The Hunting Ground
The Hunting Ground could have been a series of disturbing statistics and personal stories, but the directors know that it is the survivors who are…
Editor's note: This is a continuation of a story Roger was working on when he passed away. This ending is one of many we received. To read Roger's beginning to the story, from the end of which each entry picks up the thread, go here. Illustration by Krishna Bala Shenoi. This is one of four endings we're posting this week. Vote on this week's endings here.
Jason Pulley writes:
"I didn't know Mozart was even successful." Alex chimed in. His foolish remarks was causing all but Elliot to groan with annoyance.
"It has to be musically related. Imagine if we were to relate the evolution of the molecules to muscle memory." Claire had drawn interest from the table. Even Alex decided not to be clever and listen. "My mother was a piano player. She always tried to teach me but, I never loved anything as much as I loved computers. Anyways, one thing she always pressed upon was muscle memory. Doing something over and over eventually becomes subconscious."
"But muscle memory is not limited to musicians. A basketball player with a high free throw percentage has direct correlation with muscle memory." Mason said. Alex could not resist.
"If aliens start playing basketball—"
"First of all they are molecules, not aliens." Regan rolled her eyes and giggled.
"That's how it starts. Then, when you least expect, those molecules start shooting perfect jump shots because their muscle memory is just too strong." Alex never enjoyed taking things too seriously.
"I think I would have to take a trip to watch the first game played in the Alien Basketball Association." Elliot liked encouraging Alex to beat dead horses. Alex was more than happy to oblige.
"Watch out! The ABA is coming back! Better pack up and leave now if you want to beat traffic!" Alex and Elliot enjoyed a laugh, a cheers and a final sip of each of their bottles. Naturally, it was time for another round.
"Like Regan said, they are molecular cells, quite early in the stages of evolution. All we're trying to do is establish a potential resolution for her story." Mason wanted to direct the conversation away from Alex's control; they would not get anywhere with the story unless he did.
"It's true muscle memory is, almost always, applicable to most rhythmic exercises," Claire was always willing to defend herself; "However, we should listen to the patterns one more time. Certain sounds and structures within the pattern appear in a specific order and begin all over again the same way." Claire played the patterns again. Each member of the group slightly cocked their heads toward the sound so as, to hear the playback clearly. A twenty second pause to listen was broken by Alex.
"Velcro Fly." For the first time, the group was interested in what Alex had to say.
"I beg your pardon?" Mason was trying to determine what else the sounds could possibly relate to until, Alex's comment, baffled him. Claire, Regan, and even Elliot, were feeling just as confused.
"Sharp-Dressed Man? La Grange?" Alex could not believe he was not getting anywhere. "You mean to tell me none of you have endeared the beards?" Blank stares fueled his disappointment. "C'mon guys! ZZ Top!"
"So what's your point?" Regan said as she twirled her finger around her hair.
"The patterns are identical to the drum beat in the song Velcro Fly by ZZ Top. When we first started listening I couldn't help but sing Hot for Teacher in my head (blank stares and frustration subsequently followed) but, it is definitely Velcro Fly."
"First of all, it is certainly not definite. We're talking about patterns developed through molecular evolution Secondly, when I suggested the patterns are creating music, I was not also suggesting they replicate a specific piece of music; the patterns are less organized than they are random." As Alex and Claire's banter began to tire Regan and even Elliot, the patterns continuously played through Mason's head. All that's needed are patterns that move more readily than other patterns. Regan had mentioned this when she started explaining her theories to the group. It was not necessary for the patterns to be intellectually driven. It seemed more like process of elimination than sophisticated communication. Plug-n-chug. Basic algebra. Mason was not sure what he was trying to determine with these thoughts however, he could help but feel he was on the right track. Whether it was something confined to the deepest corners of his mind or, just the speculating conversation at the table but, Mason had a new idea to share.
"Is social media too far?" Mason's bizarre statement silenced the volume of the chatter. Claire was the first to break the void.
"Do you mean has social media gone too far? Probably but, that's a topic that has no relevance in our discussion."
"No I know what Mason is asking," Regan's eyes lit up but, were nowhere near as bright as her smile. "Is it possible the molecular cells are abbreviating the social media process?"
"Well I did not think about it that far but, I already like where this is going," Mason seemed to be generating a theoretical narrative in his mind. Alex was beyond lost and could not stand the dissonance.
"Pardon me but, the passengers in the back don't hear very well and, we tend to miss things after everyone sees it in the front, would you mind sharing with the group?" Elliot nodded in agreement. Even Claire was unsure what Mason and Regan were telepathically communicating to each other.
