The Mystical Whale Song Wedding March

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The Mystical Whale Song Wedding March

Postby LilJennie » Fri Mar 22, 2024 8:12 pm

The Mystical Whale Song Wedding March

By: Miki Yamuri and Jennie Flint

In memory of: Patrick H.

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My name is Cathy Cruxton, and I had always thought of myself as an open-minded young woman until in my stumbling blundering I discovered a scroll that told a wonderful tale. What it told of was nothing short of magic, as far as I could tell. Open mind or not, this was incredible.

It began one day as my best friend Cindy Krenshaw and I were studying archeology with a healthy dose of geology intermixed at Upper Poorland College.

We were in need of some type of project for our doctoral theses and had gotten permission from the dean to rummage through all the massive items stored in the huge basement vault of the main admin building to see if we could find whatever project we might decide to do research for.

As I fumbled with a huge mass of keys in the low light, Cindy said, “Do you think we’ll find anything worth looking into here? We’ll need to get some type of funding for any research or expeditions if we do.”

I finally found the proper key and got the long unused lock to open. I replied, “I’m fairly sure there’s going to be something of interest in here. This college has produced lots of archaeologists and funded many expeditions over the years. I know there has to be something down here we can use and further explore. At the very least, we might get an idea.”

The only lighting I could see at first when I opened the massive door to the vault was a single bare bulb light with a pull chain. I pulled it on, and its dim light was enough to see a light panel on the wall with several switches, so I flipped them. Many old sodium-vapor lights gradually started to come on, showing that the cavernous basement vault was filled with many extremely dusty boxes, crates, and large pallets, not to mention the many rusty steel racks that lined the walls, some of which had fallen down due to overloading and excessive age and decrepitude. Several of the overhead lights were burned out due to lack of use and infrequent inspection, so there were still large areas of deep shadow.

I looked at Cindy and smiled, “Well, seems to me we could make a whole archeology project out of the excavation of this place.”

She walked over to one of the crates, which was marked “Oceana Expedition,” and as carefully as possible pried open one of the slats with a crowbar we had brought with us. “You could be right.” she said with a laugh.

There was some type of manifest lying on top of the tarp that covered whatever was within the large box. Cindy picked it up and looked at it before she handed it to me. I wasn’t sure what language it was written in, but I was sure Dr. Geoffrey at the linguistics lab would be able to help.

I put the papers on the floor and started helping Cindy remove the tarp. There were many really strange figurines made of what looked like precious gemstones, wrapped in an almost transparent oiled gauze-like cloth. Some were in the shapes of dolphins, some looked like some type of serpents with 4 arms, some were fish, and some we had no inkling what they depicted.

Beneath those were many boxes, a few chests, some rather large white tubes, and even some things that looked like really strange weapons. One of the items that had been carefully packed looked for the world like an aboriginal musical instrument called a yiḏaki made from something looking like ivory or a large bone.

I picked up one of the weird looking glaive/spear-like things and looked it over. The business end of it was a finely crafted crystal of one sort or another. Whoever had crafted it was a master at their craft. The handle felt like smooth ivory or some type of bone; I couldn’t tell under the circumstances.

I said with a tinge of awe in my voice, “I’m not real sure what this Oceana place is or was, but they did make some fine weapons that look more like pieces of art.”

Cindy removed several of the rather large white tubes, which could have been made from the same material as the glaive. The locks holding them closed, however, were formidable works of art unto themselves.

I gathered an armful of the tubes. “I’m going back to the lab with these. I think I’m going to get some help from one of the professors. I don’t want to try to force these locks open and destroy something of historical value.”

Before I left, Cindy photographed everything with her cell phone to document it. We were going to insure we got credit for our part in rediscovering whatever this expedition had discovered. “I’m going to keep looking through this,” she said. “Who knows, the keys or combinations or whatever might be in here.”

“OK,” I said, “but let’s meet up at dinner time. We can talk about whatever we find.” She agreed, and I went back to the archeo lab in Archer Hall.

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“I … must admit that I’ve never seen this language before,” said Dr. Geoffrey. “But that’s not terribly surprising. About 3000 languages are in use today in some form, and some estimates say that about ten times that many have existed on Earth at one time or another. Even a linguistics professor can find it difficult to have contact with every living language, let alone the dead ones – assuming anything remains of them to see.”

I frowned. He had the multiple sheets of the manifest spread out on the lab table in front of him and was looking at them with a magnifier. “So they don’t even look similar to anything you’ve seen?”

“Well, what do you mean by similar?” he asked. “The way it’s written in columns like this with the top side lined up suggests that it may be written vertically, like traditional Chinese, Japanese, or Korean – but those characters have similarities to each other, while these are nothing like any of those. Or like any language I know of that has vertical writing. But you say this is a manifest of what’s in a crate? When was this crate packed?”

“Cindy’s trying to find out right now,” I said. “And … I’m not sure it is a manifest. It was on top of the tarp that protected the crate’s contents. That’s where you’d usually find a manifest, and that’s the only reason I think that’s what it is.”

“Well, if it’s a dead language,” he said, “it died recently. This was written with a ballpoint pen. Those were invented in the late 19th century. I’ve taken photos of these pages, and I’m going to have to go through some literature. I’ll let you know what I find. All I can say right now is that it’s probably a vertical writing system, and it’s nothing I’ve encountered myself – not even the same language family as anything I’ve seen. There are isolates, however, languages that aren’t related to any others, so studying groups of languages won’t help you with those.”

“OK,” I said, “thank you, Dr. Geoffrey.”

“I do love a good problem. Here, put these back in that envelope to protect them. I’ll let you know.”

So I went back to the archeo lab, where the three large white tubes lay on the table, closed at one end, locked with mysterious locks at the other. At least, they looked like locks. Intricately worked metal caps and rings circled the ends of each tube, and if there was a mechanism, it was hard to tell it apart from the complex ornamentation. I looked with a magnifier for a keyhole of some kind, or a way to apply a combination.

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While I worried myself over some possible way to open the cylinders, one of my classmates brought her new boyfriend with her. I knew he was a transfer student from New Zealand and was doing his doctorate in Aboriginal prehistory.

Sherry walked up and said cheerily, “Hi, Cat, I want you to meet Alex.” She looked dotingly at him as she continued in a dreamy voice, “He’s studying Australian prehistory.”

I turned and said, “Hi, Alex. My name is actually Cathy, but my friends call me Cat. Good to meet you.”

He walked over to my work station and looked at the cylinders on the table and the page of what I thought was a manifest on my computer screen. Alex said with wonder in his voice, “Where did you find this? This looks so familiar somehow.”

I looked around at him with a raised eyebrow, “Dr. Geoffrey is one of the best archeo-linguists around, and he can’t make head or tail of what this language is.”

Alex took the large backpack from his back and unzipped the top flap. He removed a binder and opened it so I could see. I saw this really strangely decorated instrument a native of some kind was blowing into.

Alex pointed and said, “What you see there is an Aboriginal playing an instrument known by them as a Didgeridoo. It is a mystical instrument that plays some really strange music.”

I said with a tinge of surprise, “I opened a crate from a place named Oceana that held several of something that looks like that, only they were made from a large single piece of ivory, or the single bone of a very large creature of one sort or another. We haven’t gotten far enough into our investigation to determine what it’s made of. What I was told it was called, however, is a yiḏaki.”

Alex nodded his head, “That’s another name for it – different people have different words for it. Can you tell me where this Oceana place is … or was?”

I replied, “Not specifically. The artifacts were carefully packed in a large crate in the archive store room beneath the Admin building. From the looks of it when Cindy and I found it, it had been there a very long time.” I pointed to the computer screen, “And that was written with a ballpoint pen. I know it was penned some time in the early 19th century, since the ink and the pen itself wasn’t invented until then.”

Alex thumbed through several dozen pages of the binder he had until he came to a particular page with a photo. He laid it on the table in front of me. I almost wet my panties in shock. Carved into a huge rock wall of some cavern somewhere were almost the exact same designs in the same order as on my screen.

I gasped out in shock, “Where in this earth did you find that?”

Alex smiled, “I found it quite by accident in a cave on the island of Moa in the Kaurareg Archipelago, north of the Australian mainland. Due to climate change the water levels had dropped very low and revealed the cave entrance. The people who live there don’t carve in stone – it’s just not part of their culture, so these carvings must be a remnant of some earlier group. I’m not real sure, but those symbols have a good probability of not being words as we define them.”

I asked, “If it isn’t some obscure dialect, what on earth is it?”

Alex replied, “I’m not exactly sure, but I have a hunch it’s some form of musical tones, not words.”

After that, I picked up one of the cylinders on the table and examined it under the magnifying lens on the work bench. The markings around one end were arranged around the edges where the endcap and the main body met divided by the thin line, showing that the end cap and the main body of the tube were in fact, two separate pieces. The most striking thing I noticed were the tiny glyphs, almost too small to see, and they were the same on both sides, but not matched up. Gently as I could, I twisted the tube one direction and the end cap another. I could feel something happening like some kind of clicking, too low to hear. Once all the glyphs had aligned to their matching ones, the end cap came loose.

Sherry and Alex watched with interest as I carefully removed the end cap. I was wearing gloves, so as not to damage the tubes or anything inside them with the oils from my skin. The inside of the tube was packed with some kind of dried plant material, possibly grass or seaweed. It surrounded a long, narrow object wrapped in some kind of leaves.

I carefully drew it out of the tube and onto the table, then lifted some of the wrapping to see what I had here. Beneath it was some kind of tubular object, clearly wooden but treated with some sort of lacquer-like coating. It was carved with decorative patterns. As I continued to unwrap it, it was clear that it was some form of didgeridoo.

“That’s not a design or pattern I’ve seen,” said Alex. “If it’s actually a didgeridoo, though, it’s much more finely worked than they usually are. It could have been smoothed with a lathe and finely sanded.”

I held it gently up to the light so I could look down its center. “The inside is also smooth and shiny,” I said. “And precisely straight. Some sophisticated tools were used to make this.”

“Careful,” Alex said. “Most Aboriginal cultures believed that the didgeridoo is strictly men’s business. Sacred and private. Some of them believed that women shouldn’t even touch one. Of course, it’s not like that anymore nowadays. But back when this was made … just looking at this was probably forbidden for women. Though it depended on the tribe.”

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After Sherry and Alex had gone, what Alex had said about the characters on the manifest might just be musical notation kept coming to mind. I took several photos of the rock wall murals he had in his folder and put them in the database I was compiling for the research Cindy and I were doing.

I brought up a split-screen comparison of the two and studied them closely. I had already called Dr. Geoffrey and told him of the possibility that this might not be a language, so to speak, but a musical score of some type.

Dr. Geoffrey arrived and said in a friendly way, “Hello there, Cathy. I thought about what you said about this not being a written language, but some sort of musical …” He trailed off as he saw the comparison on my screen. He pointed to the image of the rock wall and said, “Where in the world did that picture come from?”

I replied, “A young man doing studies on stone age Aboriginal tribes discovered it on an island. Apparently climate change dropped the water level and exposed it.”

Dr. Geoffrey leaned in closer and examined the image on the screen in detail. “What island was it? Did he happen to say?”

I replied, “Yes, he did. He said it was found in a cave on the island of Moa in the Kaurareg Archipelago, north of the Australian mainland.”

Dr. Geoffrey said softly as he ran his fingers down the vertical columns of the two images on the split screen, “And the boxes were marked as artifacts from a place called Oceana?”

I looked at him quizzically. “Yes. Why? Is that significant?”

Dr. Geoffrey replied as he turned and headed quickly out the door, “I’m not sure, but I do need to get permission to examine the records in the historical archives and see if I can find any mention of the expedition that brought those artifacts back.”

After he left, I started looking through the internet to see if I could find some short clip or video that showed someone actually playing a didgeridoo. Since I had several of what appeared to be varying sizes of just that, I wanted to hear what it might have sounded like.

I came across a site that gave great detail on a William Barton, who is widely recognized as one of Australia's leading didgeridoo players and composers, and is a powerful advocate for the wider perception of his cultural traditions.

According to the site’s FAQ, the didgeridoo was developed by Aboriginal peoples of northern Australia at least 1,000 years ago and is now in use around the world, though still most strongly associated with Indigenous Australian music. However, the word “didgeridoo” wasn’t of Aboriginal origin; one common word for the instrument was the yiḏaki.

The article continued and said that in west Arnhem Land, it is known as a mako, a name popularized by virtuoso player David Blanasi, a Bininj man, whose language was Kunwinjku, and who brought the didgeridoo to world prominence. However the mako is slightly different from the yiḏaki: usually shorter, and sounding somewhat different – a slightly fuller and richer sound, but without the "overtone" note.

I looked at several of the artifacts lying on the bench. I now knew I had several different types of yiḏaki and several different types of mako. The larger one that had been carefully packed in the crate by itself was in fact what was known in the modern world as a didgeridoo.

The short clip of William playing was mesmerizing as the deep bass tones throbbed through me. Each note made my whole body tingle as the undulating throb pulsed throughout the lab. Several of the other students and lab assistants stopped and listened raptly until the end.

I sent an email as fast as I could to William with a copy of the split images. I explained who I was and what we were researching. I asked him if it were possible the images were musical notes rather than a written language. I also asked if it were possible for me to meet someone who could play a didgeridoo. I sat back in the chair and smiled. If it were true this was a song of some sort, I really wanted to hear what it sounded like.

