The Road to Nowhere – WIF 10 Cent Travel

Leave a comment

Ancient Places

That Might Have

Actually Existed

Myth and legend are full of wondrous places that capture the imagination and have inspired generations of adventurers to explore the world in search of their treasures. Often they come up empty-handed, but every once in a while there seems to be a sliver of truth to the tales of these mythical places. Let’s take a look at 10 that may have been based in some degree of reality.

Let us take you away…

10. Atlantis

The story of Atlantis can be traced to the Greek philosopher Plato. He spoke of the fabled land back in 360 BC. In Plato’s telling, Atlantis was a land of rich and powerful people who were technologically advanced. It was not a complimentary tale though, and his stories about it were meant to illustrate that their knowledge and might had corrupted them as a people.

For most of history these tales were regarded as allegorical, used by Plato to illustrate a point. There are no other writings of the time that ever mention anything like Atlantis, so it was generally considered just to be something he made up to be illustrative. Not everyone believes that was the case though.

In more recent years, the belief that Atlantis may have been based on Minoan society has achieved some notoriety. The Minoan kingdom, ruled by King Minos, was said to be remarkably wealthy and advanced and had spread across much of Ancient Greece.

Minoans had paved roads and were believed to have been the first Greek society to use a written language. And then one day they vanished. It’s believed that sometime around 1600 BC a massive earthquake set off the volcanoes on the Minoan island known as Thera, burying it and destroying the culture forever.

9. Norumbega

Norumbega was said to be a legendary land of riches, named for an Algonquin word for the area, discovered by the Vikings well before North America was settled by Europeans. It showed up on maps in the 1500s and was situated around modern-day New England.

Archaeological evidence doesn’t support the idea that the Vikings ever settled anywhere that far south, and there’s only one confirmed Viking settlement in North America that exists in Newfoundland. That doesn’t mean there weren’t others though, and there is some evidence to suggest that perhaps Vikings did in fact settle farther north in places.

So what about Norumbega? The people of Boston commissioned a statue of Leif Erikson in the 1870s, in honor of his discovery of this legendary land.

In Viking tales, North America was called Vinland, or at least that’s what some people believe. Other historians who have analyzed the often contradictory data presented in Viking sagas have determined that Vinland couldn’t be where the Vikings landed in Newfoundland because of the lack of certain features like salmon and grapes. It’s believed that those things were found farther south around Martha’s Vineyard, perhaps as far down as Boston, which would have lent itself to the Norumbega myth.

8. Shangri-La

The legendary city of Shangri-La traces its origins to the works of British author James Hilton. He wrote of the city in his 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.” According to Hilton, Shangri-La was essentially an earthly paradise hidden within the Kunlun Mountains. While many have dismissed the story as pure fantasy created by Hilton, others believe that there’s some truth to them. Especially because Tibetan myths hold that there were several such cities hidden within the mountains.

In 1998, explorers trekking through the area discovered an area that they believe may have actually inspired the Shangri-La story. To the best of their knowledge, no Western humans had ever set foot in this place. Called “The Hidden Falls of the Tsangpo,” this valley of lush greenery was hidden even from satellite imagery in the mountains.

7. El Dorado

The legendary city/kingdom/empire of El Dorado is arguably one of the most interesting in all of mythology. Conquistadors searched throughout South America to find this place, which was apparently a vast city made of solid gold. While some legendary places were based entirely in fiction, and other places like Xanadu turned out to actually be real, the truth about El Dorado is a complete sidestep from either of these things.

Perhaps the results of the same phenomena that happens during the telephone game, when you tell a story to one person and they tell it to another, and they tell it to another, and the details get muddled, the truth of El Dorado also changed over time.

The idea that El Dorado was a golden kingdom came from something a little less vast, but still pretty impressive. El Dorado was no kingdom, but a king. Archaeological evidence shows that El Dorado was a person who was, for all intents and purposes, golden. This Chieftain would be covered from head to toe in gold and every day would bathe in a sacred lake to wash the gold off before applying it again the next day.

Unlike most other legends, this makes El Dorado curiously true and false at the same time, sort of like Schrodinger’s cat: neither outcome was expected, but not entirely false either.

6. Camelot

The story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a pretty fantastic one, especially when you consider it involves pulling a magical sword from a stone, and a wizard. These things are generally not found in real life history. Despite that, there’s some evidence that Arthur’s stomping grounds, better known as Camelot, was an actual real place at some point in time even if Arthur was never a real man, or perhaps a gestalt of several kings.

Retired British Professor Peter Field believed he stumbled upon the actual location of Camelot while doing some research. Based on his findings, he came to the conclusion that Camelot was a Roman fort at Slack, to the west of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire.

The Roman fort, called Camulodunum, was strategically placed but currently exists underneath a golf course, so any excavation is probably going to have to wait a few years.

5. Hy-Brasil

Said to be located off the coast of Ireland, the island of Brasil, sometimes called Hy-Brasil so as to not confuse it with the South American country, is supposedly hidden except for one day every seven years. You don’t need to have a degree in geography to know that’s not a realistic feature of most islands, which is why it’s generally considered to be purely fictitious.

Despite the mysterious nature of the island, there have been accounts of people discovering similar places over the years. The island appeared on maps as early as the year 1325 and continued to appear on maps all the way up to the year 1800.

Several explorers and sailors claimed to have either seen, or even visited the island, though most who went in search of it came back empty-handed. It’s been theorized that the Porcupine Bank might be the actual source of the story — a raised shoal in the general vicinity where Hy-Brasil was said to exist.

4. Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Constructed in the 6th century BC by King Nebuchadnezzar II, the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon were supposed to be quite the sight to behold. Cascading gardens that reached 75 feet in height and featured flowers, herbs and all manner of exotic plant life to such an extravagant degree they became known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And as far as anyone knew in modern times, they had never existed at all.

In order for such a garden to have existed, an impressive irrigation system had to have been constructed to bring enough water into the desert for all the plants to thrive. No evidence in modern times has ever been found to indicate such a massive undertaking ever existed around Babylon. It doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t exist though.

