Over Mount Fuji – Chapter 22 –

An Epic NovelAugust 19 —

A buzz woke Eileen before sunrise. As the sound grew, so did her anxiety. Suspended between daydreaming and reality, she moved to the edge of the bed, hugged her pillow for comfort, but she couldn’t quell her uneasiness.

In her fluffy slippers, she padded to the kitchen and made a cup of tea. Jerry’s black slender pen on the dining table stirred her emotion. His loving voice still whispered in her ears. She shook her head, trying to concentrate. The sound subsided, but the puzzle still hovered like a black cloud. What’s wrong with me? The pen evoked a tingling sensation; her anxiety seemed more than a bad omen. Jerry’s smile and their three blissful years together were still painful memories. If only she had joined him for the trip . . . .

Could there be any chance he might be alive? A phone call—somewhere? Somehow? She stiffened at the thought of his last phone message, discussing the findings of a surge in electromagnetic fields in Kyushu Island. And what had his professor thought of such information? She checked her clock and realized she had an interview with Wulfstein later that morning at Japan’s Earthquake Prediction Center.

Eileen returned to her bedroom and chose a new silk blouse and navy blue skirt. Still troubled, she made her way to the lab. Although she suspected Wulfstein might provide some clues to the electromagnetic fields, he had been ridiculed persistently.

“Just as the old alchemist labored to turn lead into gold,” Professor Blackmore had written, “The new alchemist tries to turn myth into science.”

But their exchanges had deteriorated when Blackmore wrote: “In an enlightened world, how could anyone with any amount of sanity listen to a crystal ball gazer?”

Wulfstein might have been quick tempered, but after this, he ceased defending himself. As a member of the press, she believed the burden of proof should weigh evenly on both sides. The politics of science was nothing new; it aggravated problems that ignited and re-ignited throughout the centuries. Who determined scientific truth?

The nearer to the lab she came, the more uneasy Eileen grew.

Unlike her last meeting at MIT, the fresh aroma of brewed coffee hinted at a positive atmosphere. Wulfstein’s face lit up when she arrived at the door. He’d shaved his beard and looked years younger. “A nice blouse you’re wearing, Eileen. It suits you,” he said, shaking her hand, then showed her to a chair.

“It’s new. I’m surprised you noticed,” she said, her face growing warm.

“I do notice things, you know,” he said, pointing. “Your brooch is upside-down.”

Eileen froze; conflicting thoughts jostled in her mind. Calm down, she told herself. “I was in a rush. I didn’t even have time for breakfast.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve prepared something for our meeting.”

Eileen avoided eye contact, afraid she might be consumed by an emotion she couldn’t recall feeling since Jerry.

Wulfstein ambled over to a coffeemaker. After he poured two cups and collected rolls of sushi into a tray, he went back, struggling to balance them all when settling them down. When Eileen hopped up and offered her hands, he caught one, gave it a kiss, and took his seat.

Blood pounding in her ears, she closed her eyes for a few seconds in an effort to sort out her emotions.

“People remember my interviews being the best after our trip to the Izu-Ogasawara Trench,” he said before studying his note. “Journalists have written extensively and passionately about it.”

“Yes, we have.” Eileen pressed the start button on her recorder. “But what’s your new conclusion about the Sinking Syndrome?”

“I’ve no new ideas yet. At any rate, insects, birds, and animals are behaving abnormally.”

“What could happen next?” she asked, taking a bite of her sushi. “When will Japan sink further?”

“Are you expecting me to put a date on it, so I’m left with enough rope to hang myself?”

“Not really,” she said, feeling somewhat defensive. He sounded he thought she was going to write a negative review about him, like other slammers had done. “We’re professional journalists, and we expect a scientist to be precise.”

“It’s imminent. But sorry, I wish I could be more specific.” Wulfstein tapped his fingers on the table. “What’s worse is that it’s a bad omen.”

“A bad omen?” She paused. “But the scientific community sees such terms as frivolous.”

“To hell with them,” Wulfstein said. “Their views are pedantically narrow. Who would say there’s no elephant tusk?—the blind holding the tail of the elephant or the one holding the leg?”

