Sahara Light: a Novel. Part I. Chapter VIII.

3 Mar

Central Park on the sixth deck was an exotic piece of sand raised from the desert, full of dry plants purchased from all over the planet. It consisted primarily of xerophytes, dry plants that needed only a minimum of irrigation.

Opuntia and dillenic cacti were kept in perpetual bloom using special chemical food. Rare moths could be seen flying round yucca plants. Greasewood, sagebrush, creosotes, milkweed, aloe, and devil’s club from many places had been imported for this place of plants. Pineapple-like dyckia, the agave and spurges of the amaryllis family, desert thistle and acacia, euphorbia and haworthia, the Joshua tree and the century plant, and the rare Live-for-ever: all of these were carefully cultivated and visible here.

Hermes gazed in amazement at the multitude of colors of the xerophytes.

“This park receives yellow rays from Helios in the afternoon because of the height of this deck,” said Echo. Cadmus and Niobe had advanced a distance ahead of them on the garden path.

Hermes twisted his neck so that he could see the silhouette of Echo’s face.

“I imagine the lower decks don’t get many natural rays,” he softly told her.

“Right,” nodded Echo. “That is why they can’t have any park like this one below. You have seen how crowded it is down there. The light from the sky doesn’t reach that far. This is a unique location for such an attraction of plant life. Everything is right and sufficient for it.”

“The field workers have little room to live in,” said Hermes. “Do they come up here to look at and enjoy this attractive park?”

“No. The police seem to discourage them from doing that. I suppose they don’t have much free time after working in the desert either.”

“Perhaps they see enough of the desert and its plants out on the sands and don’t care to observe these unusual imports,” mused the physicist aloud.

The pair walked toward the other two who had stopped at a silex bench to sit down and wait for them. When the two couples came together, Cadmus posed a question to his guest.

“How do you like this garden park, Hermes? Isn’t it a wonder?”

“Indeed, it is,” said the scientist.”I never knew that Gamara held such a spot. This is new to me. You see, I was born and raised on our family farm and never actually lived within the city for any length of time. I have been too busy at the Light Institute to travel about the tower to see marvels like this one. The park we are now in is overwhelming. It takes my breath away.”

Niobe, sitting beside Cadmus, smiled at Hermes.

“There are other sights you might enjoy seeing in Gamara as well. Why don’t you come here whenever you have time off from work? In three weeks it will be Apollo Day. You would find it interesting to see how we celebrate that venerable old holiday, especially down on the lower levels.”

Before the physicist could answer her, Cadmus seconded the invitation.

“That’s a delightful idea. You can stay at my module, too. In fact, it would be good to see you even before the great holiday, should you have some time off from your work out there.”

“I will be showing a public display of ancient Apollonian relics that I have,” said Niobe. “You must see them yourself, Hermes.”

The latter calculated quickly. The invitations to him meant opportunity to be with Echo Syrinx once again.

“Yes,” he promised. “I shall try to return to the city as often as possible. That is what I am planning on doing.”

Ganymede walked into the General Infirmary on the Second Tier. At the front desk he asked for and learned the cubicle number of his best friend and made his way there.

He found Ianon lying in a hammock bunk, awake and eager to talk.

“You can see what they did to me,” moaned the agitator. “No mercy whatsoever was given me.”

Gany surveyed the cuts and bruises on the face of the other. “There must have been an entire gang of guards beating you.”

“That’s the price for trying to bring enlightenment into the fields,” philosophized the patient. “I was fortunate that some ergati recognized me and bought me back here to a spital.

“This was not my first collision with the police. I knew that I would find the situation out there most oppressive and discouraging, but this was the worst treatment ever given me. I never knew that I could suffer so great a setback as this. But I am ready to return to my mission as soon as I am able to.”

A determined grimace touched the mouth of the unionizer.

“Nothing worthwhile in life comes easily. I somehow know that final victory will belong to my cause, that it is inevitable.”

Ganymede drew closer to the medical hammock. “You must meet a friend of mine, Niobe Dosodor. She deals in antiques from pre-Migration times. Her personal dream is to inspire a renascence of Apollo worship and veneration. Such a rebirth depends upon enlisting the ergati into a new cult oriented to that specific god. It sounds all but impossible, but the more that I think it over, the more sense and rationality this ambition of hers seems to possess. Consider how conditions are today, Ianon. The desert laborers do not respond to your economic program for them. They distrust everyone who comes to them with the promise of changing the conditions of their existence. The ergati are cynical pessimists, distrustful of the educated and the better-off, whoever they are.

“But think of how an appeal based on traditions of Apollo would strike their minds and hearts. This could attract their souls and bring them into a mass movement. The ergati remain fervent, faithful believers in Apollo, much more than their superiors and employers. What do you think of her idea?”

Ianon was visibly troubled and confused by what he had just heard from his closest friend.

“Is it possible to enclose and veil a labor movement in Apolloism?” he asked the visitor. “Can the two strains be merged into one? Would the lower orders of our society accept such a dual combination?”

Not knowing how to reply, Ganymede posed a question of his own.

“When will you be released from this spital?”

“In a few days, I believe. There is nowhere for me to go, because the city has evicted me from my small bachelorette.”

The painter gave him a grin. “There is room for you in my studio, friend. It is near the shop of this woman named Niobe I told you of. I intend to introduce the two of you. She will be happy to make your acquaintance, I can predict that much right now.”

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