Friday, 21 November 2014

this is a synthesis of ideas

the social psychology of violence
            If we take a critical look at violence, we can expose some of the underlying issues behind it. This can help in our efforts to move beyond the ‘catalysts’ of violent actions and states of mind. Violence is a complex phenomenon, but it can be understood on several levels. What needs to be considered are both the environment behind the violent act (who, what, when, where, and why) and the aggressor’s state of mind (taking into account environmental influence).
Our habit of categorizing and separating people into groups is useful. It helps us organize our thoughts and make sense of the world. But if these mental short-cuts have negative ‘connotations’ against particular ‘groups’ of people, it can lead to scape-goating (blaming certain people for society’s problems), stereotyping (thinking that everyone in that group is the same), and discrimination (acting on those thoughts). These ‘mental shortcuts’ also contribute towards sexism, ego-centrism, ageism, ethno-centrism, and other forms of perceived separation.
When we rely on stereotypes and negative representations of people, we are more likely to feel superior to a person (or group of people) (Aronson et al, 2002). Feelings of superiority will not lead to violence, per se. It may, however, make a person more ‘susceptible’ to violence within certain situations (discussed later on) and may increase the amount of situations that a person will resort to violence. This is why it’s important to know how the ‘aggressor’ views the ‘recipient’ of their violence.
In war, genocide, and other acts against specific groups, the aggressor’s empathy is lowered because they view their ‘target’ as sub-human (or as an object). This includes ignoring their thoughts and feelings and seeing them as barriers to their goals (Baron-Cohen, 2011). This mental mechanism lowers the threshold to act violently on those ‘types’ of people. It can also be a reason behind high crimes rates in big cities; big cities can be impersonal, which can disconnect people and corrode empathy for one another.
Think about how we view ‘criminals’. We blame them for society’s problems (scape-goating). We don’t take the individual’s story into account and instead lump them into a category (stereotype). We refer to them as ‘evil’, ‘monsters’ or ‘psychopaths’ and place them a category below the one that we fit ourselves into (de-humanizing). We then have the criminal justice system punish them. 
The alternate view is that crime is a symptom of a larger social problem. It is very likely that this ‘criminal’s’ actions have a logical trace from childhood to their ‘criminal act’. Alcohol, poverty, population density, and past victimization are all correlated with crime (Reiss and Roth). Not taking the reasons why someone commits a crime is the first step to missing the problem in the first place. I’m not saying that we should empty out the prisons and treat people who commit crimes as victims, but violence will persist if it is misunderstood and dealt with through more violence.
It’s important to recognize how popular media contributes toward the fear of crime as well. For the sake of entertainment and sensationalism, the media distorts people’s understanding of crime. People over-estimate crime and have an over-exaggerated fear of it. We often rely on the emotional reactions to what we see in the media. But by falsely reacting, we fail to question the institutions that were put in place to deal with the ‘crime problem’.
The crime and war examples were given to show how our minds can create illusions of difference between people. Whether violence manifests in a terrorist attack, gang war, or genocide, it seems that common mechanisms are at work. Let’s now consider some other influences on violent behavior
In many cases, the ultimate goal behind an act of violence is not necessarily the victim’s death or injury, but rather money, sexual gratification, respect, attention, or the humiliation and domination of the victim (Widom, 1989). Violence is the means to an end in many cases.
The acceptability of violence in one’s culture is a precursor for violence as well. This is why media violence can be dangerous. Media violence: a) models violent behavior (how we might go about it), b) primes aggressive thinking (makes it more likely to be an option), and c) desensitizes us (reduce our sense of shock towards violence and decreases sympathy for the victims) (Aronson et al, 2003.). Media violence, therefore, can not only teach violence, but it can help justify and normalize it.
If a person grows up in a violent household (or society), violent behaviors are also being learned. If an individual learns from a role model that violence is an acceptable way of dealing with conflict or venting frustrations, they are more likely to use violence in their lives. Violence can also be a way of re-gaining a lost sense of power or control in an individual. This ‘loss’ of power or control can be economic, emotional, or the result of being the recipient of violence in the past. The person may act out violently in order to regain their sense of control (Widom, 1989). This does not mean that all children who have been abused or neglected will be violent, but they are at higher risk for violent behavior later in life, especially if they don’t learn more acceptable ways to deal with conflict.
It’s important to consider the influence of obedience to authority and group-think as well. People will do things that they would not normally do in situations if they are coerced, feel threatened, have collective morality, or follow a charismatic leader (Beau, 2004). For a great example on how authority can influence aggression, see Stanley Milgrim’s ‘shocking’ experiments in the ‘70’s.
            Guns bring an especially unique and dangerous formula to the equation of violence. They provide a more impersonal, emotionally remote act and allow the aggressor to bypass their inhibitions against close contact with their victims. This allows serious crimes to be committed by individuals who may otherwise be too timid or squeamish to come into contact with their victims (Kleck, 221).
            The last point I would like to share is the idea of ‘rituals of violence’. Rituals of violence are socially built ideas of when (in what situations) violence can be expected or acceptable (Barak, 2005). Rituals of violence can be as diverse as a boxing match, revenge, war, and criminal justice violence (police violence, capital punishment, imprisonment). Basically, rituals of violence provide ‘scripts’ to make sense of violence in situations. They transcend the idea that ‘violence is wrong’ and place violence into some situations where it can be used. The hope is that the amount of situations that allow or expect violence are lessening instead of increasing in our society.
            It’s important to know how our experiences shape how we make sense of violence. If we gain insights into the social, cultural, cognitive, and situational influences of violence, we can be more mindful of how to move beyond violent actions and states of mind.  As we have seen, violence can be caused by a combinations of: a) mental shortcuts that lead to de-humanization and loss of empathy in the ‘recipient’, b) past victimization (and loss of power or control), c) social influence and acceptability  d) learned behavior and e) rituals of violence (situations that accept or expect violence, such as war). These factors are further amplified by situations that involve firearms, group dynamics, and obedience. 
            It is hoped that understanding the psychology and social influence behind violence can help us move beyond it. I think it’s time to look past the ‘aggressor’ and gain a broader understanding of how our society as a whole is perpetuating the acceptance and motivations behind violence.

