that the next month’s name in his invented calendar will of course be Garda – what, thinks JONAR, will the following month be called? The monks are clearing a shore road to the destroyed town of Riva, to scavenge its materials – not to mention famous wine cellar – more easily. Looking at the seaplane, an inner conflict takes place in JONAR – he knows OONI exists, but how can he expose ERLAN to another hazardous flight? (Authorial aside no. 19: The author stands smiling in front of his mirror: the uniform fits perfectly. In spite of the rumours going around the base about his condition, he has never felt more fit. He is ready for his final mission; the base commander GAVOILLE would not dare deny him that. Pinning his medals onto his chest, he thinks: They never found Mermoz and Guillaumet, and they’re not going to find me. The ground crew has the plane ready, the best fighter the Allies have – the P-38 Lightning. He has his orders, going into the plane. Reconnaissance, southern France, Savoy district. The motor starts, he checks instruments, and takes off. Airborne, he waggles his wings over base, and after barely one hour, has North Africa in sight. Everything’s going like clockwork. Sand, wind, and stars.) Sitting in the plane, his body shivering with excitement and anticipation, JONAR feels he is
going mad, and tumbles out, falling into the waters of the lake.
The Desert and and the Woman
“Water from the sky?”
19th Garda, None – JONAR admires the work the monastery’s mechanics have carried out on the seaplane. Small explosive charges have been placed so that at the push of a button, the pontoons will be blown off the struts, allowing a controlled belly landing on terra firma. The plane’s underside has been hardened to take the impact and friction of such a landing. JORAN wonders what it was that OONI saw, standing frozen on the ridge in the last dream – it has been weeks since he dreamed of her last. JORAN has made his decision: he will fly over the Med in search of OONI, following the course plotted on SAINT-EXUPÉRY’s map, until the terminal “x” marking the goal is reached. Extra 112 Octane has been brought in from Riva’s seaplane port; with extra fuel onboard, it should be possible to reach the destination, and if necessary, make it back to the Mediterranean, if not Garda Lake. If things go wrong, the brothers consolingly say they might, with the anticipated death of the new forest, be able to search for JONAR’s party in a few years’ time. JORAN read his journal notes of a discussion
he had with ERLAN, after making his decision to look for OONI.
‘Would you like to go flying again, Erlan?’ ‘Not really. But you’re really good at flying, papa.’ ‘Mmm. Maybe. Landings are worst.’ ‘Where would you fly, then?’ ‘To a place where there’s maybe girls.’ ‘Girls!’ ERLAN giggles. JONAR explains his dreams to ERLAN, his conviction they are real, and that he might have to do a crash landing. ‘I’m not going along on that’ ERLAN replies seriously. Scared, the boy runs off, yelling back that JONAR’s OONI is
only a stupid dream.
A few hours later, JONAR comes across ERLAN and ANDREA playing. ERLAN, reconciliatory, has been thinking. Maybe there are other people out there, girls. JONAR is after all quite clever. He’ll go along with JONAR’s scheme, if ANDREA comes along.
JONAR is awake long into the night by ERLAN’s bed, after the boy goes to sleep.
19th Garda, None – A feast is planned next week, BROTHER FRANCES tells JONAR, who also learns that 11 former monks are working to preserve the most significant knowledge of their fallen civilisation for the future. What future? JONAR thinks to himself, but holds his peace. The monks both envy JONAR and are concerned: the coming flight holds a certain
element of risk.
19th Garda, Compline – Over a glass of cognac before bed, JONAR considersr how important it is to give ANDREA as much attention as ERLAN. Does the new boy accept him as his father? The coming flight to Africa will be trickier than the flight to Garda; without it, there
might be no future for ERLAN and ANDREA.
