Altavista by Chris Green
Magenta does not enjoy riding the elevator to Red’s nineteenth-floor apartment in Altavista. It moves so slowly that it doesn’t seem to be moving at all. But security is tight. The chance of encountering an assailant in Altavista is small. The building has a uniformed concierge to vet unwanted visitors. The concierge is armed. In addition, legions of CCTV cameras keep watch. Altavista is not designed with ostentation in mind. The block is functional. There are few features. It is minimalist, secretive.
Visiting Red can be a lonely experience for Magenta. She will arrive at the apartment and let herself in. Red might be typing into his iMac, playing his tenor saxophone, or just gazing out the window. The view to the west is admittedly a fine one, taking in a sweeping panorama of the city with the skyline settling against blue hills in the distance. When silhouetted against the setting sun, the twin peaks are heavenly. Red might be mixing up oil paints, watching a European movie, or stroking his white Persian cat. He might be feeding his parrots or gazing at the Picasso prints on the walls. Or he might be getting ready to embark on a hazardous mission. Whichever it is, he doesn’t appear to see Magenta’s arrival as an important interruption. He hardly casts a glance in her direction and does not speak unless he has something important to say. Magenta seldom gets to start a conversation. Their communication does not work that way.
Given her background, this dynamic might appear strange to outsiders. Magenta comes from a long line of mid-European aristocrats. She studied Philosophy at Cambridge, can speak nine languages and is a gifted painter. In her mid-thirties, she is in her prime. She has wisdom and wit and dazzling beauty. What is it then that draws her even through the winter months several times a week to drive across town to meet this mean man of mystery? Certainly, there is an allure. Red has mystique, poise, charisma even. But although they may have been lovers, this is not the primary reason that Magenta comes to visit. Red is her commander. She is his acolyte. She needs to be there in case there is an assignment.
Magenta knows little of Red’s background. He is matter of fact but enigmatic, passionate but objective. He can be a ghostly presence. He can blend in, become one with his surroundings. Sometimes, when he is playing an extended solo, he and the saxophone become one. His physical form drifts off into space. He becomes invisible to the eye. The soft arpeggios of his improvisations are left hanging in the air like celestial smoke rings. It is such a moment now. The silver saxophone is suspended in mid-air, radiating the most sublime passage. Red is elsewhere, on his astral plane, intangible, quintesscent. Magenta sits in the lotus position, silent, serene, mesmerised. For now, in this space, Magenta is an acolyte of the transcendent spirit. Yet, Magenta is no flower child. There are contradictions in everyone, and Magenta is no exception. In another space, Magenta may well kill people with her bare hands. In this ever-changing world, there are many paradoxes.
The door entry phone buzzes. Instantly, the atmosphere in the room changes. Red is back down from the heavens. He speaks on the intercom and instructs the concierge to sand the caller up. The caller is Black. Black has no interest in jazz. Black calls round to Altavista on business. His business has to do with adjustment, temporal and psychic adjustment. He has called to give them an assignment. They will be required to stop something that has happened from happening. This is known as a correction.
Everything that happens is governed by the principles of cause and effect, action and reaction. Sometimes apparently inconsequential actions by ordinary people can set in motion a chain of events that results in catastrophe. It is important that the likes of Black and Red have the ability to intervene, otherwise, the world would have been blown to smithereens long ago. The undocumented presence of quantum gnostics like them is the force that ensures relative stability in a jumping universe. Their concern is not a political one. It is not about East and West. Nor is it about right and wrong. It is purely about balance. To keep the world turning.
‘Stockholm,’ says Black. ‘Here are the tickets. They are for yesterday.’
Neither Red nor Magenta show surprise. They are accustomed to these impossible missions. To do what they do, it is necessary to operate in the margins.
‘Understood,’ says Red.
‘Understood,’ says Magenta.
‘Hemming Olofson mustn’t take that train to Malmo,’ says Black. ‘He will not then meet Marita Blom. They will not travel to Copenhagen together. They will not, therefore, discover the document that implicates his brother, Björn in the cover-up by the Danish lawyers over the ownership of the patent on ……. well you get the gist. And then finally Guatemala won’t then be destroyed by a plague of giant moths. And there won’t be a stand-off between the US and the Russians.’
‘Chains of events can be quite complex, can’t they?’ says Red. ‘We are on our way.’
The air crackles with the electricity of déjà vu. Two conversations take place simultaneously, one in the past and one in the present. Red says the secret is to stay focussed on both. They must coalesce. In between words, in between worlds, the air becomes turbulent as they tumble through space. They are buffeted this way and that in a whirling cyclone of uncertainty, like the Tower of Babel. Gradually Black’s presence fades. The job is over. Magenta and Red are back to where they were.
‘I’m relieved that one is out of the way,’ says Magenta. ‘These escapades can be so exhausting.’
‘It can be very strange,’ says Red. ‘But when you’ve seen through as many corrections as I have, it will become second nature.’
‘I think Black was pleased,’ says Magenta.
‘There aren’t too many people who can do what we do,’ says Red.
‘Is that a blessing or a curse?’ says Magenta.
‘Nothing is ever straightforward,’ says Red. ‘Paradox is at the centre of everything.’
‘Red, I’ve been coming up here for a long time and for some while I’ve been meaning to ask you a question. I get a strange sensation every time I come up in the elevator. It’s difficult to describe the feeling. On the one hand, it feels as if someone is watching, and they might at any moment attack me. But on the other hand, it feels as if I’m not there anyway, so how can I be being watched? What happens in the rest of the building?’
