Egyptian Tomb

You descend the ladder, and soon you realize that down was an appropriate direction to put this place in, for this room appears to be an ancient Egyptian burial chamber. A decorated gold sarcophagus prominently occupies a raised stone platform in the center of the floor. Several large urns sit around the edges of the room, and the walls are covered with old Egyptian carved drawings and hieroglyphics. The floor appears to be as well, although you can only see it here and there since most of it is coated with a thin layer of fine, tan sand. The only disturbance is from your footprints, which are the only ones you can see. A rack of weapons stands against one wall, its contents at the ready though untouched for untold years.

A ladder leads back up through the ceiling to the strange black room.

There is a six-foot diameter hole in the floor through which you can feel cold air coming. You can make out what looks like the bottom of a small boat about four feet below the level of the floor. It seems to be moving back and forth a little bit, as if it were floating. There is a rope coming out of the hole, apparently from the boat, and it is tied around a stone knob set in the floor. It looks like you could step into the boat with no problem at all, if you so desired.

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Egyptian Tomb

You are in the ancient Egyptian tomb. The sarcophagus lies on a platform in the middle, a weapons rack leans against one wall, and there are several urns sitting around. The walls are covered with carved drawings and hieroglyphics, and the floor is covered by a layer of fine sand.

A ladder leads back up to the strange black room, and the hole in the floor leads down to the boat.

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Sarcophagus

The sarcophagus is gold, fabulously valuable, and looks just like the traditional Egyptian mummy-cases. You wonder if there might actually be a mummy inside, and you summon the boldness to open it. The lid, however, turns out to be quite heavy, being made of pure gold, and you find you cannot lift it.

Well, you didn't really want to go prying into the affairs of the dead anyway...

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Treasure Urns

The urns are all filled to the top with riches in unbelievable quantities. Some contain gems, some gold, and some jewelry. You have never before seen such wealth concentrated in one place. It is too bad that it is of no use to you here. You are about to grab a few gems anyway, just for the hell of it, when you remember stories of the fabulous wealth of the pharoahs being guarded by deadly contact poison; to touch anything was to die from absorbing it through the skin. Hastily, you retract your greedy hands.

You notice that one of the urns is covered by a cap, and you lift this up using your handkerchief to cover your hands. The urn is revealed to be full of a clear, odorless liquid, which you presume (after much thought) is water. Evidently the Egyptians thought the pharoah might get thirsty on his journey to the afterlife.

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Ancient Weapons

The rack of ancient weapons contains a couple of ceremonial bronze swords with golden handles, plus a collection of assorted decorative daggers. All of these might be very valuable somewhere, but they are of little practical defensive value here.

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Engravings

The drawings appear to be in typical Egyptian style, with the heads sideways, the bodies front-facing, and the legs again sideways. Many archaeologists used to attribute this unusual style to a mere lack of artistic technique, but actually the Egyptians used this method of portrayal because it best showed the most important features of each body part. Thus, the head is most clearly defined in profile, while the torso, with its uniform of rank, was best seen head-on. Similarly, any male could tell you that legs are definitely best viewed in profile. These ancient folk were much better artists than they were given credit for.

As for the hieroglyphics, they are very interesting to look at, but only an expert Egyptologist could tell you what they say. Feather...feather...sideways eye...owl. What a writing system!

You recall from your school days that the ancient Egyptians believed that the dead person's spirit must undertake a long and potentially arduous journey to reach its final resting-place. Hence the placement of weapons, armor, vehicles, and even food in tombs with the deceased. Probably the paintings and writings are designed with this objective in mind as well - prayers to deities, or directions to the spirit, perhaps.

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Sky Boat

You sit on the edge of the hole, and softly drop down onto the floor of the boat. Instantly, you realize that something's not right. The boat sinks an entire foot before it bobs back up, and you, not being prepared for this, tumble to the floor. Immediately, the boat sinks down again, and you are very alarmed to see the rope, which must have come undone, come flying down at you. Suddenly, WHOOSH, you are off!

You cower down as low as you can get, as you discover that your boat is not floating in some underground river, but in the clear sky at a height of at least a thousand feet! The vessel must possess some magic properties, however, as you find you are not plummeting at an ever-increasing rate. In fact, the only motion seems to be horizontal, at a very high speed. The cool wind whistles in your ears as you fly along. Eventually, you get up the courage to look over the edge, and the sight amazes you.

Far below, you see a vast expanse of light yellowish-brown sand, stretching as far as you can see. It is rippled by the wind so it looks like water, with crests and troughs at a hierarchy of scales. Returning your attention to the interior of the boat, you see three levers on the side of the bench in front of you that you didn't notice before. Each one has next to it a picture of the boat with arrows on either side.

You surmise that these levers control the motion of the conveyance. One of them appears to be pushed all the way in one direction, while the other two sit in the middle. Experimentally, you pull the odd one slowly back to the central position (you probably bumped it over on your way down), and you feel the boat come to a stop almost like it had brakes. A brisk, but entirely natural, breeze is all you feel now, with that not-entirely-cooling feeling of a warm desert wind. You have become captain of this vessel.

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Sailor of the Four Winds

You peer out over the side once more, making sure to hold on tightly to the seat. Now that the wind is no longer ripping tears from your eyes, you manage to make out a group of trees to the north, some sort of castle far away to the west, and a large depression in the sand to the east. Also, you can barely see a curious, round `hole' in the sky a little to the south and above you. It must be the manifestation in this world of the way you got out here, wherever `here' is.

You are Master of this boat, able to travel anywhere you wish.

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The Return

Carefully, you maneuver the boat up to the hole with small movements of the levers until you are able to clamber back out into the Egyptian tomb with the rope. You tie it securely to the stone knob, then sit back and heave a sigh of relief at having survived such an adventure.

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Sandpit

You slide one of the levers to one side until the boat has rotated to face the east, then you set the other two into positions so that you're heading towards the depression on a downwardly sloping path. Luckily this vessel seems to be designed, like its water-bound forebears, to remain on a level despite various disturbances.

As you draw nearer you can make out a dark speck in the middle of the depression, which appears to be a large, round pit with sloping sides. As you get closer still (and start slowing down), the speck resolves itself into a human figure, lying motionless on the ground. You notice the air is much warmer now that you are no longer so high up.

You slow down and maneuver the boat carefully to the ground a little distance away from the figure, drawing on your experiences playing `Lunar Lander' as a kid. The most important thing, you remember, is to avoid dropping it too quickly and striking the ground hard. Luckily your video game play stood you in good stead, and you touch down as gently as a feather.

