Piqued - A Toki Ponist Adventure
Chapter 9: Saccades
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tenpo ni la mi pilin ike.
tenpo pini la mi pilin pakala.
tenpo kama la mi pilin monsuta.
– Toki Ponist Pu
Tipi was in a bit of a hurry. During lunch, he had taken the time to observe the menagerie of people that converged on the top of the hill. Two men who acted like bird watchers with ridiculously large binoculars had been sitting on a rock nearby. The binoculars pierced the back of his neck. There were no birds around him to spot, even though his lunch would have been inviting enough for a crow or two.
Now that Tipi and Julian walked down the slope again, both men got up as well and followed them from a distance. He wanted to tell Julian they were being followed, but he decided against it. First, it was Tipi who was being followed, because the only people looking for Julian would be his parents. And second, he didn’t want to upset Julian even more.
“Do you believe in time travel?” Julian asked.
“You want to turn back time to undo your mistakes?”
“No. I just want to know if you believe in it.”
“I’m not even sure time exists,” Tipi said. He was reluctant to talk about the concept of time to an outgrown toddler. “But sure, why not?”
“I do it all the time,” Julian said.
Tipi kicked a rock by accident and then kicked it again with his other foot on purpose. “That’s nice.”
“Look, there, on the path down there,” Julian said. Tipi squinted his eyes, expecting to see people resembling parents. “It’s the future. We’re here now, and in a while we will be there.”
Tipi sighed, but the boy continued. “So I’ve been looking into the future for all my life.”
“Some people live in the past,” Tipi said.
“Then they’re walking backwards,” the boy said. He then turned around to try it out. “That’s stupid, I can’t see where I’m going.” He kept silent for a while. “What about you, Tipi? How do you time travel?”
Tipi thought hard. “I send messages.”
“Never mind,” Tipi said, unsure what he meant by it. “People tell me I lived in the present. They call it enlightenment. It is supposed to be a wonderful thing.”
Julian did not respond, so Tipi continued.
“Of course you always live in the now. We’re not in the future or we would see ourselves standing down there on the path. But they mean being in the now in your head, without worrying about matters to come, or about situations that have already happened.”
“You’ll fall,” Julian said. “If you don’t look ahead, you’ll fall, just like if you walk backwards. You can’t see where you’re going!”
“It’s more complicated than that.”
“Why?” Julian slowed down.
“Our brain doesn’t take in everything at once—the constant buzzing around of electrical signals happens in a steady rhythm. Even the present takes some time to be experienced.”
“What does you brain have to do with time travel?” Julian said while tapping his index finger on his forehead. “My legs hurt. Is it far, can we stop?”
“At least an hour still, I think.” Tipi checked his wrist to find it empty. “Hey, kid. Do you have a watch?”
“Yea,” he said. “But I can’t tell the time yet.” He looked away and hid the wristwatch with his hand.”
“That’s okay, I don’t want to know the time, anyway. I want to show you real time travel, give me your wrist.” Tipi took the wrist of Julian before he could offer it. “There, you see the thin hand going around? Those are the seconds. Notice how it ticks at a regular pace, every second.”
“What’s a second?”
“Doesn’t matter. Now I can make that second last twice as long,” Tipi said. “Just look at me and then look real quick back at the seconds hand.” Julian did. The hand of the watch hung on the number two as if glued stuck. Then, after what seemed like forever, the hand moved again and then it kept going past all the numbers on the clock face.
“It stuck!” Julian yelled out. “Whoa! How did you do that?”
“I did nothing. You did.”
“Saccadic masking. Whenever you move your eyes, your brain blocks any input from your eyes, so you don’t get motion sickness. But instead of seeing all black in that bit of time, it just shows you an old image. Then when your eyes catch up, it resumes playing the video of the world.”
Tipi took Julian’s shoulder and prodded him into walking the path down again. “I’ve been living in one big saccadic mask for two years now.”
The path narrowed and zigzagged down a steep part of the slope. It didn’t look as scary as it was because there were so many trees on the downward slope. You would not fall very far if you’d slip. They heard a stream rush below.
“There’s water!” Julian ran down the last part of the path, while Tipi hurried after him. The loud rushing originated from a narrow and shallow stream fighting rocks and pebbles in its path. A small wooden bridge crossed it, but with a proper leap and little effort you could also get across.
“Can we rest a bit?”
