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Element Of Time


By Daniel Will-Harris

2: Cunning Plans

2:32. 2:32. 2:32. 2:32. 2:32. 2:32. 2:32. 2:32. 2:32. 2:33. 2:33. 2:33. 2:33. 2:33. 2:33. 2:33. 2:33. 2:33. 2:33. 2:34.

The glowing numbers on the digital alarm clock moved in slo-mo.

2:34. 2:34. 2:34. 2:34. 2:34. 2:34. 2:34. 2:34. 2:34. 2:35. 2:35. 2:35. 2:35. 2:35. 2:35. 2:35. 2:35. 2:35. 2:35.


2:36. 2:36. 2:36. 2:36. 2:36. 2:36. 2:36. 2:36. 2:36. 2:37. 2:37. 2:37. 2:37. 2:37. 2:37. 2:37. 2:37. 2:37. 2:37.

The professor.

4:34. 4:34. 4:34. 4:34. 4:34. 4:34. 4:34. 4:34. 4:34.

Will it ever be morning?

4:35. 4:35. 4:35. 4:35. 4:35. 4:35. 4:35. 4:35. 4:35. 4:35. 4:35.

McGuffin Stone.

5:11. 5:11. 5:11. 5:11. 5:11. 5:11. 5:11. 5:11. 5:11. 5:11.

The cleaning lady, Mrs. Net.

5:44. 5:44. 5:44. 5:44. 5:44. 5:44. 5:44. 5:44. 5:44. 5:44.

It was morning enough. One of those hot, smoggy LA mornings that makes you wish you had a gas mask. Where the sky's so full of dirt you think the world's upside down. One of those days when even the cockroaches are coughing.

Even though Professor Goudy never answered the phone, or maybe because of it, Dak knew that there were answers waiting in Amsterdam. Dak remembered that the word "Amsterdam" had been circled in red ink. Perhaps that meant something...

Of course it did. There was definitely a link here, one which made a vein near Dak's ear make little "boom boom" noises which said "Amster-dam, Amster-dam" even though he knew it was really just the beating of his heart.

Or was it saying, "Font Font, Font Font, Font Font..."

It wasn't like Dak to feel confused. But HTML had shaken him. All those commands. All those codes. His head was stuffed with new information. Was there room in his brain? Would the other, older information be pushed out? Would his oldest memories be replaced by his newest? Would he forget his mother singing to him in the womb, only to have it replaced by <!doctype html public "-//IETF//DTD HTML//EN">

Maybe it was all those years of meditation, or maybe it was just the MSG in his Lunchables, but Dak had a feeling of doom.

It wasn't like him at all. Usually he was full of optimism and hope. Not today. He hadn't slept well, watching the clock, worrying about Arial, waiting for you to finish your HTML tutorial...

He started to call Pan Am, only to stop when he realized they were out of business. How sad. His favorite stewardess had been on Pan Am. Tall. Blonde. And she cooked. Literally. Roast Beef.

He felt like a sexist pig for having these feelings and vowed to renew his membership in NOW the very instant he found Professor Goudy, Arial, and his cleaning lady, and solved the increasingly annoying mystery of the McGuffin stone.

Dak was scared. He didn't often feel this way, but yes, even a trained professional spy with a license to kill gets scared. Speaking of which, he hadn't checked to see if that license had expired... and where was it anyway...

He was as tense as the string on a Stradivarius. As his stewardess friend said many years ago, when he attempted to carry on a 65 pound rocket launcher disguised as a suit-bag, "No, no, that will never do."

He knew he had to find that calm place at the center of his being and have everything so clear in his mind that he could see his goal. He had to see himself holding the McGuffin stone in one hand, Arial in the other. He had to feel the cold, hard stone against his skin, contrasting with the warm, soft Arial.

He realized he was still in shock, running on pure adrenaline, something he knew would only lead to an unnatural dependence on chocolate, his only source of caffeine. He always thought that once he'd mastered Tai Kow he'd somehow be above mundane human emotions, but he wasn't. No one ever is.

All these thoughts squirmed around his tightly packed brain--then suddenly stopped. He heard the voice of his mentor, Lu Ci Dah (actually spelled Lu Xi Dah but it's too hard to pronounce that way), a Tai Kow master who had told him:

"The first badger eats
the petals of the lotus."

It took Dak many years of meditation, soul searching, and countless thousands of "Skunk flicks tail towards cobra" kicks until he finally thought he understood what it meant: "The lemming is never the first off the cliff."

Lu Ci told Dak he was mistaken. Lemmings were one of the few rodents to which Lu Ci had an intense dislike. He thought they set a poor example for the rest of the animal world and was especially annoyed when humans followed their lead.

He pointed out Lemmingism wherever he saw it, such as when the leader of a great dynasty did not want to admit that the country was having economic hardships. This leader told his people to go out and spend, spend, spend and they did, did, did. Unfortunately, this put them all in debt, debt, debt, which caused even more problems. But still he treated them like lemmings, leading them over the cliff. And even as they were all falling to their deaths, he lead them on by saying, "You're not falling, you're flying."