‘I’ll let you into a secret,’ says Red. ‘There is no rest of the building.’
‘But the lift and the corridors and the cameras?’
‘All an illusion.’
‘But the concierge with the gun. He says hello every time I come round.’
‘There is no concierge with a gun.’
‘But I do come up in the lift. And the lighting changes colour between floors?’
‘It’s all held in place by auto-suggestion and the subsequent belief that it is there.’
‘The space below?’
‘Ah! There is no space below as such. But would it help if I told you that the space you are referring to, the space where you imagine you are when you come into the building and come up in the elevator is the repository for curious matter?’ Red says, cryptically. With this said, he goes off to attend to his parrots.
Magenta realises she now has an existential issue. She has always found Red’s information to be reliable and if he says that Altavista is nothing but an illusion, then it is nothing but an illusion. But therein lies the rub. If she stops believing in the substantial nature of Altavista, then she will not be able to get out. It occurs to her, not for the first time, that Red probably has not, through normal channels, left the building in years.
Magenta goes into the hallway. The door through which she came, and more recently Black came, is no longer there. How is this possible? Whatever the explanation, there must have been a way in. She has not always been here in this space. She has, through belief or otherwise, come and gone many times. Nothing inside has changed. She goes into the westerly facing room. Red is still attending to the parrots. He has that look of detachment that she has become used to. He does not want a conversation. He feels he has said all he wanted to say. Magenta goes over to the window that looks out onto the city with the hills in the distance. The tall buildings and the blue hills look real enough, but might they too be an illusion to support the illusion of Altavista?
It takes Magenta a while to get used to the idea of isolation. Rather than fight against it, she remembers learning long ago that the healthiest option in adverse circumstances like this is to go with the flow. Silence those voices that vex the spirit and nurture that peace that lies within the heart. This is a time for quiet contemplation. Besides, situations can change. In fact, change is the only certainty.
Red is of similar mind. This is, after all, his world. He is philosophical about his role. His wisdom and poise begin to captivate Magenta once more. He reads her sonnets and teaches her to play the violin. They watch the colours change in the evening sky as the sun sets over the twin peaks. They make love to Debussy. It is in one such tender moment, they are disturbed by a new caller. The door is back. Across the threshold is Gold. If Gold comes to call at Altavista then the matter is serious. Gold, on this occasion, is accompanied by Silver. Silver has never been before.
‘Three days ago Curt Dodge, a thirty-two-year-old hacker believed to be from the Detroit, Michigan area hacked into the servers of the global communications satellites network and planted what is known as a blended threat that within fourteen days will have completely brought down the entire global system. You will have noticed already that your phone can’t detect its location.’
‘GPS is unable to detect Altavista anyway,’ says Red.
‘Ah yes. Of course. I see,’ says Gold. ‘Anyway, the threat that Dodge has come up with acts in an entirely random way. But, here’s the killer. It also gathers up any virus, worm or trojan it encounters along the way and adds them to the blend to increase its potency. One by one, the satellites have gone down. There appears to be no defence against the attack.’
‘There are, or there were, four thousand, one hundred and six operational satellites. To take out the entire network is no mean feat,’ says Silver.
‘Now, clearly the objective is to go back to last week and liquidate Dodge before he has done any of this,’ says Gold. ‘The problem is that without GPS we have no idea where he is.’
‘A tricky one,’ says Red.
‘How long do you think we have?’ asks Magenta.
‘I’d say three days at the most to make the correction. After that the damage might be irreparable,’ says Gold. ‘Even the Russian military satellites are failing.’
‘We know the length of time before you make an adjustment should not make a difference to its ultimate effectiveness, once you have made the adjustment. But with the entire system of global communication crippled, this might not be the case here,’ says Silver. ‘There might be no way back.’
‘OK. It’s down to our intuition then,’ says Red.
‘And good old-fashioned occult powers,’ says Magenta. ‘Witch’s broom and Abracadabra.’
I expect you have noticed that your satnavs and mobile phones have recovered from their momentary blip. You can assume from this that through the efforts of Magenta and Red, the correction was made. And until now, you’ve not seen the name of Curt Dodge anywhere. These things don’t get out into the public domain.
It would be difficult to describe how the job might have been done. Highlights could include mental projection, psychic navigation, invisibility, time travel, force field generation, teleportation, experimental jazz, and pranayama breathing. Planes? Guns? Maybe, maybe not. Illusion, willpower and luck will have played their part. And passion. Yes, passion is important. The operation would have been held together by imagination and belief, just like the things you see around you every day. Imagination and belief. Seeing is believing, but everyone sees things differently. Everyone constructs a different reality. No two are the same. Even should information about the exact techniques used here be available to governments, these would be classified. Better then that the secrets of their methods stay under wraps.
Make no mistake, your life will have been affected in some way by the corrections that quantum gnostics have made. Things don’t just run smoothly of their own accord and there’s no point in trusting politicians and government departments to get it right. Too much of their energy is invested in courting catastrophe. Just be thankful that there are hidden forces at work. That Magenta and Red are there in the background, refining their arcane skills.
If you are driving through the city, you might be surprised at the circuitous route your satnav takes you on, but you might put this down to a poorly planned one-way system. If you are on foot, at a certain point, you might begin to feel dizzy. You might wonder what The Fractal Centre is and why you cannot go there. Either way, there will be no sign of Altavista.
Copyright © Chris Green 2021 All rights reserved