“What was that music I was hearing?” asked Cindy, coming into the lab. She had a hand truck with her, with several boxes on it, and she carefully backed through the door. I rushed to hold the door for her.

“Well, I figured out how to open the tubes …” I explained. I told her about everything I’d been doing.

“Wow! I hope you can find a didgeridoo player,” she said, “but won’t it be pointless if you can’t figure out what the musical notation means?”

“I know, right?” I replied. “Maybe Dr. Geoffrey can help us figure that out. Or maybe Mr. Barton will have some insight. Perhaps he’s seen something like this before. But what do you have in the boxes?”

“More tubes,” she said, “but also several other things from the Oceana Expedition crates. There’s more, but I couldn’t get it all at once. I picked out the things that seemed the most important to me.” She opened the top box. “These are cardboard tubes with a layer of what I think is wax … in other words, they may be audio recordings.”

“Recordings!” I was excited. Maybe these had the music on them!

“Yeah!” Cindy went on. “I looked into them. If they were made in the field, they’re hard wax at best, and they degrade in quality every time they’re played. If we play these, we’re going to want to find the best possible equipment to play them on, and record them in as high fidelity as we can, because the first time we play them might be the last time too.”

“You’re right,” I said. “At the very least, the second time we play them won’t be as good quality as the first.”

“So I’m going to look into finding a lab that does wax cylinder transfers,” said Cindy. “I guess they can scan them with a microscope, using light, so no stylus has to touch the surface, and record them as digital audio files. Scanned that way, the quality can be even better than a stylus would do anyway. And digital audio files don’t degrade.”

“I bet that costs money,” I said. “Not too much, I hope.”

“I don’t know; I’ll have to find out,” said Cindy. She sat down at her workstation and started sending emails.

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The next morning, I came into the lab to see that Cindy was already there. “This lab’s willing to help me out for free, because we’re doing research and we’re poor grad students,” she said. “Also because the cylinders might make them famous. I kind of talked up our project. I told them I’d mention them in our paper.” She was packing up the cylinders in a box, making sure they were well protected.

“Well, let’s see if I have any email about it,” I said, logging in and checking. “Wait, I have an email from Mr. Barton! He says … there are several people in this city he can recommend who are didgeridoo players. And he says that he’s seen something similar to these symbols before, but not exactly the same … and only once. He agrees that they’re probably musical notes, but he doesn’t know how to read them. That’s not encouraging. But he does say that if he can hear the tune played, he can probably figure out what the notation means.”

“If the tune’s on any of these,” said Cindy, “we’ll find out soon.” She left, carrying the box of cylinders.

I was alone again. I looked for more videos of people playing didgeridoos. Most players did seem to be men, but there were a few female didgeridoo players. The instrument’s popularity had clearly spread around the world. I played several of the videos. There was a wide variety of didgeridoos, and each had its own special sound.

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It had been several days since Cindy had sent the wax cylinders off to the place called the Celestial Sound Recovery and Recordings Lab. While she and I looked over the spectroscopy report on the materials the Moa and Yiḏaki were made of, Cindy’s phone rang.

She looked at it and answered it on the second ring, “Hello, this is Cindy Krenshaw, how may I be of service?”

The excited voice on the other end said, “Hi, Cindy. This is Dr. Oidua from Celestial Sound.” She put it on speaker so I could hear too. “I must ask, where did you get those wax cylinders? You will not believe what was on them. It’s like nothing any of us have ever heard.”

She replied with a tinge of concern in her tone, “Did you manage to get a decent copy of it without damaging the cylinders?”

Dr. Oidua replied, “That was easy. We use a confocal microscope with a cold emerald laser to make a 3D scan of the grooves in the wax. Nothing comes in physical contact with the surface. I’ve never heard whoever it was that played the instruments used to make the recording, but the rest of the recovery team and I feel this is the highest possible quality digitization of the sounds from the cylinders. We burned the audio files onto a DVD that I’m bringing you, but you can download them instantly from the link that I’ve emailed you. I’m bringing several dozen copies of the DVD, and I’ve got each cylinder preserved in an airtight tube filled with inert nitrogen to keep them from deteriorating any further.”

Cindy said, this time with a bit of excitement, “How long before you get here?”

He replied, “I should be there within the hour. See you in a bit.”

“Yes, “ Cindy said, “See you shortly. “ and hung up.

As we sat in silent anticipation, Dr. Geoffrey came into the lab, walked briskly over to us, and said, “I have news. I examined all the archived records of all the expeditions the college has funded. Oceana wasn’t one of them.”

I looked at him with surprise, “How did all this come to be …?”

He interrupted me before I could get the question out, “From what the record shows, all of these artifacts were donated to the archeology department back about 1903. There’s not much else recorded about who it was that did the donating, but there is a great deal of documentation on a request for a team to return to Oceana for more research.”

I laughed, “We have no clue where the place is, much less how to get there. I thought it might have meant Oceania, but it’s written in several places, so it’s not a mistake.”

Dr. Geoffrey replied with a serious tone as he placed a thick binder on the table, “From what this says, we need 16 people skilled in playing the Moa and Yiḏaki. It gives instructions on how to play the music depicted within the crate.”

“Music! So it really isn’t a written language, but a song.”

Dr. Geoffrey replied, “Not a song, but sound. This suggests that the sound acts as a sort of key to unlock some kind of door.”

Cindy said, “Dr. Oidua from the sound recovery lab that agreed to do the recovery of the recordings on the wax cylinders we found should be here very shortly with recorded copies of what was on the wax cylinders. I’ve just downloaded the files, though.”

Dr. Geoffrey said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to stick around and lend an ear.”

“Sure,” I said, “I’m waiting to hear what it sounds like myself.”

The door to the lab opened. In walked several of the security guards, pulling several carts loaded with cylinders in storage containers, plus 4 large boxes. There was a lot more than Cindy had taken to Celestial Sound Recovery with her – they’d placed the cylinders in proper archival containers, and, frankly, made far more copies of the sound scans than I thought were necessary. Behind them entered a very handsome and muscular man in his mid 30’s. He smiled and said, “My name is Dr. Oidua, and I have brought back the wax cylinders and many disks with the reproduced sound. You have to hear this. It’s … astonishing, to say the least.”

The guards stacked all the sealed cylinders into the storage cubbyholes for protection as Dr. Oidua put one of the disks into a portable stereo. The sound that came from the speakers was rich, with many bass undertones that could be felt all through my body. There were many nuances from other similar instruments. The entire mix was fantastic and mystical. It was incredible as the deep tones throbbed all around us and filled us.

One of the other undergrad students who had come into the lab to listen to the mysteriously enthralling music commented, “That sounds so awfully familiar.”

I turned and asked, “How so? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like it before in my life.” The small crowd that had gathered all murmured their agreement.

“I did some field work on the oceanographic ship Talisto for part of my master’s degree work in oceanography. There’s some … I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s some aspect of it that’s missing. It sounds like the calls of whales out in the deep oceans. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it’s whale song and not someone playing an instrument of one kind or another.”

“Whale song …” said Cindy.

“But it isn’t whale song,” said the student. “Sorry, I’m Cayley Shea. I mean … it reminds me of it, but it doesn’t really sound like it. Here.” She got out a laptop and quickly brought up a graph of some kind. “This is a frequency spectrum of a Right Whale song. Look …”

“I see what you mean!” said Dr. Oidua. “Let me show you some of the spectra of these cylinder recordings.” He also opened a laptop computer and brought up several similar graphs. “This is the one we just heard. Let me play the next one – this is the graph of that one. See how the whale song has nothing in this middle part of the spectrum, but these recordings have a lot of frequencies in that range.”

He was right. The bass vibrations were strong, and there were a lot of high-pitched sounds as well, but in the middle there was a lot of miscellaneous sound that didn’t remind me of whale song at all.

“But … look at this,” he said. “These frequencies are in phase with one another in both recordings … but this one is out of phase. I believe these are each missing some instruments. Let me align them so the bass and treble are in phase and play them simultaneously …” He hooked his laptop up to the stereo and adjusted the spectra.

What he played sounded exactly like a whale song to me. Cayley said, “Whoa! That’s just what I meant! You mean … the middle parts cancel each other out?”

“It appears that these players can make some parts of the instrument’s frequency range reinforce each other while other bands cancel each other out, yes – interfering destructively so as to become silent when heard at once. But there are other ranges that still seem out of phase and aren’t being canceled out, so there may be other missing instruments.”

“Wait,” I said, “so does that mean we’re going to have to have people with that kind of skill play all these didgeridoos at the same time?” I paused. “Do we even have all the instruments?”

Dr. Geoffrey said, “Well, according to this paperwork, there are meant to be 12 of them, played simultaneously. How many did you find?”

Calmly but excitedly, I replied, “12.” I emailed every local didgeridoo player Mr. Barton had referred me to, and Mr. Barton himself. “You guys have got to hear this,” I said.

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Over the next few days we started putting together a sound studio in the lab. We didn’t have the money for a lot of fancy equipment, but we found some decent old speakers and amplifiers from online ads for not too much money. We found out that the university had subscriptions to some audio processing software, so we could use it for free since it was part of our research.

Dr. Oidua was kind enough to lend us some fairly decent audio analyzing equipment to see exactly what the frequencies of each instrument was so we could make comparisons to the recordings off the wax cylinders. Cindy was more of an audiophile than I was, so she experimented with the files from Celestial Sound Recovery.

And at one point, as she listened with her headphones, her eyes went wide. “Cathy,” she said. “Cathy Cathy Cathy. Listen to this.” She switched to the speakers and took off the cans.

She didn’t have the volume turned up very loud, but it didn’t matter. The sound was electrifying. It shook the floor. It shook my bones. Something was speaking to us in a language that we thought we should know but didn’t. It was like … whale song if you were right in front of the whale. “What did you do?” I asked Cindy.

“So many files,” she said. “Each one had some instruments missing. I figured out which files we’d need to get all the instruments. I lined up their phases. I equalized the ranges so the instruments on more than one recording weren’t louder than the rest. This is a composite of what I came up with. This is what it might sound like if every instrument were played at once. Only … imagine if it were live.”

“I … I can’t imagine it,” I said. “I think I have to learn how to play one of these.”

“Are you a musician at all?” she asked.

“I think I have to become one.”

“I … think I do too,” said Cindy.

We got responses from several didgeridoo artists in the area. Some of them were too busy – they all had either day jobs or gigs, not all of them on didgeridoo, as the instrument wasn’t in very high demand. Fortunately we lived in a large metro area, so we had better luck than we would have had if we were at some small college in the middle of nowhere. But we managed to get one named Todd Searles to come listen.

“That’s … that’s a whale song,” he said, until we played him the other recordings. “No way!” he said. “And you say you have the actual instruments that made these sounds?”

“Well, we think we do,” I said, opening one of the storage tubes and taking one out, after putting my gloves on, of course.

“Wait, wait,” he said, “can I look at that?”

“Sure, just put some of these on.” I handed him the box of latex gloves.

“Right, these are artifacts.” He put on some gloves and gingerly lifted the instrument, holding it up to the light, looking through it, looking at its carvings. “This is … unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Most didgeridoos are … well, rougher than this. This looks like it was made by a machine – but you say this was recovered in 1903? So not a machine, but very precision handcrafting. And these engravings – they’re like some Aboriginal art, but way more abstract. This was not done by any cultural group I’ve ever seen.”

“We’re thinking that it was some sort of survival of a tribe that’s now lost,” I said. “Their work lived on among a group that was contacted by the 1903 expedition, but we can’t find much information about them. All we know is that they told the researchers that this sound was the key to some kind of door.”

“This is like Indiana Jones stuff,” Todd said, excitedly. “And you need a dozen players to play all of these at once?”

“Yes, and if we can’t find enough, we want to learn to play too.”

“It’s going to take time to learn,” he said, “but I can find someone to give you lessons if you want.”

“Yes, please,” I said.

“OK. Let me give you some names. And I’m going to tell everybody that you’re looking for players for the most amazing gig ever.”

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Over the next two months, Cindy and I met many interesting and extremely talented people. We even learned to play the didgeridoo fairly competently. We were by no means the experts that some of the artists who had volunteered to join our research team were, but we played well enough to accomplish the mystical sounds we were trying to reproduce. The hardest thing to learn was the circular breathing and the proper embouchure to create the sounds in the proper manner.

Shortly after Cindy and I had learned enough that it sounded like a didgeridoo instead of some kind of breathy grunting noise, Dr. Geoffrey arrived with news and a new way of looking at what we had first thought was a manifest.

Dr. Geoffrey said, as he loaded the new data onto one of our lab computers and brought it up on the display, “I couldn’t make any headway in any type of translation of those symbols on your manifest. We started down the path that they were musical notes, which proved to be slightly correct. Using one of the best new quantum computers, a 27-qubit device at IBM Quantum in New York, we made a correlation between the symbols on the sheet and frequencies. Didgeridoos generally range in keys from a high G to a low A. A common C didgeridoo will be two octaves below middle C of a piano.”

Cindy asked, “Does that mean each of these we found are a different octave?”

Dr. Geoffrey replied, “Sort of. The best keys we have found so far are anywhere between and including the keys of C and E. When the the score is played in the proper way, they will create something that the computer has translated as a ‘Muse Tonal Rift.’ What precisely this means we have yet to determine; however, by correlating the score with the tonal reproductions from the wax cylinders you ladies found, we’ve managed to produce what we believe is a score in modern musical notation.”

