Sunday, April 12, 2020

Signals & Symbols

In the year 2028, the world will come to the realization that all things have passed away.

April 9, 2016: It may be in the mountains, it may be underneath the sea, or it may be in some undisclosed desert location. It may be in none of those places. But wherever it is, the operation begins today.
“When do the signals start going out?” asked Captain Brooks.
“6:30 PM, Eastern Standard Time.” Replied Officer Santana.
Officer Tomlinson wondered why of all the places in the world, the signals would begin on the east coast of the United States of America.
Why not the Gold Coast of Australia? The Caucasian Mountains? Siberia? The Sub-Continent? The Argentine Pampas? Micronesia? Scandinavia? The Canadian Arctic? The Great Plains of the central USA? Why not anywhere of a thousand other places?
“Okay, I don’t need to tell you those signals will need to be monitored very closely.” Captain Brooks said in an urgent tone.
“Yes Sir! Tomlinson and I won’t let you down. We know what this means to you.” Santana quickly replied.
“Not just what it means to me, Santana. What it means to all of us.” Brooks was usually stoic in his persona but now there seemed to be a hint of emotional instability in his demeanor. An air of uncertainty hung heavy in the room.
A large map on the wall highlighted the east coast of the United States. A bright gold line ran from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Bar Harbor, Maine, while red arrows pointed inland as far as Tallahassee, Atlanta, Knoxville, Parkersburg, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.
Santana shouted, “Signals are on their way!”
Tomlinson’s job was to make sure no designated targets were missed. “So far, so good. All signals are on target.”
In exactly two minutes, it was all over.
All Brooks could say was, “Good job, men.”
In southern Greenland, another scenario was taking place, in many ways, the exact opposite of what Captain Brooks and his men were experiencing.
“We’re picking up signals crisscrossing the eastern portion of the United States.” a female voice reported.
Another female voice, this one coming from a tall woman with grey hair said, “It’s begun.”

April 4, 2017: Captain Brooks was a year older, but he pretty much looked the same. Officer Santana had put on a little weight (since his work habits had remained the same, the only explanation was that he had married within the last year and his wife had turned out to be a good cook) while Officer Tomlinson had lost a little weight. He had given up refined sugar while trying to exercise a little more.
“From all indications, the signals we sent out last year were effective. But they were over a relatively small area.” Captain Brooks said.
“Does that mean we’re going to try to reach a bigger area this time?” Santana asked.
“We’re going for ten million square miles.” Brooks looked over at Tomlinson, “Set a range that includes all of South America and add chunks of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, so it adds up to ten million square miles.”
“Yes Sir.” Tomlinson replied briskly.
Ambassador Cronin Maxwell had some explaining to do. That was the purpose of his speech to the International Council of Signal Technology. He was going to have to sound more convincing than he himself felt. Something very unusual was going on in the world and if truth be told, he had no idea what it was. But that was something he was keeping to himself.
He began speaking to the overflow crowd, “Friends and Fellow Signalers, it’s a privilege to be here today to talk to you about the latest developments in the world of signals. These are exciting times for Signalers everywhere. Something wonderful is going on in the world which signals, pun intended, the breaking of a new dawn.” Maxwell paused to catch his breath and to look out on the crowd to see if they were buying what he was selling them. He liked what he saw. He continued, “Our friends at the World Assembly of Symbolic Interpreters are not as sanguine about this issue as I am. But as we all know, they see symbols everywhere while we see signs. And that distinction must always be recognized. Theirs is a literary endeavor while ours is a scientific one. A sign can be symbolized but a symbol can’t be signed, or it is no longer a symbol. It’s a sign. And our job as Signalers is not to interpret the signs but to recognize and record them. That is our sacred duty! Thank you.”
Maxwell got a standing ovation.

March 31, 2018: “This time complete the delivery of the signals to the rest of North America and then go as far as necessary to make the area covered at least twenty million square miles.” Captain Brooks ordered.
Santana could tell by his tone, Captain Brooks was in no mood for disagreement or even suggestions. “Roger that, Sir!”.
In Greenland, a conference was taking place. Three individuals were sitting around a round table, made of oak and steel.
“The Western Hemisphere is now completely saturated by the signals.” Adavair said, her blue eyes not looking directly at her superiors.
“You state the obvious, but I won’t hold that against you. Someone had to.” Militant replied.
“How much longer do you think we have before the whole world is engulfed by these insidious signals?” Honchitka asked.
Militant answered, “Who knows, but all that really matters is if we can somehow neutralize the signals by symbolizing them. As things stand right now, the signals have us on the run.”
Jonathan Adams was walking along a dirt road somewhere near Enid, Oklahoma. Then something of an abstract nature entered his mind and he stopped in his tracks. He looked around and nothing had changed.

