Chapter XX.

20 Jun

Ranid and Ereth became better acquainted. They discussed frog life and illnesses at length, and went into their sensitivity to foreign substances. Ranid announced that he wished to survey all past records and documents at the Sump. He sensed a great love for the frogs in Ereth. It became more evident with each day that passed.

Ranid returned each evening to his sleeping cube at the center of Feretrum. It was Nudum who knocked and came in to see him late one night, causing surprise and alarm to the occupant.

Iwis handed the softum a small, tattered folio.

“You must read through this tonight, while we are here together. I cannot allow this material to be out of my custody, not for a second. So, I shall wait until you finish it. Then, I will reclaim and leave with it. Is that understood? Do you agree to the terms I have set for you, my friend?”

Ranid nodded that he would comply, then opened the folio and hurried through its startlingly scandalous pages. Everything he read was a shock to him. He had never thought he would see such words on a page.

– Anuranism has become dogmatic and ossified. The odyle has been turned into an object external to the world. It is far away and foreign to us. In truth, it could grant us miraculous personal experiences if we called upon it. A new supreme soul is needed for all of us: a direct union with the odyle itself. The human soul within each of us is a mirror reflection of the odyle. Its image is already there within each of us, but covered and unseen. It is waiting to become visible to us. That image must be liberated and allowed to develop.

– The soul is a stranger within this world. There is an inner instinct in everyone to repudiate the senses and the sensible. Material existence is estrangement from the infinite, eternal odyle. We should be ashamed of being inside a body. What the soul seeks and needs is a uniting into the odyle. One must melt and fuse with it. Even thought and thinking must be left behind. Thought is only a form of motion, nothing else. We have to seek and reach beyond it for the motionless rest that belongs to the odyle alone.

-The odyle created the visible world. It preceded the cosmos,and is its universal soul. The world is inside that all-embracing soul, not the other way around. This world reflects what has always been yonder in the odyle. Everything outside it is secondary.

-The odyle is the nameless One. The consummation of all living is to return to it. One must transfuse oneself through transcendental union. Inner vision will result in coalescence and supreme ecstasy. One must then dissolve into the Ineffable, the Unspeakable. Purification and enlightenment will result in spiritual unification. This is a process called odylesis. One becomes united with the odyle. A person moves oneself into the divine and fuses with the latter.

– The Gnomen knows how to ascend beyond the self, into Enosis with the odyle. At first, there is the experience of darkness, nakedness, and nothingness. But beyond knowledge and existence a final unity is revealed as if in a phantasmal trance. The individual soul will take on a new form. Odyllic power radiates it. This is a path of self-negation, dropping every definite attribute, characteristic, and determinant. The soul becomes free at last, free in a Union. One is, at last, home.

Ranid finished reading, folded the folio, and handed it back to Nudum, who was perched on a low cricket stool.

“I see nothing in this about the frog as a medium. Isn’t it needed, then?”

The Intendant appeared to smirk. “Whatever is not needed must fall into a limbo of oblivion. Does that not seem reasonable to you, my son?”

A direct question was necessary from himself, decided the softum. “How did you come to join a group of such mystagogues as the Gnomens, sir?”

All at once, Nudum flushed red with anger. “I don’t see how that pertains to you, but it will do no harm to tell you the story. Upon first coming to Feretrum, my assignment was to carry out manual labor in the Frog Swamp. It was there that I first heard this, to me, strange doctrine. A small group of swampmen initiated me into the mysteries. In truth, it was in the home of the real frogs that I learned of the true path to spiritual enlightenment.” He suddenly remembered something important. “It has come to me that you have been assigned to work under Ereth at the Sump. I can tell you this: he himself is not one of us, but serves as the center of the circle of the Gnomens. They would be lost without his exact knowledge of the frogs. He is important and vital to their successful operations and activities.”

A sudden inspiration entered the mind of Ranid. “If I knew a name or two, I could converse and get to know them.”

Iwis had no need to think long about this. What better way was there to draw the softum into the small, concealed sect?

“There is one you should especially ask to see. He is a kind of leader at the Sump, and his name is Atpl. Yes, he is Atpl Nudum and we share the same surname. We happen to be distant consanguines. He is my remote relative and a close associate of mine.”

“I will meet with that man,” promised Ranid, hoping to learn from that source about the Gnomens and their goals. For he nursed a deep suspicion of the Intendant and anyone who might be associated with him. The new softum neither liked nor trusted this person who held the finances of Feretrum in his hands.

Nudum took the folio, placed it into his sleeve pocket, and left the cubiculum.

Ranid considered and weighed his options for a time, then made a major decision. It was not worthy of him to keep so much from Glia. The time had come for complete disclosure of his venture into gnomenic mysticism. This was the moment for revealing what he had been silent about with her till now. And tomorrow he would go to the Frog Sump to get acquainted with a promising Gnomen source.

Ereth vigorously shook hands with his newest worker, Ranid Rolius.

“Your job will be the one that my entire crew is involved in day and night: gathering up the corpses and the afflicted living frog residents. There is nothing more we can do beyond to pick up and dispose of the ones that have died or will die soon. We possess no compound that can save them. And I don’t even know what it is that kills so many frogs. It is a horrible situation for all of us.”

“There is nothing similar to this described in the historical records of your office?” asked Ranid.

Erath shook his head in grief at his helplessness. Then he instructed the new frog sump worker further in his tasks and responsibilities.

“You will be locating and picking up victims around the ponds,” said the older man. “My crew works in pairs, so that no one has to act on their own. They place the corpses in special scuttles we use to transport frogs from place to place. Let’s see, the person who will show you how it is best done is the man in charge of the outdoor crews. He should be coming in here soon. His name is Atpl Nudum.”

The new worker swallowed hard. Things seemed to be going his way, for the time being.

This relative of the Intendant did not resemble him in the slightest degree. He was small, wiry, and mouse-like, looking completely unsuited to any work in the Frog Sump.

As Ranid shook his hand, he concluded that he was stationed here as the eyes and ears of his nepotal. It would be necessary to treat him with great caution.

“Do you have any experience in swamp work?” gruffly asked the man named Atpl.

“No, none at all. I will have to learn everything from the ground up,” said Ranid, implying that he needed thorough instruction in the basics of his job.

The crew chief gave him a look of scorn. “When you’ve been here for twenty years, like I have, you’ll know every one of the jobs in the Sump. But first, I’ll have to get you a scuttle and show you the best way to pick up dead frogs.”

Atpl went to a small nearby shed and took out two shallow metallic scuttles. “This is what we put the frogs in, so they can be carried back to the main cabin. There is a lot of bending of the back involved, but it has to be done. Nobody wants corpses stinking up the ponds.”

“What were your primary duties before this terrible plague hit the frogs?”

Atpl handed one scuttle to Ranid.

“From the first, I was put in charge of gallinipper protection. They taught me that twenty years ago. My teachers have passed away, so I’m the one now in charge of insect control. I have always specialized on mosquitoes.”

Ranid looked puzzled. “Why should that be necessary here in the open air outdoors? I don’t understand what needs protection and control.”

The other man seemed to be getting angry. “It’s not your business, for now. All that is my responsibility alone. Right now, let’s start looking for dead or sick frogs. That’s the job we have to perform at this moment.”

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