Monday, 23 September 2013

CHAPTERS 20 and 21

Chapter 20: Changes

Arnold and Lucidia get into the elevator as dizzy trombones blast from Arnold’s pocket. The elevator stops suddenly and the emergency exit on the ceiling slams open. The woman with thoughts streaming out of her head jumps down from the ceiling door and grabs Arnold from behind. The man in shadows jumps and holds onto Lucidia.
‘You fools!’ The woman says. ‘We have you now!’
The man in shadows behind Lucidia grabs Arnold’s shoulder and throws him against the wall.
A lightening flash crashes from the ceiling and freezes them.
‘Up here!’ Vialba reaches down for them. Arnold tears free from the woman’s frozen grip and they climb out of the emergency exit. Ice cracks below them.
‘You need to get out of here!’ Vialba says. ‘I’ll hold them off.’ She shoots another lightning bolt down into the elevator.
Arnold takes the elephant out of his pocket and they dive into the ground. After a few minutes, they rise up into the library near Jed and Lance.
‘Arnold! Lucidia! How did it go?’ Jed asks. Him and Lance sit at the conference table.
‘Tina has her voice back,’ Arnold says.
‘And the two sides of Two-Way Town need a few days to talk,’ Lucidia adds.
‘Great to hear!” Jed says.
‘Good job, guys!’ Lance pats Arnold on the back.
‘Thanks,’ Arnold says, ‘but it ended with a close call.’
‘What happened?’ Jed asks.
‘An evil witch found us! Vialba kept them off long enough so we could get away, but I’m worried she may be in danger.’
‘Who are they?’ Lucidia asks.
‘There’s nothing in the books about them, which tells me that they are relatively new mutations in this world.’ Jed leafs through a book on the desk as he speaks.
Lance stands up and hands Arnold and Lucidia a mask each.
‘What are these for?’ Lucidia asks.
‘This is to conceal your identity. The way that this next task is undertaken is very important, Lucidia, so I have educated Lance and have given him the instructions.’
‘Okay.’ Lucidia nods.
‘You can use these masks twice to look different, but then after that it makes you invisible. Lucidia, you can’t be invisible for this, so make sure you only put the mask on before you go. And don’t take it off and put it back on. Arnold and Lance, you need to be invisible, so please put your masks on a few times.
Arnold puts his mask on and turns into a flock of seagulls. He takes it off and becomes himself, puts it on and turns into a bicycle and then back to himself again. When he puts in on again, he disappears.
‘Perfect!’ Jed says.
Lance puts his mask on a few times and turns into a woman and then an ant hill before becoming invisible.
‘Alright,’ Jed says. ‘Lance will explain some things on the way. Make sure to listen to his instructions, Lucidia. He’ll tell you what to say if you need to speak. You and Arnold will be the only ones who can hear his voice.’
‘Okay.’ Lucidia’s voice is shaky. She puts her mask on and shrinks slightly, morphing into an elderly woman with dyed auburn hair. Her clothes make her appear to be a banker.
An invisible Arnold pulls the elephant out of his pocket.
‘To Tirinodo,’ Lance says.
Lucidia sinks into the ground, seemingly alone on the elephant’s back.

