Year of the Numen: The Quest

“It looks like one of those black magic symbols,” Ruby chimed in.
“I suppose it does,” Olivia answered, “but it’s not. It’s just a tool.”
“For what?” asked Miguel. “Ruby’s right. It looks like witchy Voodoo stuff. You shouldn’t mess with it.”


[Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from the Year of the Numen]

Synopsis: On the threshold of old age, Avery and Olivia renewed their friendship after thirty years. Due to scheduling conflicts, they find themselves calling each other during Olivia’s morning excursion by shuttle to her new job. Over time, the regulars on the shuttle become involved in their daily conversation.


The Quest


Avery’s Note Book: Triad Wheel

“What is that,” Steve asked, looking down at Olivia’s phone.

“It’s a visual representation of a memory palace – what we’ve been talking about all this time.”

“How do you use it?” he asked.

“We’re still working out the details. I’ll show you when we’re done.”

“It looks like one of those black magic symbols,” Ruby chimed in.

“I suppose it does,” Olivia answered, “but it’s not. It’s just a  tool.”

“For what?” asked Miguel. “Ruby’s right. It looks like witchy Voodoo stuff. You shouldn’t mess with it.”

“Uh huh,” Jalessica nodded. “Voodoo is nasty.”

“Is it a philosopher’s stone?” Steve asked.

“No, the philosopher’s stone was about alchemy. I promise you all, it is not magic,” Olivia answered. “It’s not any kind of secret knowledge or dangerous dark art.”

“Weren’t you and Avery discussing the occult yesterday?” Jalessica asked in an accusing voice. “I heard you.”

“Yes, we did. But, discussing magic is not the same thing as practicing it,” Olivia replied.

“So, what’s it for? I mean, what do you do with it?” Steve asked.

“We store information into it. You said you were studying computer science, right, Steve? Think of the information we want to remember as data and the wheel as a sorter. All the markings are like decision algorithms. They tell us where to place new information or where to retrieve information we’ve place there.”

“Like a legend for a map?” Miguel asked.

“Yes, you could think of it like that,” Olivia said. “That’s very astute, Miguel. Do you like maps?”

“I get it,” Steve interrupted. “It’s like object-oriented computing. The data and the instructions to transform the data are all packed together. The markings are metadata…”

“Omg!” Jalessica interrupted, throwing her hands up. “Nerd alert.”

“I really don’t know anything about coding these days, Steve.” Olivia smiled at Steve. “In any event, there’s no transformation of knowledge here. It’s true that when you start investigating and ordering information it can lead to some new intriguing insights, but in the end the purpose of the Triad is to serve as a simple sorter.”

“That is way over my head. I still don’t understand what it’s for,” Ruby complained.

“Well, taking Miguel’s insight we could think of it as a quest and the Triad Wheel is a compass telling us in which direction we’re headed.”

“What kind of quest?” Jalessica asked dubiously.

“It’s to find out if our culture is truly falling apart as so many people think it is.”

“Then what?” Jalessica asked.

“Then if it is falling apart, is there anything that can be done about it?”

“Sounds familiar,” Steve said, “Every video game is a quest of one kind or another. Every movie is one, too. But, what I don’t understand is how a sorting algorithm can help you do that?”

“Well, Avery is the philosopher. He’ll have to explain that,” Olivia answered. “I’m just the storyteller.”

“What does philosophy have to do with telling a story?” Jalessica asked.


Olivia sighed. “That’s the heart of this project.  Without a common understanding of what reality and existence is, people drift apart. This is why we’re so divided today. We’re on the ‘left’ or the ‘right’  –  fractured into a myriad of causes and crusades that are in direct conflict with each other. ”

“No offence to Avery, but Stephen Hawking says philosophy is dead,” Steve said. “He says science has replaced it.”

Olivia laughed lightly. “Avery would tell Hawking that science is dead.”

“But, science is everywhere,” Miguel said, with wide eyes. “How can he say that?”

“Does everyone here think science is greater than philosophy?” Olivia asked, looking around the shuttle. They all nodded and voiced their assent.

“Well, Avery will be very glad to hear that,” she said, smiling.

“He will?” Ruby asked.

“Oh of course, you’re all agreed on one thing.”

“But he won’t agree with it,” Steve said, “so how does that help?”

“It’s one belief you share. We’re looking for basic beliefs to see where a bridge to a common ethic can be built.”

“A common ethic,” Jalessica scoffed. “So, Avery is going to philosophize –  to us – with that Triad thingy? And, then we’ll all think the same way? That’s is some kind of bad ass magic, I’m thinking.”

“Oh, no. Avery isn’t going to change your mind about anything.  That’s my job,” Olivia answered. “That’s what the story is for.”




Previous excerpt: How the Fates Fell Out – Part II: Clotho’s Song

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