by George Thomas
"I dreamed I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither. I was conscious
only of my happiness as a butterfly. Soon I awoke, and there I was, veritably
myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was
a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man."
~ Zhuang Zi
* * *
It is night. You are alone. Alone in your ivory tower on the shore of Tokyo
Bay. You sleep. A sleep unbroken by the worries and concerns of the waking
world. You are a man of great age and greater efficiency, a man of business.
You are a man who wastes nothing, especially your own precious time. You
craft your seamless schedule to the last nanosecond to accommodate your
workload and to maximize your profits.
By day, those around you know that phenomenal success such as yours comes
only with the most extreme dedication, something they appreciate and respect.
They depend on you to keep the Company running and expanding. It is this
which feeds and clothes them and grants them some small measure of success
of their own.
Then there are those who claim your incalculable wealth has been acquired
at too high a cost. The Activists, citing the negative environmental impact
your enterprises present. The politicians, condemning your monopoly as
bad business because your competitors could not keep up. Your family, once
a burden like a weight around your neck, squanders their resources on 'humanitarian'
and 'charitable' causes.
Such as they refuse to see the simple, elegant truths you have embraced,
the disciplines you espouse, the precepts and practices that you have mastered
and used to amass your vast personal fortune. Such as they were born to
die in poverty and squalor, conditions you were all too familiar with once.
Conditions they tried to perpetuate by foisting their own self-defeating
attitudes upon you. You watched your father waste his own precious time
consumed by such ridiculous, selfless concerns, leaving your mother to
die with nothing to show for all her years of sacrifice and toil save a
few sticks of furniture and a mountain of debt. You swore to yourself then
that such a fate would not be yours.
And so you sleep. A sleep of freedom from all those things the naysayers
would use against you. A sleep of renewal and restoration of strength.
Strength you will use to its fullest advantage to further your goals, expand
your influence and leave the lingering shadows of want and despair ever
Sleep now. Sleep.
* * *
Sound. A distant rumble. A subtle vibration. Sound. The rumble comes again,
the vibration stronger, disturbing your rest. You stir, catching a brief
flash like lightning as it illuminates the room. Your brain shifts from
deepest REM just enough to register the intrusion as thunder. It is a storm
brewing offshore. You roll to face away from the expansive windowed terrace
encircling your suite. Your allotted time for rest is far too precious
to compromise on this unscheduled disturbance.
"Adam," you call to no one. "Baffles." A gentle tone responds as the Automated
Domicile Attendant Module acknowledges the request, sheathing the top five
floors of the tower in a thick translucent barrier. "And shades." Obediently,
the floor length curtains slide into place, opaquing the view.
Still, the thunder booms louder, moving closer, heedless of the requirements
of your exacting personal regimen. Involuntarily, you stir further from
sleep, half-listening, anticipating the sound of the next explosive crack.
There. Even through the baffles the pounding impact shakes you. That was
Another boom follows, then another and you are certain no mere storm ever
produced such a sound. The terrible noise rumbles through the tower as
you rise from your futon. You stand there in the dark, your thoughts scrambling
in wild speculation. You feel the vibration of the thunderous impacts coming
closer, almost like drumbeats. The drumbeats of a dirge for some angry,
You shudder as the adrenaline rush takes you, struggling to assimilate
the manic input of fear-sharpened senses. You perceive the sound of distant
sirens, abruptly cut off by bursts of static light and sound as the tower's
emergency systems fight to kick in. Another tremor strikes hard as news
bulletins fade in and out across an array of monitors. For a second, a
monstrous image seems to break through, then a blue-white flash erupts
from the screens and the transmissions stop, leaving you in a silent, lightless
An afterimage lingers, dancing with each blink of your eyes. You squeeze
them shut tightly, straining to bring the light still imprinted upon your
retinas into focus. What you find is something far more terrifying than
the unknown and you stagger as you gasp its name: Gojira.
The blackness is absolute, broken only by the sound of your own labored
breath. Panic tempts you, unable to keep the pervasive horror of the moment
from invading your mind.
"Adam," you force the whisper from your throat. "Adam?" The machine does
You tremble as you stare into the seemingly vast black emptiness. Here
and now, all of your fortune and influence mean nothing. All the things
you value are suddenly worthless. You find yourself exactly where you have
fought so hard to avoid and you weep as you realize that all your life's
work may have gained you is your own elaborate grave.
Around you, an amber glow begins to rise as the tower's back-up systems
finally come online. Your heart races faster at the barest possibility
of hope. The ground shakes as shots of area maps and onscene footage fill
The beast is right outside. A deafening, monstrous roar rips the air, echoed
by your own strangled cry. You have only one option now, only one chance.
Your eyes catch the red flash of an EXIT sign. Like every other man, woman
and child in the district, you have no choice left but to run for your
* * *
Running. Running as the street explodes around you. Running as the city
comes apart. Buildings shatter, raining down in choking clouds of debris,
pelting you with chunks of iron, glass and stone. The advancing nimbus
steals your vision, then fights to steal your breath. You move because
you know you dare not stop, because there is a monster right behind you.
Your chest begins to ache as you struggle through the smoke and crowds
to out race the terrible, titanic Thing. You cough, choking with every
breath, drowning in the mob and in the thick particulate air. Your legs
become heavier with each desperate stride, still pumping, going numb. You
The monster howls. Its inhuman cry triggering an electric chill that shudders
up your spine, flashing white hot in your brain, forcing your limbs into
action. You move, driven by the same primal panic that grips the screaming,
Running. Running as the wind begins to rise, whipping the dust-laden atmosphere
into a miasma of burning, stinging wreckage. Running as the sounds of carnage
rush to deafen you, until even the slap of your shoes against pavement
grows muted and distant. The meager traces of light that penetrate the
cloud dim further, darkening to near blackness as a deep trilling growl
sounds from somewhere high above.
It is the monster's shadow that chills the air and turns your blood to
* * *
You bolt awake, your sleep broken by the sound of your own screaming. The
penthouse lights come on, responding to the sudden motion. Sweat-soaked
and shaking, you gaze in awe at a world unmolested. An empty bottle of
sake on the night stand, a crumpled suit upon the floor. You had never
even left your bed.
"What a nightmare," you lament, relief washing through you. You collapse,
exhausted, back onto the damp, chilly sheets and cocoon yourself once more
under the covers. Today, you decide, might be a good day to just forget
the schedule. A brief respite could prove most beneficial and the thought
of sleeping late after such a horrid night as this is too deliciously tempting
Sound. A distant rumble. A subtle vibration. Sound. The rumble comes again.
The vibration stronger. A brief flash like lightning illuminates the room.
It is only thunder, you tell yourself. A storm brewing offshore...