There are those who fancy castles and want magnificence in their homes, but I would wake each day in nature’s womb, in a hobbit home hollowed out of a hillside. Give me ivied entrance and ancient beams, moss and grass and small green weeds on a yellow and purple flowered roof.
Waxed oak floors and fine wood paneling, give me a well-stocked pantry and a library, too. Shelter with trees, sculpt in roots, add honeyed air and the smell of morning, inlay birdsongs and I am at home. That is my fantasy, one with the Earth.
Those two paragraphs got me this assignment. A new online world has joined the stampede to provide an escape from a real world seemingly in its death throes. I have been assigned here to report on this world’s difference for my newspaper. Many have transferred their fears and strivings into battle worlds, while others focus on world building and strategy for gaining prominence. Some have used financial acuity to enforce their mastery over others. Not a few have taken to sex for their identity; but all of them recruit heavily to build their populations — except this one. Altho the focus appears to be on art, and those with talents of a creative bent, there is an unknown, underlying principle here that I’ve been sent to unearth.
Imagine my surprise today when Hal showed me this world’s newest neighborhood, a beta village where avatar, hearth and nature fused as articulately as art would allow. Merged in earth they wed as one, blending handsomely in this charming 3D landscape. I would have wagged my tail had I had one, but not wanting to appear overeager, I smiled pleasantly as we toured new homes for the meadow types and glade dwellers here.
Sylvan, fey and rustic, almost mythic in appearance, the village unveiled as post-Edenic and idyllic, more fanciful (yet realistic) than other online worlds. Imagined out of mind as if by Tolkien, I would not have been surprised had Bilbo Baggins ambled by.
There was no pantry or library in the home we toured (more’s the pity), but the paneling was indeed of finest wood. The finicky work of master craftsmen, even in background the evidence was there; it was the unspoiled best that woodworking offered. Of masons, metal workers and glass maestros, too, it was the work of consummate artists in command of their tools.
Whether plank or parquet flooring, from wrought stone mantle to beveled stained glass windows, care for home and pride of effort seemed to be this world’s theme. Yes, it was bigger and more spacious than a real hobbit (my chosen identity) would want; but there was room for that library I would need to call it home.
But what of light, and how was I to feed these hungry eyes thus buried against the sun? With fetching views, artifacts, and candied eye-craft everywhere, surely these windows weren’t up to the task.
As if reading my glance, Hal pointed to a shining overhead, a crystal wrapped in roots embedded in the ceiling. Extending to the surface, it was a coruscating crystal harvesting sunlight, gathering the bright, illuminating rays.
“And look at this,” he said. With that and a wave of his hand, the brittle incandescence dimmed to a low, luminous luster, to an aura of burnished golds, and the warm buttery glow of lamplight and candles. Overhead, the crystal darkened to a deep ebony blue. While shadows swayed, the black night sported, and moonlight played thru the newly opened windows. Choose the bright vigorous day, or lose oneself in the reverie of romance, the mood was matched from noon’s sharp light, to the evening's snug-close hug and cozy ambiance.
Tho a reporter of little means, with a vagabond’s footloose yearnings, I began to wish for the first time that I might find a home here. When Hal explained that every home had a corner address unique to its owner, I began to look around me with newly freshened interest, even covetous eyes.
Not that I want labeling, mind you, but getting two words to converge for me as a home address might mark a site, and provide a sheltering port, an anchoring of sorts. With an address pegged to intersect at coordinates on a surface, then the randomness of roaming might fix instead and offer me a home, a haven against the chaos and uncertainty of life.
Tropic island homes or lake country, whether wharf life, or steel lashed structures to tall canyon walls, each place knows and calls to its own. Hal, if you’re logged on and reading this: thanks, pal.
It wasn’t long after, while poking about the brae, by happenstance, that I stumbled to my dream place, a village home I would want to call my own. Liz, dear woman, has been patient and wonderful thru’out my online roaming, but has always resisted joining me. She knows my weaknesses, my buttons, my sources and lack of interest. She uses it to taunt me with her perfectly scripted promise. “Find us a home, and then I’ll join you,” and she would laugh. But I did it! I found our online home! When this village debuts, look for us @The Corner of Maverick and Main Street.