“Sure,” Tipi said who could use something to drink. He looked up the path to see if the bird watchers were still following him. He had not seen them in a while, but that was not comforting enough. It made it extra disconcerting because now they could be anywhere eyeing him with their ludicrous viewing apparatuses.
Resting, for Julian, meant playing in the water and building a dam from the rocks. Tipi sat down on a ledge of the bridge, while Julian ventured further upstream. Only now did Tipi notice two women sitting on a large rock nearby. With their legs crossed and their hands open on the knees, they sat in more or less a lotus position. On approaching them, he could hear them chant unintelligible words over the rushing of the water.
They stopped and opened their eyes. “Good afternoon, dear sir,” one of the two women said. “Enjoying the wonders of nature?”
“I think so. Meditating?”
“Oh yes,” she said. “To be on this ancient rock. Look at that majestic peak, billions of year old, I just feel the magnetic energy of Gaia rejuvenate my chakras.”
“Actually,” Tipi said, which is never a good way to start a friendly conversation. “I think the Alps are one of the youngest mountains on the planet, just like the Himalayas. Only a few million years old, not billions. The smoother the mountains, the older they are.”
“Ursula and I love sitting here because it is so peaceful. The view of the peaks, the friendly stream, and the smell of the trees,” the other woman said. “They just take the stress away, you see? The mountain is the rock, the unmovable giant, my anchor in life.”
Tipi wanted to start another sentence with the word actually and decided against it. There was no reason to explain them about tectonic plates and that mountain ranges are the regions where the stress of the earth builds up. The reason mountains attract is not because of their immovable majesty and calmness but because of the edge effect. They are the friction line between two worlds. It is where all the action is.
“Wilma, don’t bore the man,” Ursula said. “Won’t you join us?”
He could. He could remember none of his old habits, but somehow it felt familiar and reasonable for an enlightened guru to practice meditation of some sort. “Do you know who I am?” he asked the women. Back in Canada, it had seemed the entire world recognized him, from before or else from the nasty videos on social media.
“You haven’t told us your name, dear. And the best place to find out who you are is to sit with us and pray.”
“Oh yes, we believe in God, our creator, and provider.”
“If you believed with all honesty in a providing God, you would not have to pray.”
Tipi climbed on the rock and sat down. His legs snapped like memory metal into the half lotus position. He had done this before. He gazed at the wooden bridge with half-opened eyes and counted his breathing.
“Close your eyes,” Ursula said after what must have been about ten minutes.
“I never close my eyes during meditation.”
“Close your eyes.”
He did. Maybe it was the long hike or the exhaustive yet unconscious flight to the other side of the planet, but within seconds he was out.
“Hello lumpy-dump,” a familiar voice said.
“You were in my hotel this morning!”
“No, I was in your sleep this morning,” she said. “
jan nasa! It’s been difficult getting into contact with you.” The young woman approached Tipi from behind. He could not see her in his dream, but he felt she was there.
“I’ve tried to talk to you, but you haven’t noticed. Well, maybe that one time, when I called you in to the bookshop.”
“You were the talking mountain? Who are you?”
jan nena suli, the big fat mountain gal.” She laughed out loud. “But in all earnest, don’t be daft.”
“I’m serious!” Tipi said. He dreamed he sat on a big rock in a meditative position facing a small streaming passing under a wooden bridge.
“Don’t toy with me, Joakim,” she said. “Besides, you have bigger things to think about now. That boy you’re helping is not what he seems.”
“What do you mean?”
“Also, he is not where he seems. You’ve lost him!”
The boy! Where was he? He no longer saw Julian playing in the water.” Tipi rubbed his eyes, uncertain whether he was awake. “Don’t take the boy down the mountain.”
Tipi looked at the women beside him. They were also preparing to pack up and leave. He was awake now, that was certain.
“Have you seen, Julian? The boy I was with. He was playing with the rocks in the water.”
“I think your son went upstream,” Wilma said, “but I also had my eyes closed for most of the time.”
Tipi paced up and down the rock and jumped off. He ran to the bridge and looked both ways.
“Julian!” he called out “Are you there? Julian?”
There was no answer. First there was no boy, then there was a boy, then there was no boy.
“Shit,” he said and started following the water upstream. He called out multiple times for Julian with no reply. Why did the boy run away? No wonder he lost his parents. But Tipi had vowed to reunite the boy with his parents. Finding his own secret hideout and his former enlightened life would have to wait. Whatever it was, the three stooges or the two so-disguised bird watchers wanted him to find for them.Read the next chapter