According to research by Dr. Stephanie Dalley, the reason we never found any evidence of the Hanging Gardens in Babylon was that they were never in Babylon in the first place. She believes she discovered evidence of their existence and the ancient city of Nineveh, part of the Assyrian Empire.

Dalley’s research shows Assyrian King Sennacherib was responsible for an extravagant garden about a century before the supposed Babylonian version. His writings describe such a thing, including irrigation technology thought to not exist until four centuries later.

3. Zerzura

West of the Nile, somewhere in the desert in Egypt or Libya, was said to be the legendary oasis of Zerzura. Written accounts of it can be traced back to the 13th century, mentioning a city that was as white as a dove. It was said that it is ruled by a sleeping king and queen; it was guarded by black giants, and it was full of treasures.

Numerous European explorers set out to discover the location of Zerzura in more modern times, some as late as the 1930s. It was in 1932 when Hungarian Explorer Laszlo Almasy led an expedition through the desert and discovered a series of wadis. Though there was no shining white city with a sleeping king, the truth was that they did discover some oases in the desert that had been clearly visited by the local Tebu nomads who had built huts around the area.

It’s worth noting that in the recounting of Almasy’s tale, he started his day of discovery by dusting the desert sand off of his plane. Had there been something in that area in the past it’s just as likely that the desert had swallowed it and only the vegetation remained. Regardless of whether there was a real city or not, the oasis does seem to exist and it’s possible something else may have once been there as well.

2. Thule

In ancient Greek and Roman writings, the farthest north you could get was a land called Thule. It was in the 4th century BC when Greek explorer Pytheas came to Athens with stories of this land where the sun never set and the land and ocean came together in a sort of jelly-like substance. So that was weird.

In later years some people came to believe that perhaps what Pytheas was describing was Iceland or even Greenland, but the details didn’t always line up. In time people came to believe that perhaps Pytheas had just made up the entire story. The only problem was he had been consistently reliable with what he had written about in the past. And the fact remains that his description of the Arctic summer was accurate. When you go far enough north, you will reach places where the sun stays up for days at a time. It would be a remarkable thing for him to have just guessed that.

Pytheas claims to have discovered the land six days across the sea from the Orkney islands. The people there were said to be fair skinned and with light hair, and barbarians by his description. In later years the Nazis would latch onto this story and mount their own expedition to find Thule, believing it to be the birthplace of the Aryan race.

Obviously the Nazis never found this mythical land of Aryan supremacy, but there were enough details of a land that clearly existed somewhere in the Arctic to confirm that wherever Pytheas had gone, it was likely a real place.

1. Sodom and Gomorrah

In the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, God told Abraham that the two cities were going to be destroyed because of how wicked the inhabitants were. Abraham’s nephew Lot lived in one of those towns and Abraham didn’t really want to see him destroyed. Only Lot and his family were worthy enough to live, so they were told they could flee just as long as they didn’t look back. But as they left, Lot’s wife took a peek and was turned into a pillar of salt. As for everyone else in town? Nothing remained.

You’d think the historical evidence for two cities destroyed by God himself would be pretty thin. But there is a belief that the two cities did exist and the ruins are currently near a former peninsula of the Dead Sea in Israel. As for God’s wrath, it took the form of an earthquake that was believed to hit the region around 1900 BCE, and naturally occurring petroleum and other gases in the area may have actually exploded and rained fire at the time.


The Road to Nowhere

WIF 10 Cent Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 73

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 73

“What happened to your lousy English and didn’t your hair used to be black?”…

plot-thickens3

The Plot Thickens by Donna MacDonald

“Then why has his hair color changed?” On a thin whim he says, “Let’s pay Gherkin a visit.” With time dwindling, hunches played trump hunches ignored.

Roy Crippen douses power to the what-not room as he and Francine scamper over to the nerve center of mans’ first colony away from Earth. From scamper to gallop, their pace quickens and if Francine had any doubts as to the seriousness of the situation, all she need do is keep up with the bulldog in front of her.

In a big building with odd angles and unexpected transitions, Roy bowls over an unsuspecting  technician, sending him sprawling. He excuses himself, sort of, while acquiring a limp in the process.

Francine mostly ignores the tech, asking, “Are you going to be alright Roy?”

“What…. Oh yes, come on,” not a complete answer.

“I hope I’m not out of line, but are we chasing a ghost here. You are making a pretty big fuss about one little man.” She is not privy to Roy’s unfolding theory.

He stops to collect himself, address her issues with a glance and a right hand thru his floppy brown straight hair. Francine straightens his tie thereby restoring the look of a man in control.

He speaks, seemingly into the thin air, alerting security as to the nature of his pending confrontation, rejoining the previously frantic pace, with a newswoman bring up the rear.

At this late stage of the approaching launch, less than an hour now, nearly every eye sneaks a peek at NASA’s man of the hour. He looks like a man under the gun, acts like a man possessed, and don’t you dare get in his way.

With Roy grabbing the Spatial Debris tech by the shoulders, spinning him around in-your-face style, the man is startled by the aggressive move, “There is no problem in the launch window, Mr. Crippen, only some small stuff out at 500,000 out.”

“What happened to your lousy English and didn’t your hair used to be black?”

“I do not know what you are talking about, Sir.”

“What is your name and when did you get here?”

“My name is Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma and I have been here all day, except for a short break early this morning. I had been on duty for sixteen hours. Someone relieved me for an hour, no more.”

“You could barely speak English when we spoke this morning.”

plot-thickens


THE RETURN TRIP

switcheroo-001

Episode 73


page 68

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 71

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 71

…There is no reason to panic yet, but Miss Bouchette is here to help me put some pieces together, she being the only person who spoke with either a genuine informant… or a really good guesser…

Image result for informant painting

Informant from the 1980s by Mohammad Omran

As they dash inside Roy explains, “If I did not think this was of the utmost importance, I would not have asked you here. But I need to confirm the source of a smell in my control room, before I can act on any hunches.”

