Piqued - A Toki Ponist Adventure
Chapter 25: Hugger-mugger
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sina ken toki tawa jan lili kepeken pilin awen la sina wile toki tawa jan suli kin.
– Toki Ponist Pu
Guilt. He had let Julian down. He took a local sprinter train to the center of Amsterdam, parked his bike, and went for a long walk. Solitary walks in a busy city are just as cathartic as walking alone in a desolate winter forest. Cities are a superposition of isolated lives passing through each other. These sometimes amplify and sometimes cancel certain effects without leaving a lasting mutual impact.
Tipi passed by Anne Frank’s house. In this backroom, she and her family hid for years from the unstoppable force of evil—the nazis. It is also from where they betrayed her and took her away. She left her diary, her
pu, a wheel that is still spinning.
It occurred to Tipi that he had never visited the house turned museum, even though he had been living for most of his life in the vicinity.
The waiting queue reached far outside the edifice and stripped him of his hope of visiting today. He could not match the lack of international flights with the flurry of tourists busying the Amsterdam streets and populating the waiting queue. This multi-ethnic string of tourists had tickets and time slots. All Tipi had was a spontaneous desire and an incidental moment in time. This had to do though, so he sidestepped the queue and approached the ticket desk.
“Do you have a ticket, sir? If you don’t have one pre-booked, then we can’t let you in,” the girl behind the desk said like she had a thousand times before.
“So it’s all booked up then?”
“Yes, there has been a cancelation for the entry in about five minutes, but we are fully booked.”
“So do the next in line fill that gap?”
“No, it would be such a hassle to keep track of all the shifting around.”
“So then could I perhaps enter the gap?”
“No, that wouldn’t be fair, sir.”
“Because you can only enter with a ticket and you don’t have one.”
“Then sell me a ticket for that time slot.”
“We can’t, because we sold those tickets already. We’re sold out!”
“But they canceled theirs.”
“Yes, but cancelations are not part of our policy, so the tickets are still valid.”
“Then I proclaim I own one of those tickets.”
“Very good, sir. Can you show me your ticket?”
“Alas, I left it at home.”
“Then you can not enter.”
“Don’t you believe me?”
“No, because just before you admitted you did not have a ticket.”
“So you believed me then, but not now?”
“It seems more likely that you spoke the truth first, sir, and lied later to get in for free.”
“So now probabilities decide whether someone can enter this museum?”
“No, showing a valid ticket does.”
“It is now nearing the time of my time slot and nobody has claimed my place, so it seems very probable that this place belongs to me. I would never steal someone’s place.”
“We have rules, sir.”
“But you base your rules on decency, maintaining a business and alignment with your mission, right?”
“If you say so, sir.”
“What is the mission of this museum, miss?”
“To bring as many people as possible into contact with the story of Anne Frank and her family in the wider context of raising awareness about what happened in the Holocaust so it will never happen in the future.”
“Lovely, other than your mission has already failed regarding preventing modern-day genocides you are now also preventing a willing person from getting into contact with the story.”
The girl tapped on her keyboard. “Not true, sir, there is an opening in three weeks on a Thursday at ten forty-five in the morning. You could buy a ticket for that time slot.”
A senior woman hovered behind the girl and asked, “Is there a problem here?”
“No, not at all,” Tipi said. “This girl is making some excellent points why I should not be able to visit your museum.”
“Oh, but you could visit now. There just happens to be a gap in our schedule and their spot has already been paid for.”
“No, sorry,” Tipi said. “I don’t have a ticket to show.”
“What if I don’t ask for the ticket? In that way, I don’t have to know whether you can show me the ticket.”
Tipi thought hard on it.
“The offer expires soon, do you want to get in, or not?”
“Then you need to get in.”
“Done,” Tipi said, and he thanked both the girl and the woman for a lovely conversation.
Inside, he window-shopped the displays while people before him and after him moved with him along the designated path through the museum. Now that he was inside he wondered why he wanted and therefore needed to be inside,
wile ala wile. While entering a famous landmark he had never visited before was a valid reason for the wanting part, it did not much to the needing element. He was not much of a guru if the two did not align.
Maybe it was unknowable. Some things have the infuriating quality of being out of our reach, to Tipi, to humanity, and to any superintelligence. Not even the fastest and futuristic AI of Piran’s imagination could compute an existentially unknowable fact. Maybe the reason for needing to enter was unknowable, but him needing to enter was true, because he wanted to enter. For now, that was enough for Tipi.
What he did not want or need was to read all the displayed information. He had read Anne’s diary in his younger years and knew enough about her story to not be very interested in more details. Instead, he would finish his round without pushing the people in front of him too much. This was not such a big issue because most of the tourists did not seem very interested in all the texts and artifacts either. They were soaking up the experience of being here and collecting evidence through selfies. To them, this sufficed.
He had of course been interested in the famous bookcase, behind which an entire miniature apartment hid. Maybe he would spend some time there.
“Pst,” whispered someone inside the backroom of the bookcase. “Pst, Tipi.”
“Kalisa?” Tipi said. “What are you doing here?”
“You know I like to pop up in sad places,” she said. “That’s how we met, remember? I need to know how far you have come with your plans of our journey south.”
