Peter Rose: Witness

The Girl With No Name: 4.) Lost in the Alphabet

Lost in the Alphabet

The girl with no name was scheduled to go into the E room. She could not imagine what she might find there. Would it be something having to do with elephants, or something having to do with exaggeration, or examinations, perhaps? She couldn't tell. Imagine her surprise then as she entered the large softly lit room, and heard wonderful beautiful music being played out of loudspeakers high in the ceiling. There, in the midst of the floor in the room was a large spherical object and around it were many seated people. They were watching it with a great deal of care and attention. Every so often one of them would get up and go over to a console and adjust the music so a more pleasing and beautiful melody might be broadcast. Other people seemed to have the job of taking a large fan and blowing it back and forth across the object. Still others were in charge of keeping warm blankets wrapped around it at all times. And, the-girl-with-no-name was amused to note, there were even people whose job seemed to be just sleeping on various sides of the room to keep it company.

She could not imagine what there might be in the large sphere that might draw so much attention from so many people. Why were people sleeping near it and putting blankets around it, and playing music to it and fanning it? What on earth could be going on in there? She turned to two people sitting by the door and asked them what was happening.

They said, "Oh, don't you know? The egg is almost ready to hatch."

"The egg?" she said to herself. "Of course. The E room has an egg in it. What is the egg doing here?" she asked.

"Oh it is very special," said one of the two, "This egg has been here for the last two years, and it has been growing steadily larger, day by day. We're not quite sure what's going to come out of the egg because the shell is not transparent, and we can't see what's inside. But we do believe very soon there will be some kind of noise, some kind of loud knocking, some kind of shattering, some kind of pecking or some kind of noise. And the blankets will be thrown off and the fans will stop and something will come out of the egg."

"Well," said the-girl-with-no-name, "it seems pretty odd to me that you're all sitting around here and attending to it so carefully when you don't even know what it's going to be. How do you know it might not be a dinosaur, or a crocodile or some other dangerous beast? How do you know it's going to be a fun kind of animal."

Well, they had to admit that there was no way they could tell. There was no clear way of telling what was going to be coming out of that egg, but they somehow all hoped for the best, and thought that if they were attentive and careful, that whatever came out would show the same respect for them as they has shown to it.

The-girl-with-no-name was not so sure. She had heard stories of people sitting on dinosaur eggs and then being very sorry when the little creatures emerged. And she had heard stories of people sitting on crocodile eggs and being very sorry when the crocodile mothers came back. So she was not as enthusiastic as were the rest of them about the whole business. Still, she was intrigued, and since she had not too many other things on her busy schedule, only the obligation to go on to the F room later on, she thought she might stay awhile in the E room and see what happened.

They gave her a little cot off along the right wall, and a blanket and they gave her a little bit of soup and crackers from time to time and so she was really quite comfortable and she began to enjoy the company of these people in the E room. They sang songs from time to time, told tall stories, talked about their relatives and their friends, the weather, the spacing of spiders, the bird umbrellas, things like that - they had a very nice time chatting. And soon the-girl-with-no-name felt quite comfortable and she felt like a regular member of the E room community.

It was getting clear to her however that something was growing inside the egg, for the egg was getting larger day by day. She occasionally would sneak up to the egg in the middle of the night, and put her ear on it to see if she could hear if there were sounds being made by the creature within.

Might it be a large butterfly, she wondered. She didn't know if butterflies ever came in eggs but still anything was possible, after all this was a made up story. Could this be the egg of a large bird? Something like a pterodactyl or some other famously large member of the species? She did not know. No one knew. All they could to was stand by, day after day.

On around the fifth day of her vigil, the-girl-with-no-name got up bright and early at dawn and watched the orange sun rise over the Kalfa tree, and she listened to what she thought was a slow tapping noise. A rap, rap, rapping as if someone were at her chamber door. Who could that be knocking from inside the egg, she wondered. Was it time for the creature to come out? There was a little more tapping and a few little pieces of shell began to fall away. She quickly roused all the other people in the E room and they removed all the blankets and stopped the fans and everyone stood back and watched. A large crack appeared. Little pieces of egg shell came cascading down on the assembled throng, and a hush befell the crowd. Hour by hour the shell dislodged itself. And as the bells rang at noon the shell split completely in two, and the creature within emerged.

