Vampire Code: Dark and Light

“A practitioner has the right to suffer, but a practitioner does not have the right not to practice.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Moment is Perfect

This chapter written with Xantheanmar, who graciously volunteered Aylin to join the story.

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After she finished her homework, Sylvia fired up the computer.

Hannah Fry’s chapter on the mathematics of love got her thinking. Fry wrote so well. Maybe a mathematician could be a writer, too. Mathematics was another language, after all, and if she was good at math, maybe she could translate that skill into writing.

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Sylvia had an idea for a novel. It would be a series of interconnected stories, each one reflecting a mathematical concept.

The first one would be about duality. She didn’t think it would be a love story.

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She wrote through twilight until it was time for her lesson with the Count.

When she arrived at the Straud estate, she found a bookish-looking woman standing near the front steps.

“Whoa!” said Sylvia. “You look like someone I could maybe, actually, talk to! Are you, like, a librarian?”

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“In a way,” said the woman. “Nice to meet you. I’m Aylin. And you are?”

“Sylvia! Sylvia Zoranto!”

“Zoranto. Lady Miranda’s daughter. My apologies. I amend my greeting, Lady Sylvia.”

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“Oh, not Lady,” replied Sylvia. “I mean, yes, my mother is Miranda Zoranto, formerly De Suena, but we’ve dropped all that. Or at least I have.”

Aylin raised an eyebrow. “Heritage is not something easily dropped,” she said.

“Tell me about it!” groaned Sylvia. “Ever since we moved back, there’s been so much pressure. Ma wants me to learn everything, and Papa–he’s been dark for days.”

“And how are the lessons progressing?” Aylin asked.

“Well, some of it is fascinating,” Sylvia replied. “I mean, I love to learn. The book stuff, that is. It’s the practicing stuff that’s kind of weird. Here’s the thing: I love to meditate. I’ve been doing it every day for, I don’t know, maybe three years? But this dark meditation–it just feels weird. Isn’t that like the opposite of what meditation is supposed to be about? I always thought that meditation is about, you know, unity and stuff. That meditation was light.”

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“Darkness is not evil,” Aylin said.

Sylvia looked at her askance. “I like sunlight better, truthfully, though I can’t be in it anymore.”

“Difficulty with darkness is something all people have,” Aylin continued, “but never is it so clear as it may be for us vampires. I encourage you to make peace with your darkness, Sylvia, or you may end up like me.”

“But I’d love to end up like you!” Sylvia said.

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Just as she was about to tell Aylin that she found her the perfect role model for the type of vampire she wanted to mature into, the Count joined them.

“Ah!” he said in his nasal tenor. “You’ve met my new pupil!”

“Excuse me, Straud,” Aylin replied. “I didn’t realize she was studying with you. I assumed Lady Zoranto was teaching her own daughter.”

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The Count scoffed. “Don’t be ridiculous! Look at where home-schooling has got her. Hillbilly,” he hissed, under his breath.

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“Maybe you could teach me,” Sylvia suggested to Aylin. “I think I might progress quicker under a woman’s tutelage!”

Aylin smiled, and Sylvia felt her heart open. It would be something to learn from her! Why, under Aylin’s guidance, she just might be able to accept her heritage!

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“Enough!” said the Count. “She is my student! I’ll have none f your interference, Missbibliothekar!”

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Je vous avez averti, Straud,” Aylin said. “We’ll meet again, Miss Zoranto!”

Sylvia smelled tar smoke, and two bright eyes were all she saw where Aylin had stood.

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She felt the wings of the bat, before she saw them. And then Aylin flew above her head, darkening the moon.

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And Sylvia was alone with the Count.

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“So easily impressed!” he said. “That’s nothing! Watch this!”

He contracted into a smokey haze, shooting her with his intense stare. Sylvia chuckled. Such a show-off!

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When he landed, it was her turn.

She rose a few feet, feeling the tarnished wings of coal spreading behind her. What had Aylin said? “Make peace with your darkness.”

She felt calm inside, with the stillness of night gathered into a ball at her solar plexus.

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She let the dark center pulsate, pulling her back into the contraction. All this power! If she released the spring, she’d shoot forward. The Count would need to be quick to escape her!