The freshly minted investigative duo and one armed {with two arms} escort enter Colony Mission Control, heading straight for Braden King, who will have the latest of the late news.

“The New Mayflower has been reprogrammed to liftoff at 11:57 to dodge a meteor… oh and and the downrange tracking is ready. That puts us on t-minus 1:49.55.” Braden has really pushed the whole ground crew in Roy’s short absence.

There is no reason to panic yet, but Miss Bouchette is here to help me put some pieces together, she being the only person who spoke with either a genuine informant… or a really good guesser. And we’re not talking about an old-fashioned-Chinese-like-cyber-attack.”

“Thank you for the professional manner in which you included us in your story. Those folks on Mars are dear to us and had you just blurted the news out, we would have lost control of things.” Braden doesn’t bother her with the wrenching details of Deke and Gus’ reaction to her report.

“We will be in the briefing room Braden, and not to be disturbed!”

“If there is a hitch in the countdown, I’ll let you know – t-minus 1:42 and counting.”

He nods, checks his PDA and opens the door to the classified room by placing his palm on the encoder on its right side. It is not as neat or pristine as she would have guessed one long littered table that is used for confidential meetings, taco parties and card games. Roy enters a ten character code into the comprehensive NASA database, brightening the 75” monitor on the wall to display personnel files that may hold the clue to an inside traitor.

But it is Francine who holds the key that unlocks the dark secret. She tells him every detail she could recall from that very hectic and eventful 10 minutes, which seemed much longer than 9 1/2 hours ago.

“Are you sure he had a Pakistani accent, I know that country became part of Talibanistan ten years ago,” asks Roy who knows just about everyone who has not bought into Space Colony 1.

“He said the wordsassalamu alaikum’, I looked that up; ‘may Allah’s peace be with you’ in the Arab culture. And he referred to Korean, Nepal and Taliban joy about the accident… and we are imperialistic infidels.”

The Nepal reference strikes a nerve.

“I wasn’t aware that Nepal had an axe to grind about the Mars project. But there is somebody in this complex from Nepal, that strange little tech named Gherkin who replaced Phil Jansky. I wonder if there is a connection.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 71


page 66

Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi – WIF Myths & Legends

Leave a comment

Universal Myths

That Persist

We all have the inner yearning that calls for answers on our basic questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going, and what is our purpose? In most cases, myths are obviously metaphoric and completely inconceivable. Others can be found in various societies that are completely remote from one another, where the similarities in the accounts are so distinct that they suggest a common historical basis. The following myths all led to controversial hypotheses and theories, adding mystery and wonder to our united consciousness.

10. Time

In the 17th century, Archbishop Ussher claimed the world began in 4004 BC and that it would exist for 6,000 years until the final battle with the Antichrist – leading to the 1,000-year rule of the saints and then, finally, the end. Nostradamus used this chronology and claimed the year 1999 would be the beginning of the end times.

In mythic tradition, time is more irregular, intricate, and recurring. The Mayans thought the time had a seasonal or cyclic rhythm, and the Celts believed it ran at different rates in different realms. This mythic understanding of time is backed up by modern cosmology. The English astronomer Fred Hoyle, however, claims the idea of time as an ever-rolling stream is “a grotesque and absurd illusion,” stating that everything was, will be, and has always been. According to him, the sense of past, present, and future is all an illusion.

9. Astrology

The night sky is a portrait painted by myths. We all know our “star signs” – which consists of 12 constellations of the zodiac. Few know that the 12 symbols, or signs, that we love to plan our futures on are only part of the 88 identified constellations.

The oldest astronomy/astrology (in those days it was the same thing) records to survive are those of the Chaldeans, who nightly observed the sky looking for omens and clues to their fate, more than 2,000 years before the Romans. Modern dismissals of the role these constellations play on our futures have not ended the mythic identification with the celestial bodies and probably never will.

8. Curses

What we know from the myths and legends today are that curses are either cast on humanity by the gods or by lesser, human priests and witch-doctors, or by one wronged person onto another. Either way, intentional harm or death is intended. The most famous curse is found in the Bible when the serpent is cursed for tempting Eve, followed by the cursing of Adam and Eve, leading to the doctrines of the fall of man.

In most Eastern beliefs, however, the curse is our inability to see through illusion. Today it is said that a curse only works if the victim believes in it. The Hamitic hypothesis claims that Ham (along with his son Canaan), son of Noah, was cursed after exposing his drunken father to his brothers. According to the hypothesis they were “marked” by the shade of their skin, becoming the forefathers of the black race – the curse accounts for all the suffering the black race has endured through the ages.

7. Supernatural Beings

The belief in supernatural beings is ancient. Where demons want to cause us injury, angels offer protection, direction, and religious insight. The names of the great archangels are known to Muslims and Christians alike. People have seen shining winged human beings everywhere in the world. At Fatima, Portugal in 1917, shepherd children met a beautiful young woman who claimed to be from Heaven. Subsequent visions led to a crowd of 70,000, witnessing the sun descend to earth. Today the event is commonly known as the “Miracle of the Sun.”

At this event and others that were similar, mass healings followed. Scientists have ascribed the events to mass hysteria, but another more controversial theory claims that these events (as well as the ones in ancient times) were all actually close encounters with aliens, or UFOs. Whatever the environment or circumstances, the visitation of winged messengers persists.

6. Dying Gods

Examples of gods who die and then return to life are most frequently derived from Ancient Near East religions, and practices inspired by them include Biblical and Greco-Roman myths and Christianity by extension. The archetype’s characteristics are that their birth is announced by a star, as children they teach their teachers, they predict their death, and after their death they return.

The Middle Eastern dying gods are normally searched for and resurrected or restored by their wives or sister. It has been hypothesized that religion fills a void, and that we created it to help us feel more secure and safe in a world that seemingly delivers more questions than answers.

5. The Flood Stories

Renditions of the myth of a worldwide flood, or deluge, are found the world over. Typically they agree that the entire world was inundated, that the event (though foreseen) was sudden, and that the few survivors built arks, rafts or other vessels having been warned by God (or the gods). The best known account is the biblical story of Noah.

