So, for those of you who have been following along, you know that this isn’t the first time I’ve written this part of the story. After spending a day mourning the loss of a piece of work more significant (at least longer) than anything I’ve done since I got out of school, and changing blog providers to here at WordPress, I’ve decided to simply count the loss as a first draft. Hopefully what comes out this time will be better! For those of you who are new… ignore everything that cam before this sentence. The idea here is to try to write a story (maybe enough for a novel). The thing is.. in most of the fiction writing I’ve done previously, I tended to use a lot, and I mean A LOT, of description and little to no dialogue. In an attempt to exercise those dialogue writing muscles… and my writing muscles in general, I’ve decided to write the following story. Don’t worry though, every other week I’ll continue to publish the random posts that my faithful readers have come to expect from me. For example, this weekend’s post will be about My Favorite Lesbians. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the story and I would appreciate any feedback you may have to offer.
The Dome: Part One
“Nobody told me I would sweat this much” she thought. She was sure the fabric of her uniform was clinging to her, and she fidgeted as she walked. The nervous action merely compounding the nervous energy she felt. As the top student in her graduating class, much was expected of Iris Matarani. The walk from town to the site was barely more than three kilometers and meant to acquaint her with the area in a way that might yield some helpful insight. “The last thing I wanted was to show up on my first day looking like I drowned on dry land!” The pine trees all around swayed, hinting at the coastal breeze that wasn’t felt on the forest floor. “I should’ve waited for the transfer at the Transportation Depot.” The point was moot now as the forest thinned and a concrete slab with a guard post came into view. The guard post, little more than an awning with a podium under it, stood next to the gangway entrance.
As Iris approached the guard stepped forward and said, “I.D. please!” a lot less tersely than she had expected. She handed him her pass card and he inserted it into the card reader. Handing the card back to her he smiled and said, “Welcome Ms. Matarani!”
She slid the card back into her pocket, climbed the steps to the gangway door and proceeded through. The metal grating on the floor let in some air, but the plastic walls and ceiling trapped all the heat. She reminded herself that this structure was designed to withstand the powerful storms that plagued the area in the summers. The appreciation for its sound structural design did little to quell her desire to see what was certainly an incredible view. So great was her excitement that she caught herself nearly breaking into a run. “Already too sweaty,” she reminded herself, “don’t want to arrive out of breath too!” The end of the gangway appeared before too long. “No gate on this end.” she noted. Although, the “Administration Building”, according to the sign, continued to block her view. “On the bright side, at least I can feel the breeze now.” Breeze might have been the wrong word. As she stepped out of the gangway onto the platform a gust of wind from the south caught Iris off guard and she almost lost her balance. Righting herself, she noticed two men on the leeward side of a building to her right. An older white-haired man with glasses was sitting on a bucket. On the adjacent bucket was a dark-haired younger man wearing an apron. She could see that they were engaged in an amusing conversation but because of the wind, she couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. She did hear when they started laughing. The younger man throwing his head back and stomping his foot. “Must’ve been a very funny joke.”
The laughing died down and the young apron clad man noticed her standing there. He tapped the older man on the arm and pointed in her direction. The older man looked, seemed to excuse himself then stood up, waving as he walked in her direction. She met him halfway and they shook hands. “You must be our Academy wunderkind! I’m Dr. Bandelier!” he introduced himself.
“Yes sir. Iris Matarani. Pleasure to meet you!” she replied.
“Let’s talk in my office, get out of this wind.” he said, guiding her back to the Administration Building. The door opened directly into his office and he indicated that she should take a seat in front of his desk while he went across the room to a refrigerator. “Drink.” he said, holding a bottle of water towards her.
“No, thank you! I’m not…” Iris began.
Dr. Bandelier interrupted, saying, “It wasn’t a question. That walk in this heat will make you lose a lot of fluids, and around here dehydration can kill you.”
Iris took the water, opened it and took a sip before asking, “How did you know I walked?”
“You beat the shuttle arrival time by half an hour.” he replied, very matter of fact. “Which means we’ve got some time to talk before your things arrive”
“Yes sir.” she responded.
“So tell me,” he began, “Why did you choose this assignment?”
“Sir?” Iris looked confused.
Dr. Bandelier continued, “Unless the tradition has changed, the top student of every graduating class is allowed to choose their first post. Not that I mind the bump the press has given to my budget requests but, this has been a less than popular posting for… fifteen years! So, ” he sank into his chair, “I am curious why you chose to be here!”
She looked at him for a moment before responding, “I want to know what’s inside!” His raised eyebrow prompted her to continue, “My father always said, ‘You have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.’ And this project is perhaps the best opportunity to find out where we’ve been.”
He leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath before saying, “You do realize that we have made no breakthroughs or significant discoveries in two decades! As the Program Director I must say, if you believe that we are ‘due’ for one anytime soon, I would hate to disappoint you!”
Iris leaned forward in her chair as she said, “I was five years old when it was first discovered and excavated. Ever since then I’ve been curious about it. Even if it takes the rest of my life, I HAVE to know what’s inside!”