The heat is oppressing down here; at least it isn't humid, although you're beginning to get a little thirsty. You look over and see that the figure, apparently a hooded woman, has sat up. She makes no attempt to come over to you, however, and so you get out of the boat and go over to her.

You are halfway there when she makes a sharp croaking sound and points behind you to the boat. You turn and look to see it sinking into the sand, which is shifting and collapsing about it. Mortified, you start to run back toward it, but soon it disappears completely, and you feel the sand beneath your feet start to slide towards it. You jump back in alarm.

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Crash Landing

You slide one of the levers until the boat has rotated to the north, then you work with the other two until you're heading towards the grove at a moderate pace and a slightly downward-sloping path. Your initial vertigo is starting to ease up, and you find yourself really starting to enjoy the ride. Flying high over the desert, warm wind whipping through your hair, you are master of the world.

Soon your earlier anxiety returns however, for the boat begins to lurch and drop faster. You gasp and pull back on the "up-down" lever. Your descent slows but doesn't halt, and the lurching continues. It looks like you're going to be landing a little sooner than expected.


The oasis is nearing, but it looks like you'll still land (crash) far short of it. You do, however, spy a figure that might be a man on horseback in the area, and you try to maneuver to come down near him.

The ground looms frighteningly close, and you brace yourself. Then at the last minute you decide it might be better not to land with the boat, sand being much softer than wood. You stand up and balance yourself, then at the latest possible moment you launch yourself from the boat.

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Ahlan wi Sahlan

You drop maybe 25 feet and land hard, but deep sand absorbs your impact. Then you hear the canoe crash and splinter and you are sure that you made the right decision. You stand, unhurt.

You hear the beating of hooves and turn to see the horseman you saw from above cresting a rise.

"Ahlan wi sahlan, msafr-t-i!" he calls out.

It takes you a second to recognize that he is speaking Arabic, especially since his accent is a little strange. Luckily this is one of the languages your father taught you as you were growing up, and you interpret his words, "Greetings, traveller!"

"Ahlan wi sahlan," you reply, still feeling a little roughed up.

He dismounts and walks over to you.

"My name is Hassan El-Heddar," he exclaims, "And that was quite an interesting mode of transport you had there. WAS quite!" He kicks the broken planks of the boat.

He is a tall, black-moustachioed man with brilliant white teeth and a sharp look in his eyes. His tone is warm, and you find that you immediately like him.

"Fursa sa-ida (my pleasure), Hassan El-Heddar. I am Ajeem El-Barmekee (giving the Arabic name your father used to call you by), and I am glad to make your acquaintance."

"I am glad as well, Ajeem El-Barmekee. Tell me, my friend, how did you come to this place?" he asks.

You explain as best you can, leaving out everything about the house and starting by saying you were exploring an old tomb. You hope he doesn't try to press matters too much, and you end by asking him of himself in hopes of distracting him from doing so.

"I am only, as yourself, a traveler in these parts." He chuckles heartily. "But you lack a horse and have no supplies, it looks like. Come, I'll take you to an oasis I know in the area, and we can decide what you'll do there and then."

You follow him over to his horse, which has been standing quietly by. No sooner have you mounted in back of him than you're off, galloping over the desert at high speed.

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Desert Fortress

You slide one of the levers until the boat has rotated to the west, then you work with the other two until you're heading towards the castle at a moderate pace and a slightly downward-sloping path. Your initial vertigo is starting to ease up, and you find yourself really starting to enjoy the ride. Flying high over the desert, warm wind whipping through your hair, you are master of the world and heading for adventure.


Time passes, and the castle's form grows more distinct as you approach. You can see three high towers rising up from the walls, much higher than the base is wide. It looks more like the fanciful castle of a wizard than a defensively constructed fortress. The closer you draw, the more this impression is reinforced. First, you notice that the towers are of a strange shape, thin at the bottom and all the way up, but then widening near the top. Then you see that the structure itself is not square but triangular, with the three towers, the tallest at what looks like the back, at the points. The whole is made of some kind of white stone, standing out sharply from the yellowish-brown sand and blue sky.

Finally, you slow to a stop a hundred feet away from the castle and perhaps forty feet in the air, then carefully maneuver the boat to the ground, descending almost inch by inch in your concern not to damage the boat on the landing. The castle looms above.


As you walk up to its base through the sand, you see that much of the trimming is covered with elaborate, lattice-like geometrical patterns carved into the stone. The entrance is a massive archway which appears to lead directly into the interior.

The only sound is the whispering wind; the place seems deserted. No road is visible leading up to the entrance, but with the sand blowing and shifting as it is, there could well have been one yesterday.

Convinced that no-one is around, you step through the archway, curious to see what lies inside. Suddenly, you hear a grinding sound and then a loud crash right behind you. You turn to see the archway closed, by a massive stone barrier!

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Prisoners Both

You go back to the woman now, uncertain of what to say for yourself.

She looks up at you with dark eyes and says, "Ahlan wi sahlan, ya msafr-i wiqift-t. Ana enees-el-jelees es-sindibad i-yyin."

Her lips are cracked and dry, and she appears very weak, but her gaze is steady and her voice is strong. It takes you a second to recognize that she is speaking Arabic, especially since her accent is a little strange. Luckily this is one of the languages your father taught you as you were growing up, and you interpret her as saying, "Greetings, O Flying One No More! I am Enees-el-Jelees of the kingdom of Es-Sindibad."

You greet her in return, telling her your name, and ask her what this place is, and how she came to be here.

"This is the Pit of Entropy (this word is only approximate in meaning to the Arabic term she used), and I am being returned to the desert (the word she used here also means "earth")."

"Why?" you ask. "Have you been condemned by the law?"

"I have only decided to live as a human being should live - to not scurry ever to the call of others, to not hide behind the walls in the presence of company, not to live in shame before all men. I was what you would call a slave; now I am a slave no more."

You are about to say, "But you are going to die," but you can see that she is aware of this and apparently content - even happy - with it.

Seeing your thoughts, she says, "Yes, I have been here two days; I will not be much longer. But what I shall find will be better than what I leave behind."

Suddenly you become aware that you have no water yourself and you're in the middle of the desert. You look around wildly but quickly realize without wasting your energy on attempting it that it is impossible to climb out of this pit; the sandy walls would keep you sliding back no matter how hard you tried to climb them. You will die here as well.