The corresponding themes are global – arks and rafts are mostly built on high ground, and sin caused the flood. Just as odd is the wide agreement about the details (such as the size of the raindrops and hailstones, as well as the heat of the deluge). From Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology to Pralaya in Hinduism and Belgermir in Northern mythology, today it is widely believed that the global Flood was not a mythic but an actual historic event.

4. Megalithic Myths

There are normally two varieties of megalithic myths: first the myths of the builders/designers’ mysterious and supernatural powers, and second about the mystical or magical properties of the stones. Great Britain and Egypt are hosts to the most famous ones but they can be found the world over.

Having been associated with healing, fertility, giants, and the devil, the renewed interest came about when science stepped in. It became clear these stones worked as giant calendars, with individual stones marking seasons or the movement of the sun and the moon. The most interesting speculation about them came from a man called Paul Devereux, he claimed that UFOs are terrestrial emanations connected with faults in the megalithic system and that they access our brains directly as they are electromagnetic.

3. Omens

Beliefs in omens, events, or objects that forewarn us about good or evil that may be coming our way have existed since time immemorial. The Druids sought omens in the flight of birds and in Ireland each sound, position, or movement of domesticated ravens has a different connotation. Omens are also drawn by different cultures from the direction of flames, the howling of dogs, shapes of tree-roots, the state of entrails, and even from the way sandals fall when they are tossed.

At the heart of these myths is the view that everything interconnects. Jung reasoned that the collective unconscious knows all things – implying that the view may not be that absurd.

2. Creation

There are three basic questions when it comes to how the Earth, cosmos, and all life were created. How did something come from nothing? How was it created and how did the natural order of all minerals, plants, animals, and human kingdoms come to be? Theories range from the modern “Big Bang” to the older and even ancient approaches.

In most myths, the elements are favored – claiming that air, wind, fire, and sometimes vibrations caused all things to be. Another very common theme is the “World Tree” creation legends that can be found from Africa to Tonga. These are normally rooted in Paradise and all life springs from it, or it can be linked with dimensions and various created worlds. The most subtle myths imply that there is no beginning and no end, that everything is in balance, and that all is as it should be.

1. Afterlife

In all quarters of the world, the individual soul/spirit is believed to survive death. This belief goes back to as early as 80,000 BC, as Neanderthal burials would suggest that they, too, prepared for the afterlife. From the Christian beliefs of Heaven and Hell, to the Tibetan Book of the Dead that advises the newly-dead how to avoid rebirth, the belief remains despite lack of proof.

Many interesting theories exist apart from the religious views on what happens to the soul after a person dies. Edmund Fournier d’Albe was one of the first researchers that came up with an afterlife hypothesis, claiming that one’s soul leaves the body after death and lives off ultraviolet rays from the sun in another realm of the Earth’s atmosphere. Others say that the soul will find itself in a dream world or simply that only the mind will live on, becoming part of the collective consciousness.


Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi

WIF Myths & Legends

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 65

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 65

…Celeste would have laughed had she not popped her light on, fearfully recognizing the cause of Sam’s fall, “That is a body!”…

surprise-leonard-filgate

Surprise by Leonard Filgate

“Damn!” Sam galumphs into spread-eagle prostrations. “Maybe we should be using the helmet lights,” he taps the side of his head to do so, to light their way and expose the upright-cancelling offender.

“Whooaa!” he springs to his feet like a wrestler scoring 2 points on a lightning-quick reversal {and low gravity}.

Celeste would have laughed had she not popped her light on, fearfully recognizing the cause of Sam’s fall, “That is a body!”

dead-alien

Sampson backs off a few steps, so they can both see a space traveler of unknown origin, who hadonyx-black-001 met his doom several steps from the entrance. The not-of-this-neighborhood being had the rough configuration of a human; a pair of legs and one arm… at his side and the other extended out, as if to retrieve a black object, like the one they found minutes before.

IT must be a device of some kind, though either she or Sam could get theirs to so much as light up. While Sampson inspects the spaceman, Celeste further fondles her gizmo, hoping to solve its mysterious function. Had it been a ray gun, she would have blasted everything around her, but gladly it was not.

They area is spared laser fire, but she finally gets it to do something, somehow causing a momentary digital Related imagesound, hummmm in the key of C, “Hmmm! Come on, work you dumb thing!”

Then, without notice or noise to that matter, what they had guessed to be the front door, opens in a flash.

“Looks like you found the invitation Cel,” utters Sam as they must do something other than stare.

star-crossedUpon further review, this must be the star-crossed vehicle’s version of an airlock, but it didn’t do either of these guys any good, “Bodies two and three,” he point to the floor.

But as fast as the outside door opened, it closes itself.

Celeste, who could apparently operate her black oval, coaxes the set of parallel and perpendicular lines to open the interior door, followed by a rush of pungent air from inside. It seemed so unlikely, but after all these unknown years, this ship still had some operational time left in the tank.

The combination of gasses inside looked good to the mass spectrometer, but something about the Martian environment caused these life forms to expire and caution needs to displace curiosity. “Oxygen is at 20 big ones Cel!” 20% is surplus good.

Near proper amounts of nitrogen and hydrogen gases are present, along with 2 inert and 1 unknown, defying classifications on the current Periodic Table.

“I believe it’s safe to go inside, what do we have to lose,” states gambler Sam, revealing his new what-do-we-have-to-lose state-of-mind.


THE RETURN TRIP

newfoundlander-sketch-001Episode 65


page 61

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 32

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 32

…Four armed guards charge out of the left-hinged gate, the one in the lead asking, “Are you Aldona Afridi?”…

turkish-taxi-001

All in all, Afridi has time to loosen the noose around his neck, having left the hardest roads behind. That he lives to tell the tale is testimony to his firm resolve and evidence of his good fortune.

The homemade taxi pulls up to the gates of the Ahmet Mosque, tall and unwelcoming. Four armed guards are-you-001charge out of the left-hinged gate, the one in the lead asking, “Are you Aldona Afridi?”