Excitement ran high as we notified the ten musicians who were to play this score. Dr. Oidua’s input helped refine the score further, and over the next few days we got input from Mr. Barton and several of the volunteer musicians, producing what seemed to be a musical arrangement that we poor primitive moderns could understand.

We very carefully cleaned and polished each of the artifact didgeridoos and placed them in an arrangement so their particular frequencies would resonate exactly as Dr. Oidua had suggested. Each location had its own sheet and frequencies unique to it alone, and the timing order was clearly represented.

Finally the day came. All ten volunteers were there. The soft murmur of excitement filled the air, along with the rustles and other sounds as the players took their positions. Cindy and I were flabbergasted as Todd handed us each our own instrument and sheet music and showed us the seats we were to sit in. We tried to beg off and say we weren’t good enough yet, but he would take no fuss from either of us – he totally insisted we be part of this, as did the other players.

We took our places, as filled with excitement as the other ten, as Todd took his place in what would normally be the conductor’s position. Dr. Oidua started his recording equipment. Dr. Geoffrey additionally had video recording equipment, documenting this performance for research purposes.

Todd said professionally, “All right, people. You know your positions and your timing. On three. Ready, set, order one frequency ... now …”

The room began to fill with the most mystical and eerie tones that vibrated to our very souls.

One by one the others came in. It was the strangest thing. It must have been due to the design of the instruments; each one added new frequencies while somehow subtracting others. And when Todd pointed to me and I came in, the same thing happened – I added new tones, and others somehow vanished.

And when all 12 of us were playing, something very strange happened.

It wasn’t that spectacular, but it was inexplicable. Several of the musicians had bottles or glasses of water sitting on the tables behind them. Nobody noticed at first, because the tables were behind us, and the only ones able to see the water were Todd and Dr. Geoffrey – and Todd was focused on the score. I noticed that Dr. Geoffrey looked surprised by something and was focusing one of his cameras, but I thought nothing of it. But finally Todd looked up, gasped, and stepped back as if he’d seen a ghost. We all stopped playing.

“Todd, are you all right?” I asked.

“I … yes, I’m fine, but … it’s gone now. What was that?” Todd asked.

“What was what?” asked one of the musicians. “What?” “What do you mean?” “What happened?”

Dr. Geoffrey said, “This is what he means.” He hooked one of his cameras up to a monitor and played it back.

On the tables behind us, every glass and bottle of water was glowing. The glasses and open bottles were emitting columns of light that reached up to the ceiling. The white looked bluish and rippled, like the lights at the bottom of a swimming pool at night. The camera focused on a glass of water on a table behind me, between me and Cindy. The light didn’t seem to come from anywhere else – it was just shining straight up from the water in the glass.

Everyone was gasping, and some had picked up their water glasses and bottles and were looking at them in amazement. Nothing was happening now. They looked like they contained only ordinary water.

“The scientific thing to do,” said Dr. Geoffrey, “would be to attempt to repeat this experiment, to see if it happens again, and if you all continue playing, what happens next, if anything. This effect is unprecedented. I’m a linguist, not a physicist, but perhaps there’s some kind of resonance in the water that’s converting sound energy into light energy? Can that happen? I’m not sure.”

“Well, I think we should try again,” I said. “Dr. Oidua, did you pick up anything strange on the audio recording?”

He replied, “The recording itself is quite unusual, but we knew that already – what I mean is, nothing that we hadn’t already heard. The only difference is that live performances are always superior experiences to any recording. I’m recording at the highest sampling rate possible for these microphones, but even so, this is an experience that can’t be duplicated.”

“Let me get things ready to record another attempt,” said Dr. Geoffrey, resetting the cameras to best capture the effect, and Dr. Oidua got ready as well. They soon nodded to Todd, who raised his baton, and we all paid intense attention.

The experience of playing these instruments returned. It was astonishing. The sounds were less rough and more pure than a regular didgeridoo, but still unmistakable. The ancient Aboriginal craftspeople who had made these artifacts had obviously been masters of their art. Every nerve thrilled as the sounds layered and interfered, destructively and constructively, as Dr. Oidua had put it earlier. And finally the result was a remarkably accurate reproduction of some sort of whale song. We attracted an audience from all over the building, people peering in the door but maintaining an awed silence. Again, we couldn’t see what was going on behind us, but we all saw the video afterward. The columns of shimmering, undulating bluish light beamed serenely upward from the water in the glasses and bottles.

Finally we reached the end of the score, and Todd signaled us to stop.

I took a sip of my water, but made a face. “It’s … salty!”

Another musician agreed. “It’s like … seawater!”

“How …?” asked Cindy, a perplexed expression on her face.

“That’s … astounding,” said Dr. Geoffrey, looking confused but fascinated. “I think we’ll want to take samples of all the water that nobody has attempted to drink yet. My theory about water transducing sound waves into light waves can’t even begin to explain that. We should get the water tested to see exactly how it changed. Let’s see if anybody in the chemistry or physics departments might want to get in on this.”

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The phone in our new research lab rang three times before I could answer it, “Hello, This is Cathy, how can I help you?”

A slightly excited voice replied, “Hello Cathy. I’m Dr. McDowel from the physics department. Are you one of the ones directly involved in the research into the tonal reactions in the archeology department?”

I replied, “I’m one of them, yes. Seems our little foray into a doctoral thesis has attracted a slew of willing participants.”

Dr. McDowel replied, “I can understand why. From the documents I have been given it seems you and your team have stumbled upon a truly remarkable thing. The chemistry lab ran tests on the saline samples from your tonal test several days ago. The composition of salts is well within the range of what one might find in a sea or ocean. But the hydrology department has been unable to ascertain what specific body of water this particular sample originated from. We discovered not only some sort of energy radiating from the sample we have never before encountered, but also some forms of microbial life the biology department is sure are not of this earth.”

I gasped, “You have to be kidding!”

He replied, “Not in the least. If it isn’t too much bother and doesn’t interfere with your other studies, might Dr. Cramer of the hydrology department and I come and discuss another test we would like to perform?”

I felt a real tingle of excitement run through me as I replied, “Surely. Cindy and myself are free for the afternoon. How about coming by now?”

He replied, “Excellent. We will be there in a few minutes. Whatever walking time is from out departments to your new lab. I hear you’ve managed to build quite a frequency testing place there.”

I replied, “We have at that. Seems the more people hear about what we’re doing, the larger it becomes.”

Before he hung up he said, “I think it might be getting a bit larger shortly. Bye, for now. We’ll discuss this when we get there.” The phone went dead.

I sat stunned for a few minutes and stared at the receiver before I hung it up. I yelled out, “Cindy! I think you should come over here. I have something to tell you.”

Cindy came quickly into the lab and asked, “What in the world has you in such a dither?”

I replied, “Several things. Dr. McDowel from the physics department just called.”

Cindy asked, “Oh, really? And what did he have to say?”

I turned and looked at Cindy and replied, “Several things. Most importantly, the samples we sent for analysis came back and showed the water was giving off some strange form of energy no one had ever seen before.”

Cindy's eyebrows went up, “We knew something strange happened, from the videos Dr. Geoffrey made.”

I said, “It gets better. The water was transformed into sea water from an unknown ocean. And it gets even better still – they found microorganisms in it no one has ever seen before. Dr. McDowel and Dr. Cramer from the hydrology department will be here any minute to have a conference with us. Apparently they’re going to offer their expertise and services.”

Cindy said softly, “OMG!! Just what have we gotten ourselves into?”

About that time, an elderly gentleman in wire spectacles and a rather handsome gentleman in his mid forties entered. The elderly gentleman said, I’m Dr. McDowel.” He indicated the other gentleman accompanying him and went on, “and this is Dr. Cramer. We would like to discuss with you if it were possible for us to build a hydro pool and have your team come and perform your frequency experiments near it. I have inquired, and since we no longer use the swimming pool located at the back of campus for anything since the construction of the new rec center, we’ve been give permission to utilize it for further experimentation.”

Cindy stumbled a bit as she asked with incredulity in her voice, “How soon would you be wanting to do this?”

Dr. Cramer smiled and replied, “We’re already having the pool cleaned and filled with distilled water. We can have a team in here within the hour to disassemble your equipment and reassemble it within the pool house, since it is an indoor pool.”

“Wait, wait, we need a dozen didgeridoo players to all be here at the same time,” I said. “I mean, we’ve tried playing back the recordings to see whether that would work, and it just … doesn’t.”

“Really? That’s interesting,” said Dr. McDowel, his forehead wrinkling with thought. “I can only think of two possibilities. One is that there were sonic frequencies involved that either weren’t picked up by the microphones or can’t be reproduced by the speakers – or both, of course. The other is that something was going on other than merely sonic vibrations. The instruments are artifacts – perhaps they produce more than just sound waves. But we can do some experiments to test these ideas …”

The pool thing was going to take a while, because getting ten musicians’ schedules to line up again was not the easiest thing to do. But a week later Cindy and I were in the physics department, where Dr. McDowel had set up an array of detectors to record what happened when either of us played one of the instruments. A small lab room had been soundproofed, so the equipment wouldn’t pick up any outside sound sources, and there were microphones and other doodads all over the walls.

“So I’ll just go in and … play some sounds,” I said.

“Yes,” Dr. McDowel replied. “The detectors and transducers are there to pick up anything we can find. Every microphone has a range of audio frequencies it can detect, and outside that range its sensitivity drops rather dramatically, I’m afraid. But there are other types of audio transducer that can pick up extremely low or high frequencies, and we’re using everything we can find here. Also, in case there’s anything else we can pick up, we have various forms of electromagnetic detector – even radiation sensors. I don’t want to leave anything out.”

“All right,” I said, taking the didgeridoo I’d been playing most out of its protective case. “I’ll go first, then when you signal that you’re done taking readings, it can be Cindy’s turn. OK?”

“That sounds fine,” said the physicist, and Cindy nodded. So I went in, and they closed the door behind me. It was soundproofed too, and it was really extraordinarily quiet in there. There were some small LED lights in the ceiling, which created no sound that I could detect. So I sat down in the chair that was in the tiny room, took a deep breath, and started to play.

Other than the strangeness of there being no other sound and no echoes at all, nothing unusual happened. No other instruments were there influencing the end result. Really, I just used it as an opportunity to practice my circular breathing technique. You really just puff out your cheeks and store air in your mouth like a chipmunk stores nuts, then when your lungs are nearing empty you simultaneously take a quick breath while continuing to put air through the instrument using the stored air in your mouth. Then you go back to using air from your lungs as normal. Each time you switch, you have to do it as undetectably as possible. I was getting better.

After a few minutes, the door opened. It was Cindy. I stopped. “Dr. McDowel says it’s my turn,” she said.

We traded places. I couldn’t hear Cindy playing at all, but I could tell that Dr. McDowel was getting readings, because his computer screens were showing all kinds of interesting waves and graphs.

Finally, he said, “All right, I think those readings are fairly consistent. Please let Cindy know we’re done, would you?”

“OK,” I said, and opened the door. Suddenly I could hear Cindy playing until she looked up and stopped.

“Yes,” said Dr. McDowel, “it’s actually both things I suspected. There are electromagnetic frequencies being produced by those instruments. I wish we could somehow analyze them, but as they’re irreplaceable artifacts I wouldn’t want to even scratch the paint. And there are sonic frequencies being produced that are both higher and lower than conventional microphones can detect.”

“I’ll let Dr. Oidua know,” I said. “I’m sure he’s going to want to record again, using even more different microphones. He’s obsessed with getting the most accurate as possible reproduction of the sound.”

“I can understand that,” said Dr. McDowel. “Imagine being able to experiment with the effect at will, without having to get a dozen musicians together. In any case, I’ve written some programs that are going to analyze the data we just recorded. Maybe we’ll find something else. In the meantime, though, could I get you both to play at the same time?”

We did that too, playing together in the soundproof booth. I could tell some of the frequencies were canceling each other out, and Dr. McDowel was excited when he opened the door to tell us we were done. “I’d say look at this, but it’s still all graphs. The instruments have no external energy source other than your breath, but somehow they’re able to lock onto each other’s phases and synchronize their waveforms. There’s no other explanation for what I’m seeing.”

“How could that even work?” I asked.

“I have no idea!” said the physicist. “And that’s what makes it so fascinating!”

A young man entered the area and said something to Dr. McDowel. He turned and asked, “Do you think it might be possible to have the selected ten players available by tomorrow afternoon?”

I replied, “I’m not sure. Most of them have other jobs and play other instruments for local bands.”

He said, “I was just informed the sonic equipment is all set up at the pool house. The pool has been cleaned and filled. We’ve even installed special sensors to detect electromagnetic spectrums above and below what would normally be expected.”

I said with a slight trepidation in my voice, “What happens if it opens a ... I don’t know, some kind of doorway to a place we aren’t expecting.”

Dr. McDowel smiled, “Actually, that’s what we’re hoping for. We really want to know what this place is you have stumbled upon.”

Cindy asked, “What place?”

Dr. McDowel replied, “Oceana, of course.”

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I had lucked out and managed to arrange for ten of the other musicians to be present the next morning. We all entered the pool house. It looked so strange with all the recording devices and other equipment all over. Each of us were shown our proper seats by Todd, who took his place at the fore of us and tapped his music stand with his baton.

Todd said, “Ok, ladies and gentlemen, on three. One, Two, Three.”