A huge eye came out of the egg. The eye was not connected to a body. It was just a big eye. It was at first very strange to see such a large eye in the middle of the room, with all the fragments of the eggshell all around it, but everyone there seemed to have seen this kind of thing before, as if these kinds of things happened all the time, big eyes, little eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes... nobody was particularly surprised by it except for the-girl-with-no-name. She had never seen anything like it before.

She wondered what the eye was seeing. Such a large eye. She wondered if the eye might be able to see in a new way. Could it perhaps see things that people couldn't see? Perhaps the eye was able to see especially far away, maybe the eye was able to see ever so tiny bits of dust or maybe it could see the Invisible World. Maybe the eye could see the invisible musicians, maybe it saw into the Virtual world. Perhaps, she wondered, the eye was able to see things that were unimaginable.

But the problem was that you couldn't find out what the eye saw because there was no way of talking to it. There was no way of communicating --or so the girl with no name thought. She mentioned this to a young girl standing by her.

"Oh, no," she said, "We do have a way of talking with it because several weeks ago, a pair of ears hatched out of one of the other eggs. And several weeks before that there was a mouth that emerged. And we believe that all these different body parts belong to the same creature. So even though the mouth is over there in a drawer inside that closet, and even though the ears are in the next room on top of a table, if we bring them all together we may very well be able to find out what the eye sees, what the ear hears, and what the mouth thinks!!!

All of a sudden the girl-with-no-name felt herself being pulled. She was unable to hear what was being said about the creature because she was being pulled out of the E room by the narrator, by the person telling the story. She really didn’t want to go, but there it was, she could see if coming, drawing up in front of her, there was the F room.

Her guide appeared to explain the situation. “This will be the Future Room, “ she said. "We have a “Past Room”, and we are working on "Present" room where you will go into a room and it will feel like just what it is now.

"Well, that's kind of unnecessary,” said the-girl-with-no-name. Every room feels like it is now."

"That's true, but we somehow feel its important to make these things official, to be organized about it all. So we are making a Present Room and then we’ll have a complete set with all three kinds of time.”

"It's interesting you mention that” said the-girl-with-no-name. “Do you think there are only three kinds of time? There is what happened a while ago, there's what's happening now, and there is what's going to happen, isn’t that right?"

"Yes, in most places people think about it that way, but here we think there are some other kinds of time as well. There is what could happen, and there is what might have happened. And those two kinds of time are very difficult to talk about. We have not yet been able to make a room which would show you what would have happened or what might have happened."

"There are even some other kinds of time we don't yet have names for. Time is the most mysterious thing in the world. You can move through space, you can go forward and backward in it, you can go up and down, you can go wherever you want in space. But in time, you are always somehow having to go forward. People don't ordinarily go backwards in time. The don't get younger every day. They don't go back to the way they were when they were a child. Somehow you always seem to be getting older and there's nothing you can do about it. Time is like a cage” she said, “ “that carries you along in one direction. But we are beginning to understand that there may be other ways of dealing with the matter."

"Well that's easy," said the girl with no name, "I always change my mind about time. Sometimes I remember things and that's like going back in time. And sometimes I imagine things and that's like going into the future. Sometimes I think about what might have been, and sometimes I think about what could have been, what should have been and what would have been. I am able in my mind to travel very freely in time.

"You are right," said the man, who suddenly appeared in the story. "We are able to move in our minds backwards and forwards in time, and this is something which is very unusual because we don't know any other animals that can do this. Human beings are the only ones who can move forward and backward in time in their minds. And as far as we know, human beings are the only ones who have minds.

All of a sudden, just as she thought about it all, just as she began to wonder just exactly what was going on and to wonder what was going to go on in the Futures Room, she found herself in the "G" room. This was the room in which they kept the gravity. Gravity as everyone knew, was a force that pulled things down to the earth. Everything had gravity. The big things had the most gravity. The sun had a lot of gravity. The sun's gravity kept the earth from flying off into outer space and the earth's gravity kept the moon from going far away. The earth's gravity kept the people on it from going out to outer space. And the moon also had gravity, and the moons gravity made the waters on the earth move back and forth and that's how come you have tides. In this gravity room, they kept a special form of gravity. It was called "un-gravity." It really should have been in the "U" room but they put it in the "G" room anyway.