“I didn’t know what he was up to, I swear,” pleads the spineless driver, once an ally.

“Not you Cabbie! We are from the American Consulate, called here by your wife, she told us you would be coming.” Those are Marine uniformed men. “Pull that hunk of junk into that garage and leave the keys with the Sergeant.”

Naturally they comply, while being led inside, then left alone. The young Turk comments, “Whoever you are or whatever you know, I am impressed Saied.”

“Fatima, my dear Fatima,” Afridi prays aloud.

“Your fat mother?”

He needs to fill in the gaping blanks, “My name is Aldona Afridi and my wife Fatima and my two daughters are probably inside somewhere.”

“And mine is Mehmet Ali Erim,” they embrace like old friends. “I own a taxi, what do you do?”

“I am a scientist not a criminal, and there evil men chasing me!”

“I am intrigued, but not surprised Saied Al. You act like a man with a scorpion in your pants.”

“Do not tell Mr. Erim anything else,” the embassy guards warn.

“They know my name!”Image result for spy

“They may have been listening when you introduced yourself,” Afridi remarks, being the “seasoned spy” that he has become.

They are escorted into the catacombs of the 3rd Century structure and shown separate rooms. The two shake hands, not knowing what the future holds.

Mehmet Ali Erim is briefly debriefed as a precaution and released to the streets and his next fare.

Aldona Afridi is grilled on a number of subjects, none of which mention his defection, so it is he who asks, “May I see my family and when can I speak to someone about the Space Colony?”space-colony-banner-001

The team of inquisitors is headed by Elliot Deming, Consulate General of the Turkish delegation based in Ankara. The very tall middle-aged American political appointee paces in front of Aldona, knowing that he has not heard the whole story. “The Ambassador to Turkey is scheduled to arrive in another hour. We cannot move on your wife’s suspicious information until the Ambassador personally speaks with the United States Secretary of State.

“What I have to say cannot wait… I would not have risked my family’s lives for anything less!”

“We have to fully vet your story, I hope you understand?”

“No I do not.” This is no time for governmental red tape. He hangs his weary and exasperated head.


THE RETURN TRIP

embassy-istanbul

Episode 32


page 31

http://wp.me/p2MBwN-1eV

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 28

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 28

“…this must be your 1st trip on the New Orient Expressmy lonely friend.”…

meanwhile-caption-001

In 2030, (again) after a famed and fabled past, the New Orient Express, that had halted the contiguous run in 2009, from Paris all the way through to Istanbul, a train-traveler can still take a (faster version) train from one end to the other; 2000 luxurious European kilometres.

Writers have forever taken advantage of its romantic whistle-stops and melting pot passenger list. Taken at face value, the spin of those yarns will have the seats of this long-train runnin’ occupied, in large part, by spies, opiate dealers, murderers, and the like.

In the second to last car is the restaurant coach and seated in the rear, trying his hardest to look inconspicuous {innocent}, is Aldona Afridi. Now you can add a Talibanistani defector to the list of unusually unusual passengers; fitting right in with the stereotypical fictional ne’er-do-wells. Just don’t stare at them.

In an attempt to make a goose-chase out of his flight to freedom thereby covering his tracks, Afridi had flown to Paris, instead of the logical land-way across the Persian Plain and Euphrates Valley, where Nutkani and his tribesmen were previously nipping at his heels.

The most gregarious of the conductor corps strolls down the aisle, stopping to chat with folks of all derivations, some of which would rather not, acting as if they were all long-lost friends. Afridi chooses Conductor“mute” as his origin, but is compelled to mouth, “What time Istanbul?”

“Last stop Bucharest…” he shares his answer, then pointedly asking, “…this must be your 1st trip on the New Orient Express, my lonely friend.” After 20 hours on the rapid rail, passengers should be more aware of the schedule.

“Will we get there before dusk?” he rephrases, hoping to elicit a more precise response from the mustachioed kibitzer.

“Romanian officials are asking questions, searching the whole train…for a defector my instinct tells me.”

Just what Afridi wanted to hear; like a priest preaching a sermon on hell in front of pews packed with hardcore sinners? Had he known that the rascally conductor was pulling his strange-unusualleg, using his uncanny ability to guess why passengers have chosen to ride this disreputable rail, Aldona would have been spared the mounting anxiety that threaten to make a wreck of him.

Chuckling on his way, the conductor whispers cryptically, “You will arrive at railhead before dark, my itchy friend. People who choose the New Orient Express are immune from border inspections…just be aware of the  people around you!”

The jovial ticket taker’s laugh echoes loudly, yet the cause of his amusement seems of little consequence to the other diners. Anonymity is the unspoken creed of this illustrious train.


THE RETURN TRIP

new-orient-express-001

Episode 28


page 27

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23

…Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that…

meanwhile-caption-001

Mars City Mock-up

Mars City Mockup

“Planetary conditions are stable, touchdown grid confirmed.” Roy Crippen has settled in at Galveston Launch Facility to oversee the crowning moment of 20 years of work. Once Tycho comes back home to roost, after its 18 hour maiden excursion, his stay on the Texas coast will shift gears; to sending off the 21st Century version  of the floating boat filled with Brits, the New Mayflower, the first of three trips; winged people-movers that will add a decidedly human touch to a previously hominid-less planet. Mars City will be filled to the brim with 21st Century groundbreakers.

But that is tomorrow and today is today and other portentous profoundness. The Lovell Space Center’s attention is equally split between Mars and Galveston, with Roy Crippen as the connecting driving force for both. He contemplates those that he supervises, a sea of techs and specialists, tops in their field worldwide, 100 people comprising man’s future as good space citizens.

Spatial DebrisThere is one console, Spatial Debris Traffic for the Colony and Satellite tracking, which has an unfamiliar body seated there. For as long as Roy can remember, Phil Jansky has filled that seat.

“Where is Philip Jansky?” Something has slipped past him. He asks roving security, “Is he taking a break… now!?!”