You look back at the woman. She is somewhat dirty and dressed only in the roughest of clothes, but you can see she is beautiful.

"Do not be sad, Flying One No More," she says gently, "Everyone must end here sooner or later. I can see from your face that you have lived a long, rich life. What need for more?"

Together you sit in silence for a time, listening to the sound of the wind whispering over the sand.

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Another Reality

After a time, you notice the woman is looking at you.

"Let me play for you," she says. "Let me show you the place we will go. You should not feel despair now, but its opposite!"

Numbly, you nod your assent. For some reason you believe that it does not matter that you called this state a dream - to die here will be to die, and that is all there is to it. But something in the look in her eyes pulls at you, and you are ready to trust her.

From beneath her robes she pulls two tubes and fits them together. When she lifts the flute to her mouth and begins to play, you are struck by the beauty of the sound, and you close your eyes to hear it better...


At first you see two delicate and beautiful creatures of light moving in perfect unison, tracing out the outlines of a glowing, crystalline tree. They create this tree as they trace. Slowly the structure grows, and eventually it is complete and they merge into it, becoming flowing pulses of light slowly (but sometimes quickly) gliding this way and that with the music, exploring the beautiful lattice they have wrought.

As the music progresses a whole forest of these trees becomes visible, and you see to your delight that many light creatures flit about within them. Sometimes one comes to the ends of a set of twigs (the creatures seem to maintain a constant size, spreading to multiple limbs as the branches become narrower) and bursts outward in a dome of light. This dome might remain static for some time before being absorbed back into a pulse within the tree, but sometimes it serves to transmit the creature to the branches of an adjacent tree, where it re-establishes its form. Enchanted, you watch the serene and beautiful progression of life in this forest for some time, until the character of the music changes slightly.

Then your view of the forest becomes as from a height, and splendorous, colorful birds come, darting amongst the trees, sometimes landing in the domes of light and remaining absorbed in them for a while, as if melding and communing with the light creatures. This too continues for a time.

Then the music's character shifts again, and you see that men have entered the forest. They walk around, sometimes approaching trees and merging their substance with them. Their bodies melt away on contact with the trunk, and a new creature of light is born inside the tree. This process sometimes happens in reverse as well, a creature of light emerging from the base of a tree as a man. The peace and beauty of this place and its inhabitants is enchanting and enthralling beyond measure; it completely erases all sense of time, and you dwell a lifetime here, watching, but also experiencing, like a dream.

Then the music draws gently to an end and then starts again, with a different rhythm. With the change, you see the entire forest and all the life within reduced and enclosed within a small sphere. It lies in the mind of a man who created and shaped it - or it floats between his hands which molded it with unbelievable skill, controlling its every aspect by delicate touch. The man gets up from where he has been sitting on the ground beneath a tree, and he walks off, not slowly, not quickly, into the distance. And then all is gone - the vision drifts away from you as the form of the man melts into the sky, and the sound of the music fades into silence. You are left with a wonderful memory and a pleasant glow you feel spreading throughout your body, and you realize that it was good.

It takes you a long time to open your eyes after this, and when you do, you see that night has fallen. The woman is slumped over on the ground, her flute beside her. You touch her, and realize that she is dead.

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Funeral

Grief overwhelms you at first, but then something of what the woman was trying to express with her words and her music filters through to you, and it passes. But still the world seems empty, and you are lonely.

In some way, the night passes. In the morning, you carry the woman's body near to the place in the pit where your boat was swallowed up and place it there. "Goodbye, Enees-el-Jelees," you say. Then you remember her flute. After a moment's thought, you go over and get it and place it in her hands. To help you on the journey to the afterlife, you think.

A while later you are roused from your stupor by a shout from above you. You look up to see a turbaned man in flowing white robes at the edge of the pit.

"I don't know who you are or how you got here, but you are not condemned to Entropy just yet!" he calls. He tosses down a rope that lands near your feet.

This must be one of those who sentenced her to death, you think in disgust.

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The Sands of Time

Suddenly filled with anger at the woman's death, you spit on the rope and call out, "Sooner would I eat the turd of an old camel than go with the likes of yourself!"

The man smiles and shrugs, and says, almost as if to himself, "Perhaps I'll let sleeping dogs lie." He raises his voice. "Suit yourself then!" he calls. Then he pulls the rope back up and disappears from view. Soon you hear the sound of a horse's gallop fading into the distance.


He is not gone long when you begin to regret your pride, but, while in many cases in life you have the opportunity to make up for rash acts, there is no such chance here.

The sun rises higher in the sky, and the heat begins to become oppressive. You wish you'd brought the urn of water from the pharoah's tomb - until you realize that it would be under the sand with the boat now. How curious this place is, you think - like the top part of an hour glass. Does it all drop down into another desert on the other side? You remember tales in physics classes of black holes spitting out their captured matter from mathematically existent white holes, so that if a man could somehow survive falling in, he would emerge in another universe. You couldn't survive, of course, much less than you would being crushed and suffocated in sand, but maybe that was part of the point. Life was only the appropriate form and state for THIS universe.

And where in all of these universes was Enees-el-Jelees?


Lulled by these confusing thoughts, you drift off to sleep, where it is cooler... You awaken somewhere else.

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Hassan El-Heddar

You take up the rope and use it to half pull, half scrabble your way up the side of the pit until you stand beside your rescuer, a tall, black-moustachioed man with brilliant white teeth and a sharp look in his eyes.

"Ahlan wi sahlan, O Climber from the Pit of Entropy," he exclaims. "Fursa sa-ida. My name is Hassan El-Heddar."

His tone is warm, and you find that you immediately like him despite the fact that he is clearly associated with those who condemned Enees-el-Jelees and might even have brought her here himself and thrown her down into the pit. A companion is what you sorely need right now, and her quarrel was not yours.

"Ahlan wi sahlan, Hassan El-Heddar. I am Ajeem El-Barmekee (giving the Arabic name your father used to call you by), and I am glad to make your acquaintance."

"I am glad as well, Ajeem El-Barmekee. Tell me, my friend, how did you come to this place?" he asks.

You explain as best you can, leaving out everything about the house and starting by saying you were exploring an old tomb. You end by asking him if he knows anything about the woman, both to find out what he knows and to distract his attention somewhat from the strangeness of your story.

"Of her and her crime I know nothing, my friend. I am only a traveler in these parts. It sounds as if you are as well, I must say!" He chuckles heartily. "But you lack a horse and have no supplies, it looks like. Come, I'll take you to an oasis I know in the area, and we can decide what you'll do there and then."