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“That was not the worst,” the Count said, when she landed, “nor the best, neither. It was the middlin’ power.”

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He took a deep breath, and she waited for his final pronouncement.

“And there is truly nothing worse than a middlin’ hillbilly!”

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He turned and walked up the steps.

She waited until the door slammed closed behind him. Five seconds, and the strains from the organ sounded faintly from within.

It wasn’t anger that Sylvia felt inside, but it was a disturbance.

It was disdain. And then she felt ashamed for feeling the disdain, because she really did believe in the value of respecting her elders. And she felt resentful that the Count was her mentor, and not Aylin. She felt envious of Aylin–so independent. So self-contained! So powerful! Willing to stand up even to the Count!

All this conflict inside!

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As she rose into the dark meditation, she let the conflict be. She had the right to suffer, after all.

“Difficulty with darkness is something all people have.” She heard Aylin’s words again.

She had the right to suffer, but she didn’t have the right not to practice.

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Darkness has energy of its own, and it swirled within, neither good nor bad, just there, lifting her above her concerns, rising on the tumult of feeling.

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Vampire Code: Veins

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Sylvia loved the quiet hours before dusk. Fresh from school, Zap spread his homework on the dining room table, and, after a fond gaze at her brother, so innocent, so earnest, Sylvia climbed the stairs to the garret studio.

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She selected her favorite brush, an old camelhair with a thick, soft bristle that had belonged to her grandfather. When the canvas was dry, it made a sandpaper shoosh, like the sound of her father’s hand when he brushed snow off her wool coat. When the canvas was wet, it made not a sound, but instead spread a butter sensation through the handle and into the index finger and thumb of her left hand.

She’d always painted left-handed, though most practical things, like holding cups or books, she did with the right.

She knew what they said about hands and hemispheres, and she liked to think that her body and mind had naturally chosen the most effective cross for each task.

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“Sylvia! Only half an hour until your lesson!” Her mother called up. “Have you done your homework? Stop what you’re doing and finish it before you go!”

These new lessons that she was forced to take interrupted the golden hour. Like her mother before her, Sylvia had acquired a mentor. Or rather, one had been foisted upon her. This was one of the reasons they’d moved back here, her mother confessed.

“You must have a mentor,” her mother had said. “You’re of the age. The powers, my dear! And Count Straud is simply the best. You’ll be like me, my love, learning from only the best.”

“You can teach me, Ma,” Sylvia protested.

Her mother blushed.  “No, dear,” she said. “It wouldn’t be seemly.”

The first lesson was scheduled for that evening. Sylvia dreaded it.

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Sylvia pulled out her calculus text and opened it to the chapter on the mathematics of love, written by Hannah Fry:

“Love, as with most of life, is full of patterns and mathematics is about studying patterns.”

Maybe that’s why she hated these new lessons, she thought. They interrupt the after-school pattern. She sped through the math homework.  If that’s the case, she realized, it would be no matter: soon enough, new patterns will form, and maybe she’d come to love them as well.

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Zap, finishing his own homework, had launched into a story when Sylvia walked through the kitchen on her way to her first lesson.

“So that’s why sunlight makes you burn up!” he was explaining.

Their mother smiled. “That’s an interesting theory, son,” she said. “But I think it has more to do with pigmentation than retribution.”

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Sylvia raced up the hill to the Straud estate. She’d spent many nights in the oak forests on either side of the lane, following owls and looking for newts and salamanders.

But she’d never gone through the gargoyle statues or under the cast-iron archway. She’d never walked up the steps nor rattled the bronze door knocker.

She jumped, it sounded so loudly!

The door swung open of its own accord, and Sylvia followed the sound of an organ playing Bach.

The music stopped abruptly.

“You look nothing like her!” said a high-pitched nasal voice.

“Like who?” asked Sylvia.

“Miranda De Suena,” he replied. “You cannot be her daughter.”

“Oh, but I am!” Sylvia replied.

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“No!” hissed the Count. “Her daughter would not be dressed in flannel! Like a hillbilly! Like a boy! Where is your silk? Where’s the lace? And why does your hair look like snakes?”

