Over Mount Fuji – Chapter 21 –

An Epic NovelAugust 6 —

Byron returned to Sakura and found the Professor sitting in his chair, engrossed in a book of antiquity. Scattered across the main table, those ancient books perplexed him. It seemed Wulfstein had become more interested in anything else other than scientific journals. Byron pulled out a chair, sat beside the Professor and flipped through one volume after another.

One in original cuneiform script grabbed Byron’s attention: Enuma Elish, the Mesopotamian epic of four thousand years ago. Pictures and paintings peppered the Germanic translation and incorporated English commentaries.

He flicked through another book from around the same time period: Gilgamesh, with Wulfstein’s heavy notations glossing the margins. Yes, by all means ‘discard all blinkers and paradigms’ but what a twist to study such text.

Byron scanned through the rest of the books. Despite his limited knowledge of ancient languages, he recognized Assyro-Babylonian epics and myths, Greek historical and royal chronicles, poetic romances, Hindu hymns and prayers, Chinese proverbs and Japanese fables, various pictures and annotations of the Leviathans in different languages.

After flipping through, Byron stacked the books. When he picked the last copy, he remembered Wulfstein reading it through his magnifying glass minutes ago. Obviously excited then, the Professor leapt from his chair and mumbled to himself with great animation. The hilarious sight relieved the somber atmosphere.

The top left corner of the book carried the stamp of an antiquated signature of the artist, Zhu Junbi. The print showed an ancient work of art illustrating the book’s theme. A large portion showed rolling waves. Under these stood a serene horse on which the Emperor paid homage to the Dragon King in its underwater palace. Odd! How could a distinguished geologist be so caught up by this archaic stuff?

The Professor strolled to refill his mug without uttering a word. Back in his seat, he switched on his laptop, tapped in a few commands and put on a headset to examine the screen. In a flash, his eyes shone strangely. Then he drummed his fingers on the table; something had kindled his spirit.

“What’s on your mind?” Byron asked, trying to break into the old man’s thoughts, but Wulfstein continued to stare in silence. In exasperation, Byron made another attempt. “What’s happening to your investigation, Professor?”

Silence, except for the occasional clattering of the keyboard.

The old man had gone from one extreme to another, and Byron felt alienated and disappointed. How could he ditch the clout of science and succumb to fantasy? Although they might not see eye to eye, a thread of shared adventures still held their bond as colleagues.

“So how does mythology help in your analysis?” Byron uttered his words louder, yet there was no reply. Had the man developed a fever? For a long while, all remained stony quiet.

Wulfstein gnawed his upper lip. His pale, unshaven face looked heavily lined with dark bags under his eyes. His mouth, now agape, drooped at the corners. With his prominent facial hairs, he resembled a wrinkled walrus.

Finally, Wulfstein pressed down one key and sank back into the armchair. Almost the next moment, his eyes shot open. Then he turned to Byron. “Have you been talking to me?”

“Yes. Your health is suffering and you’re taking things too seriously,” Byron said. “Now tell me, what’s troubling you?”

“I had a dream. It’s a repulsive one.” Wulfstein stood up and gazed over the southwestern horizon toward snow-capped Mount Fuji. “In it, a monster was charging down on me. I froze in horror, yet I had a very strange and beautiful feeling that I can’t explain.”

“Didn’t the monster attack you?”

“No. When I opened my eyes, I saw a peaceful dragon, so peaceful that I allowed myself to be taken on a celestial ride.”

Byron followed the Professor’s gaze and waited.

“It’s now time to allow for sober reconsideration and a broader outlook. Twice, the dream occurred after I arrived in Japan.” His voice trembled in awe. “There must be something mysterious at work in our subconscious minds. Not only is it impossible to understand facts devoid of theory, it is impossible to understand ourselves without understanding our dreams.”

Byron frowned. Had he gone mad? “Look, Mt. Fuji is only a mountain. There is no need to mix mysticism with reality.”

“It may just be a mountain. However, something within me knows Mt. Fuji holds secrets to the great scheme of things. Perhaps it might be its triggering effect, perhaps this could be the starting point of a coming disaster on an epic scale.” Wulfstein turned to face Byron. “Listen to your subconscious. Listen to your dreams. I know you’re annoyed. But if you’re one of them six blind men, what can you learn from touching an elephant?”

Bewildered, Byron shook his head. What had these ancient texts to do with this elephant? Or an old Indian fable? Had he been listening to a lunatic?

“I’m accused of being a mythologist,” Wulfstein continued. “But science has been silent where other faculties have been active. Knowing this or that is not enough to understand the big picture. Being able to read philosophy or literature is useless unless you know how they could relate to modern science.”

Beads of sweat trickled down the old man’s face. Another wave of despair seemed to surge through him. Byron felt helpless. Did Wulfstein believe he was telepathically linked to another era? Perhaps, he had lived a life of antiquity, and reappeared in the twentieth-first century. Now, by groping his life in an antediluvian past, the old Professor appeared to manifest a fleeting bit of inherited memory, locked deep inside the very tissues of his brain.

“Even I have made erroneous conclusions at times,” Wulfstein murmured. “This shows how dangerous it is to form deductions from a single angle.”

An intriguing mystery, although lacking any clarity or logic. Byron hoped the Professor might expound on his deduction, so he waited. After more silence, he mustered sufficient courage for a challenge. “I know you have a vast sea of knowledge to draw from, but would you admit your error if proven wrong?”

