ThresholdBy: Patricia J. Anderson
Genre: FantasyPublisher: Common Deer Press
Date of Publication: March 27, 2018
ISBN Digital: 978-1-988761-17-6
ISBN Print: 978-1-988761-16-9
Number of pages: 240
Word Count: 66,000
Cover Artist: Carl Weins
Tagline: Fantastic Mr. Fox meets The Tao of Physics
The population of Ooolandia (a world much like our own but with an extra "O") is hypnotized by the culture of MORE. Citizens of all kinds and colors go about their lives unaware that hidden in the fog of everydayness a great calamity is approaching.
Banshooo, an amazingly mindful monkey, works for the Ooolandian Department of Nature with his colleague a mathlete mouse. Together they have amassed data proving, beyond any doubt, that the natural world is losing the stability necessary to sustain life. Unfortunately, their warnings are ignored by the authorities who are planning to phase out nature altogether.
Freaky winds, icy earthquakes, and mutant anemones plague the landscape. After a wildly devastating storm, Banshooo has a vision revealing the connection between Ooolandia and the Unseen World -- a connection that lies deep within and far beyond all that is seen. This connection is vital to Ooolandia's survival, and it is fraying. He realizes he must take radical action. Along with his quirky sidekick (a one-off of unique appearance whose primary interest is snacking), he sets out on a journey beyond the surface of the Seen to bring back proof of the true nature of nature.
“Oh you know, same ol’, same ol’, still working on that whole transmutation thing. Can’t quite get it down. Can’t quite get it … still trying … still might … still …” His voice trails off as he furrows his brow, apparently lost in the intricacies of some possibility known only to him.
Ambrose tries again. “Morie, I’d like you to meet Banshooo. He has an interesting story to tell.”
The alchemist comes back to the moment, squinting anew at Banshooo. “Ah yes, yes, very nice. Very nice.” He removes a pile of books from a thread-bare couch, looking about near-sightedly. “I think maybe I’ve got some sherry around here someplace.”
“That’s not necessary, really.” Ambrose smiles, eyeing a shelf of cob-webby wine glasses sitting next to a bottle marked sulfuric acid. “We just want to talk.”
“Talk? With me? How nice. Yes, very nice, very nice.”
Ambrose nudges Banshooo. “Go ahead. Morienus knows about these things.”
Banshooo looks at this old man whose long white beard appears to have been used for a napkin. He knows alchemy was once a respected field of study but not anymore, something to do with a failure to turn things into gold. This wrinkled dusty old guy appears to be the last of his kind.
Banshooo hesitates but Ambrose nods encouragingly. “Go on, talk to him.” And so the monkey tells the alchemist about the sound that washed over him in the meadow. Morie listens intently, his palms together, his fingers against his chin. Now he nods, thoughtfully, then says,
“Ah yes. That could be. A sound wave is a physical force. Vibratory resonance can open up a state of awareness beyond the usual everyday state.”
Banshooo nods. “Yes, that’s what happened. After the sound came, I was able to see something else, something I couldn’t see just walking around normally.”
“And what was that?”
“Well, the first time I saw … dying. So much dying.” He lowers his head. “Extinction everywhere.”
“And the second time?”
“The second time I saw …” He pauses.
The alchemist raises his bushy eyebrows. “You saw what?”
Banshooo looks at Ambrose who nods reassuringly. He continues. “I remembered what happened when my mother died.”
“Hmmm.” Morie speaks slowly, almost to himself. “This could be a case of resonance, of limbic resonance activating a matched filter.”
Banshooo frowns. “What does that mean?”
Morie leans back. “Experience creates a vibration that stays within you. That vibration is a kind of tone, reverberating to certain pitches, certain events and beings. It acts almost like an antenna, picking up one kind of transmission but deaf to others. In effect, everyone is an antenna, vibrating with their own individual experiences.” He puts his gnarled, veined hands on the arms of the chair and lifts himself up, walking slowly around the room.
“At the same time, sound waves are constantly moving through space, looking for something that will receive them. When they find a match,” he stops and brings his hands together, “we resonate.” He gives a little half-smile. “In effect, beings are like old-fashioned radio receivers, calibrated to pick up one signal and filter out the others, looking for the frequency that will resonate, that will match.” He looks at Banshooo. “A sound can remind you of something you know, even if you don’t know you know it, enlivening something hidden within you, for good or for ill.”
Banshooo’s eyes are wide. “It felt like that, like something reverberating in me. Like something alive.”
“So what happened in this re-“ he pauses, “membering?”
Banshooo looks up at Morie, ready to tell this old man what he saw.
“My mother was dead. She was cold. I was cold too. Really cold. Then a shadow came, a shadow shaped like her. And it touched her. Then it touched me. And I wasn’t cold anymore. I was all right.”
The alchemist is squinting at Banshooo, his expression no longer one of patient instructor. “Are you making this up? That wouldn’t be nice you know, to fool with me.”
“No. No. I’m not making anything up.” He looks at Ambrose who speaks firmly.
“He’s not, Morie, I saw it too. A shadow bent down and touched them both. It was like the deep heart of … something. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Morienus sits back down in his chair with a stunned expression on his face. After several silent moments he speaks quietly. “You saw a parayama, the highest essence of a species. The one who comes for the dead.” His eyes narrow. “You’re not supposed to see that unless ….”
“Unless you’re dead”
“He’s not dead,” Ambrose says.
“I noticed that. It’s very puzzling.” The alchemist continues. “The essence of the species appears only to that being who has died. You can’t see the parayama that comes for another, you can only see the parayama that comes for you.”
“But I did. I saw it. I was alone and it protected me. And then there was a soft kind of purring that turned into the most incredible music I’ve ever heard. No. Not music, almost music, like music, but different … it was like they were showing me things, unseen things. And I was safe. I was secure and safe.”
Ambrose and Morienus look at each other. The owl makes a little shrugging motion, “You’ve got to admit, it’s a miracle he survived. Once his mother died, he might as well have had a sign pointed at his head saying ‘Free Lunch.’”
Morie nods. “Yes, that’s true. That’s very true.”
Ambrose speaks slowly as he considers this improbable possibility. “It must have been your mother’s parayama. And it stayed to care for you. That’s a very rare experience, Banshooo. That doesn’t usually happen.”
“Never, actually.” Morie is staring at Banshooo. “It never happens.” He shakes his head slowly and says it again. “Never.”
There is a long pause as the ramifications of this statement float through the dingy laboratory.
Patricia J Anderson’s essays and short stories have appeared in numerous periodicals including The Sun, Tricycle, Chronogram, Ars Medica, Glamour Magazine and Rewire Me.com. Her books include All of Us, a critically acclaimed investigation of cultural attitudes and beliefs, and Affairs In Order, named best reference book of the year by Library Journal. She is the recipient of The Communicator Award for online excellence and has produced exhibition, kiosk and website copy for such institutions as the American Museum of Natural History and the Capital Museum. She is the editor of Craig Barber’s Vietnam journal, Ghosts in the Landscape. She lives with her family in New York’s Hudson Valley.
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