The most amazing tones I could possibly imagine began and resonated throughout the pool house. I could tell that everyone could feel the mystical sounds as they penetrated to our deepest soul. Within the large pool, a spark of blue light appeared and began to grow as a column of shimmering blue extended from the pool to the very roof so far above our heads.

Dr. McDowel and his young graduate assistant Gerald were busily taking readings and making measurements. I knew Dr. Oidua would be disappointed that he hadn’t had a chance to set up his latest array of microphones or even to be here to experience this, but I doubted this would be the last time we’d try this. Gerald had a long aluminum boom and was using it to hold a detector on the end of it out into the column of light above the pool. Dr. McDowel looked excited as the readings came in from it.

Finally Gerald tried dipping the detector into the pool. Dr. McDowel looked like his eyes were going to pop out of his head as he looked at whatever was on his screen. And then Gerald jerked as if he’d been fishing and had just caught a big one. Maybe he had, because the next jerk pulled the pole right out of his hands. I was astonished and stopped playing, and so did a few of the others. The light stopped. Todd turned around to see what was going on, and the rest of us stopped playing too. The only sound we heard after that was a clank, as the end of the metal pole sank to the bottom of the concrete pool.

Using a pool net, Gerald brought the end of the pole back up to the side of the pool. He and Dr. McDowel looked at it in wonder. It had been sheared cleanly off. “It was in the process of falling into the water when the music stopped,” Gerald said. “It was sliced off because it was sticking through when the portal closed. But before that, something grabbed it and pulled on it. If I hadn’t let it go, I would’ve been pulled in.”

“What could be … in there?” asked Todd.

“Now, let’s be logical about this,” said Dr. McDowel. “Nothing came through into the pool. If there were fish or other living creatures larger than microorganisms, they’d be in the pool now. But nothing’s there. That suggests that what happened may have been a force rather than a creature. Some kind of magnetism, for example.”

“Or something too big to fit into the pool,” added Gerald.

“Now, now, if it were something like that, it didn’t put so much as a fin, flipper or tentacle through the portal, even for a moment,” said Dr. McDowel.

“Maybe that means it’s intelligent enough to know not to do that,” Gerald countered. “To be fair, that wouldn’t require it to be larger than the pool. It could be smaller but smart.”

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The biology and hydrology departments were quick to take large samples of the pool. It clearly became obvious the pool contained a large quantity of some unknown ocean or sea based on the salinity, pH, and the hitherto unknown microorganisms. To their great surprise and delight, they also found some macroorganisms not unlike krill shrimp. The biology department made quick note that the DNA sampling of all of this life proved that none of it came from our biosphere in any way.

Dr. Oidua, Dr. McDowel, and Dr. Cramer from the hydrology department had contacted us and informed us a licentia docendi board was meeting over what we had discovered and said our presence was mandatory and they expected us there within the next 2 hours.

As we approached the formal hall I said nervously to Cindy, “Gee, I hope no one’s going to suspend us or something.”

Cindy replied with the same fear in her tone, “Me too. No one told me anything except to bring all the supporting documentation we currently had and be there on time.”

I replied, “Yeah, me too. That’s why I had you load everything onto this large cart so we could carry it all.”

We had arrived at the vaulted double doors to the chamber. Several distinguished elderly gentlemen were there to greet us as they opened the door. Cindy and I almost wet our panties. Every professor at the university from every level of academia was there in the many-tiered seats. Among them were some of the most renowned scientists from several disciplines. I recognized Dr. Oidua, Dr. McDowel, and Dr. Cramer, who were sitting at the head table among many other rather distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

As we entered and the double doors boomed closed behind us, Dr. Oidua stood and said, “Welcome, ladies.” He indicated a table with two chairs, several small computers, and video/audio recording devices with a wave of his hand. “Please, be seated and make yourselves comfortable. Take a bit of time to arrange your papers and data. We have many questions and a few answers for you.”

As we sat, Dr. McDowel stood and said, “Based on the evidence and data we collected, this committee has determined you have fulfilled the criteria to be awarded your PhDs. The only issue is that you’ve fulfilled multidisciplinary requirements for many such degrees. We’re here today to honor you, award all of them to you, and explain what we’ve learned from your research.”

Dr. Cramer stood and shuffled a large stack of papers in front of him before he typed on the small computer on the table. On the large display screen on the wall appeared many graphs and formulas.

He stated, “From the best my department has been able to determine from analyzing the water in the pool, it is more than obvious it is from some unknown ocean or sea. The average salinity of seawater on Earth is about 35 grams of salt per kilogram (g/kg) of seawater, or 35 parts per thousand. Seawater generally ranges from 33 to 38 ppt.The salinity of the water from the pool is exactly the same. We all know that before the experiment it was distilled water, as pure as we could reasonably make it. Therefore, we all acknowledge some form of gateway opened and infused the water in the pool with seawater. At 450 thousand gallons, this is a fairly impressive accomplishment.”

Dr. McDowel said, “We and several others in the physics department and audio processing lab have analyzed the frequencies created by your group, and we must say we’re extremely impressed.” He then typed on the small computer in front of him. The images on the large screen changed. “As all can see, the frequency ranges for the instruments are within normal range.” He typed a bit more, and another set of side by side comparisons appeared. “Your group’s instruments also created ripples in the pool’s magnetic fields, which can be considered quasiparticles known as magnons, that encoded and processed some type of unknown information. The different tonal qualities of each individual instrument caused two distinct types of ripples in the magnetic fields of a thin plate of unknown alloy within each didgeridoo. We measured the results and they showed that the magnons interacted in a nonlinear manner. “Nonlinear” refers to output that is not directly proportional to input. This in turn opened the gateway of unknown frequency that caused a bridge to open within the pool … a portal to wherever.”

Dr. Oidua spoke this time and said, “My esteemed colleagues and I have reviewed all the current data and agree completely that you, Miss Cathy Cruxton, and you, Miss Cindy Krenshaw, have been awarded with multidisciplinary PhDs, having fully fulfilled all requirements heretofore. You now carry the titles of Dr. Cruxton and Dr. Krenshaw, with all the rights and responsibilities pertaining thereto. Please stand.”

Cindy and I looked at each other then stood. Several people approached. They had on the long black robes of academia, each decorated slightly differently due to the traditions of the universities where they had received their own doctorates. They stopped in front of us and handed each of us a small velvet-lined box with several scrolls bound with a red ribbon. Next, they handed each of us another-velvet lined box with an equal number of embossed binders. Each one held a certificate showing we held the title of PhD in several disciplines.

Cindy said, “I … don’t know what to say. If I’d known, I’d have prepared a speech. So you’re all very lucky today.” She grinned slightly. There were some chuckles in the crowd. “I’ll just say thank you for this great honor.”

I was stunned. “Yes, thank you,” I said, “though … you know that we aren’t done here, right? We have more research to do. I’m very honored, but we’ve barely gotten started.”

“Exactly why we’ve given you these titles,” replied Dr. McDowel. “There’s something to learn, and you won’t stop until you’ve learned all you can. And then you can teach us all what you’ve found.”

“Then let me present you with a list of questions,” I said. “What is Oceana? Where exactly is it? Is it the name of the place to which the portal goes? Who named it that? Are there inhabitants, and is that their name for it, or was it named that by ancient humans of Earth? Who made the instruments, and why? Who went on the expedition in 1903 that discovered them? And why didn’t they make this discovery? Why was the research just abandoned and crated up in the basement of the old admin building?” I paused. “And that’s just for starters.”

“Nobody said that getting a PhD was the end of your research,” said Dr. Geoffrey. “It’s just the start of it, really. By which I mean that nobody here knows the answers to any of those questions, but you two are the most qualified to find out. We’ll help, of course, but we’ve all got our own research projects. Not that yours isn’t the most fascinating thing to come along in years.”

“Seriously,” said Dr. McDowel. “A bridge from one part of space-time to another, or perhaps to an entirely different space-time continuum, if such a thing exists, formed by means of quanta of magnetic spin? An entirely new biome populated with entirely unknown life forms? An ancient Aboriginal civilization with heretofore unsuspected knowledge? The mind boggles.”

“So congratulations,” said Dr. Oidua. “We know you’re just getting started, but we wanted to take a moment to let you know that you’re one of us now. We’re all very eager to see what you find next.”

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Dr. Oidua sat at his computer consoles and carefully examined all the frequency waves the girl’s team had produced that opened a gateway. He was thrilled to note each nuance that created quasiparticles known as magnons. He did note that each pitch created a new type of magnon that had its own unique energy frequency.

One of the doctoral students everyone called Sparky, because of his interest in the atomic structure of excitons and their interactions both positively and negatively, came over to Dr. Oidua’s work station and asked softly, “I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but may I ask some questions?”

Dr. Oidua looked up from his screens and many frequency comparisons. He knew Sparky had brought into question what was commonly known as the hole theory of electron flow in a circuit due to certain quantum interactions within the electron movements based on charge and was interested in what the youth had to say. “Surely, you can ask any question; otherwise how can we learn?”

Sparky laid several large frequency graph comparisons of the tones that had opened what was assumed to be a portal to an unknown ocean or sea on the table along with a redone copy of the original manifest that had been reworked by a quantum computer that showed much better and recognizable tonal qualities and the varying frequencies and their interactions. He then placed a similar graph next to that which was the quantum computer’s enhanced frequency charting of the wax cylinders.

Sparky said, “From the best I’ve been able to tell, and I’m just a graduate student and by no means an expert ...” He pointed to several places on the charts. “It seems to me that the original team, whoever they were, that brought back those large crates from Oceana, did so from a dry land position.” He then pointed to the mid frequency ranges of the charts. “I think there's an inaccurate frequency within the mid range tones of this chord.”

Dr. Oidua brought the particular graphs up on his workstation and enhanced the locations Sparky had referred to. Sure enough, the frequencies were off, but by a minute margin of around a tenth of a percent. The professor sat back in astonishment.

Sparky continued, “That team had to have launched their gateway from a dry land location or none of the artifacts would have survived. Besides, we would have found some form of saline contamination within the crate, which we didn’t find.”

Dr. Oidua replied, “By George, you’re right. How could I have been so blind and not reasoned that out?” He turned and looked at Sparky. “Don’t worry, son, you have made the grade and aced this course hands down. You came up with something some of the very best minds overlooked all this time.”

Sparky pointed to the midrange graph and said, “Somehow, these tones are missing the correct frequency, and the portal is opening in the wrong location. Is there some way we can make a minute correction and fix it?”

Dr. Oidua studied the graphs. It was like a light came on as he realized something. “Wait … the inaccurate frequencies are in the exact ranges that Dr. Cruxton and Dr. Krenshaw were playing. I know they’ve only recently learned to play, so they aren’t expert performers – I’m sure they themselves would admit as much. Perhaps with a little more practice, though …” He started sending an email to the newly-minted Dr. Cruxton and Dr. Krenshaw.

“Um, Dr. Oidua,” said Sparky.

“Yes?” asked the professor, typing quickly.

“What are we opening a door to?” asked the graduate student. “What if we allow something dangerous into this world?”

Dr. Oidua paused in his typing, but only for a moment, before resuming.

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I had just sat down at my computer when the email notification came in. I raised an eyebrow, since I wasn’t expecting one from Dr. Oidua. It basically said there had been some waveform anomalies discovered and they wanted me and Cindy to come to the sound lab as soon as possible. About that time my cell rang. It was Cindy.

I answered quickly, “’Sup, Cindy? Did you get an email from Dr. Oidua too?”

Cindy replied, “Yeah, more than likely the same one you got, since I’m CCed here. Tell you what, since it’s on the way, meet you in the commons, and we can both walk over to the sound labs.”

I replied, “Sounds like a plan. See you in about 5 minutes.” and ended the call.

I brushed my hair and put it up in a single ponytail. Faster than fixing it, and it looked cute and presentable. I grabbed my purse and headed out the door towards the commons. About 5 minutes later, I met up with Cindy, and we walked the rest of the way to the sound lab and speculated on what we would discover when we got there.

“A graduate student of mine noticed this anomaly that we’d all overlooked,” said Dr. Oidua, showing us a colorful graph on a large projection screen. “It took a lot of magnification and false-color analysis to make it visible to the eye at all; he noticed it amid a sea of numbers.” It was true; the frequencies were laid out like a rainbow, and there was just a slight wiggle in the yellow and orange.

“Wait, those are our frequency ranges,” I said. “I’ve learned enough to know that.”

“Well, we probably just aren’t good enough yet,” said Cindy. “I mean, the others are pro musicians. They’ve been honing their skills for decades. We learned to play didgeridoos a few months ago, and that’s it. I don’t play any other instruments.”

“Me either,” I said. “I can accept that we’re the weak link. Well, we could try to get a couple more pros.”

“Or you could practice more,” said Dr. Oidua. “It’s up to you, of course, and up to how many professionals you can gather in one place.”

“I want to do it,” I said. “I want to get better at it. It’s the only way I can really understand how any of this works – to feel the sound around me, to feel it moving through me, to contribute to it.”

Cindy said, “I agree. It feels more like I’m part of this.”

“What do you think happened as a result of the frequency being off?” I asked.

Dr. Oidua said, “No one knows yet. It could mean that the portal opened to the wrong location. Or … well, any further is speculation. Perhaps it opened earlier or later in time on the other end. But again, it remains to be learned.”

“I think we should arrange for some lessons,” I said as we walked back to our lab. “And that’ll mean setting aside practice time.”

