Chapter One

 

I once began a book called "The Dark Wind Blows" but never finished it.  Sometimes I felt like it was quite good, and then I'd look at it again and have doubts.

     I meant it to be an 'initiation theme' on Alvin. It would involve Alvin going to College at Wartman and growing up with college adventures. Wartman College would turn out to be a Federal Government run institution with Black Projects in an underground base beneath the college.  Its students just take super computers and nuclear reactors for granted! And, Outer Space Aliens take an interest in this . . . Facility!

 

     Below is Chapter 1:  'THE GLASS EYE'.  Any comments you care to make would be appreciated.  I'm really curious as to what people think.  And, yes, it's philosophical in a fictional kind of way.

 

     Please leave a comment!  I'm really curious what you think!  Really!

 

Chapter 1

The Glass Eye

     Alvin Stone enjoyed his walk in the woods, though his mother fretted that he wasn't socializing enough.  Alvin walked slowly, carefully avoiding rocks and holes.  It was summer, the air was cool, and he was wearing his favorite plaid shirt as he walked, thinking more about electron shells than the beauty around him.  Birds, chipmunks and, occasionally, a butterfly made an appearance.

     But birds and butterflies weren't on Alvin's mind.  The image of an atom was there instead.  He pondered the blue electrons (he thought of them as blue anyway) circling the nucleus just as Professor Higgins had taught.  What causes electrons to jump from one level to another, he thought as he picked raspberries from a bush.  They pick up energy from photons.  But electrons and photons are different aren't they? He asked himself as he picked another raspberry.  This conundrum would perplex Alvin until he could ask his teacher.  And when they jump from one level to another they give off photons.  Put electricity into a wire and it glows.  But why? He asked himself, now staring blindly at the twisting little trail.

     He came to a creek that ran back and forth along the field at the edge of the woods, looked at the water as it rushed around smooth stones and marveled at its similarity to air flowing around an airplane wing.  He pushed back his large silver rimmed eyeglasses and decided to go home.  Mother had dinner waiting.

 

     Barbara Stone was a bit rotund, but moved about in a dignified, even faintly aristocratic, fashion.  Her husband had died of colon cancer shortly after her son was born.  He made his money in real estate sales and she never quite got over his death.  It was providing for her son that had kept her going through those difficult years afterward.  Today she was wearing a pale green dress--her favorite color--and busied herself while she waited.

 

     "Please pass the potato salad dear,” his mother, Barbara, asked, with a loving smile that only a mother has for a son, and an only child at that.  "And, how are you getting along now that you are in college?"

     She sat at the head of a large oak table with Alvin to her immediate right.  That was traditional.  That was how it should be.  The  table, the cloth napkins, the silver candlesticks, and the picture of her late husband, John Stone, over the fireplace mantel--all was proper, in its place.

     "Did you know that everything is electricity?" Alvin asked, though it was really more of a statement---and having nothing at all to do with 'getting along' or 'college', either one.

     "To you, Alvin, everything probably is electricity.  But for most people it is just the place they live."  Barbara didn't see the world as her son did.  To her it was houses, cars, expensive paintings . . .

     "Seriously," Alvin replied, thinking for a moment how to explain the obvious, "the table the plates, everything really, are electrons bound by a nucleus.  The nucleus of an atom is deep inside it.  The surfaces of all atoms are electrons.  And that is electricity."  Alvin leaned back in his chair with an air of victory.  . . . It did not go unnoticed.

     "Sparks, and that's all!" Barbara retorted.

     "To you everything is words.  You work with words all day."  Alvin shot back.

     "If it wasn't for my writing you wouldn't have pork chops, mashed potatoes, or asparagus on your plate," Barbara said, smiling a little.  She earned a better than average income by writing.

     "You have your perspective and I have mine," Alvin replied stiffly.  He pushed his eyeglasses back.

     "But Alvin, will your electrons make you money?" his mother asked, plaintively.

     "I don't know, mom . . . I hope they do.  They should.  Everyone wants light bulbs, and stoves."

     "I just worry about you, Alvin.  I have some money but it won't be enough to keep you for a lifetime." his mother said, looking sadly at her son. 

     Barbara was in her mid 50's and becoming aware of her age.  Her mother had died in her 40's and life had been hard for Barbara.  She was determined that her son would not have to go through that.

