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

5 Mar

Niko had ordered an area on the first floor of the great hall of his taverna roped off for Greek folk dancing in circles. A large group of people had formed, the corypheos leading all of the others being Ganymede Megaras, the painter. A small band with traditional instruments provided them with music with echoes of ancient folksong.

Hermes sat beside Echo at a box table on the second floor, watching the gestic motions below them.

Niobe and Cadmus had gone down to take part in the Apollonian festivity in progress there.

“I may have no future at all when I get back to the Light Institute,” murmured the scientist to his companion. “Despite what I have done with quasiparticles, there is no real support for something that appears to have no immediate economic profit to it. All the emphasis of the Director and the trustees in charge falls on agricultural utilization of light. My isolation out there is about as complete as it can be.”

His face had a tragic expression devoid of hope.

“Your supervising Director sounds like a terrible person,” said Echo in a stern voice. “If only you were free of obstacles and interference. Why couldn’t you move to Gamara and carry out your research in a friendlier surrounding here? We have an entire lamp industry here that would certainly have some interest in your new spectrum of color rays. What do you think? Is it possible for you to relocate here?”

Hermes looked at her, his heart softened by internal elemental emotions.

“I could try, but the possibilities may be just as negative here in Gamara. Everywhere I look, I see minds that focus on the near term prospects and conditions. No one seems to have long-range vision anywhere. Who can guarantee any future for my light discoveries? Perhaps all my work has been in vane. My life work may have been one foolish illusion.”

The words that followed out of the mouth of Echo were spoken as if by a prophetess of old.

“Perhaps your new colors have a place in the performance of the ancient ceremony of worship of Apollo. They might serve as the center or the background to the sacred rite. Why don’t you discuss that question with Niobe? Or with Ganymede? They are in charge of the re-enactment of the ancient dances and singing. The two of them might be able to apply the spectrum you uncovered out there on the desert.”

The physicist did not at the moment perceive the value of what Echo was proposing that he do.

“After today’s activities, I may bring that up,” he told her.

At that point, a slim figure of a man approached their box. Echo was the first to catch sight of him.

“Come in and join us, Ianon,” she called out. “I want you to meet someone.”

Hermes rose to shake hands with the stranger as she told him who her companion was: a color researcher from the desert, an innovator in the science of light.

“Ianon is attempting to arouse our ergati to combine into a single, organized union, but he is also a dedicated supporter of our Apollo revival. His energy is inexhaustible, I dare say.”

The two men sat down, Ianon across from the pair that were there before him.

“It is good to recall the beliefs of our ancestors,” mused the organizer,” but do not forget that they believed in and practiced slavery. Much of what they had in their culture is unacceptable today. Yet a portion of their heritage can still be brought back to life by our generation in Gamara. We can apply the profound wisdom they possessed. Much of permanent value exists in our Greek cultural heritage.”

“Ianon is something of a philosopher,” laughed Echo. “His mind is so far-reaching that he can see the value of almost everything in ultimate terms.” A sudden idea occurred in her mind. “Why, I believe that Ianon can tell you what uses lie ahead for the color spectrum that you discovered out on the desert, Hermes.” She beamed a shining smile at the physicist.

Ianon gazed at the man who was a stranger to him. He silently was asking him for some explanation of what Echo meant.

“I’ve developed a new method of changing and enhancing light with quasiparticles. The result is a plasmatic rainbow of colors that are original and different from those our eyes are accustomed to. As far as I know, nothing like these light rays have ever been seen by the human eye before now.”

Echo decided to intervene. “I’ve told Hermes that his discovery can be a powerful contribution to the ceremony that Niobe is planning to perform tomorrow for Apollo Day. What a spectacle this new light can make of the ritual oriented toward Apollo! I understand from Hermes that there is an unusual, magnificent iridescence involved with the sight of the new colors. Isn’t that true, Hermes?”

The latter slowly explained what he meant. “The new rays approach being chatoyant, like the eyes of a cat. They coruscate with a nearly miraculous brilliance. There has never been anything as fascinating and attractive, as impressive and hypnotic, in the history of chromatology. Believe me, no one in Gamara has ever witnessed such colors with their eyes.”

“I find what you say interesting,” muttered Ianon in a level tone. “My personal wish would be to see this development for myself. Is that going to become possible?” he inquired.

Before Hermes could reply, Echo began to speak. “I, too, would like to experience such colors for myself. I think we should beg him to bring the spectrum to our city. All of Gamara should be given the opportunity to see it. That could be a transformational event for everyone if combined with the Apollo revival. It would draw masses of people to our movement, I am certain. The new colors could be presented as a gift from Apollo himself!”

There fell a silence that coincided with the end of the folk dancing and music down below.

Cadmus and Niobe soon returned to the reserved box. Ianon excused himself and left, while the two who had just returned sat down on the side where he has been. Discussion of Apollo Day began once more.

The mind of Hermes kept going back to what Echo had proposed that he do. It was something he found impossible to forget.

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