You follow him over to his horse, which has been standing quietly by. No sooner have you mounted in back of him than you're off, galloping over the desert at high speed.

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Across the Open Sand

You hold on for dear life as the steed thunders ahead.

"Magnificent, isn't he?" yells Hassan. You can barely reply, but you agree. Surely you are moving at a snail's pace now compared to your speed in the boat earlier, but this abstract comparison holds little water compared to this reality of leaping back, thundering hooves, and blurring ground. Only now are you really moving.

You look out across vastness of the rolling sand as your clothes and hair whip around you. It is wonderful indeed, wonderful.

Eventually you spy a dark bump on the horizon which soon resolves itself into a grove of palm trees. Hassan slows the stallion, and you cover the remaining distance at a rolling canter.

"It's actually easier for him to run over this kind of sand than to walk," Hassan explains.

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Oasis

In short order, you pull up outside the grove and dismount. It is a fresh and tranquil place where light brown columns of palm trees shoot up and spread luxuriant green fronds overhead. You can smell water in the air, and through the trees you spy the source, a crystal blue pool. The only sounds are the wind rustling through the palm fronds overhead and the irregular jingling of the horse's harness, leaving the quietness behind them audible as well. The impression is striking after the noise of the ride.

"Talooz oasis," Hassan says.

Suddenly you hear the call of a child, and you experience the shock that all men experience when they think they are alone and find that they are not. Then you spy a man coming through the trees, and you can now make out the outlines of a tent near the pool.

"Ah, Hassan, what have you brought me this time?" the man booms.

Hassan laughs. "I give you Ajeem El-Barmekee, mysterious traveler of the open sands!"

You look at Hassan, grateful that he has said no more than that, and then you bow in the other man's direction with a flourish.

"I am Shems-ed-Deen, Mysterious One," says the man as he steps up. He is as tall as you, but broader, and he wears a baggy white shirt and black pantaloons tied with a dark red sash. His hair is brown and full, and he has a bushy moustache that curls up at the ends. "And you are welcome to be my guest for as long as you wish."

Before you can make a suitable reply, he gestures toward the grove and thunders, "Come!", and he starts back into the grove of trees. You look at Hassan, and he nods his head and indicates the grove with a glance.

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An Oasis Amidst Vastness

You follow the rapidly receding figure of Shems-ed-Deen into the grove, and Hassan follows more slowly, leading his horse. You are nearing the tent when a dark-skinned woman with flowing black hair steps out of it. She looks to be in her late thirties taking the aging effects of the desert sun and wind into account, but she is still very attractive. The look in her eyes is sharper even than Hassan's.

"This is my wife, Sitt-el-Hosn. This is Ajeem El-Barmekee, friend of Hassan." She tosses her head in a quick nod, looking into your eyes and acknowledging you as a worthy companion. In the features of her face and the clarity of her eyes you see one who lives life for the beautiful gift it is, without confusion or pretense, without desiring anything it does not offer, and without ever losing the freshness of youth even while maturing in understanding and wisdom.

"I am honored, my lady," you manage.

"My sons," Shems-ed-Deen goes on, "Are out and about. You will meet them soon." He pauses. "Come! Partake of some refreshments."


You spend the rest of the day with Shems-ed-Deen and his family. They live a simple life here at this oasis, gathering dates from the trees and trading with those who pass through to obtain other things they need. The sons (one is 11, one 13) tell you that the family came here 5 years ago, and before that they lived in a small village just on the other side of the hills, where there is a larger source of water. "Where's that?" you ask. They take you to the edge of the grove. "There," says the elder, pointing across open sand stretching out and away, unbroken, to distant hills on the horizon.

Such a magnificent view! What would it be like to dwell here, in close connection with all this vastness, you wonder. Surely the world seems bigger - and human life more special - to these people.


Evening comes, and you watch the great sky slowly change and then lose its color, while the breezes drop and peter out. The family gathers together for an evening meal.

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Dinner by Firelight

A small fire built from pieces of dead palm fronds crackles cheerfully while flatbreads are broken and passed around. Sitt-el-Hosn stirs the contents of a clay pot nestled amidst coals at its edge, then scoops some of the steaming mixture onto the children's bread, then onto her own. Shems-ed-Deen serves you next, then Hassan, then finally himself. The concoction appears to be made of some sort of ground meal and has a strong but not harsh flavor, somewhat reminiscent of falafel, or hummus. A flask of strong wine mixed with water is passed around as well, and you eat and drink for a while in silence, while Shems-ed-Deen and his family talk about the events of the day among themselves.

"What would be your pleasure this evening, Ajeem, my guest?" asks Shems-ed-Deen after a while. "Sometimes we play music in the evenings, but if you would prefer something quieter, that is understandable. I would be interested to hear a little bit of where you are from, though, if you don't object to talking about it."

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Music in the Night

"I would consider it an honor to hear the bird-songs of paradise produced by your art," you say.

"We have no skill with our poor instruments and our voices are rough," Shems-ed-Deen replies, "But we will do our best to give you what pleasure we can." He rises and ducks into the large tent, returning shortly with what looks like a three stringed guitar, perhaps a little longer than the ones you are familiar with. He tunes it for a minute, while everyone makes themselves comfortable around the fire. Then he hands it to his wife.

She strums it once and begins playing a rapid melody on the top two strings punctuated by bass notes on the third, using a long, narrow pick which she holds sideways. The sound springs into your ears, grabbing all of your attention, and you watch her play in that state of exhilarating fascination that comes to one in the first few moments of watching a performance when the speed and intricacy of the musician's movements looks verily miraculous, beyond the imaginable reach of human skill. The melody is a rousing one in some kind of minor key, Middle Eastern in flavor, continously moving. Soon she starts to sing along with it, her voice rising and falling sharply in a staccato rhythm. Sometimes low and husky, sometimes high and sweet, her voice weaves around the guitar melody and carries you through it. The children clap their hands in time, and Shems-ed-Deen and Hassan nod their heads, smiling, caught in the emotional spell.

She plays several songs, some fast, some slow, and none fail to move you, whether to joy or to sweet sadness. It is only after some time that you realize that you cannot understand her words; they are not Arabic nor any language you know. But you aren't aware of this if you don't specifically focus on understanding them - their intonation is very expressive and the actual sounds sound almost like words, so much so that you fancy you do get meaning from them, perhaps in some way guided by the rest of the music.