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“I didn’t realize adherence to stereotypical fashion was a prerequisite,” Sylvia answered. “Maybe my wardrobe can get me out of these lessons, then!”

She turned and began to leave.

“Halt!” The Count shouted. “You have your mother’s walk! I am convinced. Come back. The study will begin.”

For hours, they practiced harnessing the upward currents of energy. They began with breath work.

“You must breathe in from the soles of the feet,” the Count demanded, “and exhale through the crown of your head.”

It came easily to Sylvia, thanks to her experience with meditation.

“Now open the crown,” the Count instructed, “to let the energy enter. It will circle through your body and flow up your spine.”

Sylvia, tracking the flow of breath in one direction, opened herself to the flow of energy in the other, and soon, she felt herself lift of the floor.

“Good, good!” said the Count. “How long can you stay there?”

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He left her hanging.

She heard organ music rising up from the basement, and suspended in mid-air, she lost track of time. The music played, but it sounded without pattern–this was no Bach. Lost between discordant notes and wide spaces, Sylvia couldn’t tell how long the music played, how long she remained suspended.

She woke in a heap on the floor, with silence stretching around her.

Thirst had woken her. The Count was nowhere to be seen. His castle was empty. She looked through the icebox–not a single carton of plasma.

Through the window over the kitchen sink, a purple light caught her attention. The veins of a tree glowed.

Sylvia had never seen a tree like this.

She raced out to get a better look.

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Was it the tree of life?

She caught a whiff of a blood-like scent, and her thirst raged.

At the end of a gnarled branch hung a glowing purple fruit. That’s where the scent came from. Sylvia picked it without thought, jammed a hollow twig into it, and drank.

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Slowly, the veins of the tree pulsing, she sipped the glowing fruit. It didn’t satisfy. But it did erase.

The craving grew weaker. Her thirst died. If the fruit of this tree could kill her thirst, then it was the tree of life, she reasoned.

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The moon still stood high in the sky.

The door to the castle was open. Sylvia returned. The Count was nowhere to be found.

Sylvia discovered the old organ in the basement. It had an even richer sound than the one upstairs that the Count had been playing when she arrived.

For the rest of the night, Sylvia explored the organ’s keyboard, testing the voices, letting her fingers become familiar with the touch of the keys, finding her way through a simple prelude in C major.

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The music flowed like veins,  branching, pulsing, extending from the organ through her.

She fell back into place.

A few hours before dawn, she headed home, running down the steps onto the cobblestones.

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She’d survived her first lesson.

Her teacher didn’t like her. She knew that. But he’d taught her. She couldn’t put into words what she’d learned, the learning had happened on so many levels. But she could feel it. It felt like power.

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Vampire Code: The Calculus of Others

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The Loogaroo Express runs both directions: It can take passengers out of Forgotten Hollow just as easily as it can bring them in, and Sylvia’s mother had thirteen reasons why Sylvia was not going to be riding it out of the valley this weekend.

Sylvia concentrated on calculus while her mother rattled off her concerns. “Firstly, the curtains fit the windows poorly! Light always seeps in through the cracks. And knowing you, you’d have your nose in a book and wouldn’t even notice when your arm was bathed in sunlight!”

Her mother’s voice, especially when she was trying to make a point, or rather, thirteen successive points, became musical. Sylvia reflected on something she’d read in a lesson by Knill in her advanced math textbook: “Calculus plays a role in music because every music piece just is a function.”

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If that’s the case, then her mother’s voice could be described by calculus.

“Reason number seven,” said her mother, “The vending machines on the train don’t sell plasma packs! Not on the train, not in the station, not in San Myshuno. What if you get hungry?”

Her mother’s voice rose in pitch towards the end of that statement, but it was quite melodious. The last syllable, “ree,” actually sounded like it was pitched at 440 A.

Assume g(x) is a 2π periodic function, we can generate a sound of 440 Hertz when playing the function f(x) = g(440 · 2πx). If the function does not have a smaller period, then we hear the A tone with 440 Hertz. (Knill)

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“And finally, reason number thirteen,” said her mother, “I like having you here. I just don’t want you out gallivanting through the strange world with all those strangers.”

“All right, Ma,” said Sylvia. Her own voice was lower, softer.