“Jansky is dead, sir; we found him in his quarters when he didn’t confirm his 04:00 wakeup call.”

Roy’s mind starts somersaulting through any number of questions he could ask. He settles on, “Why am I the last to know?”

The security chief is embarrassed, if for no other reason than not knowing who dropped the ball. “The Coroner said he’d get back in touch with both autopsies.”

Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that.

“I should hire a full-time mortician, set him up with an office,  he spends so much time here lately.” The mission head is losing control of personnel matters and his patience is flagging. “Who is Phil’spickle-b replacement?”

The guard checks his roster, “Gurkhas Shah-Dhangotma, from Kathmandu.”

“Never heard of him.  Who hired him with Fred Cabell gone? My God we have a Nepalese debris tracker. Aren’t they still Sherpa guides? This is space for crying out loud, not the Himalayas!

“Mr. Gherkin better be qualified. I do not like this, not at all!” he punctuates his rant sharply, while walking off a disquieting combination of anger and grief… even though “Gurkhas” in not a pickle.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 23


page 22

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 10

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 10

…Fredrick C. Cabell was Human Resources to the civilian employees for the entire Colony project. “He is as mild-mannered as they come and you are treating this like a crime scene?”…

“You two are not the bearer of good news I gather?” Roy speaks to the coroner and the lawman.

“I was called here by the Sheriff, who was called by someone here at the Lovell Space Center, who found an unconscious employee, who called the doctor,” Coroner Franco points to his left.

“Me,” admits the MedLab’s Mission Physician, Miles Scheffeldink, the third man in. “No one knew where you were.”

“Don’t beat around the bush, Miles… who is it?”

The Coroner unzips the body bag to show the dead man’s face.

“Fred Cabell? Damn!” Fredrick C. Cabell was Human Resources to the civilian employees for the entire Colony project. “He is as mild-mannered as they come and you are treating this like a crime scene?”

“That is why deputy Judge called me over, to determine whether he died of natural causes… or not.” It must be the nature of the beast, because this doctor of the dead is about business and business only, hardened by the general morbidity of his profession.

“I don’t have anything to add here, except that this man is irreplaceable to us. He was like a father to everyone at Lovell, knew our children, and was there when we first stepped on these grounds. If I couldn’t remember something, I’d go to Fred.”

“Even if we could have resuscitated him, and we could not, his brain would have been of no use to him or Image result for cerebral hemorrhageanyone; he died of massive cerebral hemorrhages, several, rapid,” Dr. Sheffeldink of LSC laments.

“Fred had his yearly physical the same day I did—two weeks ago. He did tell me you did a Digital Image of his head and now this?”

“He was 85 years old Mr. Crippen, a brain scan is standard for a man his age,” LSC’s {Lovell Space Center} mission physician explained. “We checking for signs of concussion or Alzheimer’s, you know how nosy doctors are.”

lie_about_age“85, as in four score and five? That rascal has been scamming us all along, said that he wouldn’t reach mandatory retirement of 80 for another 5 years. 75 years old my ass! But of course, he controlled all the records!”

“85 or not, he was fit as an electronic fiddle; blood pressure, serum cholesterol, brain wave, stress factor aptitude, not so much as an irregular heartbeat . I wish I were as healthy,” the attending doctor admits. “What was he doing when he died, you may ask? He was having a cup of coffee in his living quarters here, getting ready to start his day at 4 o’clock AM. That is when I determined T.O.D.”

“TOD?” Crip wonders aloud.

“Time of death,” stated as a matter of fact. “He was entering some notes into his database handheld when the seizure stopped him cold.”

“Can I see that thing? Maybe there are some signs of him starting to fail.” asks the Mission Director.

“Do not have it. The security man, who found him, said he had taken care of it.”

“Why was security in Fred’s quarters? How did he know there was something wrong with Fred?” Things aren’t adding up. “As far as I know, no one has ever been inside his room; he was that reclusive in his off-time.”

“Yes indeed, reclusive and disorganized, judging by the mess.” Dr. Sheffeldink was embarrassed about walking into the privacy of a man’s personal space. “The question is, what was he imputing and what caused the hemorrhages.”

“I am going to need some answers Mr. Coroner. Mr. Sheriff, I would like to keep this in house, no public pronouncement,” orders given by a visibly shaken administrator. “Good day gentlemen.”

police_line_do_not_cross_png_clip_art_image

The mortician is off to do the autopsy, the sheriff to keep this part of the Panhandle safe and the security guard is nowhere to be found.

To Dr. Sheffeldink he orders, “We’ll be treating Fred’s death as ‘natural causes’. And to be honest Doctor, I am knee-deep in getting 50 more people to Mars; no time to deal with an official investigation.

“Please notify his relatives, if he has some, his wife-ex-wife whomever. It will be on a need-to-know basis only.” Fredrick Cabell knew everything about everybody. But nobody knew anything about him.

Roy was hoping for tranquility around Colony Control, as the most important moments of manned spaceflight are taking place. But that is being replaced by early onset damaged control.


THE RETURN TRIP

csi-001

Episode 10


page 10

Now You See Them, Then You Don’t – WIF Mystery

Leave a comment

Unsolved Mass

Disappearing Acts

Missing persons cases can be difficult to crack. However, most people go missing one at at time. In the 10 cases below, multiple people disappeared at the same time. While there are some clues about how these people went missing, none of these cases have ever been fully unraveled.

Now you see them, then you don’t.

10. The Village at Lake Anjikuni

This one comes in at the bottom of our list because there is some doubt about whether there ever was a village at Lake Anjikuni, in Canada’s northern Nunavut region. As the story, which was first published in the Danville Bee in 1930, goes, fur trapper Joe Labelle returned to a remote Inuit village of about 25 people he had visited previously, only to discover that everyone was missing. The tents and villagers’ belongings were still there, but there was no sign of the inhabitants. According to this news account, Labelle reported, “The whole thing looked as if it had been left that way by people who expected to come back. But they hadn’t come back.” He also noticed signs that ancestral graves had been disturbed. While there were dog skeletons in the village, he could find no sign of human corpses.