23rd Garda, Compline – In his last interview with JONAR, AGUILLARD gives a summary of statistical probabilities for the monastery’s future, based on an advanced model assimilating all information about recent events. Things look bleak: there is a high probability that many will leave the cloister, suffering suicidal depression, falling into religious fanaticism. Serious conflicts could occur. On the lower end of the probability scale is continued current harmony. A yet lower likelihood is given for finding others; at the bottom, probability 1 out of 10, finding women. The monks will do all they can to fight negative developments, using the “new” regenerative logic. JONAR wonders if this information has been given to further
convince him of the correctness of his decision.
26th Garda, None – The plane is now mechanically ready, pontoon strut detonators in place, hull bottom hardened, in preparation for the flight only two days away. They have, with extra fuel onboard, a maximum range of 3600 km. JONAR and the boys have drilled refuelling in the air using the reserve tanks. Takeoff will be at evening. A night flight, by instrument, until Africa is reached. Carefully planned supplies are loaded using extra room made in the pontoons. Weapons, ammunition, tools, a selection of 63 types of seed, and an advanced first- aid kit, food and drink for two months, and essential books. The boys are allowed 10 kg personal baggage, which can not be soda drinks! They will be carrying 415 kg more than on their trip from Norway. They have been at the monastery a little over a month. ERLAN elects
to take along a kitten; ANDREA a pup.
27th Garda, Compline – The monk’s lavish feast is in progress, JONAR realising with a lump in his throat it is a farewell party. He looks at each of the brothers in turn, feeling great fellowship and affection. The boys throw a skit based on SAINT-EXUPÉRY’s The Little Prince, with pilot ERLAN saving prince ANDREA’s overgrown asteroid by the introduction of sheep. The playlet meets with great applause. Outside, in the dark JORAN is joined by AGUILLARD. They discuss eternity, the stars, the multitudinous worlds, and consider
themselves in spite of all, still fortunate.
28th Garda, None – AGUILLARD tells JONAR the reason he has not dreamed recently of OONI is that she has reached her goal, achieved her quest. Her thought waves would have been necessarily more powerful and concentrated when she was undergoing the stress of her journey. BROTHER GUY gives JONAR a last briefing. Once JONAR and the boys are across the Med, at sunrise at 06:15, with the high massif Hamat Dagh Nebket to the west as their marker, they will reset their course, heading for the small chain of Oussit Dagra Dagh – the Mountains of the Moon. Three hours to go: JONAR looks over the plane and chats with ERLAN, who wonders if they will ever return to Garda. If , seeing nothing, they swing back
and land on the north African coast, perhaps they will find a boat to take them back here.
28th Garda, Compline, 19:37 – All the brothers are on the dock to see them off. BROTHER ANSGAR, the vet, hands JONAR 16 fertilised hen’s eggs. JONAR holds AGUILLARD’s hand a long time; the boys are hugged by everyone. They board, the lines are loosened and
the boat is shoved out into the lake.
28th Garda, 19:45 – JORAN, with ERLAN’s help, mechanically goes through takeoff routine, with ANDREA sitting still, as ordered. The plane lifts and climbs evenly, after some shaking
at takeoff. ANDREA gets airsick, and the stink of vomit fills the plane.
28th Garda, 23:45 – Four hours into the flight. The boys are asleep; JONAR struggles to stay
awake. The blackest night, not a light showing in the Med below.
29th Garda, 04:30 – The motor coughs twice, and the plane drops a couple of hundred feet, but then settles down. JORAN feels a growing unease –why did the engine cough? Checking the
flight plan, he sees they should be about 200 km into Libya.
29th Garda, 05:30. With the help of the now-awake boys, refuelling goes well. ANDREA really doesn’t comprehend why they are making the trip. The motor barks violently again, JONAR starts and ERLAN stiffens; they lose height. Checking the instruments, they cannot find any malfunction. The engine barks several times more. No, no, no! JONAR thinks,
reducing the cruise speed, which seems to help.
