Chapter Nine (Cont.)
The two men looked up with surprise on their faces. “Yes,” one replied to Allie. “It is very nice.” He paused. “I have never seen people like you. I have never seen hair your color.” Allie’s long, silky hair was auburn red. To Jen he said, “I have never seen eyes your color.” Jen’s eyes were a smoky gray. To Lenore he added, “I have never seen skin your color.” Lenore’s skin was like rich, smooth chocolate.
“Where are you from?” the second man asked.
Allie and the girls studied the men and then glanced at the other people gathered around the temple. She was slightly embarrassed she had had not noticed before. All these people had wavy brown hair and brown eyes. So yes, the three girls were different from these pilgrims. Allie’s embarrassment turned into irritation with herself. She was an S/O and observing such important details was part of her job. Although invisible, Mike was silently embarrassed as well. He asked himself how after all his training, he had not noticed something this important.
“We are explorers,” Allie replied. “We have come from far away.”
“Where could you come from?” the second man asked with curiosity. “We travel all over the world to obtain different types of granite. We know there are people in the lands to the east, across the sea. There are two types, the tall, dark slender ones, and the short, fair heavy ones. Both types are primitive. They live in caves and hunt animals. They use long sticks with sharp stones attached to the ends. They wear skins.” The girls realized the man was talking about the Neanderthals and modern humans. “You cannot be from those people,” the man added. “You wear clothing. They don’t know how to make cloth. We don’t know of any other people on earth. Where do you live?”
Allie knew she couldn’t tell them about New Hampshire. The state’s nickname is the Granite State. These people had probably been there gathering granite. She changed the subject. “What is this place?” she asked.
“This?” the first man asked, pointing to the temple behind him. “This is the shrine to the Loving Couple, the god Alaynius and his consort Alaynia.”
“What’s a consort?” Patrick whispered to Mike.
“His wife,” Mike whispered back.
“The god and his consort face east,” the man explained. “Each morning they greet the morning sun. The sun and the earth are their creation. They stand here in love, to admire and bless their creation as each day begins. We are their children. They gave us this good earth. They placed this great land in this spot on this world. The Loving Couple placed us directly under the sun so we would be warm, even as the rest of the world is covered in ice.” The girls knew what he meant. His land was on the equator, so the sun was straight overhead every day.
“We are pilgrims,” the second man added. “We are here to pray to the Loving Couple to remove the curse from our land - to save their people. We worry that we have sinned, that we have brought this punishment on ourselves. We pilgrims pray day and night. We are on a rotation. So, every minute of the day some of us are in the temple. Our prayers never stop.”
“When I asked what this place is,” Allie continued. “I meant this huge island and the city.”
The men were shocked at the question. The look on their faces revealed what they were asking themselves. How could anyone not know that city? “This land is named after our gods,” the second man said. “The city is named after our land. This land is Alayniess. The city is Alayniess – the Eternal City.” At last the crews had learned the city’s name. It was Alayniess. It wasn’t much information, but it was important.
While tracing the cave women’s sequences the crews had flown over this patch of ocean many times. In the future, they had seen only water. That meant that sometime after this visit, the city had sunk into the sea. From their search, they knew roughly when that disaster was going to happen, in less than five cave-woman generations, sometime in the next 100 years. Could these pilgrims at the temple know this? Is this the curse they had mentioned?
“We visited the city,” Allie said. “It is beautiful.”
“You have been in the city?” the first man asked in shock. “How did you get out?” It was Allie’s turn to not understand a question, and that showed in her expression. She had no trouble leaving the city. “Everyone in there is in a trance,” the man explained. “We do not go in there. Anyone who stays there for two days never comes back. Some have gone in and got out immediately. They have told us what they saw. All the people in the city have lost their will and their awareness.”
“That’s the answer,” Allie explained. “We did not stay long. However, we did see the people in the trance. Tell me. What do you know about this trance? What causes it? When did it begin?”
“We know very little,” the second man replied. “We don’t know what causes it, only that it takes about two days to happen. It began about six months ago, during the most recent consulate. The consuls had been elected about a year earlier.”
“Consul?” Patrick whispered to Mike.
“It’s a political position, like a president,” Mike whispered back. “The difference is that there are usually three consuls, not one.”
“We who live out here in the country don’t get as much news as the city people,” the first man added. “We heard that under the new consuls life in there was good, as it had always been. The only change is that the consuls gave themselves a name. They started calling themselves the Triumvirate. People thought that was a strange title. It seemed too proud. Our elected leaders have always been humble servants of the people. It is an honor to be elected. It is an honor to serve.”
The man second man continued, “There was another interesting thing. The singing.”
“Tell me about that,” Allie asked.
“Every afternoon for about an hour, the most beautiful singing is heard all over the city. Those who have listened claim the voices are as clear as the most perfect glass. They are as pure as the most perfect chime. People suggested it was the Loving Couple’s voices, that the gods themselves were singing to their creation. We know the gods love people who live in the country as much as they do the people in the city. So, we wondered why we couldn’t hear them. Why would they not sing to us too?”
“Do you know anything else about this singing,” Allie asked.