The ungravity was kept in a little box. The idea was that whenever you needed to do something that required you to be free from the pull of gravity you would take out a little bit of the ungravity from the G room and you would put it in your pocket or in your shoes and it would allow you to float free from the pull of the earth.

The gravity room always had a wonderful smell. It was like being in a strange forest or a wonderful mountain landscape where wonderful flowers blossomed all around you. Whenever people walked by the room, even when they didn't go in, they would try to smell the ungravity. Very often when people were going to go out for the evening and when they wanted to please their friends they would simply walk right by the door of the G room just to let a little bit of the smell of gravity cling to their clothing. You always felt a little bit more lighthearted and a little bit more energetic and sometimes people began to dance when they smelled it.

The-girl-with-no-name walked into the G room and found herself looking at a row of jars, lined up on shelves along the wall. She took one down and removed the lid. Inside was a material that resembled heavy light. She couldn’t hold it in her hands- it was much too slippery- and it kept evaporating and turning into a variety of other things- the smell of rotten fish, a flash of green light, a low humming sound. Sometimes she thought she could taste it, but then it was in the jar again. How on earth was she going to take some with her?

She had an idea. She covered the jar and shook it very strenuously and then removed the lid again. The ungravity was so dizzy and confused it began to creep along her arm, looking for something to hold on to. The-girl-with-no-name spread her arms and began rising into the air. Above her, the door to the “H” room opened to admit her.

In the "H" room went all of the things that people had hidden but which they had forgotten to remember where they had put them.

Marge Branaman had hidden her car keys in her purse so that she would always be able to find them. Of course her keys were no longer there because she had forgotten she had put them there. Those keys went into the "H" room.

Larry Gulch had hidden his graham crackers so his brother wouldn't get them, but he had forgot where he had put them, so the graham crackers ended up in the "H" room.

Each of the objects in the "H" room had a story to tell. Not only were there cookies and pieces of money and bubble gum and candy that people had hidden, but there were also ancient doors that had been covered in gold and that had been kept hidden in the basements of churches for hundreds of years because people had forgotten about them; there were large cylindrical generators that had been hidden in rocket silos during the nuclear age and that everyone had forgotten about. All of these were in the "H" room.

There were people who worked in the "H" room and it was their job to find out where the objects had come from and what the story was about them and to write them up on index cards and to tape the index cards to each object. For example, you might find a little piece of bubble gum and there would be a little card that said, "This bubble gum belonged to Jennifer Lawson. She hid it when she was three years old in 1952 and forgot that it had been hidden under her mattress in her room and so it has found its way into the “H” room, where it now lies for your appreciation and approval."

The-girl-with-no-name was interested in these stories and asked one of the guides to tell her about the history of one of the objects.

"Pick the strangest object and I will tell you a story of how it came to be here."

She looked around the room. She thought that the candy bar would be pretty obvious. It wasn’t going to be too interesting to hear about some kid who had hidden their candy and who had forgotten where they had put it- big deal. But some of the other objects seemed intriguing. They walked around the room for a while until her eyes alit on a small spider web.

"Tell me the story of this spider web, of how it came to be hidden and lost and found."

The guide began.

“In FinoUgric Land all of the people made their living by weaving wonderful baskets. The materials from which they wove their baskets were very very fine, and each year there was a contest to determine who could make the most mysterious, the lightest, the thinnest, the most gossamer, the most beautiful material of all.

People would come from miles around with their very fine yarn, with very, very lightly woven wool, with extremely thin silks and rayons and cottons, and they would make weavings out of the most peculiar materials. There was a young girl who had made a basket from the raindrops that had fallen down along her window pane. There was a young boy who had managed to make an entire scarf out of the ashes of a fire. There was an old man, well known throughout FinoUgric Land, who had woven a beautiful hat out of the gases that were given off by the volcanoes in the mountain high above them.

But none of these could match for splendor, for thinness, for lightness, for shear incorporeal efflorescence, none could match the wonderful web woven by a common little housemonkey spider named Rolash.