Lu Ci's point was really "The Early Mouse Catches The Cheese." In order for the early mouse to catch that proverbial Cheese, he must be either lucky or prepared, and Lu Ci Dah had another Tai Kow saying about Luck:

On rainy days,
the dry Chipmunk is lucky

Of course, the driest chipmunk isn't really lucky, he or she is just the one who did the best job building its little den so it stays dry even in the heaviest rains.

Suddenly, all the tension drained away. Everything extraneous faded to him, like some grayed-out command on a drop-down menu, it's there, but you can't access it at the moment, so it of no consequence. His body moved on automatic pilot as his brain shifted to another plane of thinking, one so focused and deep that there was no time.

When you ignore life's trivialities, time takes on a new dimension. It goes from being an endless stream annoyances, to a series of unforgettably brilliant flashes. Fragments of senses--sight, sound, smell or touch.

Lu Ci had once told him that this phenomenon had more to do with memory than with time itself.

Time is simply a bridge over an ocean.

    The ocean is infinite but the bridge had a beginning and an end for every living thing.
              A flea's bridge is very short.
                         A Redwood's bridge is very long.

    When you look back on your journey across the bridge,
         you don't recall each footstep, each breath.
         You don't remember the entire ocean
        or the whole bridge.

          You remember the sunlight glinting off ripples in the water, reflecting so brightly your eyes water and close.

          You remember stepping on a splinter.

          You remember the smell of the sea air.

          You remember the sun warming your skin, then the sun burning your skin.

  You remember

    the very good,
                     the very bad
                                      and very little in between...

Dak showered and didn't even notice the typeface on the bar of soap (he'd designed it himself). The scent of his specially blended mossy after shave went into his nose, but the not into his brain; his tofu had no flavor (well, it never did); the custom tailored 100% microfiber knit suit he designed slid onto his perfectly fit body without him feeling any tickle of fabric against skin.

Right now Dak actually only saw the good, the bad and very little in between.

He saw it in various scenarios leading to various endings. And when he found the one he wanted, he zoomed in on it until it was the only possible outcome, until it was THE PLAN.

He left voice mail for Gil, saying he was going to breakfast at the Rose Cafe on North Venice and wouldn't be back until sunset. Gil would understand this as code even though there really was a Rose Cafe on North Venice. Gil would understand that it meant Dak was going to Venice North (another name for Amsterdam). Sunset meant he wouldn't be back until his job was done.

Car. Airport. Park. Use the American Express Optima card with the "Beau Dohney" Alias. Carry-on bag only. Boarding Pass. First Class. Those essentials done, he sank into the wide, leather (he smelled it), first-class seat, and went into a deep trance which would allow him to both hone THE PLAN and completely eliminate jet-lag by resetting his internal clock.

As Dak realigned his circadian rhythms in the background, the front of his brain was working like an outline. Dak was a very organized person. Even his socks were color coordinated in his drawers. It was either something about his toilet training as a child, or it was just genetic. His mother was an efficiency expert, and even at the age of 88, she was still writing articles on the subject.

When Dak was a kid (she called him "Dakky Wakky,") she had him on the most efficient routine for getting ready in the morning. The most expedient bath time, bedtime ritual. It was choreographed for productivity right down to the footwork: put toothbrush down on left while turning on bathtub faucet with right, place left toe in water to check temperature, step into tub...

It had become a game with them. "How few steps..." it was called. "How few steps to making the bed," "How few steps to pouring and eating a bowl of cereal..." It was fun, as a kid, but when Dak became a teenager, he started to think of it differently. It wasn't a game. He was just some kind of guinea pig to his mother. She was always testing him, or using him to test something. Thinking back on it--why was he thinking about this? Dak shifted his brain back on track.

Dak knew that the two keys to success were Organization, and Prioritization. And the first step to organization was to figure out what pieces made up the final result.

Dak's able to do it all in his head, but you'll have to do it on paper. Not because you're not as smart as he is, but even Dak has forms to help him organize his pages.

Putting together any kind of document, whether it's a newsletter or a report is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You wouldn't want to put together a jigsaw unless you had all the pieces, and you shouldn't start putting together a page unless you have all the pieces.

OK, the truth is that Yur Nam Here (you) must create this form for Gil, so he can keep track of Dak's movements in case there's trouble. Gil doesn't know HTML from BFD, so you'd better help him out... One hint: it's just a table...

Chapter 3: Death takes a cruise


Copyright © 2001 Daniel Will-Harris,

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[1: A plain brown bloodstained wrapper]
[Cunning Plans]
[Death takes a cruise]
[A little underwater music]
[International house of toast]
[Just loafing around]
[Just hanging around]
[Seeing things]
[Fish stories]
[Merman to Mermen]
[The scenic route]
[The value of nothing]
[Garbage out]
[All rights reserved]