Entangled Hearts 3
When Walter put the phone back into his bag, the night had fallen and solitude crept up his spine. He was in a forest he didn’t know and had just spent his 1% miracle battery charge on saying sorry to someone who was most likely not responsible for the lightning bolt that had saved him from a charging rhinoceros. Doubts about that decision arose in him. Maybe calling for help should have been his priority? Then he remembered that he had asked Sara to meet him at the space elevator tomorrow morning, which judging by how dark it was, was in a few hours. He hadn’t heard her response, but if she’d be waiting for him, while he was crawling through a forest, it might bring an abrupt end to their relationship. Or maybe she would understand the circumstances of lightning-bolt-induced-miracles? Or better yet, miracle induced lightning bolts? None of those thoughts were helpful in his current situation though, so he let them pass and focused his attention back on the present. He had to find a way out of this forest ASAP.
“Hello!” a voice said.
A sudden jolt ran through Walter. Partially scared, partially hoping for help, he scanned his surroundings with his headlamp. Seeing nobody else around, he asked the forest: “Hello there! I am lost, can you help me?”
“I will help you if you can answer me one question,” said the voice and then added “Oook!”
‘Oook?’ Walter wondered and looked around one more time “A question? Like a recommendation for a restaurant or something?” he asked trying to lighten the mood between him and the, for all he knew, forest spirit. “Where are you by the way? I can’t see you.”
“I’m up here,” rang through the treetops in a low manly voice.
Walter looked up and scanned the nearby branches. On one of them, he saw a reddish brown pile of dry hay with a face. Walter couldn’t believe his eyes. “Am I talking to you?” he asked the face.
“Yes,” it responded calmly.
“Don’t you want to come out of your hiding spot, so I can see you better?”
“What do you mean hiding spot? Oook. I am right here,” said the figure and then slowly spread out two huge arms that gently lowered the entire pile down to the ground next to Walter. When the figure touched the ground, Walter felt like a massive weight had been placed right in front of him. It was a fully grown orangutan. An orangutan with a long beard and a ponytail.
Walter had heard of ocean mammals that had developed their own language; and that some bird and monkey species living close to humans, had started to incorporate human words in their communication; but an orangutan speaking plain English was something else. To show his surprise seemed offensive though, “Right then. Ahm. How is it hanging, Mr…?” was his attempt at asking for the ape’s name.
“My name is Elisha,” said the ape while raising an eyebrow.
“Ok then, Elisha. I am Walter. I don’t mean to be impolite, but I am in a real hurry, can you help me find a way out of here?” The English abilities of the orangutan were of no importance compared to his need to meet Sara, so he simply ran with it.
“Why would you even want to get out of here? This is the best place! Come let me show you something,” said Elisha and swung his massive body up a tree. “See here? These are guavas!” Elisha picked a green skinned fruit from the tree and took a large bite. The gentle tree giant smiled in satisfaction.
Walter looked at Elisha’s face and recognized himself. That was his avocado-toast face. He was in a hurry, but messages from the universe like a speaking monkey offering him help were to be taken seriously. So, he decided to do the same and walked over to the tree trunk. He held on with both hands and set one foot against the tree. His grip strength, his arm strength, and the friction under his foot told him: there was no way he was going to lift his second foot off the ground.
“I fear I can’t make it up there,” he was embarrassed.
With his mouth full of guava, Elisha said: “Don’t worry. Here, catch!”
The guava illumined by Walter’s headlamp flew straight towards his face. A primal instinct made him catch it out of the air and take a hearty bite. Sweet guava juice dispersed through Walter’s mouth as he chewed on the thick flesh. As his teeth ground the soft and slightly sandy texture down into a pulp, he could feel how the sweetness penetrated his gum and shot straight into his brain. For a few moments of eternity, a sensual explosion occupied his nervous system, “Wow, sweet, juicy, tasty! This is the best fruit I’ve ever had!”.
Having expected such a result, Elisha continued the earlier conversation “Where do you have to go?”
“Back to civilization, and then, to the space elevator as fast as possible.”
“Oook, I will help you. If,” the pony-tailed long-bearded orangutan was raising a finger “You can answer me one question.”
“Ahm, sure. What’s your question?”
“Tell me, why is there something instead of nothing?”