A wry smile formed on Dr. Bandelier’s face as he leaned forward and said, “Well, you have the right attitude to be a part of this team!” He stood up and Iris took the offered handshake as he said, “Welcome aboard Ms. Matarani!” He stepped around the desk and whispered in an almost conspiratorial tone, “I suppose you would like to see it now?” Iris beamed and nodded to which he responded, “Come along then!”
Dr. Bandelier led the way out of his office into the main hallway and then left out through a door on the opposite side of the building from where they had come in. Finally, there was nothing to block Iris’ view of it! Surrounded by a forty meter high tide wall the excavation team had erected, an 850 meter tall geodesic dome sticking up out of the sand of a two kilometer wide beach! The dark grey struts framing magenta panes with rippling streaks of lavender that seemed to move in the sunlight. She stared at it, slack-jawed, until she noticed Dr. Bandelier looking at her. She promptly shut her mouth, blushing in embarrassment over her own girlishness while he simply continued to smile at her.
“Now I remember!” he said.
Iris asked, “Remember what, sir?”
“What wide-eyed wonder looks like!” he responded. “It has been a long time since we have seen it.” He started to walk across the platform toward the gargantuan structure.
Falling in step beside him, she asked, “How can you not be amazed at this?”
“We are…” he began, “but after twenty years of trying to decipher its enigmas…. well, you can understand! Thousands of man hours, new technologies and methodologies! All devoted to uncovering the Dome’s secrets. None bearing any fruit! Amazed at the technical wonder of it? … of course! But after so long, to still be stymied by this thing… this thing which was obviously made by men… men not so unlike ourselves! We are frustrated!
“Still! I mean… the view!” exclaimed Iris.
Dr. Bandelier chuckled, “Yes! the view! Raul, our cook… you saw him earlier!? Sometimes he writes poetry about it. Or a song he plays on his guitar in the evenings.”
The Dome dominated the horizon as they crossed the 200 meters toward the rail. Dr. Bandelier gestured towards a building they were passing as he said, “Our barracks! It used to house thirty. Each of us renowned in our fields. But as the riddles remained, enthusiasm waned. And as the interest goes, so goes the funding. There are seven of us left… eight counting you! But those who remain are dedicated!”
“It probably also affords you each a lot of space!?” commented Iris, earning herself another chuckle from the white-haired old man.
“At any rate,” he continued, “here I am waxing nostalgic when I should be asking if there is anything you would like to know!”
Iris remembered reading articles on The Dome in school. Each stoking the fires of her imagination more than the last. “Is it true?” she finally asked, “About the carvings?” She remembered one of the early articles about the various things carved into The Dome.
He smiled and said, “It is true that there are carvings. But I am curious to hear how much you know!”
“There are symbols, equations and text carved into the struts. Some of them don’t make any sense and none of them seem to be related. I saw an article once that included some pictures and I couldn’t make heads or tails of it!” she said.
“Yes,” said Dr. Bandelier, “I believe the expression is ‘Join the Club’! You are quite correct Ms. Matarani! Symbols, alone and in sequence. Lines from famous ancient poetry and equations and calculations of incredible complexity. Seemingly erroneous fragments of text. In various languages, both modern and ancient. And no matter how we arrange it all, it makes no sense! And the mysteries do not stop there!”
At last they reached the rail at the edge of the platform. So immense was the enigmatic structure that Iris thought she might just be able to reach out and touch it. “Can you tell me anything else?” Iris asked.
“I’m sure I could.” he began, ” However, all of our notes are available to you now. I don’t see why I should be the only voice you hear telling you that we do not understand this thing!”
She looked down at the base of the platform and saw a number of trails leading to the tide wall. A few smaller domes, more like bubbles, were also visible inside the wall. “What are those?” Iris asked, pointing to the bubbles.
Following her finger Dr. Bandelier responded, “On site laboratories! We’ve found that having more immediate access to equipment and resources saves us a great deal of trouble.”
“But why do you have labs on the platform?” she asked.
He answered, “Oh! We bring many things back for detailed analysis. But one has to have some place to keep reference guides and shovels!”
Incredulously, Iris asked, “That’s not all you keep in there, is it?”
“Of course not.” he laughed, “It seems our technicians attempts to instruct me in the fine art of ‘folksy charm’ have yielded some results. Truthfully, we keep cameras, microscopes, many types of sensors and measuring apparatus in the labs. ”
“Can we go down now?” Iris asked eagerly.
“Eager to get started, I see.” said Dr. Bandelier. “Probably best to get you situated first though. Your things should be arriving shortly! The rest of the team will be returning with the afternoon tide and we can make formal introductions then.” He saw her shoulders slump a bit. But her enthusiasm returned quickly when he said, “But, bright and early tomorrow morning I will personally give you a tour of the entire site!”
With that they turned from the rail, Iris a bit more reluctantly so than Dr. Bandelier, and headed back toward the Administration Building.
To Be Continued