March 26, 2019: “Let’s do Africa and the Antarctic and oceans surrounding them up to twenty-five million square miles.” Captain Brooks was succinct, and Santana and Tomlinson knew the drill.
LT (Low Tech) z47 entered Ambassador Cronin Maxwell’s office and put down a sheet of paper on Maxwell’s desk. Maxwell looked it over, scowled, and said, “What the hell is this? A bunch of mumbo jumbo! Why are you wasting my time?”
“Because it’s true.” LTz47 hoped he sounded confident.
“Put it in your own words.” Maxwell snapped back.
“People are disappearing all over the globe. There were five-hundred at first but now it’s in the thousands and growing.” LTz47 said.
“But according to this paper they’re still here on earth! How do you do explain that?” Maxwell was getting more irate by the minute.
“All I, I mean we, know is that our instruments are telling us they’re gone. Their families, their neighbors, their co-workers, their bosses, etc. think they are still on earth. But they’re not.” LTz47 replied.
“I’m going to need some real proof.” Maxwell said.
“I thought you might.” LTz47 turned around and opened the door. “LTh35, please come in.”
A young man in his early twenties came into the room. He was holding a small electronic instrument.
“Hand the Humanometer to Ambassador Maxwell.” said LTz47. LTh35 did as told. LTz47 then spoke to Maxwell, “Now, Ambassador, I presume you know how to use the H Meter.” Maxwell nodded. LTz47 said, “Please point it at me.”
Maxwell did so and said, somewhat sarcastically to LTz47, “Well, you’re human after all.”
“Now point it at LTh35.” said LTz47.
Maxwell pointed the instrument as instructed and then sat for a while in stunned silence. He finally blurted, “He’s not showing up at all!”

March 20, 2020: It was not in Captain Brooks’ nature to worry about the future or to regret the past. Duty always came first, and duty always meant what he had to do today.
“This year let’s let wrap up the North Atlantic, the Arctic, Greenland, all of Europe, and then keep going until you’ve covered thirty-four million square miles.” ordered Captain Brooks.
Officers Santana and Tomlinson quickly and efficiently went to work to carry out the Captain’s order.
Militant was beginning to wonder if she would ever get to go to the Bahamas. She had been stuck in Greenland for well over four years.
Then something pleasant entered into her mind and stayed there. She immediately booked a boat ride to Nova Scotia. When she got there, she would catch the first plane to the Bahamas.

March 15, 2021: “What’s happened to Madam Militant?” asked Adavair. “Why isn’t she here?”
“She’s taken a holiday to the Bahamas.” Honchitka replied.
“Shouldn’t we be creating symbolic responses to the rising tide of signals throughout the world?” Adavair responded in a perplexed tone.
“Well, Ada, tell you what. I’m putting you in charge for a while. I’m leaving tonight for Jamaica.” Honchitka seemed lost in reverie.
What in the name of the Great Symbol in the Sky is going on around here, Ada thought to herself.
Captain Brooks, as usual, was straight to the point, “We need to canvas approximately 107 million more square miles over the next several years in order to complete the mission. Why don’t we go ahead and take care of most or all of Asia this year? Send out signals to Asia and beyond that are enough to cover thirty-six million square miles.”

March 10, 2022: Foxmeyer Dalrymple knew an opportunity when he saw one. As CEO of the World Assembly of Symbolic Interpreters, he instinctively felt that a crisis, even if no one else knew there was a crisis, should never go to waste. He barked into his intercom, “Gilmelda, get Ernesto and both of you come into my office ASAP!”
After Gilmelda and Ernesto had taken their seats, Dalrymple said, “We need to symbolize, in a really big way, what the world is going through.”
“What’s that, Boss?” Ernesto was sometimes late on picking up on the symbolic nature of reality. But Ernesto was Dalrymple’s nephew and Dalrymple had owed his brother a favor.
“People are disappearing in fact but remaining in fiction. The whole thing is ripe for symbolism on a grand scale. Get with it, boy!” Dalrymple exploded.
Gilmelda responded, “How about this idea, Boss? Let’s tell the world, ‘Their Soul may be gone, but their Spirit remains’. And if that doesn’t work, reverse Soul and Spirit in the sentence.”
Dalrymple smiled, “Now I see why I keep you on the payroll.”
Captain Brooks stated matter of factly: “Boys, we’re getting close. Just a few more years and we should be through, at least with our part of the mission. Spread signals over about twenty million square miles, but this time limit them to the Northern Hemisphere.”

March 5, 2023: Foxmeyer Dalrymple of the World Assembly of Symbolic Interpreters (WASI) and Ambassador Cronin Maxwell of the International Council of Signal Technology (ICoST) had decided, due to the critical crisis that was now taking place, that a face to face meeting was in order. Dalrymple, in a sudden reversal of normal protocol, was attending the meeting in a concrete, not abstract manner. In other words, he was not in attendance only symbolically. The meeting was being held in a Boeing 747. As far as ICoST techies could tell, the mysterious signals did not go as high as a Boeing 747 usually flies. Technically, they were “safe”.
Neither of the men were in a good mood.
“I thought you ICoST guys and gals were ‘experts’ in identifying and deciphering signals. This has been going on for almost seven years and you’ve still got nothing!” Dalrymple couldn’t hide his frustration.
“What about you WASIs? I thought you could interpret any signal and explain it symbolically! Don’t you have something, anything to go on?” Maxwell was as equally frustrated.
Just then the steward came in with a bottle of Dom Perignon. The meeting wasn’t a total waste.
“Fill in as many gaps as possible in the Southern Hemisphere. You’ve got twenty-four million square miles to work with this time.” Captain Brooks throat was dry. He took a gulp of water.