Eileen restrained a smile; she would have another great article. “Okay, that’s clear. What you’re holding out is the synergy theory, and that there must be some unity in all the diversity. Now, do you think your theory can lead to some specific predictions that could save lives?”

“How could I?” Wulfstein frowned, locking eyes on her. “I can only do my part but there’s so much more that could be done. Those who are convinced need to take precautions of their own.” He stood up and trudged to the window.

Eileen followed him. The mists around Mount Fuji had evaporated as quickly as they had risen. Now the volcano loomed silently over the spectacular landscape. In the glare, the cloak of snow enveloping the summit glittered with brilliance. A pair of hawks glided in the foreground, seemingly flying forever in circles, just as fantasy circulates between dreams and reality.

“Laymen argue with passion for and against my proposition,” Wulfstein said, “but the scientific community prefers to call me names and argue beyond the point of logic. I might be a man in a lighthouse, yelling, but do you think I’m paranoid for issuing a warning like this?” Wulfstein fell silent, his breathing labored. His facial lines cut so deep Eileen sensed his nerves edging toward the breaking point.

As she waited, a soft hum, sounding like dragonflies, broke the silence.

Wulfstein lifted his head and stared at the horizon again. “Maybe something inside me knows Mt. Fuji holds secrets—secrets long neglected.” He sighed and shrugged. “Or, maybe I have lost my sense of direction.”

Eileen shuddered, sensing he was troubled. By facing skyward and inhaling deeply, Wulfstein looked distant, giving her an inkling that another dimension of his life was about to be revealed, or that he might predict further calamity. In his mind, a possibility must have strengthened to become a fixed idea. Then she heard him murmur, “If you search for me, you’ll find me.”

Enchanted by these words, she followed his gaze. As if the sun was transferring mystical energy to him, she wondered if Wulfstein had been digging into his subconscious for an answer. Soon, a shroud of clouds drifted across the sky, obscuring the sacred volcano but more pairs of hawks appeared.

Eileen startled when the laptop beeped appeared. Then a hum accompanied the beeps.

Wulfstein narrowed his eyes when the sound persisted. A sheen of sweat covered his wrinkled face.

“Listen,” she said, “the hums are more audible.”

“Yes, indeed,” he said, grabbing EQ-Lun closer. “Most of our equipment is set to detect any irregularity around the archipelago.”

“Why is it getting louder?”

Wulfstein analyzed the reports for a moment, then paced back to the window and squinted over the horizon. “The bloop sound has retreated to the Mariana Trench, but the hum is everywhere.”

Still puzzled, she prodded. “How can you be sure?”

“No one can be certain, Eileen. Something’s stirring—the hum remains a mystery, but the movement of the bloop sound indicates it’s a creature. Only this much I’m sure of.”

Eileen knew that Wulfstein’s laptop link to the laboratory tracked every sensor. Could this be a crucial time to find a breakthrough for earthquake precursors?

“A man’s imaginative power will shrink if not used,” he said. “The mysteries of Ma-no Umi will soon provide the key.”

“How did the sound move? Can you show me?”

“Give me a minute, and I’ll retrieve my database.”

After Wulfstein had reset EQ-Lun, the spectrogram danced on the screen and the familiar babbling bloop sounded. He clicked a key and the spectrogram transformed into a small red ambience radiating toward the top left corner of the screen as the map of the Pacific came into view in the background.

“This is where I started recording the sound last December,” Wulfstein said, pointing to the sea off the coast of Kyushu Island. “Now the horizontal bar shows the time changes during the last nine months I’d tracked this sound.”

Eileen studied the signal on the horizontal bar. During the first week of December, it started when the red ambience moved northward to Honshu, then it slowly circled the seas there in a Big 8 formation. By January, it began to pick up speed, moving south, but its color faded into pink. At the end of the month, the ambience reached the Mariana Trench. Moment later, it collapsed and disappeared. During the first week of March, the ambience reappeared. It moved southeast, passed the Equator toward Fiji, and headed south.

“What does this ambience mean?” Eileen asked.