29th Garda 06:00 – Stable at 8500 feet, they see a band of red to the east, and sunrise quickly lets them see the land below. They see no landmark mountain, critical for setting their course; there is not only desert, but also large patches of greenery, and even massive forests. On the chance they flew by their checkpoint, JONAR uncouples the autopilot and swings north searching; they find the mountain shortly thereafter, flying over its top. Forest cover becomes more scanty – better if they have to land. In a spooky incident, they see below an ownerless caravan of camels wandering, some with saddle blankets still attached. There are some clouds; the rain has revived the desert. An hour until the Mountains of the Moon, but the motor is acting up, coughing with consequent loss of altitude, and also developing an unusual
29 Garda, 08:53 – Something is seriously wrong with the oil pressure. JONAR takes the speed down to 90 mph; stall speed is 50. They’ll never get back to the Med now. JONAR,
sweating profusely, sees the mountains, their goal, and the engine stops.
29th Garda, 09:31 – Reacting with icy precision, JONAR drops the nose slightly, keeping the glide from going into a spin. He tells the boys to fasten their seatbelts. 1200, 1100, 1000 feet – JONAR watches the altimeter plunge, and sees a little dip between two scree-covered ridges, a possible landing site. (Authorial aside no. 20: The author sees grey flatlands below him and
smiles. No way back now. The base on Corsica will think the Germans shot him down. Seeing 40
the mountains, he gets ready for a controlled crash landing.) 300 hundred feet: JONAR adjusts the flaps to 15o then 30o. 55 mph! 30 feet. Nose up, full flaps! 10 feet, and JONAR pushes the button blowing the pontoons off successfully. They bounce and bounce again, sliding on the plane’s belly across the desert surface. Suddenly, the tail lifts, and the plane flips onto its back, passengers suspended in their seats. JONAR is cut by the broken windshield; ANDREA is crying. JONAR cuts himself loose with a pocket knife, and they creep out through the smashed front window.
29th Garda 09:50 – All have survived including kitten and puppy. They recover their baggage and JONAR’s pulse beats on recognising the nearby mountains as those in his dreams.
Everything is true! They camp out under the starry skies.
30th Garda, 06:50 – Leaving pets safely behind, the trio heads for the mountains; climbing up, they will orient themselves. On high, they discover traces of steps hewn in the rocky cliffs. They see the Tibesti range in the distance. They come across brooks and grassy swards taking over from the sand. There is a series of white marble-bottomed pools strung out along the length of a stream; the boys bath in one, splashing merrily. Looking around, JONAR sees that the place is fertile enough to support them; he could take the supplies here, and they could move in. JONAR, heeding an impulse, follows the stream to where it disappears over the lip of a drop. Arriving there, looking over the edge, he freezes. Stumbling back from the sight, he
falls onto his back. He looks up to the sky.
30th Garda, 12:15 – Staggering back to the boys, JONAR is unable to say anything. ERLAN: ‘What is it, papa!’ ‘Come.’ ‘Is it dangerous?’ Saying nothing, JONAR leads, telling the boys to stay in back and keep quiet. Crawling to the edge of the waterfall, they peep over, JORAN in the middle. The stream falls into a large pool, a basin of clear blue water. In it, swimming, three nude figures – a young woman, and two girls. Beyond them a large plain, with many ruins, and some buildings still intact. Everywhere, the place is in flower, blooming. White, blue and green. ANDREA giggling, JONAR stands up to full height. You’ve never been stronger than you are now, Jonar, he thinks. The three below see them, and rise up from the water, covering their sex; OONI suddenly holds a large shiny blade before her. JONAR
unhesitatingly continues towards her. OONI holds the knife above her head, ready to strike; 41
JONAR never wavers in his approach. Suddenly he sees the knife fly out of her hand, thrown high up into the air, coming down with a splash in the pool. The gleam in her eyes held a spectrum of colour so bright it could blind.
The orchard is in full flower, and ERLAN just now has a new sister.
14th Ooni, Year 2