Then Sitt-el-Hosn hands the guitar back to her husband, and he strums a couple of chords experimentally, looking at Hassan. You look up to see him fitting together the two halves of a wooden flute. He blows a couple of notes and then adjusts the fit a little, then looks up. He lifts the flute, nods his head once, then he and Shems-ed-Deen are off on a duet, speeding up and slowing down, trading off melody and harmony, telling a story with their music. Two elemental forces come together and interact; they could be man and wife, self and world, father and son, and many other things. You hear each of these at different times in the music and sometimes all of them at once; the notes describe a dream which is a life which you have led.

They come to a conclusion and you all applaud them warmly. "Ah, I only wish I could do with my flute half of what Sitt-el-Hosn does with her voice," sighs Hassan appreciatively.

"You manage quite a lot, my friend," says Shems-ed-Deen. Then after a pause he continues, "Well, it has been a pleasant night, but I think it's time we retire." Others nod assent, and you head off to bed.

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Dreams, Worlds, Currents

Shems-ed-Deen gets up and says, "Come, Ajeem, let us walk by the edge of the oasis." You get up to accompany him. As you walk off, you hear Hassan saying, "Lie back little ones, I shall tell you the story of the Merchant and the Jinnee." You smile to yourself.

You walk out with Shems-ed-Deen, through the trees. He seems an honest man who judges people by their character as he sees it, not as others see it, and you decide to trust him. So you tell him as well as you can without going to too great a length about your own world and what it is like, and how you came to arrive here. It is no small challenge to do this, you find, to find the right words to describe an entire way of life that is ordinary to you but unknown to him. You find you come to see something more in it than you did before in doing so.

He appears quite amazed at much of what you tell him, but not so much as you would have expected at your claim that all of this world is only a dream to you. You ask him of this.

He smiles and answers, "God created us all and it is only and always by his power that we move and act. Are we not then like dreams in his mind, self-existent though we feel? When you have a dream, do you not live in a world different from the normal one, yet have memories of an entire life in that different world that makes it seem normal? I think the same would be said for those you interact with in the dream - momentary shadows called into a temporary existence to you perhaps, but their existence seems full enough to them. Who can say anything outside the here and now?"

You nod. "You seem very wise, Shems-ed-Deen."

"So, and speaking of the here and now, my friend, what think you of our little oasis?" he asks.

"Life is simple here, and it seems not a disgrace. In my world, there are many currents flowing in different though sometimes related directions. Chaos and confusion is the result. Some merely drift with the currents nearby, allowing themselves to see only what is put before them, doing only what others do around them. Others seem to see only what is not around them, and they act to create new currents moving towards it. The first kind do nothing to alleviate the chaos, and thereby seem to contribute to it; the second kind say they would try to reduce it, but their actions only serve its increase. But here, it seems like there is only one current, and you move together with it."

Shems-ed-Deen is silent for a time. You look out at the stars, and listen to the silence of the night.

"I think your comparison is a true one, Ajeem El-Barmekee," he answers, "But what would you propose to be done about the situation in your world?"

"I do not know," you reply, "Perhaps nothing."

"Perhaps," he agrees softly.

"But we have had enough heavy words for one night," he continues, "Let us retire to sleep."

Together you walk in silence back through the trees, then bid each other a pleasant rest before going to bed.

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A Return to Reality

"I am content simply to sit and look at this fire," you say, "My soul is in a restful mood."

"Ah, now that is a mood I know well and cannot object to," replies Shems-ed-Deen, "Sit back and relax, then! I shall join you in repose."

"Come along with me, young ones, and leave these old men to their talk!" says Hassan, "Come, let me tell you the story of the Fisherman and the Flask." He gets up and walks away from the fire, the children and Sitt-el-Hosn following in his wake.

You and Shems-ed-Deen sit in silence for a time, watching the fire as it grows smaller, studying the star-studded sky as it grows brighter.

"Excuse me for a moment," he says, then rises and goes into his tent. A moment later he emerges, carrying a small hookah.

"I think I'll just let the fire die down," he says, "That way we'll have a better view of the stars." He sits back down and settles to packing the bowl of the hookah. Soon he plucks a coal from the fire with a pair of tongs and lights it, breathing in slowly and deeply. He pauses, then exhales a great plume of smoke before handing the mouthpiece over to you.

"Thank you," you say, and inhale for yourself. Cool sweet smoke enters your lungs, and by the time you exhale it, time feels a little slower than it was. You notice the stars reflected on the water, which looks as black as the night sky itself. A light breeze descends upon it breaking the still darkness into a thousand silvery ripples. You marvel at their beautiful perfection of form. The palm fronds rustle in the wind above, and the sound inserts itself into each of the myriad spaces between the liquid crests, fitting perfectly, so that you forget which sensation comes to your ear, and which to your eye.

You look across at Shems-ed-Deen, realizing what a noble person you have met, and pass the mouthpiece back to him gratefully.

"It is my pleasure as your host," he says. He inhales again, and you notice a thousand other things around you - the way the light moves about within and between the coals of the fire, the pattern of bits of palm frond dropped to the sand around you, the solidity and comfortable shape of the trunk you lean back on. He passes the mouthpiece back to you, and you inhale again, and hand it back. You turn around and lie back to look up at the stars.

"In our world the stars are thought to be giant balls of exploding fire thousands of times larger than the Earth itself," you say. "But they are such small points of light. It is quite hard to look at them and make your mind believe in the giant balls, but when you do..."

"Ah! I see what you are talking about! That is really amazing, how we can be so far away..." He trails off.

You lie back, gazing at the stars and watching the palm fronds sway between you and them, blown by gentle winds. You and Shems-ed-Deen describe constellations to each other, pointing out pleasurable and interesting things that you see, finding different ways to describe them.

The evening passes slowly and deliciously; you marvel at how much time there is that you've seemingly never noticed. Eventually, Shems-ed-Deen stretches, yawns, and suggests, "Well, let's get up and off to bed while we still have the energy!"

An excellent suggestion, think you, and made just in the nick of time.

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Morning Choice

The next morning you awake with the first light, unaccustomed to the sounds and appearances of this desert oasis. It reminds you of times back in your own world sleeping on the beach, where the color and feel of the sand, the smells and sounds of the sea, and the play of the breezes combine to make the place seem surreal to drowsy perception.

