The Joracian Mystery

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The EEK-O-BLAST EMPORIUM existed in the heart of what appeared a domed stadium, filled with seats and tables, holographic “rides” and competitive spectacles in which participants could immerse themselves as much as they liked. The whole thing was quite bewildering to me, as officials were continually shouting out numbers in a most mystifying way. A perfect pandemonium, the only respite from which I could find was the hyböli that attendants were forever pressing into my hands. After a few of these radiant beverages, my flagging spirits began to rejuvenate and I observed more closely the activities of the other participants.

They seemed to divide into cheering teams or boosters, alternately bellowing forth a great din or cacophony. As there were many holographic games taking place simultaneously within the emporium, interminable stretches, where one could barely hear oneself think, were punctuated by brief intermissions of relative calm and quiet, lasting perhaps 30 seconds before the next sonic wave was unleashed. I watched one of these activities with fascination: holographic images of exotic creatures (a gazelle or impala) sped across a landscape, as if all their sins were chasing them. I grew bored with this after a few minutes, as there seemed to be no point to the exercise; but others around me appeared to be enjoying the creature’s flight, almost as if they anticipated some outcome.

I had somehow lost track of Àkbä and began to search for him. While I wandered around, someone handed me a tiny blue wafer that resembled nothing so much as a contact lens. “Put it on your tongue and let it dissolve,” the fellow said, pointing to his mouth. ”What is it?” I said, not wanting to appear rustic or rude. “Something like a mint?”

The fellow gave me a peculiar look and repeated: “Yeah. A mint.” With that, he was gone. I put the dot in my mouth, as he had suggested; but could taste nothing at all, certainly no mint flavor.

When I caught up with my mentor, his face was bent over a plate of polished obsidian; he appeared to be clearing his throat. As he turned to me with a startled look, I could see a fine substance resembling talcum powder on the tip of his nose and upper lip. “Here, Sam. You should try some,” Àkbä solicited me with an exaggerated grin and an exuberance I had seldom before seen in him. Putting a thin tube of colored plastic like a straw up to one nostril, “Hold it over the powder and sniff,” he instructed, passing me the tube. Not one for halfway measures, I quickly inhaled a thimble-full of the white powder up each nostril, then turned to my tutor with a shrug. “I guess I don’t get it,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Àkbä said.

I watched with absorbed fascination, as a gigantic earth-moving machine appeared to be devouring a mountainside. A crowd had gathered around me to watch this exhibition, too. I suddenly began to feel a superhuman rush of power and enormous sense of elation, the likes of which I had rarelyif everexperienced. I thought of the lovemaking I had enjoyed with Sylvia; I was reminded too of the immense satisfactions of putting the final changes on a really good poem. But there was nothing quite like the soaring and incendiary explosion that now seized my brain and nervous system. I truly felt like a god.

I was about to ask my guide and mentor how this emporium got its name when a woman in a state of disarray and semi-nudity flew by at top speed, crying: “Eeee-eee-eeeek!” Three or four Joracian men, whom I took to be attendants, followed close on her heels. I did not see where their chase ended. A few fistfights had also broken out; so Àkbä proposed that we seize the opportunity to take our leave. I had never before noticed that he was such a fast walker.

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