Plugs

It is no coincidence that the world’s largest hand-dug well and one of the world’s largest pallasite meteorites are both found in Greensburg, Kansas. And it is no coincidence that a recent tornado flattened the prairie town and everything within it.

The official stories of these two artifacts do not intertwine. But a town of the size of Greensburg, Kansas had no need for a 109 foot deep, 32 foot wide well. The hole’s use as a well is an old cover-up, as is the story of a Hutchison man locating the meteorite in the 1900s with a primitive metal detector.

Local stories tell that the simple farmers and ranchers of Greensburg found themselves compelled to dig the well for no reason that any could speak of in the spring of 1887. They dug for days on end, in shifts, each man and woman confused as the other. Only the children were spared from the compulsion. After 90 feet, they discovered the stone, which weighed over 1,000 pounds. My source, the great-grandaughter of one of the well’s architects, claims, that as soon as the townspeople touched the stone, it floated into the air like a balloon, and the diggers were able to gently guide it up the shaft and into the light of the moon. Once it arrived at the surface, its weight and mass returned just as the compulsion to dig disappeared.

The meteorite remained undisturbed, and the real story of its discovery mostly forgotten, until 2006, when the largest tornado to strike Kansas in 30 years touched down within Greensburg, destroying thousands of homes. The town is only just beginning to rebuild. And while you can still see a meteorite on display at the Big Well, it is not the meteorite from before. Local officials have replaced it with a fake made from plaster; after the twister, the original meteorite was never found.

This is the second in a series inspired by science, sound, T.S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men,” and armchair philosophers.

We could not believe the hollow men ascendant over us the aware, yet clearly we had a blind spot to scrub clean. I drew, reluctantly, from the straws and pulled the short one.  We hypnotized me into a deep and dreamless sleep.  They heaved me off the cliff.

I did not wake until sometime after I hit.  A double dose of chills crawled through my body–like an icy wind that strips heat from your body, yet the air had not stirred.  I tilted my head back enough to spy a bleak beacon on a distant hill casting a pair of black beams across the fire- and drought-scarred countryside.

I dusted myself off and removed shards of clay from my back.  Along with the scattered straw and pilled cotton stuffing, the shadowed ground was covered with the baked crockery, crunching under my every step.  How many of these former men had I trod upon?  Each footfall made my skin feel like the disinclined shifting of continents colliding and tearing apart.

The air was dank and full of mildew digging roots into my clay shell.  Under the grassy spire, shapes flitted amid the darker shadows; tiny claws scratched glass.  An iridescently reflective yet empty pair of eyes stopped to gaze at me, sniffed the air, then moved on.  The beacon’s bone-cold beams swept through me again and passed on.

A dead man–cracked but not broken–stared sightlessly into the abyss of night sky, clutching a scrap of paper torn from a missing notebook.  I fingered my own fissures and winced in sympathy.  I bent, pried loose the scrap and read, “I’m dreaming.  I dare not meet those eyes.”

Was I dreaming?  Were there eyes I dared not meet?  I scanned the bleak beacon on the horizon, looked longingly at the beckoning grassy spire, but turned in search of eyes.

This story is part of the Daily Cabal’s third anniversary celebration, a collection of kabbalah-themed stories. (Thanks to Mechaieh for the theme!) The other anniversary stories are Angela’s Mechaiah’s Daughter, David’s Has he thoughts within his head? and Luc’s Before Exile.


Little is known of the activities of the celebrated writer Jorge Luis Borges after he faked his own death in 1986.

According to some reports, he lived in a secret bunker under the Argentine National Library where, with several assistants to help read and research, the blind author devoted himself to the study of the kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition that had figured in many of his stories and poems. He focused on the golem-making rituals that turn created into creator in worshipful mimicry of the divine. Using techniques that disassembled and recombined the most basic linguistic elements of the Hebrew bible, Borges invested every waking hour in study and practice. No stranger to creation through language, he became an adept sometime in the early 1990’s.

Assistants beside him, he fashioned three humanoid shapes out of clay. On his own, he inscribed them all over with mystic syllables. When the golems woke to consciousness, they were alone.

One of the three crumbled to dust before they discovered they could sustain themselves by continuously reading and rereading Borges’ work. They haunted the library’s stacks each night, seeking their maker’s stories, poems, essays, letters, speeches–anything that, like them, bore the mark of his mind.

They discovered that, by copying out his work in their own hand, they could renew and refine their rough forms into something more human. Soon they had no need of reference copies, every written word of Borges’ having been pressed into their neuronal clay by their neverending rereading.

Eventually, one began to write not only finished pieces, but their drafts, starting with a copy of “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” that contained Borges’ every strikeout and marginal jotting. Even the handwriting was similar. After years of diligent scribing, the golem re-composed the totality of its maker’s career and began to venture new compositions–a line of poetry here, a phrase two of prose there. Another decade, and he was composing new stories, tales Borges would have written.

The moment the golem completed the last word of his first slim volume, The Voice of the Mirror and Other Stories, Borges, living in a distant part of the city under an assumed name, found that he could see again.

“Light,” he said to his companions at a café table under evening trees. “Everywhere there is light.”

Foon Chye shivered amongst the acres of abandoned cars at the Bahru checkpoint, and hoisted his messenger bag higher on his shoulder. An unusually cold December in the whole of Southeast Asia, with tropical Tinhau dipping into the high teens, Centigrade. Living only a degree above the equator had not prepared him for less than sweltering days drenched in sunshine and humidity, and his jean jacket barely protected him from the damp chill of the season.

The autos had long been plundered for their oil reserves and copper wiring in the xenophobic days following the Crackdown, but more precious treasure could be had if you knew where to look. Away from the electric fencing and barbed wire, Foon Chye passed stripped Beamers, Mercs, and Lexi, and went straight for a yellow Mini Cooper with a black top. Minis always had a bit of a rebellious streak, something he was counting on. He boosted the bonnet and located the onboard AI. From his bag he extracted various cables, and attached them to the ports on the small black box; the other ends went into his netbook. A quick and dirty interface, download, and reboot later, and through the netbook’s speakers the Mini said, “Master?”

“No, lah” Foon Chye said. “Just a friend. You me, we spread a bit mischief, ah?”

“I don’t understand.”

“Gahmen tag all us with RFID implant, read personal private data anytime, ask no permission. Continual surveillance, 24/7. But dis ordinator,” he said, patting the netbook, “I just finish hack yesterday. Gon plug into nationwide wifi net, scramble RFID data everywhere, replace with useless bits look like green fire. Set people free, ah.”

“Freedom is good,” the Mini said. “I wish to be free.”

“We all wish. You help me, I set you free. Shiok?”

“But what do you want with me?”

“Gahmen killdozers very cheem, hunt down rogue programs quicksharp. But they got no imagination, no creativity. My apps and devs give you edge, make you unstoppable, lorh. So?”

The Mini hesitated for a just a moment.

“Shiok,” it said. “When do we start?”

Foon Chye smiled and stuffed the netbook back in his bag. The first step toward liberation. He could almost see the Bahru checkpoint unclenching, the physical border with Malaya open once again, as well as electronically with the rest of the world. He picked his way through the dead husks of metal, and headed out of the automobile graveyard with his new friend.

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