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We can not hear the actual function because the function changes too fast… [to allow us to] notice individual vibrations. But we can hear the hull function… We can generate a beautiful hull by playing two frequencies which are close. You hear interference. (Knill)

Sylvia began to hum softly, barely audibly, while her mother canted on about all the reasons to stay off the Loogaroo.

The frequencies of their voices combined into a beautiful resonance, and the glasses on the shelves began to vibrate slightly.

“It’s settled then,” said Sylvia’s mother, and she walked upstairs to tuck in Zap.

The moon shone on the patio. Sylvia wondered about the logarithm for moonlight.

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Mathematics made her world feel less small, somehow. It defined it, surely, but it also connected it. If she knew the logarithm for the observed moonlight here on the patio of her mother’s ancestral home in Forgotten Hollow, then she could imagine the logarithm of the moonlight shining over San Myshuno Bay, and so it was through the moonlight that she might explore all of the world onto which it shone.

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The old lore held fascination, too, connecting her to time, rather than space. The practices she read about in her mother’s old leather-bound encyclopedia were every bit as precise as mathematical formulae.

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“Have you practiced any of these things?” she asked her mother when she joined her with her own volume of the esoterica.

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“Yes, dear,” said Miranda. “My father ensured that my own upbringing was very traditional, and very thorough. I wasn’t allowed to be some young wild thing, like you are!”

“Oh, Ma!” Sylvia protested. “I’m not so wild.”

“But you are,” said her mother, wrapping her in a hug. “Your father and I spoil you so. We wouldn’t have it any other way. But still. Wouldn’t you like to go shopping, dear? Get something a little less nomdish and a little more rune?”

“Oh, Ma! You know I’m happiest in my old sweats.”

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Sylvia escaped to the garret, where her thoughts could wander in solitude. She found an old easel, a stack of canvases, and a cabinet with fresh acrylics. Her grandfather was an artist, in addition to all his other myriad accomplishments.

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The next day, after school, Sylvia found her mother deep in study down in the cellar library. Her father was napping in the cryptorium.

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Back upstairs, her math text didn’t bring the comfort she sought. The daily problem for their homework was the old train travel puzzle:

A train leaves the station at 8 p.m., travelling north at 90 miles per hour. Another train starting from the same point at 10 p.m. travels east at 100 miles per hour. Find, to the nearest mile per hour, how fast the two trains are separating at midnight.

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Oh, to be on a train at midnight, instead of stuck here, in this prison of a house!

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If she caught the southbound train at 8 p.m., how many kilometers away from this stockade would she be by 10 p.m.?  They didn’t call it the San Myshuno Rapid Transit system for nothing: the Loogaroo pulled into the city an hour after leaving the Forgotten Hollow station.

She’d do it. She had permission, of course, to roam the valley all she wanted during nighttime, and as long as she was home before sunrise, neither parent cared. They were, after all, creatures of the night.

“Ma!” she called down to the library. “I’m heading out! I’ll be back before breakfast!”

“That’s nice, dear! Have fun!”

She raced through the square down to the station, hopped onto the last car just as the doors were closing, and in a little over an hour, she got off at the station in the art district, near a bright building that housed the modern art museum.

A woman dressed in hippie clothes, with her hair wrapped in scarves, approached her.

“Are you here for the organ?” she asked.

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Sylvia felt self-conscious. Was it that obvious what she was?

“No, I’m not hungry,” she said. “No need for organs.”

The woman laughed. “Pipe organ! The new pipe organ! The one that Bach selected himself!”

Sylvia had read about this on the web. The St. Catherine organ, which sixteen-year-old Bach traveled 50 kilometers, mostly on foot, to play and listen to had been donated to the museum, which boasted of ideal acoustics for such an instrument. Sylvia confessed that she hadn’t come for the organ, but to see the city.

“Well, the organ is amazing,” said the woman. “I’m terrible on it–it’s nothing like a piano. But still, the sound!”

Sylvia began talking about the calculus of music, and how a person’s voice can travel the same frequencies as any instrument, and how we hear not just with our ears, but with all the empty spaces within our bodies, and how we listen not just with our minds, but with our stored cellular memories, too. And then, they remembered that they hadn’t yet introduced themselves.