Chapter 21: Museum

In Tirinodo, hover cars rush between gold-plated sky-scrapers. Sap clouds droop like molasses down the tallest buildings, while metallic ragtime provides a mechanical heartbeat of the city. Arnold, Lucidia, and Lance arrive outside of a museum beside a hot-air yacht club.
‘We need to go into that museum,’ an invisible Lance says from Lucidia’s right.
They climb a staircase that resembles the entrance to an amphitheatre and open a door made of glass. Natural sunlight pours through the windows of the main entrance and a plaque is mounted on the wall.
‘Donated by the Banker Family.’
‘Where to, Lance?’ Lucidia asks.
‘The museum’s connected to the old Banker family’s house. We need to find it.’
Lucidia nods and makes her way through the glass hallway, catching her 70 year- old banker disguise’s reflection in the glass. At the end of the hallway are two doors. The left one says ‘Artifacts’ and the wooden door on the right says, ‘Banker Family Home’. Below it reads:
Donated by the city after The Banker Family passed on. Let the Banker family teach us the value of our financial goals and remind us that straying from the Tirinodo ideal will bring tragedy to those around us.’
‘That’s kind of eerie,’ Lucidia says.
‘Once we get in the house,’ Lance says, ‘pretend you’re alone, Lucidia, and repeat what I say if we encounter anyone.’
‘Okay,’ Lucidia pushes the door open and they enter.
‘We need to find the basement.’ Lance says.
The smell of mothballs fills the air and Lucidia breaks through cobwebs as she enters. Splinters of light shine through wooden boards that cover the windows. The house creeks as she explores the front living room. Her breathing is loud and shallow. She makes her way through the living room and spots a door next to the kitchen entrance. She opens it to reveal a staircase leading to a basement.
Feeling for a light switch, she finds one beside the bottom of the staircase and flicks it on as she walks down. A dim light appears in the far corner and she begins to explore the basement. The metallic ragtime music crashes and thuds out from the furnace at the back of the room.
A cloaked woman emerges from behind the old furnace. A loose hood conceals her face, but she appears old and frail. ‘Who goes there?’ Her weak voice says from under her hood.
‘A curious tourist,’ Lance whispers to Lucidia.
‘A curious tourist,’ Lucidia says aloud with her voice trembling.
‘Hmm,’ the lady in the shadows says. ‘I ‘m obligated to answer any questions you may have.’ She speaks as though a slave to this remark, absent of kindness.
‘Who are you?’ Lucidia asks with a voice that matches her old-lady disguise.
‘Mrs. Banker!’ The lady says from the darkness. Her face catches a brief beam of light from a window and Lucidia can see that she is no more than a skeleton with patches of hair on top of her head. Her face retreats back into the shadows.
‘Why are you here?’ Lance whispers to Lucidia.
‘Why are you here?’ Lucidia keeps her distance from the cloaked Mrs. Banker.
‘I won’t leave this world until I know she can’t undo what we’ve done!’
‘Who?’ Lucidia asks before Lance’s instruction.
‘My nasty daughter,’ Mrs. Banker says. ‘She ran away and shamed our family! They say she’s dead, but I won’t believe it until I see her corpse!’ Mrs. Banker gets closer to Lucidia. ‘I must guard the crank and if she comes to turn it, I can kill her myself.’
‘What’s the crank?’ Lance whispers.
‘What’s the crank?’ Lucidia asks.
Mrs. Banker pulls a dusty blanket off of a circular metal crank. It’s handle is connected to a large wheel of gears.
‘This is the crank that our family turned to make the three levels of this city. It can only be turned by us, so when we’re gone, Tirinodo will remain how it is. But if she were to come and crank it, all would be lost!’ Mrs. Banker pulls out a rusty scythe. ‘Silly little thing would probably think she could come alone!’ She laugh and leaves the shadows.
The ragtime storms inside the furnace, pulsating the deep ground of Tirinodo and rising. Mrs. Banker gives a slow and long whiff through her nose, picking up Lucidia’s scent.
Lucidia’s teeth begin to chatter and Mrs. Banker strikes at her with the scythe. Lance’s unseen arm blocks the attack and Mrs. Banker bursts into dust and falls to the floor. Lance becomes visible as he screams and bursts into dust as well.
Arnold takes his mask off and becomes visible. He and Lucidia stare at the ground where Lance just was, stunned by the tragedy. The Elephant comes out of Arnold’s pocket and blows a trombone blues song from a New Orleans funeral march.
But the furnace is too loud. It shakes and commands their attention, ready to blow.
‘The crank!’ Lucidia yells. They run to the crank and Lucidia begins to turn it. The walls catch fire as she gains momentum. As it passes one full rotation, the crank breaks and an earthquake erupts.
‘Let’s get out of here!’ Arnold yells as he coughs in the smoke.
They run up the stairs and find a side door in a hurry. The earthquake knocks them off their feet and they fall onto the ground. Looking up, they see the sap clouds dripping down from the sky and becoming more transparent. The furnace explodes from the basement, and then there’s silence.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Chapters 18 and 19!