“I have no plans. Why should I go to this inhospitable place with inhospitable people and ditto climate to find a computer model with a desire to push me into a mountain hole and write trite sage babble in
“But what about your missing two years? Maybe you can get those memories back?”
“This is not about me getting those memories back. If those memories only make sense to the joint consciousness and not to either mine or its, I see no way of getting them into my mind in any meaningful way. Besides, Piran said I was merely talking to a computer.”
“Of course there is more to it than talking to a computer. I also want to go there for myself, and my world,” she said. “I want to see how the tech works so I can replicate it at home. I believe the beings that threaten my world are the same as you have been communicating with. From you I have extracted the neural interface and thanks to Piran I have the design for the random number generator transmitters hidden all over the world, but I am missing the intelligence part.”
Tipi let a string of loud Korean tourists overtake by, none of whom showed any alarm by Tipi talking into a bookcase.
“So why don’t you go there yourself. That is your thing, right? To travel the energy lines system and jump-scaring people anywhere you like.”
“You know I gave some of that up when we, you know. I can still do that, but only if the lines overlap with your trail. The lines need to be created. Right now, there does not seem to be one that reaches that far south. We could, undo everything, again, but then you’d be the depressed and anxious wreck you were before turning all guru.”
“And what about you? What happens to you if we did that?”
Kalisa was silent. “That is the shadow that is too dark for me to see, and you have not seen me enough in my world to introduce me to my shadow. But I think it is safe to say we are both better of as a spinning flywheel unity. So please, try to get to this south pole research station.”
“What do you want with the plans for all these machines?”
Other people cluttered behind Tipi uttering polite coughs, nudging Tipi to get a move on. Kalisa did no longer respond, so Tipi finished his round through the house and exited the museum.
He was still reluctant to go down south, but he also had an unwavering trust in Kalisa. What plans could he make, though? Where to begin? In the evening, he found another hotel to stay the night. While waiting for his room to be cleaned, he sat down for a drink in the lobby.
He browsed a newspaper that was being coy on one of the coffee tables. Among geopolitical nightmares he found an article about a young boy with an incoherent story being reunited with his parents and sent back to Austria. Austria, not New Zealand. Was he mixing up Austria with Australia? No, he wasn’t. How did they know the people picking him up were his parents?
The next two days, Tipi tried out another two hotels. In the evenings, he checked the news. They now called it an end-of-world event, although some kept talking about a pandemic. There were dozens of alternative theories about the origin, and pundits left and right built and tore down links to viruses. In effect, countries changed regulations on a whim. Sometimes opening everything up, sometimes locking down—both signs of not being in control. Here, people continued life like nothing was happening. In other places, riots and looting prevailed.
Nobody could not find a logical explanation for the continuous increase of the number of deaths in communities with active social distancing. The curve should flatten off, but it didn’t. It did not seem to follow any simple mathematical relation. There was no underlying exponential growth and no logistic curve. People find it hard already to extrapolate linear relations, or oversee the consequences of exponential increase, but nobody could prepare anyone for this. Places that did not follow any stringent guidelines were often unaffected. But once it started somewhere, it would get worse. Within a month it could affect the entire world, leaving it decimated and doomed, the news anchor said. She brought the news with either a profound objectivity or she was used to packaging news facts with fear mongering stories that turned out to be taken too far.
The following night, Tipi woke up by a ringing phone. Because Julian’s signal from his phone had been dead for a while, he arranged a second-hand phone and replacement sim card. Not having received any call before, there was no expectation of the loud Bollywood tune that announced a new call. He answered with his eyes still closed. “Hi?”
“Tipi?” a male voice said. “It’s Ford. Remember me?”
“Ford. The black automobile?”
“The black man,” Ford said. “We helped you when you stumped your toe.” A voice in the background started complaining. “Make it short! This is costing me a fortune.”
“Is that Lenny?” Tipi said, and then he woke up enough for all the relevant recollections to come together. “Ford! Lenny! So it worked! Kathy’s publisher brought you guys into contact with me. Wow, I had not expected that at all.”
“Eh, sure,” Ford said. “Look, we still want to help you. We’re sorry about the whole kidnapping thing. But we kind of hoped you had found back your enlightenment so you can be our guru again? You could fly back to Canada. We’ll set you up in a pleasant house with en suite ashram so you can live as a respected leader again.”
He paused, waiting for an enthusiastic response. When that did not come, he continued. “With the world going to bits, there’s a tremendous interest in your teachings and people are lining up to be around you to keep them safe. What do you say?”
Tipi rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
“That sounds pretty good. Let’s do it. The mountain climb was an illuminating experience. Is Alex around, also?”
“Yes, of course,” Ford said. “Or well, not right now.”
“He’s on a holiday, on a fancy cruise. But he will be back soon.”
“Good for him!” Tipi said.
“Great, then we will plan your arrival. We’ll call you back in a few days with your ticket information.”
“Awesome with sauce, I don’t have anything here that holds me here, so anytime you want. If you talk to Alex, tell him to take it easy on those Caribbean islands and to have a cocktail on my behalf.”
“Will do, although he’s not cruising the tropics, he’s exploring the waters of Patagonia.”
“Ford!” Lenny called out in the background.
“Yea, I got to go, Tipi. Talk to you soon!”
“Bye!” Tipi said, right before falling back to sleep.
In the morning he woke up with a one word on his mind. Patagonia.Read the next chapter