     He was young and not long ago, it seemed just a moment to her, he was wearing diapers and she was trying to get him to talk instead of pointing at things.  Taking care of him back then meant working as a waitress.  She worked hard to become a writer so that she could provide for him and send him to Wartman College someday, a proud old school highly regarded in the mountains of New York.

 

      It was at Wartman that Alvin had met Professor Higgins.  A Ph.D. in Physics, Higgins had taken an immediate liking to the boy and spent hours happily lecturing him on crystal lattices, which Higgins was currently researching with a fat government grant.  He was the only student that didn't get bored by Higgins' long explications, and seemed genuinely excited by the intricate crystal structures he described in painstaking detail.

     "Professor, isn't glass a crystal?"  Alvin asked, carefully, noticing that Higgins never mentioned glass much at all when describing crystals.

     "Oh, heavens, no," He replied without hesitation.  "Glass is a solid often confused with crystal.  Hence, leaded glass usually gets called 'crystal' by merchants when they sell it for its beauty.  Crystal glass sparkles under showroom lights, you know.  But all glass is amorphous."  The Professor paused briefly, then continued, " It doesn't break along a plane at all---no, not at all.  No cleavage."

     For once, I was glad I was a freshman in my first semester.  Hopefully, I will get forgiven.  But the Professor stood there beaming at me, a kind smile on his face.  And I had just blundered!  What made me think glass was a crystal?

     "I'm sorry," I stumbled into words.

     "No need to apologize, Mr. Stone."  He laughed.  "When you take my course on crystal lattices, say, about your junior year, you will learn more than you can imagine.  For now it will suffice that you seem to enjoy learning science."

     "I have another question.  Why do photons cause electrons to jump from one shell to another?"  I asked hesitatingly, because I was afraid he couldn't answer such a difficult question and it would embarrass him.

      "Well, ahem."  Professor Higgins cleared his throat for appropriate dramatic effect, "The electron shells of an atom are energy levels.  If the electron is in a ground state then a photon may be absorbed causing the electron to go to a higher level and it becomes an excited electron.  If the electron is already in an excited state and a photon passes by, then the electron may go to a ground state while emitting a new photon. "  He then added, somewhat absentmindedly, "if, of course, the frequency of the photon corresponds to the electron's energy needs, needs unique to that atomic structure."

     "The new photon would have exactly the same frequency!"  I blurted out.

     "Yes, precisely, Mr. Stone.  If the material was ruby the photons would be red."

     I felt so excited.  I never thought he could answer so difficult a question.  I would later find out that this was really a very simple question.  But he had referred to me as 'Mister' Stone and that made me feel like a scientist too.

     But Professor Higgins wasn't finished and continued, "This duplicating effect is called stimulated emission and is, in fact, the 'SE' in the acronym LASER.  LASER, of course, standing for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation."  The Professor felt as if he was on stage and he gloried in it.

     College was a new world.  I had never been so happy.  But I couldn't understand why Higgins just smiled at me, as though I was transparent, as if he could see right inside of me.  "Thank-you," I said gratefully.

     "It was my pleasure, I assure you."  Professor Higgins replied in a gracious Deep South kind of way.

 

     The Alpha frat house looked like Greece and New England had held hands.  It was red brick with white columns.  My home at Wartman for the next 4 years but, of course, it housed nearly 240 other students, each sharing a  room furnished with Queen Anne chairs and mahogany desks.  My room sported a terrific view of a pond.  It was called Wartman Pond according to the large sign at the Pond's entrance. 

     The House Manager told me I'd be kicked out if I didn't make A's in every course.  I was immersed in Algebra, Earth Science, Psychology, Freshman English, and World History.  Each night I studied into the wee morning hours.  I didn't have time to breathe. This wasn't a leisurely Grade School . . . but, to me, it was Heaven replete with clouds and a pearly gate because everyone was excited about learning.

     Well, almost everyone.  Certain students did, actually, get kicked out of the House.  It was quite a sight!  They were tied to a long pole.  The Alpha House Manager read from a parchment scroll:

 

Ashes to ashes,

Dust to dust,

You didn't get A's,

You aren't one of us!