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After the introductions, Sylvia and Cathy Tea fell silent for a moment. They shifted in that awkward space that’s shared when two strangers have dove into the deep end and find themselves friends before they, really, know anything about each other except that they are kindred spirits.

“I’m going to meet some friends,” Cathy said at last. “Would you like to come? We’re meeting in Willow Springs, but it’s a short ride on the express. And the organ will be here later.”

Sylvia felt swept along, and besides, saving the organ for another night would give her an excuse to return.

The two new friends never stopped talking on the quick ride to the next town. They talked of everything that mattered: Bach’s music and the mathematical patterns found within it and the replication of those patterns in the songs of wrens and the influence of bird songs on abstract concepts in art and the ways that painting shapes the arc of a story or a line of poetry and what does it really mean to be an artist, anyway? Is it something one does or something one is? They both agreed: It is who one is.

Sylvia felt just as comfortable with Cathy’s friends.

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They were so wholesome: fit, and tan, and cheerful. She envied Cathy, being a part of this group, and the longing she felt seemed to clarify something for her. It was like looking into her grandfather’s old stereoscope. Suddenly, she saw her future in 3-D. This was what she wanted be.

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“Where you say you be coming from?” asked Davion.

“I didn’t,” replied Sylvia. “But it’s not too far of a ride on the train.”

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Davion didn’t say where he was from, either.

“At present snotch of time,” he said, “I live on the isle of the Windenburg quenya.”

“I’ve always wanted to listen to the sea,” said Sylvia. “I’ve never seen the sea.”

“Never seen it?” asked Davion, in amazement.

“No,” said Sylvia. “But I’ve read about it! I can imagine it!”

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Cathy sat alone at the next table, and Sylvia excused herself to go join her.

“I like your friends,” she said.

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“They’re your friends now, too!” said Cathy.

“If only it were that easy,” replied Sylvia.

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Soon, her new friends began marking the late hour. “I’ve got an early morning,” said Cathy. “I have little ones, you know, and they never sleep past the thrush’s first song!”

An hour before midnight, and they left Sylvia there alone. She pulled out her i-phone and looked for videos of the ocean.

It’s the same pattern, she thought, watching the waves rolling in and out on the shore, only trochoidal, not sinusoidal.

The Trochoidal shape [of a wave] can be approximated to the shape of the Hyperbolic Tan Function graph, tanh(x). (Passy)

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She wasn’t sure which she liked best, the smooth wave of the sine or the peaked wave of the trochoid, but the pulsing of each reminded her of what drew her most strongly to these new friends: their own internal bright red oceans, salty as the sea, moving through the veins in their own continents of flesh.

The heart beats in fractal patterns as it flows through the fractal pathways of veins. The fractal dimension of the human voice produces resonance. The fractal dimension of the cerebellum receives the fractal patterns of Bach’s fugues. “Everything is sound and light.”

“Hey, there!” said a bright voice.

Syvlia turned to see a young woman seated at the table.

“I was supposed to meet my mom and my neighbor here,” the young woman said. “Have you seen them?”

When she discovered that her new friend Cathy was the neighbor, and her friend was the mom, Sylvia joined the woman. The woman talked about her garden until after midnight, and then, complaining of the late hour, she, too, headed home.

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Sylvia was alone in the night. Soon, the last train would stop to pick up passengers heading back to the shadowed valley of her home. She would be on it, returning well before the first sun. But part of her dreams would remain here, to walk out beside the willow in the morning light, listening to the thrush’s song.

Through the fractal dimension of her cerebellum, this imagined self might be felt to be real, just as real as a Bach fugue played on the St. Catherine’s organ in the Museum of Modern Art in San Myshuno.

And it was that imagined self, she thought, that would get her through the stretches of long, sunless days that awaited her back home.

Works Cited:

Knill, Oliver. “Lecture 33: Calculus and Music.” Math 1A: Introduction to Functions and Calculus. 2012. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

Passy. “Mathematics of Ocean Waves and Surfing.” Passy’s World of Mathematics. 4 Dec. 2013. Web. 3 Feb. 2017.

See also:

Bieberich, Erhard. “Structure in human consciousness: A fractal approach to the topology of the self perceiving an outer world in an inner space.” Fractal.org. Web. 3 Feb. 2017.