Chapter 18: Two-way Town

Arnold and Lucidia get underground and then stop.
‘What’s up?’ Lucidia asks, moving her arms around feeling the pressure around her from being underground.
‘I saw this guy when I was escaping from the three half-wizards.’ They rise into a damp room with cages all around and Arnold walks to a cage that imprisons the elephant with unicorns as feet. The unicorns face upwards and run on the spot. Arnold unlatches the cage door and the creature leaps into the air, letting out a ‘vvroooom!’ with his trunk. The elephant inside of the platform bursts out and grows into her regular size and the two elephants lift Arnold and Lucidia onto their backs. The female’s unicorn horns connect and she spirals into the ground. The other dives head first into the ground, and together they raced underground to Two-way Town blasting their trombone trunks.
They spring out of the ground and fly into the sky. In the air, the elephants transform into small versions of themselves and land in Arnold and Lucidia’s pockets.
‘I can’t believe that just happened!’ Lucidia dances to the trombone sounds that come from their pockets. A fenced- in city lies ahead. They hear a train approaching, so they jog towards the city. Far in the distance is an open field with buildings to the far right and the far left of it. Bombs shake the land in the middle. A fenced-in walkway leads to a man in a brown military suit. His badge says ‘Toby’.
            ‘Toby or Zack?’ The soldier asks in a firm tone.
‘Toby!’ Lucidia says as the train screeches into a stop behind them.  
‘Right over here, please.’ The military man now speaks in a friendly tone to his supporters.
‘Do you think I could get a quick picture of you two together? It’s our first visit to Two-way Town and we’re very excited to see a real soldier from the Toby side.’ Lucidia holds her camera out. The soldier puts his arm around Arnold and puffs out his chest as she takes a picture. The picture pops out of the camera and Lucidia places it in her bag.
‘Thanks!’ She says as the soldier walks away.
Arnold and Lucidia watch as the passengers leave the train.  
‘There they are!’ Arnold says as he spots Tina, The Journalist, and Sgt. Pepper stepping off the train. They’re shuffled into a line and eventually come to where Arnold and Lucidia are. A small crowd leaves the train and goes to the Zach side. A few others follow Tina and the others to Toby.
Arnold!’ Sgt Pepper and The Journalist yell. Tina smiles and hugs him.
‘Nice to meet you,’ Lucidia says to them. She looks at Tina, who recognizes her from her dreams. They hug as well.
A soldier comes over to them and the other Toby supporters.
‘Welcome to Toby camp!’ He says. ‘You will have a three day rest before training camp. A bus should be here shortly to pick you up and take you to the rest area.’ He salutes the group.
Two busses race towards them from a distance. They arrive at the fence and park on either side of the train station.
‘Team Toby! Bus is here!’ The soldier yells. He leads them onto the bus. ‘No talking on the bus!’ He yells. The bus takes off and speeds through an open field to a hotel to the far left side of the battle field.
‘In three days you go to war!’ The soldier gets off the bus and the rest follow. They enter the hotel and approach a woman at the front desk.
 ‘Every visitor must contribute 100 days or 100 kills to their side before they’re allowed to leave!’ She hands them their room keys.
Lucidia walks over to her. ‘Can I get a picture of you? I’m trying to convince a friend of mine to come to Two-Way Town’
‘Of course.’ She says.
Lucidia takes a picture, places the developed picture in her bag, and then walks back to the group.
‘Did you guys notice?’ Lucidia asks.
‘Notice what?’ Sgt. Pepper says.
‘They’re wearing ‘Zack’ nametags now. We’ve changed sides once already!’