February 29, 2024: Militant was sitting by the pool in Nassau enjoying a Bahama Breeze (the drink not the wind, though the wind was blowing softly) when an elderly man in Bermuda shorts and flip flops strolled up to her.
“Hi, George, what brings you here?” asked Militant.
Before answering, George realized he was rather taken aback. The Militant he knew was hard-charging and perpetually intense. This woman was unperturbed and totally relaxed.
“I came to see you, Militant. I was surprised to hear that you had suddenly left Greenland. You didn’t even put in a request for a vacation. That’s not like you, Militant.” replied George.
“It’s not me, George. I’ve lost my mind, you know. Still got my brain but my mind is somewhere else. If you find it, let me know.” Militant laughed heartedly. George raised an eyebrow.
“Alright, men, it’s time to flood the South Pacific with the signals. Give me twelve million square miles! Move it!” Captain Brooks cried out. The gusto was back!

February 24, 2025: In the jungles of Borneo, a middle-age man crawled out of a volcano. His hair was long, and his beard went down to his chest. He was wearing a t-shirt that said, ‘Don’t Tread on Me”. He was barefoot and the bottom of his feet were charred from walking on hot lava all day. From the summit of the volcano he screamed at the heavens, “Send those damn signals back to where they came from!” It was not one of Cronin Maxwell’s better days.
On the top of Mount Everest, Foxmeyer Dalrymple rested from his exertions. He had climbed the highest mountain in the world, and he was enjoying the view. Better yet, he was enjoying being himself. He was a symbol on top of a symbol. That’s as good as it gets for an avowed Symbolist.
Militant had given up her logistics and surveillance career and married George. George only had a few years left to live but Militant knew they would be good years. It was good to know things.
Officer Santana was playing poker with Officer Tomlinson when Captain Brooks shouted out. “I need eight million square miles of signals. Let’s go!”

February 19, 2026: Sindelair Nostradamus had replaced Cronin Maxwell at ICoST. Speculation was rampant concerning Maxwell’s sudden disappearance two years earlier. But no one knew anything.
Nostradamus was a pragmatist. He accepted that the Symbolists had won. Maxwell never could. That might be the real reason why he was now incognito.
Nostradamus was a Reformed Symbolist. He had been brought into the Signalers by Maxwell to be a consultant on dealing with the Symbolists. Now, ironically, he was in charge of ICoST.
A congratulatory phone call was in order.
“Hello.” It was the voice of Dalrymble.
“Hi, Fox, this is Sin. How’s it going?” Nostradamus had known Dalrymple for many years.
“You could say I’m sitting on top of the world.” replied Dalrymple.
“Actually or symbolically?” Nostradamus asked.
“Drop the ‘or’ and you got it.” said Dalrymple
“Well, I’m just calling to let you know that we here at ICoST acknowledge your symbolic victory.”
“Is there any other kind?” Dalrymple laughed and then hung up.
Did Nostradamus hear yodeling before the line was disconnected?
Captain Brooks was sitting in a lounge chair in front of a roaring fire. “I need six million square miles of signals. Plug ‘em in wherever they fit.” He sighed.

February 14, 2027: Having won the contest between Signalers and Symbolists, Foxmeyer Dalrymple retired from public life and took the last train to Clarksville where the town enacted a statue in his honor. Symbolically, of course. He would not sanction the real thing.
But had the Signalers really lost? After all, the signals were still going out, permeating the world. It’s just that the signals had the effect of causing people to lose sight of signals. A vacuum had formed, and Symbolists do not like a vacuum. They want to fill it up with their symbols, and thus by default, Symbolists won over Signalers because the signals did exactly what they were designed to do. By doing their job, signals become unemployed.
Sindelair Nostradamus knew all this. After all, he was a Reformed Symbolist. His new goal in life was to restore the balance of signals and symbols. Funny thing is, with a name like his, you would think he might have an inkling of what the future world of signals and symbols might look like. But he didn’t have a clue. He was working in the dark.
The new head of the WASIs was Foxmeyer’s son, Beauchamp Dalrymple. He was a chip off the old block and had the confidence of the WASI rank and file.
Beauchamp was going with the flow. The new motto of WASI was, “You can lose your mind as long as you keep your brain.”

February 9, 2028: Officer Tomlinson had to shake Captain Brooks’s shoulder. “Hey, Cap, wake up! It’s time to send out the signals.”
Brooks stirred to life. Rubbing his eyes, he stood up and in his most commanding voice, said, “This is it, men. Our final transmission. Are you ready?”
“Yes, Sir!” Both men cried out in unison.
“I want one million square miles of signals sent out in search of empty spots, wherever they may be on earth. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, Sir!”
His part of the mission was over. Captain Brooks was going home.

The End