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Vampire Code: The Circle

The Third Movement of New World Symphony

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A circle has no beginning and no end.

In an alley in Bangladesh, an old man sits with index finger to thumb.

A woman in Darjeeling sits in a valley, touching forefinger to thumb.

A man on a street in Oklahoma raises the circle of trigger finger-thumb. Everything is all right. It’s OK.

In a studio in San Diego, a young man smiles quietly, seated on his yoga mat, pressing first finger to thumb.

And in a garret in an old mansion in an isolated village nestled beneath fir trees, surrounded by mountains, cut-off from the bustling world around it, a girl who is nearly a woman sits in silence, finger to thumb.

She is not alone. Gyan mudra connects her to the circle of those who sit, through any time, in any space.

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She feels the shared humanity inherent in this form.

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A pulse of divinity: the glands release the sensation of peace through the body.

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To be human is to have a form through which perceiving consciousness receives and responds to the experience of being alive.

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This is what it means to be human. This is what we share, this knowledge of connection with all perceiving beings. Intelligence in form.

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Only being human was not what Sylvia Zoranto’s parents had in mind for her. They were trying everything in their power to prevent her from any possible identification with humanity and its myriad members.

That was what prompted the Zoranto family’s move into Sylvia’s grandfather’s estate, left vacant when he departed for an indefinitely long expedition, sampling the flavors of the world.

“But you  will love it here, my dear,” said Miranda to her daughter. “It’s my childhood home! The history! The tradition! It’s our culture, where we come from.”

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Her father, Zoltan Zoranto, found the new town intriguing, with a central courtyard where villagers gathered nightly. His wife’s childhood home came with a well-stocked library and room in the back for a moon garden. But these were the cherries-on-top. What it came down to for Zoltan was simple: If the move made his wife happy, he was happy.

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Sylvia’s little brother Zap was happy anywhere, as long as his family was there.

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Living in his grandfather’s relic of a house provided a cellar to explore, an attic to investigate, and wardrobes to commandeer. Zap had never had it so good.

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Stuck away in nowhere, Sylvia prowled the web to keep current with the music and films that her friends back home followed. It gave her something to talk about when they chatted online.

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But Sylvia knew it would only be a matter of time before that wouldn’t be enough. You couldn’t base a friendship on celebrity gossip.

She suspected she would increasingly be able to share with others less and less of her own life as her family settled in to the old culture and its strange, archaic ways.

In her grandfather’s dusty bookshelves, her mother found an encyclopedia she’d loved when she was a teen.

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“You must read this, darling,” she told Sylvia. “It will teach you all about our people.”

Sylvia came from a long line, on both sides of the family. He mother’s people, the De Suenas, first settled this valley in 1642. The previous century, her father’s ancestors, the Zorantos, immigrated to the island of Metis off the coast of France.

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She felt proud, reading her family’s names in that musty leather-bound book. But a few hours later, while studying her calculus text, her mother ambushed her.

“Really, Sylvie. You must be more careful. I saw you in the sunlight this afternoon.”

“Only for a moment, Mama,” Sylvia replied. “Just when I got off the bus.”

“But the bus let you off in front of the house, and you were heading the opposite way to the Village Square. Really, dear. It’s of consequence.”

“But, Ma,” Sylvia protested. “It’s such a stupid rule.”

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“Sylvia! You must remember to about sun protection! You were sparking when you came inside! It’s dangerous! It’s one step away from smoking!”

“I don’t care if I spark!” Sylvia whined. “Or even if I burn to a crisp of ash and blow into nothingness! What kind of a life is it to be cooped up inside all day long?”

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“Stuff and nonsense,” said her mother. “I have never heard such a thing!”

She huffed off, and Sylvia knew she’d have to speak with Papa before bed about all the old ways and the dos and dont’s and rules and requirements.

“They’ll be wanting to teach me things soon,” groaned Sylvia. What good were “special powers” if you weren’t free?

One day, she’d find a way to walk under the sun, right out of this sequestered valley, somewhere that she could simply be Sylvia Zoranto, the girl who loved to hear the wren sing, and not the holder of the familial burden of custom, code, and curse.

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