Chapter 19: Cured Cadence

They take the elevator up to the 3rd floor and enter room 301.
The walls are blood red, with a double bed, a night-table, and a large window. The far walls are filled with propaganda posters that say ‘Toby is Sub-Human’ and ‘Zack is our Hero’ on them. Patches of fire can be seen and smelt from outside of the window. Bombs shake the buildings as war cries swam around the battle-field.
‘De-sensitization training,’ The Journalist says aloud.
 ‘How have you been, Arnold?’ Sgt. Pepper asks. ‘We were worried after you disappeared from the train. We went looking for you, but no one would tell us anything!’
‘It’s been quite the adventure!’ Arnold says. ‘And I found this!’ He reaches into his satchel and their faces light up as he pulls out the bag of sand.
‘It’s a miracle!’ The Journalist says.
‘Way to go, Arnold! I knew you’d find it!’ Sgt. Pepper looks it over and peeks inside.
‘Lucidia has instructions on how we can bring your voice out!’ Arnold says to Tina, who nods excitedly.  
‘I do,’ Lucidia says, ‘but apparently we need to be careful. If Glenda cursed the voice, we’ll all be killed the second it touches our ears. Jed said that it has most likely worn off by now.’
‘So what do we do?’ Sgt. Pepper asks.
‘For starters, do any of you three remember the word that Glenda said right before she stole Tina’s voice?’
Tina, Sgt. Pepper, and The Journalist looked at each other shaking their heads.
‘There was a lot going on,’ The Journalist says.
‘It’s okay,’ Lucidia says. ‘There’s a back up plan.’ She takes a white sheet out of the closet and hangs it using the tops of two poster frames on the wall. ‘Come sit here and face the sheet.’ She says to the Journalist.
The Journalist trades spots with Tina and sits facing the sheet.
Lucidia places her hand into her pocket and pulls out a small amount of powder. She holds it in her open palm and blows it in The Journalist’s face. His head jolts back and makes a clicking sound.
‘Alright,’ Lucidia says, ‘relax and listen to my voice. Think back to the day that Tina’s voice was stolen.’
The Journalist’s head shoots out a projection onto the white sheet. The rest of them watch as the image on the screen re-winds back to that day in Circus City. They see Tina, Sgt. Pepper shielding themselves from Glenda, who is swaying back and forth waving her arms in a trance. She yells ‘Vanashoored!’ while sucking Tina’s voice into her hand, revealing a sandbag. Tina collapses as Glenda grunts and throws the bag into the sky where it vanishes into the clouds of Circus City. Glenda vanishes sending a piercing laugh into the sky.
 ‘Okay,’ Lucidia says, ‘when I count down from three you’ll come back to us. Three…two…one…’ She claps and The Journalist’s head jolts awake.
‘Wow!’ He says. ‘I never knew that was possible!’
‘Very interesting!’ Sgt. Pepper looks at Lucidia with admiration.
‘We have the word we need! When you get your voice back Tina, Jed thought it would be best if you told the people of Two-way Town what we came to tell them?’
Tina nods.
‘Could you pass me the sandbag please?’
Sgt. Pepper hands it to her.
Lucidia walks over to a night-table table and pours the sand onto it. She places the bag down and holds her palms above the thin pile of sparkling sand, saying ‘Oohnaraya! Deroohsanar!’ and taking a step back.
Pink smoke emits from the sand, bubbling, thickening, and rising into Tina’s throat. When she swallows, the smoke disappears into her mouth. She smiles, but stands silent. A sense of euphoria sweeps across the room.
‘Thank you!’ Tina says to all of them. Her voice soothes the air.
There’s a knock at the door.
‘Who is it?’ Arnold says.
‘Toby!’ A man says from the other side of the door.
‘Just a minute,’ Arnold yells.
Lucidia takes the birth certificates and pictures out her bag and hands them to Tina. ‘Just tell them that the founders were brothers, and show them these. Then show them the pictures.’
Tina takes the birth certificates and pictures, opens the door, and greets a soldier. She closes the door behind her. The rest of them hear muffled voices for a few minutes, and then Tina comes back in.
‘It’s done,’ she says.
‘What happened?’ Lucidia asks.
‘The man said he would have to let his superiors know. They’ll call me here once they’ve discussed it.’
The phone rings. Tina walks over to the phone and answers it. ‘Hello. Yes. Yes. Okay. Goodbye.’ She hangs up.
‘What did they say?’ The Journalist asks.
‘They need a few days to talk about it,’ Tina says. She turns to Arnold and Lucidia. ‘You two go back to Light City and find out what you need to do next. We can take care of this.’  
‘Are you sure?’ Arnold asks.  
‘Very sure. We need to move as quickly as we can!’
Lucidia takes the elephant out of her pocket and puts it in Tina’s hand. ‘When you’re ready to get out of here, just hop onto this guy and think about where you want to go’
‘We’ll be in Circus City after this,’ Tina says. ‘It needs us the most.’