“Right,” said Cindy. “We don’t want to waste our instructors’ time.”

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My lungs ached. I’d been practicing for hours. We’d actually been using our practice time as a study of the instruments – no one knew how old they were, but we did want to make sure that they weren’t any worse for wear. Everybody remembered the story of the silver trumpet found in an ancient Egyptian tomb that had shattered the instant a professional had tried to play it as part of a radio publicity stunt. But these lacquered wooden instruments seemed to be getting stronger the more we played them.

Both Cindy and myself had been practicing with the help of some of our new professional musician friends. They had refused to allow us to pay them for lessons, but they weren’t above accepting our offers to buy them meals. Precisely tuning the sound of a didgeridoo was a difficult prospect, but what we ended up doing was having the musician play the intended frequency, taking a snapshot of it with an oscilloscope, then having us try to match it and sustain that match for as long as we could.

It was exhausting. But we were getting better. With software we could analyze how long we were able to match the tone, and after practicing daily for a month I was up to three solid minutes at maximum. I was determined to make it to a reliable 10 minutes before we tried assembling the whole ensemble again.

The marine biologists had reasoned that whatever had grabbed Gerald’s pole hadn’t been a predator – the many krill shrimp that survived uneaten in the waters around it were a testament to that. Any meat-eater in that water would have evolved to eat the meat that was there, and the krill were obviously plentiful. That didn’t answer the question of what exactly it had been, but it did somewhat allay Gerald’s fears that we were opening a gateway to a dimension populated entirely by hungry sharks.

Another month of daily practice, and I’d done it. 10 minutes was easy now. My record was up to 24 minutes; 10 was child’s play. Cindy was similarly stronger, and we had our frequencies down. I heard mine in my sleep.

It was time to try again.

The old pool had been cleaned again and filled with distilled water. Dr. Oidua had filled the room with transducers of all kinds, determined to get the most accurate recording possible of the sounds. Dr. McDowel and Gerald were ready with an array of detectors, and Dr. Geoffrey had his video cameras. At Todd’s suggestion, the dozen musicians were set up around the pool this time, with him at the deep end. He wanted to direct from the end of the diving board, but we talked him out of it. That thing was pretty rickety.

“Hey, I just want to let you know that this is an honor,” said Julia, one of the musicians. “Just to get to play this – it’s older than my great-grandmother’s time, and she was an Aboriginal.”

“We’re just happy you’re here to help,” I said.

It was time.

We stood, each in front of our microphone array. Dr. Oidua signaled that he was recording. Dr. McDowel and Gerald had their detectors ready. Todd raised his baton.

When we all started to play, we could tell that something was different. Our energies were synergizing in a way they never had before. The puzzle pieces all clicked together. The vibrations uplifted our spirits to the heavens. The pool shone like a blue sun.

Just as Gerald was lowering a detector into the pool on another metal pole, Dr. Geoffrey was doing the same with an underwater camera. Of course we wondered what it saw, but we’d find out later. We were to play for a full 10 minutes, and that’s what we planned to do. Just before the time ended, Gerald and Dr. Geoffrey withdrew their poles; nothing grabbed at them. But when Todd finally signaled for us to stop, and the pool’s light dimmed, they both realized that the instrument booms had something attached to each of them, tied with some kind of handmade cord.

They were new didgeridoos. “What?” Dr. Geoffrey was the first to ask. “But … when?”

“Maybe you should play back your video,” suggested Gerald. Dr. Geoffrey did just that, turning the monitor so we could all see.

A man and a woman in colorful clothes with intricate patterns were in the water, deftly tying the instruments to the booms. In the background we could see many more people, both dark and light skinned, all wearing the same colorful patterned clothing, looking on. Some were smiling, waving, or making some sort of demonstrative gestures with their hands, as if to say, “We know you can see us, so here we are!”

The new didgeridoos did not look old at all. “Are these … new?” asked Cindy.

“They have the look of it,” said Todd. Julia nodded. “We may have just learned where the makers of these went.”

“But where do they live?” I asked. “In the water? All we see is water.”

“This recording!” said Dr. Oidua. “It’s magnificent! And these are only ordinary speakers!”

“The acoustic and electromagnetic fidelity is unprecedented,” said Dr. McDowel. “I can’t wait to analyze this data.”

Everybody began talking at once, then, about how magnificent that experience had been. I finally got the feeling that I’d truly been part of it all – odd, I know, for someone who’d been granted a PhD for the endeavor, but that’s just how it felt.

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The two new instruments were exactly the frequency range that Cindy and I had practiced so hard to reproduce. They looked and felt different as we played them. It required almost no effort to make the proper frequencies.

Of course, many noninvasive examinations were made of both of them. They were both expertly crafted from the bones of a large whale of a sort not known to Earth. Based on the size of the bones used to construct this particular set of didgeridoos, the creature must have truly been enormous. This time, they discovered two strips of single-atom-thick gold and silver. They were separated by a carbon allotrope unknown to the science of Earth, although it most readily resembled C64, if they could figure how to make the molecules arrange themselves into this order.

Dr. Oidua had us play them for hours as he made as accurate recording and frequency measurements as the equipment allowed. These two didgeridoos were crafted in a far superior manner compared to the two Cindy and I had played earlier, and these two were tuned to certain frequencies.

Just these two alone created the most mystical and wonderful sounds that reverberated to our deepest souls. The frequency synergy between these two and the rest of the instruments was remarkable. Dr. Oidua watched the screen wide-eyed and open-mouthed as the interactions played across his screen, The most advanced system on Earth had been donated to study the frequency interactions and the magnetic anomalies they created.

As close as he could calculate, with the addition of these two, the portal would in fact open at a slightly different location. Many more frequency recordings and comparisons needed to be made from the new location before he could be 100% positive.

This uncertainty didn’t deter him at all as he arranged for another gathering around the pool. This time, however, he knew what he was looking for and even invented several new types of sensors just to record them.

The pool had once again been meticulously cleaned and filled with distilled water. The 12 of us sat nervously around the pool in our usual positions as Todd and Dr. Oidua inspected each sensor and double checked all diagnostics. This time, Dr. Oidua was as positive as his calculations and models could tell him; the portal would open on dry land.

We had gotten a platform with a conductor's and still working stand at the end so Todd could have his fantasy. This one wasn’t rickety at all, so we weren’t afraid it’d break and drop him into the water.

Once again, Dr. McDowel and Gerald were ready with their detectors, Dr. Geoffrey had his cameras running, and Dr. Oidua was recording. Todd raised his baton. And then … he lowered it, and we started playing.

The sensation was slightly different, but no less electrifying. The waves flowed through us and were part of us. We were together, all part of the same sound. And the pool lit up just as before. But the water was … clearer? We played for the full 10 minutes, and then Todd signaled us to stop.

But the pool stayed lit.

“That’s … different,” I said.

“What’s happening?” asked Cindy.

Then a shape appeared in the pool. There was a splash. And someone emerged from the water. It was a woman, dark of skin but wearing a brightly colored garment. She stood and dripped, the water flowing into the drain around the pool. She said something in a language we didn’t know.

Dr. Geoffrey stepped forward and responded. She turned to face him with a smile, and they said some more words to each other. Then she adjusted her earrings, which appeared to be made of pearls, and spoke to us all in perfect English – or what sounded like it, anyway. “Hello,” she said. “I am Allira … of Oceana.” Everybody gasped, or at least I know I did.

I stood up. “Hello, Allira,” I said. “I’m Cathy. We have … so many questions. But first, welcome.”

“Thank you,” she said. “Many people, from many places,” she added, looking around at all of us. “I’ve been sent to find out who you are, and to invite you to come with me.”

“How is the gateway staying open?” asked Cindy. “Oh, and my name’s Cindy.”

“Cindy, we are holding it open on our side now,” said Allira. “You finally linked to our travel well. We’ve seen signs of your efforts, but we knew there was something wrong, so we sent some corrections.

“As for the invitation, I for one gratefully accept,” I said. “But each one here must be free to speak for themselves.”

“Of course,” said Allira.

“By the way, there was an expedition over a century ago,” said Cindy. “Do you know what happened to them?”

“Their descendants still live among us,” Allira replied. “There was a shipwreck. We rescued as many as we could, but there were problems with returning. You must have found what they left behind.”

“We found some crates, but very little information about the expedition,” I said. “Why couldn’t they return?”

“The instruments were the link to your world,” said Allira. “We can open pathways to many worlds, but we could never find this one again. Not without any points of reference. It was lucky that they thought to call to us for help when their ship was sinking. It’s possible that some of the instruments were damaged, now that I think about it. No one from those times is still alive – well, a few are, but they were just babies then, and now they’re very old.”

“That explains a lot,” said Cindy.

“Now, we are always glad to have visitors, but who are you all? This is a very curious assemblage of people. Are you ambassadors? Are you making diplomatic contact?”

“No, we’re not political,” I said.

“Oh, thank the powers that be,” said Allira with a look of relief. There was some laughter.

“No, we’re scientists and musicians,” I explained. “We simply found the remains of the expedition’s findings, crated up in a cellar here at this university, and we were curious about what they were. Our research led us to do this.”

“That speaks well of you,” Allira remarked. “To wish to know, and then to do whatever you must to find the answer. We honor seekers.”

“Oh – if we go with you to visit, will we be able to come back?” asked Cindy.

Allira laughed. “Yes, young one,” she said. “Now that we have the coordinates in our computers, we can open portals to this exact spot whenever we wish. They must still use water, though. The process requires the intermingling of water.”

“Oh, so the people from the expedition could come back,” I said, “except … you said their descendants were there. None of them are still alive?”

“I’m afraid not,” Allira replied. “They were adults over 120 years ago. We have excellent medical care, but everything has its limits. We are still humans.”

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There was a bit of tension about Cindy and me going, along with about a dozen of the highest-level volunteers from several academic disciplines. The basics, such as archeology, biology, and physics, were well represented, but others felt that if something were to happen, our loss would be almost irreplaceable.

Out of sheer habit, Cindy and I lined up around the edge of the pool portal in what would normally be our assigned playing positions.

Allira looked back at us and smiled warmly, “Meet you the other side, ladies and gentlemen.” Then she stepped off the side and dropped into the pool with a splash. She jumped out of the water and vanished instead of breaking the surface, presumably on her native side of the gateway.

I felt Cindy take my hand on one side and Jerimy, one of the players, take my other. I’m not real sure if I just stepped off into the pool or was willingly dragged, but we were all suddenly in the water. I felt so weird as something rushed all through my body to my very soul.

In the next blink of an eye, we could see Allira standing on the edge of the pool, in the midst of several dozen others who looked like scholars in their own right. The pool’s edge looked different. They offered us their arms to help us climb out of the water. We looked around; this clearly wasn’t our pool, or even our world. The sky was a color of deep ocean blue, and there were three moons of different sizes and colors in the sky, along with the orange sun. The 12 of us were led from the portal area amid the most heavenly reverberating and mystical tones I had ever heard. They were so wonderful that I was seriously tempted to call them heavenly.

Looking around, it was more than obvious that we were inside some type of dome. Through the large expansive window far across from me, I could see other domes of varying sizes. Some were artistically stacked and arranged. I knew the technology I was looking at was beyond Earth’s as a small aerial vehicle whizzed by. It made a really nice musical buzzing sound that made me tingle all over, no other noise or any kind of pollution I could find under current conditions.

One of the larger men approached with his hand out, saying, “Welcome to Oceana!” with enthusiasm in his voice. “Many of us had lost hope we would ever see anyone from our home ever again.”

Dr. Oidua replied as he indicated me and Cindy, “If it weren’t for these young ladies’ enthusiastic research endeavors, we might not have come this far. Who are you, by the way?” He held out his hand, “I’m Dr. Oidua, professor of acoustics.”

“Oh, yeah, pardon my rudeness,” the large man said, taking Dr. Oidua’s and shaking it warmly, “My name is Laramie Baumgartner. I’m the great-great-grandson of the captain of the ship we foolishly tried to sail home in.”

One of the women wearing what looked like a body wrap sarong said, “We can discuss all that around the dinner table. I’m starved.” She indicated with one of her arms towards an open set of double doors.

We all followed her out into the garden courtyard. I was truly fascinated to be observing plants no one else on Earth had ever seen. All around the exterior, from my limited vantage point, everything I could see was amazing beyond my abilities to describe due to their extremely advanced natures. There was glass that appeared to also be circuitry and was also at the same time alive and photosynthesizing. There were those flying vehicles, which even when parked remained slightly airborne as if that were their natural state, and yet they seemed to be some type of creature at the same time. There were wonders everywhere we looked.

We were led into a huge dome that appeared to be about 40 feet in circumference. On the inside, the wonderful aromas of many delectable dishes wafted to my nose as we were escorted to a table and seated at the guest of honor location. I wasn’t exactly sure how many servers there were, but to me it appeared there were several dozen all competing to see who could appease the most the fastest.

A large mountain of muscles appeared at the head of the main table. All became silent as he poured an amber liquid from a ceramic bottle into a neatly twisted glass. He raised the glass and said loudly, “To our new friends. My their trip bring them true enlightenment.”

A large cheer went up as we became the celebrities of the gathering.

Dr. Oidua asked, “How did your peoples manage to produce the first instruments? Even for us, the very concept is unknown.”

One of the young women replied, “That’s a very good question. I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you.”