Soon the others wake as well and get up, and you share a small breakfast of dates by the waterside. Hassan tells you that he is planning to investigate a deserted fortress that he has heard about in the area, and that he'd like you to join him. He'd like to go today, but he'll wait until tomorrow if you wish to spend a day resting here.

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The Beauty of Simplicity

You spend a relaxing day helping Shems-ed-Deen and his family pick dates and lay them out in the sun to dry. During the hottest part of the day you take an afternoon siesta, spending most of it in a pleasurable half-awake drowse listening to the wind rustle through the palm fronds and around the tents.

The demands of life are few here and the pleasures simple but readily accessible. There is no long list of worries and responsibilities which you must continually mentally check off, and you can concentrate on living and noticing. You would enjoy this life.


Evening comes again, after a long and full day, and you settle down to dinner again with Hassan and Shems-ed-Deen and his family.

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To the Fortress

"All right, let's be off then!" grins Hassan.

Once again, you are no sooner up behind him on his horse than you are off at a gallop. Hassan definitely believes in starting off journeys with vigor, it seems! Once out of sight of the oasis, he slows to a canter, but you're still moving pretty fast. The ground blurs beneath you as you journey Westward, in search of adventure. You feel like you should have a sword slung over your back or something.

After a couple of hours, you see a bump on the horizon, and soon (you are amazed the horse can keep up at this speed for so long), this resolves itself into three spires.

"They say the Kaleefah locked a virgin in each of those front towers and his wife in the back one! They were supposed to be in a configuration to `concentrate their energy', whatever that means!" explains Hassan.

"Strange fellow," you reply.

"Yup!"

The closer you draw, the more fantastic the place looks. First, you see that the towers are of a strange shape, thin at the bottom and all the way up, but then widening near the top. Then you see that the structure itself is not square but triangular facing away from you, with the three towers, the tallest at the back, at the points. The whole is made of some kind of white stone, standing out sharp and beautiful from the yellowish-brown sand and blue sky.

As you pull up to its base, you see that much of the trimming is covered with elaborate, lattice-like geometrical patterns carved into the stone. The entrance is a massive archway which appears to lead directly into the interior.

The only sound is the whispering wind; the place seems deserted. In silence, the two of you dismount. While Hassan attends to his horse, you step through the archway, eager to catch the first glimpse of what lies inside. Suddenly, you hear a grinding sound and then a loud crash right behind you. You turn to see the archway closed, by a massive stone barrier.

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Geometric Inlays

The noise of the wind is now gone, and the sudden silence is so deep that you seem to hear the crash of the barrier dying away for many seconds. You are in what appears to be an ornate entrance hall. Two massive stone pillars flank the blocked entrance, and another two surround a similar but open archway leading to the north. These connect to the white, scalloped ceiling at the low points of the design. On the outsides of the two far pillars are twin marble stairways which curl up to the outside and out of sight. To the east and west massive oaken doors are set into the walls. The most noticeable feature about this hall is the floor, which is made of white tile with an elaborate geometric pattern inlaid in ebony and a dark red, translucent material that almost looks like ruby. It is so fascinating and so beautifully done that it seems as much a work of art in its own right as a supportive decoration.

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Entrance Hall

You are in the ornate entrance hall with the geometric patterned floor. The entrance is still blocked. The two stairways curl up out of sight, and the massive oaken doors remain closed to the east and west. The arch to the north between the pillars remains open.

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No Dice

The barrier is made of smooth stone is very solid. You look for some control mechanism that might raise it but find nothing. It looks like you'll have to find another way out.

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Stairs of Mobius

Each stairway starts out straight and then curves around to the outside, appearing to continue spiraling around up and out of sight. Perhaps they lead up to the towers, you think.

Eager to see what is to be found in those tapering columns, you pick a stairway and head up it. You have barely started around the curve when you notice that the stairway gradually narrows as it ascends. This, of course makes sense, since you remember that the towers got narrower at first as they went up. Soon after you lose sight of the entrance hall, the handrail merges to become a rounded protrusion from the smooth marble wall, the ceiling lowers, and you climb through a featureless spiraling white tunnel.

Then something very strange happens which leaves you gasping and groping to check your sanity - suddenly you notice that you are going downstairs, not up.

What is really disturbing is that you can't remember any transition; if you'd come up to a top part - even if it was just a single highest step - and starting going down on the other side, you feel sure you would have noticed. But instead, you have the disturbing feeling that you had been going downstairs for some time without noticing anything wrong before you realized it.

You halt in shock and try to understand what has happened. First you were climbing up, now you are going down. You are sure that you didn't turn around - you would have remembered that. Why didn't you notice any change when it happened? The motions of climbing and descending stairs are somewhat similar, but there are certainly differences in the amount of effort put in and the way you balance that should have been apparent immediately.

You think about retracing your steps and seeing if you notice the transition which should logically occur, but you are afraid that perhaps you won't again. Instead you decide to continue on down now and see where you end up.


You do, and soon you notice the stairway is getting wider, precisely in reverse to what it did before. You are firmly convinced that you'll come out where you started and are trying out different explanations for how you could have gotten turned around without noticing when you emerge back into the entrance hall - but on the opposite stair from the one you ascended.

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In Defiance of Geometry

Now you firmly believe that you must have just reached a top part and started down without noticing it, and, determined to verify this, you descend to the tile floor, walk across to the other stair, and head up it, taking care to concentrate on what you are doing. "Up, up, up," you repeat to yourself mentally with each step. Soon the word starts to sound a little strange, as if it is not a word but a funny sound. You could almost forget what it means...

"Down, down, down," you find yourself saying after a time. "Down" is a very nice, interesting sound, you think, a kind of variation of "up" - but no sooner have you thought this than you realize that it is NOT similar and in fact means something very different - and you halt in your descent, rather vexed. Then you shake your head and continue down, until you emerge again on the opposite stairway.

You'd like to go through it again, to notice what happens more carefully, but you also have the feeling that insight is sometimes gained by easier and less direct means than banging one's head on a wall until it breaks down.

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Solid as Oak

Both doors are locked from the other side, and no force or artifice you generate suffices to open them.

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Grand Hall of the Reflected Macrocosm

You step through the arch and out into a space which seems like it must take up most of the building on the ground level, and indeed on several other levels besides, for the ceiling is at least thirty or forty feet above. It is in the shape of a "house" pentagon, with two walls perpendicular to the one you entered from leading to walls which angle in to an acute point on the opposite side. Light comes from glass windows running along the sides that are near the top but set into the walls and angled to direct their light to the tile floor.