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Chapters 16 and 17!

Chapter 16: The Underground

            They travel for a few minutes and then start to rise up.  

            ‘Kneel down so we can just pop our heads up and see if it’s safe.’ Lance kneels down and Arnold follows his lead.

The platform rises up a little. Lance stands up and his head vanishes from Arnold’s sight. He motions with his hand for Arnold to stand up too. Arnold stands up and is in a dark forest surrounded by trees that creak as they sway with the wind.

‘I’ll go grab the bark,’ Lance says. Arnold pulls out the medallion and shines it into the forest for Lance. He hears a crunch and rip and then Lance runs back to the platform with a piece of bark in his hand.

They both kneel down and Arnold breaks the piece of bark in half.

‘How do we know where the survivors of Sysmiosis are hiding?’

To Arnold’s surprise, Lance pulls out a gadget. He places a part of it in his ear and slides the other part on the wall around them.

‘This way,’ he says.

They move through the underground and arrive at the top of a staircase. They follow the staircase down until they get to a steel door at the bottom.

Arnold knocks.

‘Who is it?’ A voice asks from behind.

‘It’s Arnold and Lance,’ Arnold says. ‘We’ve brought an antidote for the people of Sysmiosis.’

Voices can be heard from behind the door, and then the door unlocks and begins to open.

Behind the door, five people stand with white tattered clothing draped over their bodies.

‘Come in,’ the one in the front says. They enter a room with limestone walls. The people are thin, with sunken eyes. They look at Arnold and Lance suspiciously. Four of them sit on benches along the walls, but the man in front remains standing and shakes hands with Arnold and Lance.

‘Welcome,’ he says. ‘My name is Suni and these are my brothers and sisters of the underground.’

‘Nice to meet you all,’ Arnold says, smiling. They don’t smile in return.  

‘We’ve been expecting you,’ Suni says. Arnold looks at the others, who don’t seem happy to see him.

‘Forgive them,’ Suni says. ‘They have been through a lot and their souls have nearly given up. If you were any later, we wouldn’t have made it. Please, tell us how you intend to cure our people.’

‘We have an antidote,’ Arnold says. He awaits cheers, but is disappointed.  

 ‘That’s fine,’ Suni says, ‘but the problem lies in our poisoned soil. It would be great to cure them, but without having clean soil to grow food, we are destined to be poisoned again.’