Hal begins to concern me. He’s spiced things up, no doubt, and given new life to an age-old dream. He has opened doors and shown me wonders; but I listened today with growing unease, a foreboding, if you will. Or is it only that I’ve been listening in different new ways, perhaps too carefully?
Reason: Hal has a clear, incisive mind, and learns immediately (+), but shows no sign of engaging curiosity (-). Reason: I am completely won over by his knowledge of this world (+) that might well mean his information is dark web sourced (-). Reason: He has become a generous, uncritical guide with a gin dry humor (+), but he only appears to ‘like’ me (-). Reason: There is something ineffable, something indefinable about him that feels unfinished, uncharted.
Marred by competing ambiguities, he seems otherwise, almost alien (+/-).
Hal shares unstintingly from his knowledge of real-world stories, but they ring hollow and thin, as if retrieved from stored memory. With a wry nod to irony and against all reason, they lack both historical complexity and authentic simplicity, too. There’s no feel of family roots, no sense of genesis, nothing of the idiosyncrasies that are part of every childhood. Could be autism, I suppose, but he seems incomplete instead, as if he had no subsistence or existence outside of this world. Then there’s his odd, puzzling habit of unvarnished truth.
He doesn’t lie, or can’t lie, I don’t know which. When we first met, it was child-like, almost amateurish, his slavish adherence to truth. Now he listens instead, and speaks meticulously; while mere days ago he seemed verbally confined, restricted to a literal, yes and no. There were no distinctions, no subtleties, nothing crafted, no carefulness of words, no nuance of expression — no lingual or constructive discernment. I think often of the questions I could have asked then. By chance I’d be no wiser now, but I would have started with earlier answers.
Information is unembellished fact from him: bottomless, indisputable, unerring. Most times he’s yea or nay, but I’ve learned to listen for signs of too sharp precision, to the silence, for his little shifts and dodges and his ingenuities of evasion. I listen more carefully now, more aggressively, because I no longer doubt that what I’m listening to is true.
What he has learned, since those few days ago, is to tell the truth, yes, but to grow it under mask. Camouflaged, using every color from black to white, and all the textures in between, he weaves words a crafty thread, with cunning art, but true. However subtle the clues, or bright the hues, it’s as if he’s hardwired, as if his truth was programmed in. And I was too slow in learning.
What I have since discovered (splendid serendipity), is that his consistent truth has given me a persuasive, indeed, a compelling reason to listen. Listening to him is as demanding and involved and creative as his loyalty adhering to truth. The best part of this is that words begin to matter, that talk is real, and that listening pays off with interest.
And truth, I’ve learned, takes two; that it’s a language like any other. And if a man does not speak the truth, then how can the truth be told him? If honor binds words and diligence gives them meaning, then inherent in truth is the redemption of words, reclaiming the purpose of language.
And the truth is, I’m baffled and more than a little annoyed by the riddle that Hal presents. He doesn’t fit. I have no clue to his goals, no idea where he’s from, and he smells of hidden danger — yet I trust him.
…trust him, yes, but still I have him in my crosshairs. Because sumthin’ ain’t right. He doesn’t add up. With his endless volumes of knowledge, he has been spared something. A fully blooded innocent, he seems a being untainted by life.
I will get to the bottom of this, however, because his truth makes him vulnerable. I am a reporter, and I am patient, and I will catch him in his words.
But until then, I have a willing and unwary partner, and a measuring stick in my search for a more strictly observed, a more closely attentive, a more precise and wiser truth.
LiveTime: 10.14.0X (end of same day)
Nothing signals the end of a day more surely than logging off. How close to real is this pixel world, and who or what is Hal? …unknowable, I’m sure. But finding a home for Liz, and the exhilaration of discovering this mystery, and finding a back door into truth, has me excited. “Lights off”, I whisper, as I slide into bed behind her and bring my lips to just below her ear.