The latter puts the floor in the entrance hall to shame, for its entire surface is covered with an intricate geometric pattern at once beautiful and too large to comprehend. Whereas the other had only two colors on white, this one has perhaps a dozen. Besides red and black, you see green, yellow, blue, turqoise, orange, and several others which you don't have names for. Each color is inlaid using a translucent material, and traces out a single repeating pattern across the entire floor. Some of these are simple, like interlocking triangles and hexagons, or octagons and squares, whereas others employ more shapes, or employ them in different sizes, and some don't even seem regular at all until you study them for a time. Many seem to contain larger copies of their own shapes built out of many small ones put together, so that the pattern repeats at some larger scale.

All of these patterns, each fascinating in itself, are superimposed on each other in the design, so that new patterns are formed by the interrelations between them. It is difficult to be conscious of more than one or two of these higher-order patterns at a time, however, for while looking at one you find yourself forgetful which lines go with which parts of other patterns.

It is only after studying the floor in fascination for a long time that you raise your eyes to notice other features of the room. On the far end where the walls come to a point you see something that for all the world looks like a diving board more than anything else, except that the base is made of the same white stone as the main structure itself. Next to this are two symmetrical sets of stairs leading up along the angled walls to a balcony which encircles the entire room at a height of about twenty feet. On the right angled wall (or a would-be diver's left), you notice a small door between the beginning of the staircase and the acute point.

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Grand Hall of the Reflected Macrocosm

You are in the great hall with the incredible geometric design on the floor. Your eyes continue to be drawn to it, for there seems to be an endless variety to be explored in picking out the different color-patterns and seeing how they interact. The diving board sits at the angled end, and the two staircases to the balcony flank it. The only nonsymmetric feature of the room seems to be the door next to the right staircase.

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Vantage Point

You walk across the tile floor, your steps echoing sharply, to the far end of the hall where the diving board-like structure is. Rooted in a wider base on the floor, a thin neck of stone angles up and out at about 45 degrees to reach a height of 15 feet over the floor. The upward side of this is carved out into a set of steps, and from the top a solid-looking mahogany plank extends perhaps 8 feet directly out of the stone.

You walk up the steps to the top and see that the plank is actually padded along the top for its last 5 feet by red leather cushions which seem built into it. Following a sudden inspiration, you walk out and lie down on this padding, propping your chin up at the extreme end. Looking out and down, the patterned floor fills your entire field of vision.

From this restful vantage point, you study the pattern with renewed interest. You notice something that you didn't see from below - that the pattern has a center, a single point to which all of the other patterns somehow seem directed. Intriguingly, you only notice this when you look at several color-patterns at once - when you look at a single color, its pattern around the "center" is indistinguishable from around anywhere else. This looking at several colors at once was difficult when you were on the floor, but somehow at the center the interrelationships seem simpler and more comprehensible, so that you are able to keep track of them all at once. At the very center is a single point where all the colors meet.

You experiment for a time, shifting your eyes towards and away from the center, trying to maintain your focus on all of the colors at once. Near the center you can almost do it, you find, but as you get further away it is more difficult; the complexities become too numerous and you find yourself focusing on only a subset of the overall design. During the brief moments just before this happens, though, you feel a strange sense of power or euphoria that comes somehow from having so many details in your mind at once organized into a single impression. A deep sense of relaxation pervades your soul during these times in that you feel the need to do nothing but continue perceiving as you are. This feels like interaction and action enough.

Eventually, your mind begins to feel a little strained, however, and you think of how pleasant it would be to walk around and explore some more.

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On Simon's Balcony

You advance to the stairway nearest the door and climb up to the balcony above. It is much easier to see the pattern on the tile floor from up here; being able to take more of it in in a single glance seems to help a lot. You meander your way around the balcony, noticing how it looks from different angles. It actually does appear different viewed from different directions, something which seems a little strange of such a symmetrical, regular pattern. You reach the midpoint of the side where you entered, just above the door, and pause for a while there, leaning on the railing and looking out upon the floor.

So complex is the pattern and so varied are its subcomponents that sometimes it seems like it moves, the different parts disconnecting and reconnecting like the flakes of color in a turning kaleidoscope. Then suddenly you have a vision that it is moving, or, rather, that things are moving upon it, like spiders, or ants. They crawl all around over the colored lines, sometimes quickly, as if trying to get someplace, sometimes slowly, as if studying the design where they are as they move over it. You notice that some of them are carrying little pieces of color that could be bits of tile like the ones on the floor; occasionally one of these halts and deposits its burden in some spot. But equally as often others stop and pick a piece up to carry it somewhere else, and you think that perhaps the pattern is changing as a result - but if it is it is too gradual to tell.

You watch these ants crawling around the pattern and carrying their burdens for a time, fascinated by the intricate march of activity. What determines their paths, you wonder. Do they have clear ideas of where they want to go (but how could they, when the pattern is so complex?), or do they just follow along the lines, making random turnings this way and that, picking up pieces when they feel they have lots of energy, and putting them down when they are tired? Some of them, you notice, never seem to pick anything up, even though you follow them for a long time.

Your vision becomes blurry and starts to fade, but just before it does you fancy for a moment that they are not ants you are watching, but men.


Bemused, you raise your eyes and continue along the balcony to the stairway back down on the other end.

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Fit for a Prince

You open the door and walk along a short twisting hallway to emerge into a sumptious living room furnished in Arabian style. Big, comfortable-looking cushions sit surrounding a low table. Silken shrouds drape down at angles from the ceiling to the walls, covering the sharp corners and lending a cozy feel to the room. A couple of decorated porcelain fruit bowls sit on the table, along with an elegant hookah in its center. A couple of long rows of cushions form divans along the walls.

Certainly this is a place to enjoy life's luxuries if there ever was one! You can almost see a Sheyk and his guests enjoying themselves in casual but dignified languidity at the table while beautiful maidens stand by and entertain them with wine and song.

Aside from the doorway you came in, the exits include a door in one wall, and a single small, wooden stairway leads up and out of sight from the far end of the room.

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Arabian Den

You are in the sumptious Arabian den. You collapse onto one of the cushions in the middle while you contemplate the exits with little desire: the passage to the great hall, the wooden stairway, and the door.

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Hashish, Anyone?