“In organized religion,” Wulfstein said, “it’s assumed the priests have ultimate truth. Our scientific community holds similar beliefs and that renders itself incapable of further learning. But if solid evidence discredits my hypothesis, I’ll be glad to admit my mistake.”

At least the old man admitted he might be wrong. And, what he had said sounded like impulses coming from his fantasy.

The Professor turned to study more books while Byron sat on the sofa. After mulling over the conversation for a while, Byron grabbed the latest copy of New Scientist to read. Tired, and the words soon turned blurry, he succumbed to drowsiness and fell asleep.

It’s roaring . . . everything is crushing down. An explosion? A whoosh of air, a sonic bo-o-om and trees cracking . . . a deafening sound – – louder . . . and louder. A humming sound . . . louder and louder. What’s this?

Byron shook off the sound. Was it a nightmare? Slowly the surroundings reminded him that he was in Sakura and not in the lab. He blinked and found the scholar still at work. Wulfstein’s bloodshot eyes and disheveled hair signaled a titanic struggle within. Had he been talking to himself? How could he bear the strain? Despite his reproaches, Byron felt sympathy for his mentor. Maybe Wulfstein was having some form of nightmare.

“The destiny of the Japanese archipelago is a forgone conclusion.” The Professor frowned. “Now, I’m afraid the fate of over two hundred million Americans hangs in the balance.”

A chill passed through Byron, but he controlled his thought. The old man had been obsessed. First—rat, crow, bird and eel movements, frog, cicadas, barking dogs, humming dragonflies. Snakes, spiders and ants, velocity and decibels, sizes and locations. Not that bio data weren’t important, just that Wulfstein seemed obsessed by them all. And now: dragons! Byron shook his head. Beads of sweat dripped from Wulfstein’s forehead. The old man had misplaced himself in another dimension.

“That might be true only if the Japanese archipelago sank,” Byron said, “but surely the number of Americans living there couldn’t be over a few thousand.”

“No, Byron, I’m worried over the fate of over one hundred million Canadians and Americans.”

“Professor, you’re not thinking clearly. Please take a rest. You’re feverish.”

“My face is burning and I’m feeling hot, not only on my body, but also in my mind.”

“Your mind is burning, all right,” Byron said, “And your idea about using ancient literature for predictive purposes has been burning among scientific journals.”

“Do I have to repeat this? Birds in migration from Europe to South America circled over the same area in the Atlantic. They searched for and couldn’t find the spot where they once rested.”

“But we have no basis to claim ancient civilizations possessed the ability to predict an earthquake.”

“Just a minute.” Wulfstein stood and seized his student by the arm. “I’ve told you before.”

“Yes—I have heard your opinion,” Byron fired back, snatching his arm away. “Yeah, signs include snakes leaving the ground, cockroaches shuffling around, dogs howling, and other animals acting nervously, but these aren’t concrete evidence.”

Then EQ-Lun beeped. Wulfstein furrowed his thick brows. A strange sound, like sustained musical notes, vibrated from the laptop. He tapped more commands.

Byron squirmed; anger simmered in him. Does it make any sense? Chickens roosting in trees, fish leaping out of water into fishermen’s boats as if the sea were boiling. Yeah, yeah, how could they be more sensitive than our equipment?

When a knock came at the door, Byron hurried over to open it.

Professor Yoshino had arrived with another gentleman carrying a bulky package. Short and trim, the man wore a well-cut gray suit, white shirt, and a purple silk tie.

“Professor Wulfstein,” Yoshino said. “This is Koichiro, my brother and company director of Nikko Manufacturing.”

Stepping forward, they exchanged greetings.

“I learned of your request from my brother,” Koichiro said. “If Japan is to sink, I think this can save a lot of lives.” He unpacked several items on the floor.

As Byron took a closer look, Koichiro pressed a small white button. The liferaft inflated itself and resembled a flattened mini-dome. Made of a seamless substance called foam neoprene, meant to be light and the latest in survival gear, the raft could be carried on the body like a backpack. It incorporated a built-in compass, temperature gauge and other tiny instruments. Manufactured to bear considerable pressure, it appeared comfortable for one person but slightly cramped for two.

Wulfstein examined the craft, then nodded. “Please present this to your national authorities as a matter of extreme urgency.”

Koichiro bowed. Byron and Wulfstein returned the gesture in unison. After Koichiro gave the sample to the Americans, Byron was amused by the name displayed on it: Tokodo.

Professor Yoshino remained behind. “Something bad has happened,” he said. “Another research plane has disappeared.”

“What?” Wulfstein asked. “Another plane?”

“Yes. Slightly further  . . . south,” Yoshino stammered. “The last coordinates indicate 15ºN and 146ºE.”

As they spread out a map on the table, Wulfstein appeared shaken and bewildered. “The Marianas,” he whispered. “We had recorded a 9.1 quake there.”

No tsunamis were recorded, but the beeping sounds from his laptop returned, surreal and bizarre. Blo-o-op, blo-o-
op . . .

Purple, green and orange lights flashed. The Professor tapped more keys on his laptop. The landscape changed to red. He typed more, and another landscape superimposed over the sacred archipelago. Finally, the topography of the Pacific Ring appeared on the screen.

“This is extreme,” Wulfstein murmured as pink strips flowed up from inside the landscape. “This is really extreme.”

©) Joel Huan, author of Over Mount Fuji (available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble)

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~ by Joel on December 22, 2009.

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