“It signifies the source of the sound.”

“So it’s heading south?”

“That’s right.”

Eileen stiffened. How could the sound move with such peculiarity? Before hitting New Zealand, the ambience turned east toward the Galápagos Islands. After rounding the islands at the end of April, it headed north. By the second week of May, the sound moved along the Coast of California, but this time, staying very close to the shorelines. And just before San Francisco, it paused for a long moment. After emitting louder than normal, it turned west toward the Hawaiian Islands, and stayed there. It circled the islands anticlockwise before heading for the Japanese archipelago.

In June, as it approached the archipelago, it slowed, but the sound intensified. Just east of the Izu peninsular, it moved north, then halted.

“What does this mean?” Eileen asked, startled.

“It seems some seismic activities there had troubled the creature.”

After the long pause, the sound turned east and then headed north, following the coastline. Near the north end of Honshu, it slowed, then stopped. The ambience softened as it turned west and headed into the Strait of Tsugaru Kaikyo. But it halted again, and then retreated, as if sensing danger. Making a U-turn, it headed northeast. Again, it followed the coastline, rounding the island of Hokkaido in an anti-clockwise direction. Once it returned to the southern tip, it slowed, then stopped. After a short moment, it proceeded east, but moved at a snail’s pace. Just before the Strait of Tsugaru Kaikyo, the ambience faded, and then vanished.

Eileen watched, studying and keeping her composure.

After a long while, the ambience restarted, but on the eastern side of the Strait. Slowly the pulse regained its strength.

When it reached the open sea to the east, it picked up speed, its ambience finally returned to normal. For a brief moment, it moved well into the sea, but it hesitated, stopped, and returned to the coastline, proceeding down south along Honshu Island.

Once it reached the town of Tateyama, it slowed. And just before Oshima Island, it stopped. Then it circled the island in a clockwise formation, pausing intermittently and moving back and forth, as if examining and re-examining the seascape.

After a long hesitancy, it continued its southward bound, gaining speed, bypassing the Ryukyu Islands and returning to the Mariana Trench by the end of June. Again, the ambience faded and disappeared from view. But during the second week of July, a seismogram spurted out suddenly on the screen as the ambience reappeared with the sound intensified.

“What’s this suppose to mean?” Eileen asked.

“It means the creature was troubled by another seismic activity.”

“Instantly?” Eileen asked.

“That’s right. There must be a linkage.”

Eileen recalled Jerry’s paper was centered on his conjectures of Ma-no Umi. This mystifying section of the Pacific, a topic so baffling and raw, had always drawn media interest. So she grasped the opportunity to be more specific. “The sound is so loud at times. You mean a greater sea creature than those we saw?”

“Without a doubt. I still do not have all the specifics, as mysteries remain mysteries until we see them before our eyes.”

“And is this how science and the arts meet each other?”

“Possibly. Neither of us really believes in the monster. But surely those ancient tales aren’t total fabrication.”

Eileen felt edgy over those sobering thoughts. Since their meeting, she had sensed anguish more soulful and private than that brought on by the overwhelming public crisis.

“Life to me is a series of anecdotes, an enterprising adventure,” he said. “Maybe it is fate, maybe it is destiny, but until this place is thoroughly explored, how can anybody be sure?”

Wulfstein was hinting at something about to be unraveled. Could such a connection be possible? The day of the Crifford Lecture would soon arrive. Could the might of the intellect finally unravel the mystery of a fury planet?

“Would you come with me to the Lecture?” Wulfstein asked.

Eileen, squirmed, knowing his work was an extension of Charles Berlitz’s. Now, Wulfstein’s pursuit of an unwarranted investigation was an extension of Jerry’s. For an instant she felt an inexplicable bond—a magnetic pull. As she gathered her senses, her nerves tingled. She stepped closer to him, and whenever his eyes lingered, her heart fluttered. Feeling her spirit homing in for a final showdown, she nodded. “Of course, I’d love to attend. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

©) Joel Huan, author of Over Mount Fuji (available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble)

~ by Joel Huan on December 21, 2009.

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