However, there are some reasons to doubt this story, which entered the popular imagination when it appeared in Frank Edward’s 1959 book, Stranger than Science. When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigated the case in 1931, they determined “there is no evidence … to support such a story,” noting that a village of that size wouldn’t have feasibly existed in such a remote location and that local officers, trappers, and missionaries had reported nothing out of the ordinary.

9. The Sodder Children

When George and Jennie Sodder went to bed on Christmas Eve 1945, 9 of their 10 children were at home (the 10th was serving in the military). By the following morning, the Sodder house was burned to the ground. George, Jennie, and four of the children made it out. However, the other five children, who ranged in age from 5 to 14, were never seen again. Initially, everyone, including the surviving members of the Sodder family, assumed the children must have perished in the fire, despite their father’s desperate attempts to rescue them. Because it was Christmas Day, the fire marshal postponed a thorough inspection of the site, which was basically a basement full of ashes at that point. A few days later, George Sodder bulldozed several feet of dirt over the remains of his home, planting flowers there in memory of the family’s lost children.

As time went on, more details emerged that cast doubt on whether the five missing Sodder children had actually died in the fire. The family remembered some odd events around that time, meaningless in isolation, but suspicious in concert. Jennie had been awakened earlier in the night by a noise that sounded like something hitting the roof and the family had received what they thought was an odd prank phone call just after midnight the night of the fire. Additionally, a ladder had been moved from its storage area near the house to more than 75 feet away, hindering George’s attempts to reach his children’s upstairs bedrooms to rescue them. In another strange twist, the bones of the missing children were never recovered, despite the fact that the fire did not appear to have burned long enough or hot enough to destroy human bone.

The Sodders never stopped looking for their missing children, offering a reward for information, erecting a billboard near their house and hiring private detectives to follow up on reports of sightings, including a photo—of a young man bearing a striking resemblance to one of the missing children– which was mailed to the Sodders. Some suggested that the children could have been kidnapped in retaliation for negative remarks George Sodder, an Italian immigrant, had made about Mussolini or that the mafia could have been involved. Despite the many theories that emerged, no conclusive evidence of what ultimately happened to the five Sodder children has ever been found.

8. The Yemenite Children Affair

Following Israel’s founding in 1948, the state struggled to quickly absorb a rush of new immigrants. More than 50,000 Yemenite and other “Mazrahi” Jewish immigrants from the Middle East and Africa moved to the new state in its early years, and were often settled in chaotic transit camps, temporary tent cities were new immigrants were housed due a housing shortage.

In these camps, babies and toddlers were often taken from their parents to be cared for in hospitals or nurseries, which ostensibly offered better living conditions. Unfortunately, some of these babies—estimates range from 650 to more than 4,000—were never returned to their parents. Some parents were told that their babies had died, though most were not shown a body or a grave and many grieving parents weren’t given death certificates. Recent advances in DNA testing have proved that at least some of these supposedly deceased Yemenite babies never died at all, but rather, were placed for adoption with childless Ashkenazi (Jews of European descent) families. In 2016, one Israeli cabinet official who was part of a panel investigating the disappearances gave credence to activists’ claims that the children were systematically stolen and placed for adoption when he admitted that hundreds of children were taken from their families, saying, “They took the children, and gave them away. I don’t know where.”

7. Flight 19

Flight 19 didn’t consist of a single plane, but rather a group of five planes–US Navy TPM Avenger bombers—which took off from Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station for a training mission between the Bahamas and Florida on the afternoon of December 5, 1945. The planes, and the 14 experienced airmen on them, never returned to shore.

The pilots of the group of planes, which would become known as the “Lost Patrol,” could be heard conversing with one another, and sounded disoriented by the fact that at least some of the pilots believed their compasses were malfunctioning and the worsening weather, which made assessing their position difficult. The lead pilot made the decision to fly east, believing they were in the Gulf of Mexico, a course the planes apparently stuck to until one pilot’s last transmission: “All planes close up tight … will have to ditch unless landfall. When the first plane drops to 10 gallons we all go down together.”

Two flying boats were dispatched to look for the missing patrol. One of those boats also disappeared from radar and, along with its 13-man crew, never returned. A passing merchant spotted a fireball in the sky, and saw evidence of an oil slick in the water, suggesting it likely fell victim to an explosion. Despite an extensive search by the Navy, bodies and debris from the missing patrol and the missing rescue mission were never located. A team of Navy investigators ultimately attributed the loss of Flight 19 to “causes or reasons unknown.”

6. The Mary Celeste

On November 7, 1872, the Mary Celeste, a 282-ton brigantine, set sail from New York City, bound for Genoa, Italy. It carried cargo of 1,700 barrels of industrial alcohol, seven crewmen, Captain Benjamin Briggs, his wife, and his 2-year-old daughter. When the ship was next spotted, almost a month later, 400 miles east of the Azores, the ship’s cargo and provisions were largely intact (though the lifeboat was missing), but there was no one aboard. The Mary Celeste was in reasonably good shape, other than some water in the bottom of the ship, and the crew of the ship that discovered it, the Dei Gratia, were able to sail it on to Gibraltar.

So what happened to the 10 people on board? There is no definitive answer to that question. Some suspected foul play, laying the blame on the crew of the Dei Gratia, who had applied to receive the salvage value of the ship. However, after a salvage inquiry was conducted, there was no evidence that this had occurred (there also wasn’t a whole lot of evidence that this had not occurred). Other theories, including mutiny, an explosion caused by the Mary Celeste’s boozy cargo, or an irrational decision by the captain also appeared unlikely. Anne MacGregor, who created a documentary film dedicated to unraveling the mystery, believes the evidence suggests that a faulty chronometer, along with a failing water pump aboard the ship, prompted Captain Briggs to believe the ship was in danger of sinking, and to give the order to abandon ship when the islands of the Azores were in sight. Since the lifeboat never arrived at the Azores, nor was it ever recovered, the definitive fate of the 10 souls aboard the Mary Celeste remains a mystery.