Gerald, the physics graduate student, who was also a sci-fi fan, spoke up, “Oh, right … I suppose some creature from space appeared and taught you ... right?”

A round of laughter went up from the large gathering.

When all had settled down. The young woman said, “Not from space, no. What we did was listen to the sounds of the whale song. Our ancestors of long ago discovered that we could manipulate the world around us by changing frequencies and lengths and bore hole diameters. By adding certain metals, we could create portals. We started exploring.”

“But you make the didgeridoos out of whale bones …” said one of the musicians.

“Yes, but you’re worried that we kill them,” said Allira. “No, we only harvest them from the carcasses of whales that die by other means. They do die, due to predators, disease, or old age. They beach themselves, or they die in shallow water, or they die over deep water and sink to the bottom.”

“Whale-fall communities,” said Dr. Hale, the marine biologist. “Organisms will appear there and form a mini ecosystem that can last for decades.”

“Just so,” said the large man who had given the toast. “We do not need many bones, so we just find a whale skeleton, take what we need, and leave the rest for nature to take care of.”

“So, this is Oceana?” I asked. “This city?”

“This world,” corrected Allira. “The name you hear is how you would translate it, in your language – the world is full of oceans, greater even than those of Earth.”

“Is this world in the same universe as Earth,” asked Gerald, “or in some other continuum?”

“We have no way of knowing,” said Laramie. “Perhaps you can look at our astronomical observations and compare them.”

I couldn’t help waiting for the other shoe to drop. This place couldn’t be a utopia … could it? But there was no such thing as a perfect world. “If I may ask … who rules this place?”

“There are several city-states,” Allira replied. “They are scattered across this planet, which is mostly ocean, with many but small land masses. Each is ruled by its council of elders, which are the dozen or so eldest residents who aren’t retired. Live long enough and you’ll be on the council; those are just the ways. This city’s elders are all over there.” She pointed at a table, where a group of distinguished older men and women were dining, listening to the conversation with interest but staying out of it. “Well, all except for Mangana. He doesn’t like gatherings.”

“I’m sorry, I …” I began, uncertain how to phrase my question. “I just wonder why it is that we found you. Why here? Why now? Was there some reason for it? Was it somehow … necessary?”

I was actually answered by the kind words of Dr. Geoffrey. “Cathy,” he said, “Is it so hard to imagine that you and Cindy are just amazingly insightful and talented?”

I didn’t know what to say. My worries about this place, about our finding it in our lifetime, about it seeming so coincidental … could they all just be a form of self-doubt? It was true that I didn’t feel worthy of the honors that had been bestowed on me – Cindy was brilliant, but what had I done, really? But was it possible that I was just as talented as Cindy? I didn’t feel as if that were true.

“I just … if we hadn’t come along and looked in the basement, or if we’d opened some other crate, things might have gone completely differently,” I said.

“Well, we are glad you opened that crate,” said Allira. “It led you to us, and now we have met new friends.”

“But … what happens now?” I asked.

“Now,” said one of the elders, standing up with the help of her intricately decorated walking stick, “I’m afraid we’re going to have to lay down the law, as they say.” I was worried, but she went on, “We’ve already got rules about contact with other worlds – we’ve visited hundreds of them. We’re fine with hosting guests – just don’t come visiting so often that it becomes burdensome, and we’ll do the same. We’ll find someone young and spry enough to go make diplomatic contact with your government, but we won’t be showing you how to make new and more powerful weapons or any such thing. And we don’t have resources your world’s greedy corporations can exploit – yes, we know about those; every civilization we’ve encountered has them. What we will share is our culture. We want to teach you how to make the instruments; they go by many names. And how to play them properly. You haven’t heard a concert yet. You will.”

“I would love to!” I was the first to say. “I’m not interested in exploiting anything. I really am just here to learn, and that’s probably the case for everyone else here too. We’re all either academics or musicians, some both.”

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It was a huge and wonderful block-like party. There were plenty of exotic foods the likes of which none of us had ever seen. Tasting them was like heaven as the exotic flavors were extremely pleasant. There were many types of drinks made from the indigenous fruits and plants. We were warned about the fire peppers, as they were so hot that just touching them would blister your skin, not to mention what a large bite of one would do to the insides of your mouth and throat. But one of the musicians took that as a challenge and was left coughing with tears running down his face – he gave a thumbs up, though.

There were many plays and speeches intermingled with introductions. We were shown about the large domed community and were totally amazed at the complexity and seriously advanced technology Oceana had created for itself. The several large floating cities in the sky were proof enough of it.

We were finally led by the huge mountain of meat Laramie Baumgartner into a large dome. In the very center was a stone pool that looked for the world as if it were naturally carved into the huge marble block that held it. Within the bowl’s depression were hundreds of gallons of crystal clear water.

In semi-circular arrangements on either side of the pool were large four-tiered platforms. They were made in such a way that musicians could sit comfortably with large instruments of one sort or another. While we sat in our prearranged spots, we saw 24 individuals enter and take specific places on the tiered platforms. The larger and more bass didgeridoos were arranged on the outer sides of one platform, whereas on the other platform the musicians were arranged with the more bass didgeridoos to the inner side.

A young woman dressed in a gossamer sarong that looked like seafoam came to the center of the pool on a platform that covered it. She raised her arms and said in a loud musical voice, “Tonight we welcome guests from a far place. In honor of their long travels, we will reenact the Arrival Song.” As she walked back to the edge of the pool, the platform seemed to dissolve away to nothing.

At the end of the pool on one side that didn't have the raised tiers, a middle-aged man came to a position, raised his hand, and pointed to one of the musicians who immediately stood and began to play. The music was so eerie and strange as it reverberated through my soul. I could swear, for the life of me, I heard the lonely call of a whale.

Then, exactly on the other side, another musician stood, only his didgeridoo was one of the larger and more bass toned. He began to play. For the world it sounded like another whale returning the call. Over the course of the rendition, it sounded like one whale had gotten lost and called out. The larger pod responded. The remainder of the piece was them locating each other using their song. It was truly almost a religious experience as the tones vibrated through me and lifted my awarenesses to new levels.

The conductor turned and bowed. He said humbly, “I must apologize for that piece. It is incomplete. One of the individuals we had to play that part passed away, and that part is now lost. His son was only two at the time and didn’t have the knowledge passed down to him.”

“That’s such a tragedy!” I said. “I’m sorry for the loss to your culture that must pose! So nobody knows how the part should sound?”

“Fortunately, it isn’t lost forever, Miss Cathy,” said the conductor. “Or Dr. Cruxton, if you prefer. The part is recorded on both sonic orb and written notation, so others can learn it. But although there are students learning the part right now, they’ve only just started. None of them has yet mastered it.”

“I – I can help you!” I stammered out, standing up. Perhaps it was motivated by my illogical but very real feelings of inadequacy or insufficient contribution, but I really wanted to help. “Or – I want to try. I have been trying very hard to learn to play and have been improving constantly!”

“If you are sure,” said the conductor, “I can introduce you to one of our best instructors later. Her students have become some of our best players. Both of the players now on stage were her students once, before graduation.”

“Are you sure, Cathy?” whispered Cindy, next to me. “It might be a lot of work.”

“I … yes, I’m sure,” I whispered back. Then I said aloud, “Yes, I’m sure! I hope that by contributing in this way, I can help to bridge the cultures of our two worlds in the interest of mutual exchange and understanding!”

The conductor nodded. “Then meet me after the ceremony,” he said. “I will introduce you.”

There was more mingling then. Dr. Oidua wanted to learn more about these “sonic orbs,” Dr. Geoffrey wanted to learn more about their musical notation, Cindy wanted to learn more about their history, and I … I met the conductor, Daku, who then introduced me to the teacher he mentioned, whose name was Yindi. Yindi looked at me as if sizing me up; she was about the same height as I was, but somehow I felt like I was suddenly under a microscope.

“You … need direction,” she said. “I do not give you direction. But if you choose my direction, I will take you there.”

“I do!” I said. “I want to learn. I want to become better. I’ll work hard!”

“Either you will, or you won’t learn,” she said. “I’ll take this one on. But you will practice every day, both with and without me.”

“Oh, thank you!” I said. I paused. Both this new instructor and I were female, and I’d heard things. “I have a question. They say that in our world, in the old days, only men were allowed to play the didgeridoo.”

“Ha! Men are … sensitive,” said Yindi. “They go into a special room, and they say it is a room for men, and no women are allowed, because it is sacred. But the room was not sacred before, and when they leave it, it is not sacred anymore. I believe in the sacred. But I do not believe that the room is sacred. A room is a thing. It is what you do that is sacred. Didgeridoos are things. Men have sacred music they play, music that is not taught to women. But so do women, and men do not learn those songs.”

“So … do you think that whoever said that only men played the didgeridoo was wrong?” I asked.

“I think they heard it from a man,” Yindi said. “And they didn’t understand. Come with me. You have an instrument?”

“One was given to me,” I replied as we walked. “It is in the pavilion, along with the others.”

“Yes,” said Yindi. “You found 12. They are old, but they were made right, although two were damaged – there was a shipwreck, wasn’t there? We sent two to replace them. I chose them. We will get yours. It will be your companion. It will be your friend. You will work together. Learn together.”

“The instrument … learns?” I asked as we walked toward the pavilion.

“Yes. It changes, gets used to you. Over time, it becomes different from all others, and not just to you. One can tell when an instrument is not yours.”

We came to the pavilion, where the twelve didgeridoos we had played to open the portal were displayed in their cases, as were the two damaged ones, the ones that Cindy and I had played at first. Yindi went right to the new one that I had played. “Yes. I know its maker. We can meet him, if you like.”

“I’d love to!”

“We will, then. Play it for me now,” she said. “Show me your technique. Then I will know what to teach you.”

So I picked it up and played, playing my part of the portal song from memory. Many people think the didgeridoo plays only one note. That’s not true; they have a range, as well as a lot of tonal variation that is very difficult to write down. I was certain that the Oceana people had a way to write it down, though.

“Yes,” she said, “I have much to teach you, but you have learned much too. Breathing … needs improvement, but good. Pitch control, very good. If it were not, the portal would not have opened, and you would not be standing here now. I have little to teach you in that area. Tonal control, needs work, but you show promise. But … you need to learn more than one song.”

“We only had one song,” I said.

“That is a problem that is fun to solve,” said Yindi. “I will find a place for you to stay. You will live here and practice every day until you are ready to play your part in the Song of Arrival.”

“I can …?”

“Your instrument is the same range as the part that is needed,” said Yindi. “Perhaps it is destiny that a woman from another world will play it.”

“What about the other students learning it?” I asked.

“There should be more than one,” she replied. “It was not good that it came down to just one player who knew it. Some disagree, but there need to be alternates. Just in case something like that happens. So, go to your people, tell them that you will be here for a time, and tell them not to worry, because when you return, you will be a proper musician.”

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Several months had passed, and true to the promise, I had my hind end worked off. One huge thing that became obvious quickly was that I had become extremely attuned to my instrument, and strangely, it seemed to attune to me the more I played it.

One morning just as sunrise painted the sky with this world’s version of a beautiful first light, Yindi came into the practice area and said to me brightly, “Well, good morning. I am most gratified to find my very best student practicing.”

I laughed, “And tell me, won’t you, just where else would I be?”

Yindi’s expression and tone changed. It became very professional, “Come with me. Ask no questions, for time and tide await no one.”

Yindi took hold of my free arm and pulled me rapidly along with her. I still had my didgeridoo held firmly in my other hand. By the time we had gotten out the dome’s door, I knew where we were going. We followed the trail, it was beautifully arrayed. Flowers of many types grew on specially engineered vines to make this all possible.

We walked through the large tunnel and came out the other side just as the sun peaked the horizon and turned the sky into a blaze of orange glory. Yindi put her index finger to her lips. Then pointed to her ear. I listened. It was so … heavenly when I heard the whale call echoing across the waters. I shivered with each wave of the wonderful and distant sound.

Yindi turned and looked at me with a very strange expression, “And we strive for the cosmic harmony that allows us to walk the heavens.” She waved her arm in a slow arch over the top of her head. I could have sworn there was a tinkling shower of light as she did it. “It is through song from these magnificent creatures that such things are. For as it once was, so it is. What is shall once again be.”

I couldn’t seem to help myself. Each mystical tone of the far distant pod of whales instilled a deeper need and longing I couldn't hope to explain.

Yindi said in an encouraging whisper, “Go, my child. It is you who have been called and chosen. Step to the crown and sound the long sought return call.”

It was as if something within me knew this was exactly where I was meant to be. I walked boldly up to where a crown of gold sat as a cradle for the end of a didgeridoo. Like a dream of some kind, I placed the end of my instrument into the crown and made sure my embouchure was proper, inhaled … my soul suddenly was wandering free. Magical tones washed me, purged me, opened my eyes to a celestial beauty beyond what I fantasized reality was.

My mind cleared somewhat for a moment. I could see Yindi standing with a more than awestruck look of astonishment. I didn’t have time to contemplate anything. A much clearer call came washing in. All I remembered was taking a deep breath, setting my embouchure, and starting to blow. I have no idea where it was I went, or who it was I talked with. What I do know is that when I returned, Yindi was having some kind of fit over my accomplishing correctly something no one had been able to do in many years.

“You have done it,” she said to me with great excitement in her voice. “You have been called, chosen, and accepted, and you have played the Call of Return.”

“I … that was profound,” I said. “I don’t know what just happened, but I feel as if I’m not the same anymore.”