"Social media outlets seems too advanced for the evolution of these cells," Regan said without acknowledging Alex. She was digging her brain for the right word. Claire, Alex and Elliot glanced at each other and, all at once, moved on and tried to keep up.
"You're right. Instead it is like a street performance or, a group, or…" Mason's voice faded as he also tried to think of the same word. Instead, Elliot led them both in the right direction.
"A blog?" Claire and Alex became more confused while, Mason and Regan simultaneously became more excited.
"YES!" Mason and Regan exclaimed simultaneously. She giggled and continued. "An area where more and more of the same general information is submitted and reviewed. Instead of gas prices or, Lindsay Lohan, it is a simple message that eventually grows more complex."
"Like Telephone?" Claire believed she was catching on. Regan cocked her head to the side while, she tried to come up with the best answer to her question.
"I don't know much about the invention of the telephone. I suppose if—"
"No, like the game telephone," Alex said (much to her surprise) before Claire could explain herself.
"Oh duh, the game, of course," Regan blushed a light shade of scarlet.
"Now I am lost," Mason said.
"Does anyone know anything about anything anymore?" Alex finished his final beer and signaled to close out his tab.
"It's a silly kids' game. You sit in a circle; one person thinks of something goofy or bizarre. That person whispers it to one of the people next in the circle until, it goes around and the final product is said by the last person," Regan explained to Mason. "I think we're going away from the subject. Often, the point of telephone is to make light of poor communication. The evolution is in its earliest stages but, the level of communication is much more sophisticated and organized than a game of telephone."
"I did say like for a reason," Claire muttered as she pretended to be interested in the shoebox again.
"If we keep speculating on what it is similar to then we'll end up with nothing but an E.T. playing the piano and hopscotch kid's story," Mason was getting tired and wanted to wrap up the tiresome conversation.
Amidst the general babble, Elliot was generating thoughts of his own. Elliot's interest in engineering and space exploration started when he was seven with Star Wars. The only thing he ever wanted to be was a Jedi but, the bullshit of reality consistently disappoints children. In order to salvage his impossible dream, Elliot would write original Jedi comics. Tatooine, Ewoks and, Yoda, were replaced with planets like Vesteen, races such as Kanters and, the master of the great Yoda himself, Gorac Siefer.
Eventually his passion for Jedi died and was replaced with computers, girls, and marijuana cigarettes (not always in that order). Since the discoveries this evening, Elliot could not help but go back to one of his own comics. One in which Darth Yarvis, the architect behind the Dark Side, had gone into exile on the planet Pertoom.
Yarvis was an original member of the Jedi Council. As the true knowledge and power of the Force was becoming more clear to the Council, Yarvis remained distant and studied independently. His alternative practices in the Force were rejected which, ultimately, led to banishment so as to avoid a disturbance of peace. Yarvis's anger led him to solitude on Pertoom; infamous for its lack of life. He spent days at a time in deep, dark meditation, starving himself of nourishment feeding off of his growing power and magda roots. Once his power rose to, what he believed was, its greatest potential, he sought to enslave and dominate what little life inhabited Pertoom. Small villages and ecosystems burned and collapsed.
"Bow down and accept your fate as a slave to the Dark Side! Follow me and, feel the true glory of the Force!" Yarvis bellowed to his suffering captors. "You may resist but, choose your words carefully; for it will be your final speech before permanent retirement." Those who chose to call his bluff, learned Yarvis played with a loaded deck. The few who chose to follow, out of fear for their lives, studied the art of Yarvis's dark powers. Yarvis and his small company of Sith Lords spent years crafting and perfecting the Dark Side of the Force; planning an attack on the Jedi Council in the name of vengeance. Before they could execute their plan, an ice age ravaged the planet burying Pertoom, the Sith Lords, and Darth Yarvis in what is now known as Hoth.
Elliot felt he never completely finished his Jedi comics. He always had several ideas but, could never commit to conclude a story. Whether it was the topic of conversation or, something in the deepest parts of his mind he happened to come across, Elliot was not sure what brought him to remember this strange, incomplete memory of his childhood. What he was sure about was how he should have ended this particular story.
"What if it's like a distress call? Or an S.O.S.?" Once again, Elliot's comment silenced the babble. Mason, Regan, and Claire exchanged wide-eyed glances.
"Hmm, an S.O.S.? That's very interesting," Regan said with a giggle.
"I don't know if it's an S.O.S." Claire was always first to question.