 

     Then they were carried outside and thrown onto the grass.  A moment later their belongings were thrown out as well.  . . . I vowed to study even harder.

     Some flunked completely out of college, while others went to the Omega Frat House across the street, next to a club called 'The Glass Eye'.  The Omegas drank.  Rumor was they cheated.  Graffiti embroidered their brick walls.  And they wore black leather vests.  . . . Motorcyclists?  . . . I wondered.

 

     The prettiest girl walked into my room.  She had on a brown tweed skirt, a frilly white blouse, and a figure any model would envy.

     "Hi, I'm Kali Tyler," she said straight out.

     "I'm Alvin Stone," I stammered.  I was a little surprised, you understand.  Besides, she really was shockingly beautiful.

     "Alvin, you made all A's your first semester here and it's time that you learn more about Alpha House and what it stands for."  She sat in my roommate's chair and relaxed.  You have probably noticed that the students here aren't like the people you've known most of your life.  When you entered Wartman College you took an I.Q. test that proved you were in the top two percent of the population.  No one gets into Wartman unless they can pass it.  . . . Most applicants don't."

     "Yes, I remember taking the test but they never told me my score."

     "They never do.  You either pass or fail.  Well, your score almost went off the scale!"  She smiled lovingly at me and her eyes watered.  "Welcome to Wartman, Alvin!  You have no idea how lucky you are.

     "Well, I really do like it here.  I've learned so much that the world looks odd.  Everything is electrons and space-time distortions---I have to snap myself out of it so I can wash my clothes and brush my teeth."

     Kali laughed.  "Alvin, your world is going to get  weirder than that.  You are about to go down the rabbit hole."

     "The rabbit hole?"  I echoed.  I blushed . . . felt uncomfortably warm  . . . I loosened my tie.

     Kali got up and strode toward the door, "follow me," she said.

 

     We entered a conference room with a large bookcase along one wall.  Kali touched one of the books and the bookcase slid back revealing an elevator.  She put her hand on a glass plate and it lit up . . . the door opened.

 

     "This is the rabbit hole.  We are descending to the 1st level beneath the building."   The door soon opened to a dazzling display of computers, wall sized display screens, bookcases, tables and big leather chairs.  "This is where students that have proven themselves can come whenever they want.  Those doors on the far side are sound proof carrels where you may study without distraction."  Kali said with obvious pride.  "And, one of them has 'Alvin Stone' on the brass name plate.  That's yours!"

     "There's a super computer over there!  Where does the money for this come from?" I asked, looking about in fascination.

     Kali flopped into one of the chairs and began to explain.

     "Dr. Wartman was an industrialist that made unbelievable amounts of money during the early 1900's manufacturing railroad systems.  Every time red lights flash and a striped arm comes down you owe it all to Wartman.  He invested his income and quickly became one of the richest men in America.   In his twilight years he dreamt of a peaceful college where geniuses could study without having to work at ordinary jobs.  He, and a number of his wealthy friends, created Wartman College.  The initial endowment for the school was enormous.  Today, prudent investing has made it eighty times that amount.  Believe me, this college, its classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, dormitories, office buildings, ten square miles of real estate, and the underground labyrinth are just the tip of the largest endowment of any college in the world."

     "The underground labyrinth?"  You mean this auditorium sized room."

     "No . . ." said Kali carefully.  This is just one of many chambers cut into the granite beneath the College.

     "Would you show me some of the others!"  I said excitedly.

     "No.  I can't do that.  You must continue to prove yourself to the College.  You are at the 1st level here at Wartman's.  Be happy with that for now."

     With that Kali got up and left.  Alvin just sat there, digesting all that he had just heard.

 

   It was a hot day in August.   Alvin was enjoying his air conditioned room, watching ducks in the pond below when his roommate, Roger Hatfield, came in.

      "Say Al," Roger said with a southern drawl.  He was from South Carolina.  He called me 'Al' though my mother had always used Alvin.

     " Hi Roger," I replied.

     "Let's go over to The Glass Eye and sit a spell," he said, tossing his necktie onto his bed.

 

     The Glass Eye bar and grill served mostly soft drinks along with pizzas and sandwiches, a comfortable place to hang out but the Omegas regarded it as their nightspot.

     "What about those black vest guys?"  I said, a little nervously.