Walter raised an eyebrow. He remembered having used this exact question as an example for a question you cannot answer towards Sara. But that made him also remember that he had to meet her no matter the cost, so he gave it his best shot: “Well, if there wouldn’t be something, what would be the something to see that something and realize that there is something? So, something wonders about something only when there is something to wonder about, Aaaand,” Walter frowned at the sky and wanted to continue his argument with nothing being the absence of something which was also something, when Elisha interrupted him:
“You are just saying that there is something. You have not answered my question. I fear I can’t help you,” stated the orangutan dramatically before he continued with a wink: “Unless, you have a good reason. Then, I might make an exception”.
Walter didn’t know what it was, but the orangutan made him feel at home, like Elisha was secretly already on Walter’s side. So, he spoke the truth: “Well, a few days ago, I started talking to a woman. I don’t know what she looks like, I don’t know where she lives, all I have is my memory of some of the best conversations of my life and this huge-ass phone to communicate with her. I am supposed to meet her at the space-elevator in a few hours, yet I am lost in this, no offense, damn forest. I am telling you, for this woman I would give up avocados, give up guavas, answer any question, you name it. So, I am begging you, please help me get out of here and meet Sara!”.
“Oook. Follow me friend. For love, I’ll do anything.”
Elisha grabbed onto the closest branch and backflipped himself towards the next tree. Gently the orangutan floated through the treetops. Walter was running as fast as he could, but Elisha was too fast, “Hang in there! I can’t keep up!”
“Sorry friend. I’ll try to swing slower.”
After a while, they reached a large fence. Elisha flung his enormous weight over the 4 m high obstacle and landed gracefully on the other side. Walter ran against the mesh of steel wires and was immediately confronted by his inability to climb over it. Memories of his failed attempt at climbing a tree earlier pushed into his mind.
“Elisha! I can’t climb this fence. Is there a way around?”
“Can’t you just pull it up and crawl underneath?”
Walter grabbed the fence with his hands and pulled as hard as he could. The thing didn’t move a centimetre.
“No, I fear we’ll have to find another way.”
“Wait, let me help you,” said Elisha, who moved over to the fence, grabbed it with one hand and pulled it out from the ground, deforming the mesh considerably “Try here. Can you fit?”
Walter stared incredulously at Elisha, then rushed over and crawled underneath the frisbee-sized hand.
“Thanks,” mumbled Walter in awe.
After clearing the forest, they found themselves in an abandoned suburb. Walter reached towards his headlamp and focused the beam. He saw an old concrete building with graffiti on its side.
“This is not a good place,” stated Elisha “We should keep moving.”
“I need to charge my phone, maybe there is someone in that house that can help me,” said Walter.
“There are no humans here anymore. Many left. Then, when the monkeys came, they ran.”
Walter wondered: ‘They chased them away? Did they hurt them? Was there a fight?’, while eyeing the building in front of him. “I have a girl to disappoint. I mean, not disappoint. I need to go in there and get my phone charged. Are you with me?”
“I’m not going in there,” said Elisha, “but I’ll wait for you outside.”
Walter’s heart was thumping against his chest. He didn’t have time to contemplate other options, he had to charge his phone now, so he headed towards the ramshackle building. The door was blocked from the inside. So, he wandered over to a window, took a stick from the ground and smashed it.
“Oook” commented Elisha.
After clearing the windowsill from the glass shards, Walter climbed through to make his way inside. On the floor, old dusty carpets that hadn’t seen a vacuum since the dawn of time stretched through a ghostly hallway. The walls were covered in ornate wood carvings and occasional paintings, where the faces were ripped out. ‘Ok, Waltage. Keep it cool. Just a few minutes of recharge and then we’re outta here.’ He calmed himself.
In the corridor he found himself in, there was no power outlet. To his left, a toppled-over bookshelf blocked the way. To his right, stairs went up to the second floor. The house was filled with his creaking steps as he ascended. He focused on his breath, ‘In, and out. In, and out.’ He felt the moldy air on the inside of his nostrils. On the second floor, he finally found a power outlet. He put down his bag, pulled out the charger and plugged the phone into the wall. Nothing happened. There was no more power in this house. ‘Charge your phone in an abandoned house. Great idea, Walter. Really, just great.’ ‘In, and out.’ He tried to focus back on his breath. ‘In, in and out, out. Wait what?’ There was another breath coming from his right. It was right next to his ear. He slowly turned his head until the beam of his head lamp revealed an angry looking monkey.