‘I understand your concerns,’ Arnold says, ‘but you must have faith that this is only part of the process. I need to do this here and then head back to Light City to find out what to do next. Your soil will become fruitful again, and this is the first step.’

‘Okay then,’ Suni says, letting out a smile. ‘We will do what you ask.’

‘This is such great news,’ a woman sitting on the bench says, ‘it fulfils the omen.’

‘An omen?’ Lance says.

‘Yes,’ the woman says, ‘the other day while I was out searching for food, I found a beautifully crafted bag of sand. In our culture, sand represents rebirth, so we saw it as a sign that good things were coming.’

‘May I see this bag of sand?’ Arnold asks.

‘Certainly, but why?’ Suni asks.

‘I believe that it may contain something that I’m looking for.’

‘What is it that you seek?’ The woman asks, now standing beside Suni.

‘If that bag of sand is the one I’m looking for, it holds a woman’s voice. She used to heal people with it, but it was stolen from her and thrown into the sky.’

‘Well,’ Suni says, ‘let’s make sure that your potion works. If it does, we’ll give you the sand as your reward.’

Arnold nods in agreement. He pulls out of the bottles of glowing pink liquid, puts a piece of the bark into one of them, and reads the word that Vialba wrote on a piece of paper. ‘Tarooooo.’

The bottle bubbles and releases smoke, shining a bright light that causes everyone to shield their eyes. When they look back, the bottle has thousands of little pebbles inside of it. Arnold then repeats the process with the other bottle and hands one of them to Suni.

‘What now?’ Lance asks.

‘I guess we should go up to the city to see if it works.’ Arnold says confidently. He isn’t used to being the one to lead.

‘I would advise against that,’ Suni says. ‘It’s too risky to go up there until we know for sure.’

‘Why don’t we try it on Ray?’ The woman asks.

‘Good idea,’ Suni says.

‘Who’s Ray?’ Arnold asks.

‘Ray is a Pig-man that we captured. He’s nearly dead because we haven’t been feeding him sludge. Follow me.’ Suni leads them though an ivory white room and they arrive at a small jail cell. The jail cell holds a half pig, half man inside of it. He peers up and oinks as they file in.

Suni retrieves a pebble from the vial and holds it out for him to take. Ray approaches, smells the pebble, and then moves away.

Suni tosses it at Ray and when it hits his skin he morphs back into human form immediately.

Everyone cheers while Ray gains his posture back and stands up slowly. Suni unlocks the cage and Ray walks out, still attempting to focus his eyes on them all.

‘It’s over, Ray’ Suni says. ‘This man has brought us our freedom.’ Suni motions to Arnold.

‘Thank you,’ Ray hugs Arnold and then turns to Suni and the others. ‘We must help the others! It’s torture- you see what you’ve become yet have no control over it!’

            ‘We should have enough for the entire city in these two bottles,’ Suni says. He turns to Arnold with teary eyes. ‘You’ve brought hope back into our hearts. Now we can begin to re-build our great city! Mona, give him the sandbag.’

            Mona reaches into her small sack and pulls out a delicate sandbag with embroidery and beads sewn on it. She presents it to Arnold with both hands.

Arnold stands with pride as he’s handed Tina’s voice in a sandbag. He places it carefully into his satchel. ‘This will help us rebuild this broken world,’ he says. 

‘You must continue your journey, Arnold. We’ll take this task upon ourselves and await your return.’ Suni shakes hands with Arnold and Lance.

            ‘We’ll continue our mission and be back as soon as we can.’ Arnold follows the underground people through the limestone room and up the stairs. They open the concrete door and are inside an abandoned pawn shop. Arnold hears an army of pig-people all around, stomping on the ground and polluting the air with foul war cries.  

Suni distributes piles of pebbles and nods to the others as they run outside. Lance takes out the platform and he and Arnold stepped onto it. They dip into the ground and Arnold takes out his map. ‘This is where Light City is,’ he points, ‘hold onto the medallion with me and we’ll try to rise up on the main street of the city.’

They hold onto the medallion and travel for a few minutes under the ground.


Chapter 17: Debrief

Lance and Arnold rise up on the main street of Light City. The streets of the city are nearly empty, but a few wanderers populate the streets.  