     "Aw, they're just Omegas.  Don't hassle them and they'll leave you alone," Roger said laughingly.

 

     Roger made short work of an ice-cream sundae as I sipped a mug of root beer.  Several students wearing black vests came in and took the table next to ours.

     "Now, Al, what is the problem of self reference regarding the Logical Positivism of the Vienna Circle in the 1920's."

     Roger knew I had just finished a Philosophy course.  But why would he ask about the Vienna Circle? 

     "The Circle consisted of people, mostly in Germany, that had bought into the Verifiability Criterion of Meaning, judging statements about things that could neither be seen nor felt---and weren't mathematical---as meaningless.  God talk, for instance, failed the Verifiability Criterion and was, thus, meaningless."

     "How do you feel about that?" Roger asked.

     "Well, without getting into multitudinous views on God's attributes, the most damning attack on the Criterion was that it pronounced itself meaningless because it is impossible to see and feel abstract logical criteria, plus there is no mathematical proof of the Criterion's existence."

     "Bravo!"  Roger laughed.  "You did learn your stuff last semester, Alvin.  Now I know why Kali likes you."

     "The ramifications of this argument are far reaching," I continued.  "If it is meaningless to have abstract logical criteria then Engineering, Science, and Law, are meaningless too.  And, it's absurd for the sciences to be meaningless.  Logically, therefore,, one must accept immaterial objects as meaningful."

     The black vest students came over and pulled up chairs.

     "I'm Jed and this is my buddy Ray," Jed said in an easy going way.

     "I'm Roger and this is Al," Roger said quickly.

     "Ray and I are majoring in Psychology.  What are immaterial objects anyway?"

     Roger and I took a deep breath.  Roger was majoring in Engineering---this question was far afield.  And they are both Omegas and that makes the whole thing snarly.

     "That's a pretty hefty subject don't you think," Roger replied.

     "Air is invisible and vacuum has no property at all except vacuity."  I rushed in.  "Isn't that right Roger?"

     "Why, Yes!  We use both when we build an airplane or satellite.  We draw blueprints with them in it.  They are real."

     "We deal in ghosts and vampires that no one sees but drive people crazy.  To us it's a crazy thing."  Ray chimed in.

     "Mathematics isn't crazy!  Concepts like zero and infinity have no solid corresponding object but they get used in equations all the time."

     "Then there's the square root of minus one," Roger said, chuckling.  "Even in mathematics it doesn't exist but it shows up in equations again and again."

     "That's like asking the size of the number 10, or how much it weighs, or what color it is, or how far away it is."  I said, chuckling a bit, myself.

     Roger, rolling on this new tact, chimed in, "it makes sense to ask how big King Cheops pyramid is, but no sense at all to ask how big the concept 'Pyramid' is!"

     "Invisible people, ghosts, and the like still put people into asylums and we have to decide what's wrong with them and administer drugs," Jed said. "If one person sees a ghost standing there while another doesn't, who are you going to believe?"

     "It may be that both are accurately describing their personal mind states," I replied quickly. "It could be that the one doesn't see the ghost, because their eyes, or mind, or their exact body position is such that the 'ghost' can't be seen.  People, therefore, that don't see ghosts my turn out to be brain deficient, not those that do."

     "Hey you guys, when we graduate we aren't going to be in an ivory tower.  We will have people come to us crying and in shock asking for help.  We will have to make real decisions in a real world."

     "You are perfectly correct,"  I said, "but keep this in mind.  All of history.  Yes, Ancient Egypt and Greece, the Middle Ages, British colonial expansion, and all the rest of historical fact no longer exists at all except for a few artifacts that help us figure out what . . . disappeared!  And, gentlemen, 'disappeared' means:  no longer a solid object."

     "Bravo!"  Exclaimed Roger, chuckling once again.

     "I don't think it's so bravo." Jed said, pushing his chair back under the table.  "You sit over there in the Alpha Fraternity House contemplating your navels.  Hey, listen to me!  You can't deal with the real world.  . . . And I didn't like getting tied to a pole and thrown out like trash either!"

     Jed and Ray both stomped out of The Glass Eye.  Roger and I looked at each other in astonishment.

     "Al  . . . maybe you're right about them," Roger said slowly.