“Aaaahhhhh!!! Help! Elisha! HEEELLLLPP!” Walter screamed. Then, the primate grabbed the bag with the phone and darted off towards a window.
“Halt! Stop! I need that!” Walter yelled after the monkey, whose house he just had invaded. But the monkey was already off through the window.
Walter ran down the stairs and dove through the window he had shattered earlier. “Elisha! Can you chase that monkey for me?” he shouted, pointing after the monkey running down the street. “I need that phone more than anything.”
“Sure thing, Walter. I’ll get him,” said Elisha and started to trot in the general direction. There were no trees around, so also Elisha was bound to the ground; and on the ground, he was slow.
It became clear that neither Walter nor Elisha would be fast enough to chase that monkey down. Walter needed an idea. Scanning his surroundings, he saw skateboards leaning against a wall. He ran over, took one of them, instinctively threw it on the ground before him and jumped on it from a half sprint. In his youth, Walter used to skate quite seriously, and those skills were now ready for a life-or-death situation. Well, it was more of a love-or-sad situation, but to his nature, those two things seemed to be the same.
The crisp rolling sound of the plastic wheels on the pavement reassured him, he was going fast. He bent slightly forward to reduce his wind resistance and felt the air rushing through his hair, where the headlamp wasn’t holding it down.
He could see the sprinting monkey in the distance, but he was running downhill, and Walter was on wheels. ‘Ah, gravity. Never disappoints’ he thought. As he came closer, the monkey took a sharp turn and tried to escape through an old aquapark. It must have been full of children years ago, but now all that was left were just empty swimming pools.
With blind faith, Walter entered the pool by tilting his body horizontally over the ground. The concrete floor was now parallel to him, and about 3 meters away from his centre of gravity. A flat crash from this height would mean broken bones, squished organs and punctured lungs. But the base of the pool was not cornered rectangularly. It had a smooth quarter pipe shape, perfect for skateboarding. The fall converted his potential energy into kinetic energy that he redirected under the aid of the quarter pipe to move forward. Now supercharged by the conservation of energy, he was moving much faster than the monkey, who was just exiting the pool on the other side. Walter shot up the wall of the pool, snatched the bag out of the monkeys hand, turned himself by 180 degrees and smoothly landed his trick jump, once gravity had yet again brought him back down to the bottom of the pool. “Whoohoo!” he screamed as he rolled out and held the bag over his head.
Checking the bag he was content to find the phone still intact. For a moment he was surprised by the unsurprising fact that his battery was still depleted. Then, someone honked a car horn. Walter was startled, car horns didn’t exist anymore. Since cars were flying autonomously, according to machine learned procedures, honking only occurred in backpropagation algorithms.
“Over here, Walter!” yelled Elisha from inside a vintage mustang. The honking of the horn was almost as loud as the engine of the stinking machine. “Let’s get you to your girl, friend.”
Walter jumped in the car, and Elisha drove off. “You also drive?” Walter was impressed.
“If I have to. Oook,” said Elisha.
Walter checked the car for a power outlet, but all he found was a cigarette lighter. Humans had replaced the addiction to cigarettes with an addiction to electronics, so Walter suspected there would be converter somewhere in the car. Rummaging through the glove compartment he found an adapter with an old cable format. Fortunately, he had an adapter that would convert the old format to the new design of contemporary charging cables. So, he plugged the adapter in, plugged the converter in, plugged the cable in, and finally connected the phone.
“The future is now,” said Walter.
“Oook,” stated Elisha.
On the horizon, there was a thin line reaching up into the sky. “Can you see that? That’s the elevator cable. Keep going maybe we can make it in time!” said Walter and continued: “I got so damn scared in that house! I was worried that monkey would kill me.”
“Kill you? Ha. No, they wouldn’t kill you. Why would you think that?”
“Ahm, well, you said they came and the humans started to run. Why else were they running?”
“Oh you see, if they really don’t like you, they’ll poop in their hands and throw it at you. What else are you going to do but run?”
Walter frowned. Bringing his attention back on the phone in front of him, he pushed the power button and was relieved to see it spring to action.
A few unread messages greeted him, one was from his friend Marcus Carter on the Moon saying “Hey Walter! We need to talk! You know, the end of the world thing isn’t going very well...”