Arnold and Lance walk by the third door, which now has four people drumming outside of it.

 Arnold hears his name echo from an alley street near-by. He turns to see Lucidia and Jed jogging over to them.

‘Welcome back!’ Lucidia says as she gets closer. She hugs him and gives him a

peck on his cheek.

Arnold blushes. ‘It’s all thanks to Vialba, that silver ball, and Lance! This is Lance. Lance, this is Lucidia and Jed.’

‘Great to have you back, Arnold!’ Jed says, placing a hand on Arnold’s shoulder and looking like a proud father. ‘We should get back to the library.’

As they walk, Jed talks to Lance while Arnold and Lucidia walk behind them holding hands.

‘I think I found Tina’s voice!’ Arnold suddenly says, realizing that he hadn’t told Lucidia yet.

‘That’s fantastic!’ Jed yells from up ahead.

‘How did it happen?’ Lucidia asks as they continue walking.

‘It was a fluke- the underground people of Sysmiosis found it and gave it to me as a reward for the antidote!’

‘That’s exciting! Jed told me all about Tina and what to do if we find her voice! And I read a book about her!’

There’s a book about her?’ Arnold asks.

‘Yeah! I remember you said that she came from another planet, which is true, but she’s hardly an alien. She was born on another planet because her mother was stolen and hidden by an evil witch while she was pregnant. Apparently there was a prophecy that  Tina would be a healer, so they hid her pregnant mother in the farthest edge of the universe. Her mother died giving birth, but a universal traveler found her and brought her (unknowingly) back home. It took her 40 years for her to get back here!’

‘Wow!’ Arnold says. ‘Have you seen her in your dreams at all lately?’

‘I have!’ They walk up the stairs to the library and go inside. ‘Let’s get in here and we’ll explain the plan.’ Jed and Lance are already sitting at the desk, so Arnold and Lucidia join them and they began to discuss the next steps to the plan.

Jed pulls out the list of the four tasks and puts a line over Sysmiosis Sludge. ‘That feels good, but we’re only at the beginning, unfortunately.’

‘What do we do next?’ Arnold asks, feeling a rush.

‘First,’ Jed says, ‘I need to tell you about Two-Way Town. There’s a true origin that only I know, and an origin that has plagued the people there since the bomb. The people of Two-Way Town think the town was founded by two enemies who fought and killed each other over the land many years ago. Each side’s people are descendants of their side’s founder, and so each side avenges their side’s hero. The town is at war constantly, and their tourism industry is booming!

‘The true origin, though, is that Two-Way Town was founded by two brothers (Zack Two and Toby Two) who got along fine. But with this mirage origin, everyone’s at war with their relatives and they don’t even know it.’

Jed pulls out two laminated birth certificates and places them on the table. ‘You need to get these to the right people to prove to them that the founders were brothers. I have instructed Lucidia on what to do.’

Lucidia nods. Jed hands her a camera.

‘Another interesting and sad thing about Two-Way Town,’ Jed says, ‘is that every hour the sides are swapped, so they defend both sides as their own, back and forth inevitably.’

‘What do we do about Tina’s voice?’ Arnold asks.

‘I’ve been communicating with her in my dreams,’ Lucidia says. ‘She’s heading to Two-Way Town, but we just missed the last train.’

‘Why don’t you take this?’ Lance says, pointing to his traveling platform.’ She’s fast and she’ll get you anywhere.’

            ‘She?’ Arnold says with a garbled expression.

‘Yeah. Let me show you.’ Lance places the platform onto the ground and unlatches a small door on the back. They all bend down and look inside to see a small elephant with unicorns as legs. The unicorns are upside down so the elephant walks on the four horns.

Arnold, Lucidia, and Jed look with amazement at the small creature.  

‘I’m sure she’d love to help!’ Lance says.

‘We’ll take good care of her, Lance.’ Arnold says.

‘What an amazing little creature!’ Jed stares with wide eyes.

‘Thanks Lance,’ Lucidia says. ‘We should go now then!’

‘Yes,’ Jed says. ‘Good idea!’ He hands her a back-pack.

 ‘Just stand on the platform and think of where you need to go,’ Lance says. ‘She’ll take care of the rest.’

Arnold and Lucidia step onto the platform and drop into the ground.