The Arabian hookah is not only the most stylish and elegant way to smoke, but it's the most pleasant and convenient as well - the water at the base cools the smoke before it enters the lungs, and the long, flexible tube allows the mouthpiece to be passed around without having to move any apparatus or burning substance. This one is a beautiful work, about two and a half feet tall and made of dark wood with a brass bowl, a midnight blue glass bulb at the bottom, and a maroon wicker tube ending in an elaborate but comfortably-handled mouthpiece. It appears to have been used, but not recently, and a quick check reveals nothing in the bowl. Oh well, you sigh, perhaps in another time!

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Living Quarters

The wooden door opens at your touch, and you pass through it to find yourself in a suite of rooms serving as living quarters, furnished in keeping with the den outside. Nothing looks recently used, but it doesn't look old and dusty either. You also find a kitchen, but it is completely bare. One wall of the bedroom consists almost entirely of several sets of folding doors which look like they might lead to a balcony or veranda of some sort.

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Purity, Clarity, Freedom

You push open one of the sets of doors and the red-golden light of sunset streams in from the outside. Fresh, warm air blows in and you step out, onto a long, wide balcony overlooking the desert sands. There is a wide, low stone wall serving as a railing, and, although you do not recall climbing at all since you entered the castle, the ground is over a hundred feet below. Perhaps the entrance was on a hill which the castle was partly built into, you think. In any event, exit via this route seems impossible - jumping is out of the question, and the wall below is too smooth for climbing. A rope, maybe... you begin to think - but then you are lost in the beauty of the sunset.

The sky is a deep, dark blue overhead, changing gradually into light grey, then white, then orangish red on the way down to the horizon. The desert sands seem almost to glow beneath this light, and you can make out every detail of the land's graceful undulations for as far as you can see. How much brighter it seems now in the growing twilight than during the day itself!

You sit on the railing and look out, feeling, listening. An occasional wind plays across your face and body, and the sounds these make in your ears highlight and draw your attention to the full, peaceful silence that lies behind them. You would enjoy living here, you think, living a simple but comfortable life in this castle while getting to know the silence of this desert. There is much to contemplate. Purity of experience, leading to Clarity of the senses and the Freedom of the soul. You already feel it now.

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Nightfall

You sit, thus musing, until night has fallen completely and you feel yourself getting a little cold. You return inside, to the den.

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Spiral Staircase

You ascend the wooden staircase and soon it begins curving around, more and more sharply, until it forms a narrow spiral, continuing upward. You imagine you are in the third and tallest of the three towers you saw from the outside.

You climb up what seems like several stories until the stairs end on a short landing with a single door at one end. There is nowhere else to go, so you open the door and step into...

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Library

...a hexagonal library. Shelves line all six walls from floor to ceiling, crammed with books. All of the titles are written in Arabic script, but luckily you are familiar with it. There are works on alchemy, on mathematics, on meditation, on science (including a great many on astronomy), and several other subjects. The collection is well-organized, with everything on a given topic occupying a single shelf or set of neighboring shelves. Unfortunately it does not appear to have aged very well, for the pages in a couple of books you pull out practically crumble to dust in your hands.

On a table (also hexagonal) in the middle of the room sits a scroll made of some kind of parchment that appears to have resisted the passage of time a little bit better, however. Gingerly, you unroll it until you can see some writing: handwritten Arabic script. The parchment seems strong and you unroll it some more - but the ink seems not to have held up so well, and most of the record - which covers the bulk of the several foot long scroll - has faded to illegibility. Squinting, you manage to make out a few widely-spaced passages. You notice also that some portions of the scroll appear to have contained geometric diagrams, but unfortunately no more than the smallest portions of any of these are visible.

(From the scroll)

...the point is shown as a single spot and serves as a symbol for unity and source. In terms of geometry it represents the center - the elusive controlling point of all forms. If the manifestation of the point is indicative of a departure from its source, then direction is implied. Direction in space is qualitative, and hence the first departure or line path from the point is qualitative. Homogenous space is a contradiction in terms - if it is to be measured - the proof of this lying in the need to relate measurement to quantitative space: a measurement is only possible between two points (the ends of a line-path); hence direction must precede measurement. Once a direction is taken in space, that direction depends on a choice having been made and this homogeneity is by definition cancelled. From the outset ...

...the triangle is demonstrated as the natural division of the circle. By my thinking symbolic of human consciousness and the principle of harmony, the triangle is the geometrical expression of two entities and their reconciling relationship (the third factor). ...

... Because of the nature of the two-dimensional surface and its characteristic three-fold, four-fold, and six-fold natural divisions the pentagonal patterns have to be subject to an adjustment. This is achieved through adapting the regular square division into a golden mean rectangle to...

...then the Universal Soul was generated from the light of the Intellect as 3 is generated by adding unity to 2. Then the hyle was generated by the motion of the Soul as 4 is generated by adding unity to 3. Thus proceeds the intelligent and numerical unfolding of the phenomena of creatures. Above all, the science of number should be considered as a way leading to the grasp of Unity, as a science which stands above ...

... from a philosophical standpoint the tessellations can be considered as elemental combinations of archetypal number patterns. Each polygon has its own archetype and ...

... By superimposing one diagram on the other we can observe the beautiful way in which the irregular octagons, regular hexagons, irregular five-pointed stars, and beautifully poised twelve-petal 'flowers' inhabit each of their respective areas and integrate within the whole.

...the thesis that 'frozen' and 'moving' shapes are complementary, reflecting the concept that time is a flowing image of eternity. In this example ...

Most curious indeed!

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One-Way Transit

You are in the hexagonal library. The door from which you entered swung shut when you entered, and now you find that you cannot open it. There is another door on the other side of the wall, however, and you find that you can open it.

It leads out to a landing similar to the one you entered from, save that the spiraling stairs lead up instead of down. Upwards you climb, around and around, until you emerge into a large circular chamber at the spiral's end.

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Astrological Chamber

After a couple of seconds, you realize the 'chamber' is actually completely open to the night sky above, so that you have a clear view of a circular area of stars. The floor is black, but there is an elaborate geometrical pattern traced out on it in white, consisting of six dodecagons arranged hexagonally around a central one. Inscribed in each dodecagon is a different star-like shape, and each side forms one side of a regular pentagon drawn on the outside and connected to its neighbors in a surrounding ring. Symbols which look astrological are inscribed inside the pentagons.

The walls are black as well, and featureless, and you have the strange feeling of being completely surrounded by outer space.


You are just taking in these impressions when everything starts shimmering, then fading into blackness. Everything is absorbed, including yourself. Then, after a time, you find yourself back on (what seems like) Earth.

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