Rolash lived under a veranda in the Teasdale section of town. He had spent many weeks working on his weave, laboring in secret places so the others wouldn’t learn of his methods, but the problem was that he couldn’t always remember where he had last woven his web. He had tried to leave signs for himself, so he could always find his way back, but the bread crumbs always got eaten by the birds and his footprints were too small to follow in the snow, and the notes he wrote to himself were impossible to read, so miserable was his handwriting. So the simple fact was that he forgot where he had put the web and so it ended up in the “H” room.

The-girl-with-no-name had been led to believe that there were 26 rooms, one for each letter of the alphabet, and that each room had it's own peculiarities. She certainly didn’t want to get lost in the “H” room, for then she’d be doubly hidden, so she wandered out and entered the “I” room where three lovely creatures approached her.

"Good evening, we've been expecting you."

"Me?", said the-girl-with-no-name.

"Yes,"one said, "We have been expecting you. You are in the "I" room now."

"Well, yes I know," she said, "I don't know quite what the "I" room will turn out to be, I mean, A was for antiquities, B was for bakery, C for chocolate, D for drawing, E for egg, F for future, G for gravity, H for hidden and now we're up to I. I assume "I" will be something like invisible, inaudible, indecipherable, ice cream, who knows.

The three creatures approached closer and said, "We are your guides. We will bring you into the "I" room. The experience will be a very pleasant one we assure you."

"Well, I would hope so."

" "We are going to bring you into the strangest and most remarkable of all the rooms by far, and indeed this will probably prove to be the last room that you shall visit."

"The last room that I visit?" said the-girl-with-no-name, "I thought there was going to be J,K,L,M,N,O,P, Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y, and Z." "You've been speaking in riddles for the last several minutes and I really don't know what's going on. Where is the "I" room, and what's going on in here?"

The eldest of the three creatures came up to her and held out her hands and smiled and said, "My dear, we are in the "I" room. This is your "I".

She said, "What do you mean?"

"When you say, I want to go home or I would like some ice cream, I have something to do tonight, where is the I?"

The girl with no name said, "I’ve never really thought about that. When I say ‘I want’, where is the "I"?”

"You see” said the guide,” there is the "I" and there is the "me". And you sometimes talk about yourself as if you were someone else, that’s the “me”. But when you talk about "I" from the inside, this is where it is coming from. It is coming from this room. In this room, your "I"is kept."

"My "I" is in this room?"

"Yes, there is a special vibration in this room. It can't be seen- It's more like a sound than a beam of light, and that light, that kind of shiver of a vibration, is your "I" And whenever you say, 'I think I'll go out to look at the stars tonight, this is the room where the "I" speaks from."

"I never thought about that," she said. " I always though that when I talked about "I", I was talking about myself."

"You are talking about yourself," they said, “but you see, all of the experiences you have had so far, all of your wonderful adventures are all stored in this room. This is the room where all of you is kept. This is the room where your features are defined. This is the room which you speech comes from. This is the room where your memories are stored. This is the room where it all happens. This is the "I" room, and whenever you think about yourself, it's really this room that you imagine."

"What does it look like?" she said.

The-girl-with-no-name could not see what it looked like. She could not understand why all of a sudden it seemed so difficult to identify what it was like before. Simple question. She looked around. She couldn't make sense of it. And then it came to her.

"Oh, you who are listening to or reading my story," she said. "I need some help. Can you tell me what this room, my "I" room, looks like?"

And she waited for an answer.

("I don't know," said the boy who was now listening to the story. "I can't see the room either.")

"But you can imagine it," she said. "You can certainly make up a room. Anything will do, just give me a picture of a room. Do hurry. The sun is setting and I would like to have a picture of the room.”

(..."There is a square table, no one is seated at it. There are windows, a light, two doors. One door is a secret passage way, and the other one goes out. Where the passage way goes, I don't know.")

He was right. The young lad who was listening to the story of the- girl-with-no-name had indeed described the room to a tee.

There were two doors, small light shaped windows, some tables, chairs, a couch. Two mysterious doors, one of which led to a series of passageways below the floors of the castle, and the other of which led out into the extra story space.

The girl with no name hesitated. Where should she go? Should she simply go out of the story, or should she go deeper into the room of herself?

"Which one would you choose?" she wondered. And so she asked the one who was reading her story."

And she said, “

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