"Why not? A brief message repeated over and over again—"
"Sounds more like music than anything else. I think my original theory is clearly more sound than anything else we have discussed this evening," Claire was becoming impatient and needed to put a stronger effort in to the PLATO model. She raised herself off the stool and grabbed the shoebox. "I'm tired and this conversation is not going anywhere. Good night and good luck with your musical molecules," Claire said, leaving a tip with her exit. Alex did the same and hopped off his stool.
"It makes me kind of horny when she's anal. No pun intended," Alex said with a wink. "I think I can turn this project in to a 'project.' Zing, right!" Alex chuckled and called to Claire to slow her down.
"Am I the only one who thought that was kind of rude?" Regan looked as if she had eaten burnt toast.
"If he wants to try, I am certainly not going to be the one to cock block him," Mason could care less if Alex and Claire were there or not.
"First of all: Eeww. Secondly, I was talking about Claire." Mason and Elliot looked at one another and telepathically decided the same thing. Claire's kind of a bitch. No, Claire is a bitch. Sometimes.
"I don't know. You heard her, right? She was tired, that PLATO thing is huge, it's late, I'm sure she'll cool off over a night's sleep."
"Unless Alex makes it too hot," Elliot said with a swift slap to his knee. Mason could not help but let a laugh loose.
"Again, eewww. Can we please stop talking about Alex in sexual situations?" begged Claire.
"I think I can comply with that. Let's get back to the task at hand," said Mason. Regan and Elliot nodded in agreement. "What brought you to the possibility of an S.O.S.?"
"To be honest, I think the story is too long for me to tell. However, I wonder if it is more like an infection," Elliot said, trying to find the best way to say exactly what he was thinking. Mason and Regan only looked more confused. "When I was a kid, I used to write these weird comic stories. For some reason, I was thinking about how I should have ended one of the many I never finished. To sum it up as brief as possible, the power of an evil sorcerer resonates or "leaks" into the planet's core; giving the planet a mind of its own. I know it sounds foggy, if I could sit down and stir the details, I could make some sense out of it."
"I guess I'm still lost. What's the point? Are you suggesting Titan is a conscious planet?" Mason was ready to call it a night as well.
"No, not at all," Elliot believed he was ready to articulate his speculations. "A point where the surface of the magma ocean and the ice begin to bank seems to be where the spacecraft eventually migrated. It also seems to be where the source of this molecular evolution is taking place. Regan mentioned earlier that even the slightest action or affection creates change. Is it possible the spacecraft's migration creates a rift in this evolution? A rift that, basically, speeds up the process. Is it possible that, wherever the magma is closer to the surface, the molecules are trying to communicate a gathering?"
"It isn't a distress call. It's a discovery," Mason said with a glowing smile. "It's perfect!" Claire and, even Elliot, were surprised by Mason's excitement. "Just like the third rock inhabitants!" Regan's giggle was now a full laugh.
"What are you talking about?"
"Think about it! The development of our own culture is heavily based on creation and discovery. Fire was discovered; enter the candle. Ben Franklin was being stupid and got lucky; Edison was intelligent and persistent. The molecules 'made' a discovery. The patterns act like a lighthouse. 'Come this way.' 'This is the right way.' Something of that nature. Regardless of what the patterns really mean, the only thing that needs to be communicated is to be there or be square," Mason's excitement had made Regan giddy and his last comment made her laugh especially hard.
"I did not expect this conversation to end up like this," she said through stifled laughter. "I think I forgot where my original story was going to end but this is far more interesting."
"Do you think the patterns will evolve?" asked Elliot.
"I think it is possible but, not the way we think it would. The message is more to attract the molecules that are relative to the original mutation. The discoveries of any culture are endless," Mason said with a proud final sip of his beer. "Speaking of discoveries, it has been at least twenty-four hours since I have discovered my bed and, that is beyond too long. Elliot nodded in agreement.
"I think I am going on fifteen but, you never know what can happen in more than ten," Elliot said. "Not drinking entitles a person to be tip-free, right?" Elliot slipped off his stool before the waitress could witness who did and did not tip. Mason and Regan shook their heads and each contributed a piece to the tip before leaving together.
"Shall we?" Mason asked holding out his arm in an attempt to be chivalrous. Once again, Regan giggled which, always made Mason smile.
"You know I am a big girl. I can walk myself."
"You can but, you don't want to."
"What makes you think so?"
"I know so." Regan was taken back by Mason's sudden confidence and persistence.
"I suppose you're right. The discoveries of any culture are endless," Regan said with one final giggle. She held his arm to walk through the sweet silence of nighttime on the Third Rock.
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