Monday, April 7, 2014

Strange Journey - Chapter 21


Not long left

As the bus was leaving central Sparta, the Maenads started to sing. They were obviously rehearsed and practiced, as they were singing some kind of song featuring three-part harmonies. As they were not all seated together in the bus or arranged according to which part they were singing, the result was somewhat less than perfect, but still impressive. It was also rather weird. Lotte did not know what to make of it sensed a certain confusion in the reaction of those other passengers who were not of the Cult of Dionysos. Some of these were other tourists, no doubt heading out to the ruins of Olde Mystras, but others looked like locals on their way to visit friends or retuning home after doing their shopping in Sparta. They looked impassive, as though they were used to the strange ways of the foreigner. The smattering of tourists had a less uniform reaction. Some were captivated while others struck Lotte as being embarrassed.

Lotte knew very little ancient Greek, but she was able to make out a couple of words that suggested that this song had religious significance to the Maenads. Those words were "Dionysos", "Zeus", "Semele," and "Oinos". The song had an ambiguous quality that allowed it to be both solemn and upbeat at the same time - suggesting the ritualistic aspects of religion while making clear that the worship of Dionysos was one of the world's more fun cults. Lotte found herself almost wishing that she was heading up into the sacred groves with the Maenads, there to drink herself insensible and commune with the ancient spirits of the woods… and then she chased those thoughts away as the foolish New Age nonsense they were.

The bus reached Mystras village and Barbara and Lotte descended. As did the Maenads, which caused Martha to further congratulate Lotte on deciding to join the cult. But luckily the Maenads were leaving the village by another route, though Martha insisted on giving complicated directions so that Barbara and Lotte would be able to catch up later.

"Which way?" said Lotte.

Barbara looked around and consulted a map she had brought with her.

"This way. No, this way. Definitely this way. Come on, no time to waste."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Power up the computer, Marie, if you would be so kind," said Marchand. Marie sat down at a desktop computer. It began to boot up. A login prompt eventually appeared. Marie looked at Marchand. He nodded. The dogs barked excitedly. She turned back to the computer and keyed in a password. It began to load Windows.

"Do you want the memory stick?" said Julian.

"Not yet," said Marchand. "You are like Costas with his carnal desires. Wait! Wait! When the time is right I will call for the memory stick."

"And then he'll give it to you," said Costas.

The computer had finished logging in. Marie turned to face Marchand. He nodded again.

"Yes, Marie. Yes. The next step. Go on."

She opened a web browser. It was set with Facebook as the homepage. Marcel laughed.

"Sorry!" she said, quickly closing the tab.

"Are you sure you don't want to post a status update?" said Costas. There was a nasty tone to his voice.

The two corgis barked.

"Enough Costas!" said Marchand. "Continue, Marie. Don't let this oaf distract you."

Marie typed in a URL. A page loaded. She clicked on a link, entered something into a box on the screen and clicked on a button. Another page loaded. She followed a link from this and typed in something else. Julian watched. This kind of thing seemed to go on and on. The point of what she was doing was not immediately obvious. But Marchand seemed happy with her progress. If the old man was happy, everyone was happy. So long as he kept paying the bills.

Now a swirling pattern was on the screen. "I think we're in," said Marie.

"Are you sure?" said Marchand.

"Not yet. But I am almost sure. Let's see if it resolves."

Julian stole a glance at Costas and Marcel. They were staring at the computer screen with the kind of idiot fascination a cat displays when looking at a washing machine. Like them he had no idea what the screen was meant to be showing. He hoped he was not displaying his ignorance quite so obviously.

"There we are," said Marie. The screen now showed a website with a number of links and buttons and text boxes. She started keying in more things and pressing buttons. Another screen loaded, this one showing the face of a beaming corgi. The two corgis in the room barked in recognition.

"Here we are. Here we are indeed," said Marchand. He patted Marie on the shoulder. "I'm very proud of you."

"Thank you, Monsieur Marchand."

Marchand turned to face Julian.

"So Julian, I think you know what this means. The memory stick, if you please."

The story continues

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