The man shook his head. “Only what I told you,” he answered. “It happens for about an hour every afternoon. The singing is beautiful, beyond description. We don’t hear it in the country. That is all we know.”
“Tell me more about the Triumvirate,” Allie asked.
“Wonderful people,” the first man said immediately. “Two sisters and a brother. Triplets. The most handsome people you could imagine. Congrata, Exeta, and their brother Lexitus. They are so distinguished and gifted. They are as smart as they are beautiful. They have served the city in so many ways. Everyone supported them for Consul and they won the election in a landslide. Like I said, we don’t get as much news here in the country, but everyone in the city seemed happy with them and wished them success.
“I don’t know what they are doing to combat this curse that has gripped the city,” the man continued. “I pray they are not in a trance like all the others. If they are, we have no hope. That is why we have come to the temple. We pray every minute that this curse will end.”
“Do you mind if we visit with the other pilgrims and spend time with them?” Allie asked the men.
“Everyone is welcome at the Temple of the Loving Couple,” the second man answered graciously. “Please be our guests. Join us. We have food. We have shelter. Pray with us if you wish.”
The girls wandered away from the two men. The two crews felt safe, still the cloaked boys followed closely. The men were so friendly; they didn’t worry about trouble with the other pilgrims. Eventually, the girls sat under a tree. The boys sat next to them and uncloaked.
“We have answered one of history’s biggest mysteries,” Mike announced. Everyone looked at him questioningly. All they had learned was the city’s name, Alayniess. None of them had ever heard of this place. What had been solved? Mike observed their expressions and realized they didn’t understand. He explained, “The way words are pronounced changes over time. That’s what happened with the name Alayniess. We say it differently, but it’s easy to see how the changes happened. Listen closely. Al-ay-ni-ess became At-layn-tess. That became At-lan-tis. Get it? We have discovered the lost city of Atlantis.”
The questioning expression on the time the crews’ faces changed to stunned surprise. They couldn’t believe their find. Had they really stumbled upon the legendary Atlantis? Scholars had always said Atlantis was a myth because there was no proof it ever existed. The ancient Greeks told stories about Atlantis, but there was no evidence. The reason became clear to the crews. According to the Greek legend, Atlantis existed only a short time before their own civilization. That was wrong. The city had disappeared 10,000 years before the ancient Greeks, while modern humans were still living in caves.
After a long period of silence, Nick announced to the others, “I know what’s causing the trance. And I think I can stop it.”
“Okay, Inspector Gadget,” Patrick said. “What have you figured out that the rest of us are missing?”
“It’s the music,” Nick replied, like the answer was so obvious everyone should get it. “It has to be the music that’s causing the trance. It’s the only constant. The crews at the dig heard the music. They went into a trance. Allie, you heard the music at the dig and you went into a trance. People here get a dose of the music every afternoon, and they go into a trance. It has to be the music.”
“Do you think what happened to me is the same as happened to those people in the city?” Allie asked. “Why did it take me three days and them only two?”
“I don’t have all the answers,” Nick replied, shrugging his shoulders. “You said the music you heard in the dig was faint. Maybe it took longer to overcome you because you didn’t hear it as well. You said you thought the music could be voices singing, rather than instruments. The men just told us; there is no doubt it is singing. The questions now are: Who is doing it? How are they doing it? Why?”
“You said you could stop the trance?” Patrick asked. “How?”
“Let me take of that,” Nick replied. “Lenore, let’s go back to the craft. I need your help.” Nick and Lenore left the group while the rest sat under the tree and talked about what they had learned. After several hours they wandered back to the craft. Inside they found Nick and Lenore wearing their helmets. They were taking turns singing silly songs to each other, and giggling.
“You guys came back here for this?” Patrick asked in surprise. “I thought you had some big idea.”
“We did,” Nick answered, still giggling. “And I think it will work. Here, put on this helmet.” When Patrick was ready Nick sang, “Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as snow.” He asked Patrick, “Did you hear that?” Patrick nodded. “Did you notice anything?” Nick asked the pilot.
“Yeah,” Patrick answered. “Your voice sounded different and every note was sour. It’s a good thing Mike is our singer.”
“Right,” Nick said with a smile. “You heard me in a different pitch and off key. The man told us how beautiful and perfect the singing is. I’m guessing that may be how it hypnotizes people. I’m hoping I can take away its power by making it off key. The helmet will change the pitch before you hear it. The music will sound like a bunch of sour notes.”
“Good thinking,” Mike said. “How did you do it?”
“Uh….” Nick hesitated.
“Oh no!” Mike yelled. “You took my Pitch Perfect. Blast it, Nick. How many times do I have to tell you to leave my stuff alone? I never even got to try the thing out.”
“Settle down, Egghead,” Patrick said to Mike. “Tell me Nick, is the person wearing this helmet the only one protected?”
“Lenore and I need to work on your helmets,” Nick told the others. “This helmet changes the pitch, and then it sends the sound to all the others. If my idea works for my helmet, it should work for all yours. We should all be protected.”
“Get to work,” Patrick told his engineer. “I suggest we go into the city tomorrow afternoon and test these things.” Meanwhile, Mike was so frustrated he sat on the bench with his head in his hands.
Continued next Saturday.
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