“I believe this is why you were called, why you found the expedition’s crate, why you were driven to come here,” said Yindi. “You are the first in generations to be summoned for this duty.”

“I … went somewhere,” I said. “I spoke to someone.”

“The Muse,” Yindi said. “The Muse guides all musicians. They connect us all. Throughout all of time and space, all music is one. The Ocean Singers. Humans. Those of other races. All.”

“The … you mean, the whales?” I asked.

“They travel the oceans of all worlds,” replied Yindi. “The Ocean Singers. There are those among them who do not need the gateways. And now … you have been accepted into that group as well.”

“I … what? Don’t need gateways?”

“You need the Muse Tone,” said Yindi, “but that is all you need. You discovered the Muse Tone of this place. I have taught you the Muse Tones of your home and all the worlds we know. Now it is your turn to learn new Muse Tones of new worlds.”

“Can’t you already travel to other worlds?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “but we need an ensemble of 12 to 24 players. And we must have the full score to create the tone. You are among the few who can find new ones. It is your responsibility to find them and bring them back, and write them for future generations to learn.”

“You mean … I can travel to other worlds that no one has been to before?” I asked in awe.

“You can, because you have been accepted by the Muse. Many among the Ocean Singers can do this. But few humans can. The last one died many years ago. You are the first in generations.”

“Not even you can do it?” I asked. “I can’t believe that. You’re so much better … and wiser.”

“It is not about skill at playing,” replied Yindi. “One must be able to play, of course. But no one but the Muse knows why some are chosen and some are not.”

“So … what do I do now?” I asked, still in awe.

“Today? You practice more,” she said. “Your lesson will be at the usual time. Tomorrow … is another story.”

I smiled. “I will be there,” I said.

I returned to the practice area and held the Muse Tone for this world for as long as I could. It felt as if I were extra-present in the place. It wasn’t until later that I realized that many eyes were upon me as I practiced.

When I stopped and realized this, I looked around. “W-what is it?” I asked them. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong,” said one of the passersby who had stopped to listen. “It was just … beautiful. You can play the Tone for this place by yourself. Were you … chosen?” When I replied yes, he said, “No one who has been chosen has ever used the Tone to stay in one place before. Something felt special. As if you were somehow making here more … here.”

“It just felt … right,” I said. “Like what I should do.” I resolved to ask Yindi about this later.

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I was sitting with Cindy in the practice area. I said to her more as a joke than anything serious, “Hey there girlfriend. How about you and me take a quick jaunt over to meet the Master Muse? I think he would be interested in my proposal.”

Cindy asked, “And just what kind of proposal would you have for a being you have barely spoken to?”

I stood, picking up Cindy’s and my didgeridoos and handing hers to her before taking her by the arm and pulling her along to the dome’s trail leading to the Dawning Platform.

I replied, “I’m not exactly sure, but I know someone who will be completely interested shortly.”

We had reached the end of the tunnel right on time as the sun peaked the horizon and painted the sky with this world’s version of a beautiful sunrise. I stopped and did the very same thing Yindi had done to me by putting my index finger first to my lips, then tapping my ear. Cindy caught on immediately, her many questions died unuttered in her throat.

Strongly, the sounds and bass groanings of the eerie and mystical whale song were heard echoing across the waters. I walked to the platform and placed the end of my didgeridoo in the golden crown, inhaled, set my embouchure … and suddenly Cindy and myself were in another place beyond our imaginations.

Sitting on a very large throne-like chair with many precious looking stones embellishing it was what appeared to be a man wearing a jet black hooded robe. He sat up and threw back the hood as he said jovially, “Welcome. It is always good to have a master player and an acolyte come visit. How might I be of service?”

We looked at each other with surprised expressions.

Cindy asked, “Who’s a master player?”

I asked, “Yea, and who’s the acolyte?”

The man laughed jovially and pointed at me, “Why, you’re the master player, being the one who can play the muse tone all by yourself.” He pointed at Cindy, “And you are the acolyte, along to learn and play the keys of a master.”

We found ourselves comfortably seated. Our instruments were properly in front of us with the bell in its holder cup.

The man held a didgeridoo like we had never seen. He said, “Do your very best to imitate what I’m doing. Don’t think about it. Too much mind results in not enough do. Ready? Set …”

He began to play. The tones were absolutely magical. I did my very best to follow along and Cindy struggled along behind, although both of us got better by leaps and bounds as we tried to recreate his tones.

Without warning, our 3 tones matched. It was electric and sparks of ethereal energy flew everywhere. It was like being in the center of a very bright white light bulb. There was no heat, and the tonal vibrations washing through me were intensely pleasant.

We went many places and met many beings. All of them were very impressed with Cindy and myself. We were the first humans to reproduce the tones in the proper way and alone without the need of 22 others in support for many thousands of years.

Cindy and I sat up in bed and looked at each other wide-eyed. Cindy gasped, “Was all that a dream?”

I slowly shook my head no. I pulled back the curtain covering the window, and we looked out upon a crystalline blue desert with red trees under an orange sky with three suns. “Nope …”

Cindy said, “I … think there are probably several Earth governments who are going to want to talk to us both.”

“If they can find us,” I said.

“I’m serious,” replied Cindy. “Word will get to them. They will want to know what’s out there. They’ve certainly already heard of Oceana. Papers have been published over the last few months. What are they gonna say when they find out there are dozens more worlds?”

“By my calculations,” I said, “there are 6,362,257. And those are just the ones that have atmospheres we can breathe and intelligent life forms.”

“The didgeridoos would work differently in atmospheres that were too different,” said Cindy.

“Oh!” I replied. “You’re right. 6,101,989. There are some whose atmospheres are technically breathable but are too different to get back if we go there. Can’t play the Muse Tone, or there isn’t enough water.”

“True,” said Cindy. “The whales can’t get to the worlds where there isn’t enough water. So we probably can’t either.”

“Anyway, the world’s governments are going to have to get used to the fact that there are lots of worlds,” I said. “It’s just a fact. They can’t change it. We’re now the little fish, and our pond is very big.”

Cindy remarked, “Good thing it isn’t like Half Life. No dimension-spanning empire conquering more dimensions and using the power from those to conquer even more. Oceana’s history suggests that there was once one world that tried that, then … I don’t know. Nobody ever heard from them again.”

I said, “That’s right, you’ve been studying Oceana’s history. How do all these worlds get along? How much do they talk to each other?”

“Not very much,” replied Cindy. “There isn’t a lot of incentive to travel. Nobody’s got tons of gold or diamonds or whatever – if it’s rare in one world, it’s pretty much rare in all of them. But there’s sort of a council – every world has a representative, and when there’s a need for a discussion, there’s a big meeting.”

“Well, I’m glad they don’t just have meetings all the time, even when there’s nothing to talk about,” I said. “Those are the worst.”

“Yeah,” said Cindy. “But if there is something to talk about, the meeting couldn’t have been an email or a text – you can’t do that between worlds. Messages have to be carried by couriers. And there have to be ways to overcome language barriers – they’ve got some kind of psychic something on Oceana so they can talk to us. By the way … where are we?”

“We’re in a world the inhabitants call Djandra,” I said. “I talked to some of them. They’ve got some kind of crystals that can translate or something. Anyway, we’re only here because we got tired while exploring. I guess you fell asleep first and woke up last. They offered to let us rest here in this unused room. We can go when we want.”

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Cindy and I explored the magnificent city. We both were totally amazed at the many walkways and pass-throughs. Each one had some form of flowering flora tailored to make these arch and tunnel places. They smelled truly nice too.

We came from one abor tunnel onto a precipice that looked so familiar. Above the quiet whisper of the water lapping at the sandy beach below, the mysterious and magnificent sound of whale song drifted to our ears.

A young man who was doting over a young woman entered the precipice and went to the rail overlooking the beach far below.

I asked, “What brings the two of you here this time of the morning?”

The girl giggled and replied, “Hextor has proposed to me. I accepted. We have come to hear the whale song wedding march to make our wedding official.”

Cindy and I stood mesmerized as the whale song came though in its mysterious way. The young man and woman PDAed all the way while it was going on. I had to say, there was no other wedding march I had ever heard that sounded so heavenly.

When their private ceremony appeared to be over, we congratulated them, and decided it was time for us to be on our way. We had our instruments, and we placed their bells on divots on the railing since there was no other place to put them, and together we played to the whales. I played the Oceana Muse Tone, knowing that the harmonics would draw Cindy into resonance. Experience warped around us, and we were back at the Dawning Platform.

As we returned to the practice area, we heard a voice calling out, “Dr. Cruxton! Dr. Crenshaw!” It was Dr. Geoffrey. “We’re being ordered to return. There are Congressional hearings, and they want us at them.”

“What happens if we don’t come?” whispered Cindy to me.

“Nothing, but we probably can’t go home without being arrested,” I whispered back. “Might as well stay out of trouble by finding out what they want. But I say we bypass them.”

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Our arrival back at the sound lab pool was met by a large crowd of people. The roar of voices all talking at the same time along with the acoustics of the domed pool house, made it virtually impossible to understand anything anybody said.

Suddenly, I found Cindy and myself in the focal location of several sets of spotlights. The many voices go silent as I see a large mobile video crew approaching with their mobil carts and other equipment.

A well dressed young woman came up to us and proffed a mic, “Welcome back home. I must say, to actually get to talk to the two individuals who actually discovered this unique quirk in frequencies and nano-molecular physics is a geat honor.” The woman turned to me and said, “My name is Justeen Haroweitz. I’m with WOKE TV in Miami Beach and would like to ask a few questions before those jerks in the zoot suits get here.”

I raised my eyebrows, “Why would someone be sending anyone after us? We haven’t done anything.”

Justeen laughed, “Haven’t done anything,” she says. “Right. First off you showed how a simple device can create a gateway to another place. All the world took notice the day you and your musical support team vanished into a pool of crystal clear water. As for second, who would send someone? Well, let us just say you have opened the eyes of the world and the world wants to talk with you. The zoot suits are NATO and Homeland Security troopers. They want to insure no harm comes to you and that you arrive at the council chambers on time and unmolested.”

Cindy said with a bit of indignation apparent in her tone, “Oh, so now we are some kind of suspect or a national emergency waiting to happen.”

Justeen looked at Cindy and replied, “Exactly. You have done something the world has deemed a major threat to our continued well being, sovereignty, and perhaps continuing as a civilized world.”

I felt a tad of anger rise slowly in me. It didn’t matter, at that moment was when a large contingent of troopers showed up. Like a well oiled precision machine, they moved through the crowd and had them separated and us isolated in less time than it took to tell of it.

A rather muscular man in a well tailored mess dress uniform with many medals pinned on both sides came to us and formally bowed, “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is General Sunderlund. I’m in charge of NATO Security and protection of their personnel. You two have been identified as resources that must be protected at all costs until they question you and determine exactly what it is you have accomplished. Now, I know it’s a bit of imposition, but if you would please come with me and kindly walk this way.”

It was quickly noted we weren’t actually being asked nor given a choice to follow as a small contingent of uniformed and armed troopers surrounded us and escorted us after the general. We heard the loud over lapping voices as they speculated and invented.

As we were escorted out to an awaiting limousine, I said angrily, “Kidnapping is illegal. No matter which way you look at it.”

We were helped into the limo. The general sat across from me as he opened an envelope he had been carrying and handed its contents to me. My mouth fell open. It was an arrest warrant for me and Cindy. I couldn’t believe this. They were saying we had committed some type of treason.

“Now before you overreact, ladies,” General Sunderland said, “these warrants haven’t actually been filed. This is just to let you know what could happen.”

“If we don’t cooperate,” I said, frowning. “So what do you want from us?”

Calmly enough that we could almost – not quite – forget about the threat he’d made, he said, “Let me just tell you what’s been going on – on Earth – since you’ve been away.” He pressed a button next to him and a screen lit up, folding down from the roof of the limo.

“There were first the crackpot news blogs and crazy conspiracy vloggers,” he said as screenshots of these appeared. They had titles like “VERIFIABLE PROOF OF ALIEN ABDUCTION” and “UNIVERSITY SCIENCE TEAM VANISHES IN BROAD DAYLIGHT.”

“Of course, nobody believed them at first, but then the real press got involved.” The screen showed legitimate news stories about our project and how we’d gone missing – I mean, we’d published papers and talked to countless scientists who’d talked to others, so it’s not as if what we’d been doing was unknown. “And then there was law enforcement – after all, some of the folks involved didn’t leave behind any kind of note explaining where they’d gone or where they’d be back, and it’s not like anybody could follow you or do surveillance. You’d all vanished from the face of the earth. So you were missing persons.”

“With all that publicity, the news spread around the world,” the general went on, and the screen showed story after story about our research, once it had been digested enough for laypeople to understand it. “That’s right, a gateway had opened to another dimension.”

“It’s not exactly –” I began.

“Is what people were saying,” the general interrupted. “Where would this gateway open again? Who would disappear next? Would it be the President? The Prime Minister? The Royal Family? Would it be … you?” He paused. “Not you, as in you two – I mean, people were afraid the world over that they’d be next. There was very literally worldwide panic. In every nation they had police and military patrolling everywhere in search of portals opening in any body of water bigger than a kiddie pool.”

Cindy broke in and said, “But that can’t happen.”