5. The Dyatlov Pass Incident

In late January 1959, a group of nine students of the Ural Polytechnic Institute and a ski instructor, set off for a skiing expedition to Mount Otorten in the northern Urals. Only one of them, Yuri Yudin, who had to turn back early due to health problems, ever returned from the trip.

When the other nine didn’t make contact as planned, a search party set out to locate them, and uncovered a grisly mystery. The first thing the rescuers located was the students’ tent, which had been sliced open from the inside. Most of the group’s belongings were still inside the tent, which appeared to have been abandoned in a hurry. Investigators found footprints showing that the group had fled the tent barefoot, in socks, or wearing a single shoe. The bodies of two of the students, dressed only in their underclothes were found near the remains of a campfire. Three more bodies were found between the fire and the tent. All five were determined to have died from hypothermia. A couple months later, the four remaining bodies were found at the bottom of a ravine, and showed signs of crush injuries and the tongue of one had been ripped out. Tests on their bodies showed trace amounts of radiation.

The Soviet military looked into the incident, somewhat vaguely determining that the group had died from a “natural force they were unable to overcome,” and classifying the materials related to the investigation.  In early 2019, Russian prosecutors announced they were reexamining the case, though they were only considering theories associated with natural phenomena. Said the spokesman for Russia’s Prosecutor General, “Crime is out of the question. There is not a single proof, even an indirect one, to favor this (criminal) version. It was either an avalanche, a snow slab or a hurricane.”

4. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

On March 8, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members took off from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia bound for Beijing. It never arrived. A months-long international search yielded only a few pieces of the plane, found thousands of miles from where the flight veered off course, but the bulk to the plane’s fuselage, along with the (presumed) remains of those aboard has yet to be located. The disappearance, and the lack of clarity about why or how the plane went missing shocked the world. As Miguel Marin, chief of operational safety at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Air Navigation Bureau put it, “It was inconceivable that in this day and age we would lose an airplane that big without a trace.”

There are a few clues about the plane’s disappearance. The plane turned sharply off its planned flight path, a maneuver experts suggest would have had to be carried out manually (versus via autopilot) and the aircraft’s responder stopped transmitting (possibly due to a malfunction, but more likely because it was turned off). While the pilot’s home simulator did show some flight paths similar to that undertaken by the flight shortly before it disappeared from radar, an investigation of the captain’s private life failed to turn up any signs of the sort of disturbance that would provide a motive for suicide (and the more than 200 innocent deaths that would accompany it) and the Malaysian government has dismissed this theory, and suggested a “mass hypoxia event” rendered all aboard unconscious, while the plane flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed. More definitive evidence about what happened on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may yet turn up, as the plane’s Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder have, as of mid-2019, not been located.

3. The Flannan Isles Lighthouse Keepers

On December 26, 1900, a small ship made its way to a remote Scottish island. It carried a replacement lighthouse keeper, who would rotate in for a stint among the island’s three lighthouse keepers, and its only human inhabitants. However, when the ship arrived, no one emerged to greet it, even after the horn was sounded and a flare was fired. When the replacement lighthouse keeper rowed ashore and climbed to the lighthouse, he quickly discovered something was wrong. The lighthouse fireplace looked like it hadn’t been lit for a week and, while everything was in place, the three lighthouse keepers were nowhere to be found (although, oddly, one of them had left his protective oilskin coat in the lighthouse).

The official explanation suggests that the men were swept out to sea by a large wave as they attempted to secure some gear on a cliff during a storm. While it was against protocol for all three men to leave the lighthouse at once, one theory suggests that the third lighthouse keeper ventured out to help or warn his colleagues about an impending large wave (perhaps leaving his coat behind in haste) and was also swept away.

2. The Students of Iguala

One night in September 2014, a group of about 100 university students from a rural teachers college in Mexico headed out in the city of Iguala to commandeer several buses to carry their group to a march in Mexico City a few days later. According to reports, stealing buses was something of a local tradition, and neither the bus companies nor the authorities were particularly alarmed when this happened.

After an altercation at a local bus depot, the students headed out on five buses, trailed by police, some of whom started firing on the buses. Forty-three students on two of the buses were eventually taken into police custody; they were never seen again. Only one of the students’ bodies has been identified. The official account (disputed by international investigators and friends and families of the missing students) is that the students were kidnapped by local police officers, who turned them over to a drug gang, which then killed them and burned their bodies. International investigators were brought in 2015, but when they failed to support the government’s version of events, the hostility and stonewalling they encountered led them to abandon the inquiry, though a federal court ordered another investigation conducted in late 2018. As of mid-2019, there was no conclusive evidence on the fate of the missing students.

1. The Lost Colony

In 1587, a group of 115 English settlers founded the Roanoke Colony on an island off the coast of North Carolina. Later that year, John White, the colony’s governor, sailed back to England to secure additional supplies for the fledgling settlement. However, just as White arrived in England, a naval war broke out between England and Spain, and every ship was ordered to participate in the war effort. By the time White made it back to Roanoke, it was three years later, and there was no sign of the settlers.

The only clues were the word “Croatoan” carved into a fencepost, and the letters CRO carved into a tree. “Croatoan” was the name used for what is now called Hatteras Island, as well as the name of the Native American tribe that populated the area. Reportedly, White had agreed with the colonists prior to heading back to England that if the group needed to leave Roanoke under duress, they would carve a Maltese cross symbol into a tree; no such sign was found at the site. Despite several contemporaneous and modern investigations, the fate of the colonists remains a mystery. The most likely theory is that the colonists moved locations (perhaps splitting into multiple groups), possibly assimilating with local Native American tribes. Other theories suggest the colonists were killed by Native Americans, killed by Spanish settlers, or tried to sail back to England and were lost at sea. While research is still ongoing, and some hope that DNA analysis will at last unlock the mystery of the colonists’ fate, the “Lost Colony” has managed to remain lost to the world for more than 400 years.


Now You See Them, Then You Don’t

WIF Mystery