Youssef Alaoui-Fdili

     It had recently been retrieved, from a cave beneath the black fountains of Nuyt, in the Northern plains of Afghanistan, an assemblage of sticks with curious markings at each end. The sticks were found in a stone jar within the bowel of a mummified ox. It was thought, by the archaeologists who found them, that they were hidden in the ox as a rite, to commemorate a gambling game known to be played among an exclusive sect of their elders.

     The people of this culture were agrarians. They fed their steer a diet that varied according to changes in weather patterns and so their people benefitted from a superior grade of meat, which they used to bolster the strength of their amazing warriors.

     The warriors, whose broad chests bore thick tattoos of totem animals, were mysteriously controlled by the elders like stringless puppets. The few rock paintings left by these people regularly indicate the fearlessness (or immortality) of the warriors in battle. Their symbolic connection to the uncanny group of elders is depicted by showing the youths, engaged in war, as extensions of the arms of the elders, shown hiding behind a bank of trees seething with fog.

     Their culture revered gambling. They had brought the game to new spiritual heights, and tragically, to a position where it may have even affected their destiny. Scrolls found on the cave floors recount a period of time when their obsession with games of chance caused them to forecast their future again and again, and each attempt resulted in a different outcome. Confusion over the foretelling or misinterpretations of their destiny had ensured their demise by causing arguments, in-fighting and finally, frantic, sporadic murder; as the opposing camps grew from two, to four, and splintered off again to sixteen, sixty-four, and so on.


     The archaeologists had come to the conclusion, at the initial discovery, that the sticks in the jar were peculiar samples; outfitted with singular inscriptions found nowhere else at the dig, and for that matter, nowhere else in time. They succeeded in publishing their findings in a popular scientific journal. Never would they have fathomed that their prehistoric notations could resemble a contemporary system. It was only by chance that, in an independent laboratory, a genetics technician happened to read the article; it disclosed their few primary conclusions and was accompanied by sketches and photographs from the dig.

     Beside himself with glee, the technician wrote immediately to the authors, stating that the patterns on the edges of the sticks resembled notations his colleages used to differentiate genotypes of various species of moss. They had been comparing mutation frequencies and found it necessary to improvise a shorthand, based on chunks of DNA, charted according to their position on the protein chain. Instead of listing each amino acid, specific regions of DNA were assigned a line pattern and a symbol describing the genetic traits of moss physiology.


     This news helped the archaeologists immensely. They received the notational system via email two hours later. Using substitutions for confusing or eroded markings on the sticks, they hoped to improve the system, but something was still wrong. They arranged the sticks in order of size but could not understand the markings. Then they ordered them according to complexity but failed, because the symbols at both ends never matched up.

     In frustration, someone threw the sticks down on a table. Playfully, and familiar with pre-literate games of chance, someone else wrote down the value of that first throw. An impromptu game erupted, and the archaeologists discovered that random values were the missing ingredient to understanding the symbols.

     Looking back at the email from the genetics technician, they re-labelled their sticks to more faithfully represent notations used by the other lab. They soon found that, from the assemblage of vague markings, a voice emerged. They called that voice "The Oracle." They communicated with The Oracle for weeks. It held them rapt to no end, describing commentaries on their personal lives that no one else could know. Finally, they prayed for it to stop. What that voice first spoke is transcribed here, although this is only a part of it:

Breaking Clouds Suffer Whiteout Sky Tornado  

Do not fear me for the terms of my love are only sharply. 
Yet take no heed of the hundred thousand thousand 
twirling knives of my arms for they adore you. 
And leave they only slim bruises of my knowledge.  

Hide thee plainly in sight as we smite thee. 
Take the wrath of my penance on thy legless torso. 
Wander directly from the engagement. 
Engagement in my fog-like vision.  

Cast we now blood up to her arms. 
Join us seperately and we engage thee. 
Take us individually into thy mouth and speak us. 
Take us apart and split us knowingly.  

Knowing lovingly bind us all, the few leavings, the wanderers. 
Do not forget that what I say is already of you. 
For I only reiterate you. 
And I am you.  In that I was you.