‘Hmpf, the end can wait a little bit longer’ was Walter’s resigned contemplation on the subject matter. And then there was a message from Sara:
“Hey Walt! Are you ok? I am guessing your phone ran out of power and that’s why I can’t reach you anymore. However, I would love to see you at the elevator tomorrow :). I’ll be there in the morning anyways because I want to take the tour. See you there, Sara”
“Ok Elisha, I have a girl to meet. Give it all you got!”
“Sure thing friend,” said Elisha and stepped on the throttle.
The engine roared like a dragon made of metal, screaming for its unborn baby machines. Walter’s back was pushed into the seat of the cabrio, while the corners of his mouth reached towards the sky.
Checking the time, Walter realized it was a close call to make it for the ascent in time, so he dialed up Sara to make sure she understood his circumstances. The phone rang for a few moments and then Sara responded cheerfully: “Hey Walter! I was hoping you’d call!”
“Hey! I was hoping that too!” joked Walter over what had just happened to him. “I have to tell you the most incredible story! I got chased by a rhinoceros, because I cuddled it’s baby, and then saved by a lightning bolt. Then, I had to chase a monkey for my phone with a skate board, and now I am in a cabriolet. Who’s driving, you ask? Well, he is an orangutan. Therefore, I may not be able to be there in time,” he excused himself with a hint of pride.
There was a pause before Sara responded without her cheerfulness: “Hmm, if you don’t want to come, you don’t have to make up stories you know.”
“No, no, no. It’s not a story I swear! Here, let Elisha the ORANGUTAN tell you,” and handed the phone over to Elisha before he said: “I think this may be inappropriate, but could you please make some orangutan sounds to convince her I am not lying?”
Elisha took the phone in one hand, gave Walter a quick stare and said, “Look, I am going to say it, but when I say it, it’s not a joke,” like in contemplation, “Oook. But also let me tell you. It’s all true, I saw it! Your friend is crazy to cuddle baby rhinoceros. Never ever do that!”
“In my defense: the little squishy fella cuddled me first,” Walter said while contracting all his facial features into one point.
Elisha continued: “But man, the guy has balls! When he chased that monkey down, I thought I saw god. Mamn, we’ll make it in time, the universe is in favor of this,” and handed the phone back to Walter.
Walter was astounded by the compliment and continued to chat with Sara: “Well, that was something! But hey, how about you? Any news?”
“You chased a monkey while riding a skateboard?” she was impressed, “and you are friends with a speaking orangutan? Is he part of the b-ok proxies?”
“I heard it on the news the other day. Apparently there is a gang of orangutans robbing libraries. they speak perfect . You should look up b-ok on the internet sometime.”
Before Walter could express his amazement over Sara’s orangutan knowledge she continued: “So I can’t skateboard like that, but if we want to do something, I could ride a bicycle in the vicinity?” Sara suggested and then quickly added, “But not that we have to do things, I mean we haven’t even met yet, but you know just in case.” And then under her breath added: “Looking forward to seeing you!”
Walter wasn’t great at interpreting subtext, so he clumsily tried to redirect the conversation: “Hey, ahm, me too! And you know, 2 wheels are also cool… But enough about me, what about you? Anything interesting happening on your side?”
“Well, not like that I guess. But I am at the elevator exhibition. And let me tell you: this is the most incredible technology I have ever seen!”
Her cheerfulness was back when she started to explain: “So, I’m guessing the basic concept of a space elevator is clear to you? There is a space station held just outside a geostationary orbit, so that the centrifugal force pulls the station away from Earth. This keeps the cable stable and allows the sensation of gravity, pointing away from Earth, on the space station. The station is then connected to a counterweight, located here on Earth. I have to admit though, it seems quite excessive.”
“Never be too cheap for a proper foundation! Trust me.”
“I guess a great foundation is important for anything,” she commented winkingly and continued, “but the most impressive part is the cable! It’s called galaxy tether and is made of just one molecule. Like human DNA it’s wrapped around itself, which allows it to change its length almost arbitrarily. The whole thing can expand and contract, while additionally even the elevator itself rides along it.”
“I guess the only thing better than a good foundation is a strong connection,” said Walter winkingly and added without knowing why: “Especially when it can change its length like that”.
“I guess you are right! But what you shouldn’t underestimate is the technique the elevator uses to ride the cable.” An awkward pause followed, which was awkward for everyone except Walter and Sara. “The elevator has giant macromolecules that move along the cable like kinesin moves along human DNA. Life itself is basically climbing into space,” she ended her verbal science-gasm.
“Ok, I see this must be one hell of a structure,” commented Walter before Elisha interrupted: “Now ask her!”
“Ask her what?” Walter was confused.
“Why is there something instead of nothing?” Elisha still really wanted to know.
Walter remembered that he and Sara had used this question as an example for things that can’t be answered, yet the topic came up again by itself, so maybe this was an important question to think about: “Hey, Sara, Elisha has a question for us: Why is there something instead of nothing?”
Sara was happy to reply: “You know, some of the most fundamental laws of the universe we were able to find so far, are about the universe being in balance with itself. Like every action has an equivalent and opposing reaction, or the conservation of energy, which says that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. This is the very reason we can write equations at all; we are literally balancing things on a conceptual level. So, the real question to me is: Since there is something, obviously, where is the negative something?”
Walter looked around himself to find the negative something. Startled he simply handed the counter question over to Elisha who frowned in surprise and then simply said: “Not an answer, but a good question! I will use this question from now on.”
“Do you do this often?” Walter wanted to know. He couldn’t quite believe that this was a regular thing for an orangutan.
“You know, I have seen a lot of violence, because someone thought they needed something for themselves. Because they thought they were so important. I think asking yourself questions that are bigger than you give you another perspective. Oook”
“Are you one of the book stealing orangutans?”
“No. I am the one who returns them. Read.”
Then, Sara interrupted “Hey, Walter, I’m going to board the elevator, Ok? They say that all electronics need to be shut off during the ride, so I guess we’ll just see each other inside? If you are on time that is.”
“Sure, sounds great! Let’s meet inside. See you in a bit!” he answered and hung up the phone.
Walter and Elisha were racing towards the elevator cable, a thin vertical line on the horizon. From high up, Walter could already spot the elevator descending towards the ground station. “That’s my ride,” he exclaimed. Then he looked around and noticed that they were driving on a huge perfectly flat plane stretching for kilometres in either direction. ‘Is this the counterweight?’ Walter wondered ‘It does seem excessive!’
When they arrived at the station Walter jumped out of the car and quickly yelled back at Elisha: “How can I ever thank you for this? Or meet you again?”
“Don’t worry friend, if it’s meant to be, we will meet again.”
“Do you believe in god, destiny or something?”
“God, destiny, negative something, call it whatever you want. But this surely feels so made up, if there is no plan to it, I’ll shave my head.”
Judging by the long ponytail and full beard of the orangutan, Walter was sure he had made a serious statement. “Ok, then. Thanks! And see you next time I guess,” concluded Walter and entered the station.
He rushed to the counter and said: “One ticket to space please!”
“Sir, you are just in time, the next ride is about to leave. May I just ask you to turn off all your electronics and stow them in the elevator lockers? They will be transported up to the space station together with you.”
Walter complied and made his way towards the elevator. Only then it occurred to him how nervous he was. His hands were shaking and his stomach was full of butterflies. Or was there something wrong with the guava he had had earlier? He was about to meet this woman that had completely enchanted him over just a few phone calls. The mere sound of her name already made him feel giddy. Yet, he had never felt so confident in a conversation, as he did with her.
When he looked down, he saw dirty, partially torn hiking clothes smelling of sweat and orangutan. ‘This is going to be one hell of a first impression’ he thought to himself and added ‘Hopefully, she smells like giraffe or something’.
His heart was beating in his throat when he entered the passenger cabin. The elevator was shaped like a doughnut with a bitemark wrapped around the galaxy tether. The roof was completely made of glass tiles, while the floor was furnished with carpet.
He took a close look around to see if anybody would try to make eye contact with him, but nobody seemed to return the favour. Then, he realized that he had no clue what she looked like and decided to casually ask into the room: “Sara?”
Some eyes turned, but quite clearly none of them were Sara’s. Then he tried a bit louder “Sara?!”, but now people were intentionally looking away. He started to pace up and down in the elevator and started to yell: “SARA?!?”
Suddenly, a beautiful blond woman stepped in front of him. She had the face of an angel with a smile to enchant kings. “Hey!” Walter mumbled, smiling through his unbrushed teeth. She replied softly:
“Please take your seat sir, we are about to ascend.”