“When there’s a mass panic, what’s real doesn’t matter,” said the general. “All that matters is what people are afraid of. You can’t just explain that fear away.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to cause worldwide panic, obviously. We’d just made the scientific breakthrough of … well, possibly all time. Hmm, maybe the atomic bomb might have been bigger, now that I think of it.”

“Well, the fact that you have to put a ‘maybe’ there means that you’re not wrong,” said the general. “Folks were scared, all over the world. The good thing was, nothing happened. Sure, there were some scares where somebody claimed a portal had opened or somebody had disappeared, but they were all hoaxes or mistakes. The panic was gone in a couple of weeks. But then there was what happened next.”

The screen showed news reports about the world’s military organizations on high alert for invasion from other dimensions. “This didn’t go away as fast. At all, really. It’s still happening. Every nation in the world is still on the edge of its seat. If a portal can open to another world, who’s to say it’s a world with peaceful people? What if somebody figured out how to open another portal, and instead of being people who just want cultural contact, they’re conquerors?”

Cindy said quietly, “Thats … not impossible.”

“We know,” said the general. “There’s no reason at all why it can’t happen. Except for the fact that, in all of recorded human history, it hasn’t. But does that mean we’ve just gotten lucky?”

Suddenly I broke in. “I’ve got some things to explain, things I’ve learned, really important things, but I don’t know who to explain them to,” I said. “What this all is, what’s behind it, why we shouldn’t be afraid. Is that what you want?”

“That’s where I’m taking you,” he said. “You’re going to a NATO meeting. The NATO nations want to know what they’re facing and what they’re going to have to defend their allies against if everything goes transdimensionaly pear-shaped.”

“All right,” I said. “We just need an audience, and we need to have these.” I pointed at the didgeridoos that Cindy and I still had with us. “Take them away, and it’s going to be a lot harder for us to prove anything.”

“I’m not takin’ those away,” said the general. “Those things are the only weapons this world has if we’re attacked from another … world, realm, whatever. And you two’re about the only people who know how to use ‘em. You are valuable assets, and we can’t let you out of our sight.”

“Very well,” I said. “I guess we keep driving.”

We were packed onto a diplomatic jet and flown somewhere overseas. They had terrible snacks and no movies. But Cindy and I talked. To make sure nobody was overhearing us, we talked in Seasonish, the language of Oceana, which we’d learned enough of in our months away. We made a plan.

And when the plane hit a bit of turbulence, we both played our didgeridoos and were gone.

We stepped out of the Pool of Welcome in Oceana, having only gotten our toes wet. Several of the people of Oceana blinked at our sudden appearance, startled. “We’ll explain later,” I said. We turned around, played again, and vanished again.

We stepped out of the fountain by the UN Secretariat Building in New York City. We walked inside – the lobby is open to the public during business hours – and walked up to the information desk. “Can I … help you?” asked a woman in a jaunty outfit with a nametag.

“Well, I’m Dr. Cathy Cruxton, and this is Dr. Cindy Krenshaw,” I said, “and we were wondering whether we could see somebody in charge, if it’s not too much of a problem?”

“W-w-wait, you’re … really …” She looked something up on her phone, then looked very agitated. “Oh. Um … just a moment please.”

Various conversations with international bureaucrats later, we were in an office with the U.N. Secretary-General. “You have made quite a splash,” he said in accented English, “in more ways than one.”

“Sir, we apologize for the worldwide panic we caused,” I said.

“But did you cause it?” he asked. “No one denies that there was a panic, or that there is worldwide military tension, but it took millions upon millions all over the world to cause it – without them, there would be no panic either. No, placing blame will get us nowhere. I think you will agree that the best thing to do would be to defuse the tension.”

“Yes, exactly,” said Cindy. “We have to tell the world our story.”

“In person,” I added. “Not through filters.”

“I can do something about that,” he said. “As Secretary-General, I’m basically just a big diplomat, but one thing I’m good at … is calling meetings. With you two on the agenda … I think this will be the first time in a long while that the UN General Assembly gets prime-time news coverage.”

“There’s one matter,” I said. “We, um, might have been kidnapped by this NATO general and vanished off his plane.”

“You mean General Sunderland? Yes, I’ve heard about that. How did you do it? I thought it took a dozen playing at once to open a portal.”

“We’ve learned a few things since then,” said Cindy. “It just takes one, if you’ve learned what we’ve learned, and it doesn’t require much water, either.”

“Sunderland was just taking you to a NATO meeting,” said the Secretary-General. “Why didn’t you stay with him? I mean, if I’d been in your place, I probably wouldn’t have either.”

“We want the world to know what we know,” I said. “Not just NATO.”

“If the world knows,” said Cindy, “maybe everyone will stop wanting to capture and control us.”

“Can you tell me what you want to tell the world?” he asked.

So we did.

He blinked. “You’re right. The world needs to hear this. They’re wrong about a great many things. You’re neither weapons nor defenses, and it’s not invasion we have to worry about.”

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We had a bit of time on our hands while the bureaucrats rearranged their schedules. They now knew that taking us by force to a location we didn’t want to go would result in our just vanishing again. So, to occupy our time, Cindy and I had gotten some history documents from the archives at the welcome station on Oceana.

I came across a whole very large volume about an island named Lemuria. I raised an eyebrow when it described where the island used to sit just beyond the pillars of Hercules. OMG! This entire text was about a super-advanced island city that I knew through legends and Plato as the city of Atlantis.

The more I read, the more I understood what happened.The Atlanteans ... or Lemurians, as they were called here, had become very arrogant and warlike due to their super-advanced technological state. They were the ones who had used these frequencies in an act of war. They had threated to use their mighty magical powers to eradicate an entire section of the ancient Greek islands if they didn't immediately subjugate themselves before the Lemurians’ mighty prelate with the freshly-severed head of their king on a platter of gold.

Of course, the Greeks, having just beaten the pants off the mighty Persians with only 300 men, weren’t taking any of the Lemurians’ foolishness seriously.

Many watched, from whatever vantage point they could find, as the Lemurians arrived at a certain location just off the coast near the port of Hercules, which was a very busy, bustling port and city at the time.

A large platform was towed into position and anchored. Then, for those who could see or were rich enough to afford one of those newfangled spyglasses, they watched as 48 individuals all took their places in the ring of seats that surrounded an open place in the middle of the platform. No one had ever seen the horns they all brought to their lips, nor had any ever heard the strange, soul tingling, mystifying tones that came from them and filled all the area with something akin to a high-level static charge.

The ocean began to froth as ever larger waves began arising. Not a storm cloud in the sky nor a breeze to be felt, yet it was like a huge hurricane erupted. Like a nuclear bomb going off, the ocean arose to towering heights and massive bolts of fire dropped everywhere. A 200 foot tidal wave slammed into the shore, and Herculana was no more. Neither was the platform, nor those who were playing those strange horns. Only debris and large quantities of seafoam remained. The place where Herculana had stood was wiped to white sand, and nothing remained of the once-powerful city.

Plato described the end of Atlantis in this manner, The G_Ds had become angry at them and when one of their secrets for peace and love had been misused, in a day and night of misfortune, Atlantis sank beneath the waves and was never heard of again. All that remained were a few sand bars that were hazards to navigation for sailors.

Cindy said with a touch of awe in her voice, “So, I’ve discovered that many of our ancient legends and myths have a solid foundation in truth.”

I replied as I turned the page, “After many centuries of retelling the tale, it usually does get embellished a bit. I had no idea this one didn’t tell near what the actual truth of Atlantis was.”

The door opened and a well tailored young diplomatic officer stood at attention and said in a pleasant tone, “If you ladies will please follow me.”

Cindy and I followed. He led us down many artfully decorated halls with thick carpets and many pictures and other artifacts from many lands and eras, all loaned or donated to the United Nations by member countries so they could display their culture to the world with pride.

He brought us to two huge doors that had several armed guards. As soon as we approached, they opened the doors. I almost wet my panties as I looked around and saw hundreds of the world’s leaders, along with many of the world’s leading news organizations, awaiting us and what we had to say.

There was a buzz of conversation as we entered, but the Secretary-General tapped his gavel and said, “Please, please, quiet. These two need no introduction, but I have to do it anyway because it’s the rules. The next item on the agenda is a speech by Drs. Cathy Cruxton and Cindy Krenshaw of Upper Poorland College – who have opened up a new frontier of exploration, cultural exchange, and discovery. In addition, we welcome Allira, recognized special envoy from Oceana.” We were happy to see Allira and smiled at her. We knew the Council of Elders was planning to send an envoy, but we didn’t know who it would be.

“Allira, I’m so happy to see you!” I whispered to her.

“And I you,” she replied, also in a whisper, while the Secretary-General was still going over things that we already knew. “I’m told that you have learned things – things that no one has known for generations. It will be interesting to hear what you have to tell the nations of your world.”

“And now, without any more of my nonsense,” said the Secretary-General, “Dr. Cathy Cruxton will get us started.”

They had given me a clip-on microphone, and I turned it on. “Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,” I said, looking up at the rows of dignitaries sitting in tiered rows in a circle all around us, “you are probably aware that we disappeared for a while, leading to a lot of speculation that turned into worldwide panic. We are very sorry for this. We went to another world, Oceana, where we didn’t know what was going on back home.”

“Before I do anything else, I would like to demonstrate what we have discovered,” I went on. There was a small tub of water near us, placed there at our request. “To get straight to the point, we need an instrument with which we are well-practiced, a special musical tone that we have learned, and a destination with a body of water larger than we are.” I held up my didgeridoo and played the Muse Tone for a world called Henrue, I vanished.

I waved to the Henruvians who happened to be passing by their Well of Reunion at the time, caught one of the drifting flower petals that were falling from the trees this season, then returned to Earth, appearing from the water back at the UN holding a pink flower petal the size of a dinner plate. Henrue was beautiful this season, but if you didn’t watch out you’d get repeatedly smacked in the face by wind-blown flower petals.

“Oh, beautiful,” said Allira. “Henruvian, I believe?” I grinned and nodded. The audience was gasping at my disappearance and sudden return.

“I traveled to another world named Henrue and obtained this flower petal,” I said. “Now, some will probably claim this is a trick or illusion, but I offer this flower petal to any scientist anywhere who would like to examine it and tell us whether it is from any species of plant in this world.” I set it down on a desk nearby as a wave of murmuring went through the crowd.

“What I want to tell you is this,” I said. “Ordinarily a group of at least a dozen people is required to open a portal. It requires at least a small body of water, and they must all know the proper notes to play at once. Special instruments are required, tuned to precise frequencies. Without all of this, no portal can be opened. Period. We two have undergone intensive training under a grand master, who has taught us how to do this by ourselves with only water at the destination, but we still require the destination’s special Muse Tone, which must be discovered or learned from someone who already knows it.”

“I say all this so all the world knows the limitations of this,” I said. “There are very few masters. Cindy and I are honored to be among them. Oceana has had no masters for generations. We can bring a few with us, but only those who are touching us at the moment.”

“And there are no invasions by this means,” I added. “The tale has fallen into legend on Earth, but the last time any civilization tried to invade any other via Muse Tone … it was the land called Lemuria, or the one the Greeks called Atlantis. It was destroyed. Why?”

“Because of the Ocean Singers,” I said. “We call them whales. They are not from Earth. They are also not from Oceana. I don’t know where they originated. But they visit us as they visit many worlds … and everyone who travels via Muse Tone does so only because they allow it.” I paused to let that sink in. “They do not allow invasions. Shortly after Atlantis tried it, there was no more Atlantis.”

There was dead silence in the chamber. Humans hunted whales for centuries, everyone knew. These were beings who traveled from world to world at will and had the power to destroy civilizations. Yes, Earth was lucky that they were very patient and tolerant. But apparently there was one thing that they would not tolerate.

“So please, don’t worry about invasion from another world. The armies of the world can stand down, at least from this threat. Anyone who tries to invade Earth, or anywhere else, from another world, will quickly be unable to invade anyone. Wherever they are, the oceans will claim them.” I paused. “Cindy, anything to add?”

Cindy spoke up. “I want you all to know that historically, Oceana has used the didgeridoo, and this is because the Aboriginals of Australia discovered the technique and traveled there in ancient times. But different worlds have used different instruments. And Cathy is amazing. I’ve seen her travel by whistling. Don’t think that you can become a traveler by stealing our magic didgeridoos. It’s practice, not the instrument, that does it. That’s all I have to say. Thank you for listening. I hope this has helped you understand the truth.”

“Yes, we’re going to keep on studying this and reporting what we find,” I said. “But that’s the summary for now. Meanwhile, I believe the UN has a new envoy.” I stood back and turned my microphone off.

“Indeed we do,” said the Secretary-General. “The Secretariat is pleased to welcome the special envoy from Oceana … the first envoy we have received from anywhere outside Earth. I must admit that I had dreams of one day welcoming an envoy from outer space, but instead, we welcome an envoy from … how does this all work, anyway? Another dimension? What is even the proper term? Perhaps the new envoy or our distinguished experts will enlighten us. In any case, welcome, Envoy Allira of Oceana.”

Allira stepped forward. “Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General,” she said. “Thank you, distinguished leaders of the nations of Earth. I have been sent here to offer cultural exchange. We have historical knowledge and techniques of art, music, and science that you may be interested in sharing, in exchange for learning the same about Earth. Our goal is for us all to grow, hand in hand, together. Oh, and we use the term ‘realms,’ loosely translated. I am not a scientist, but scientists on Oceana, as well as scientists on Earth such as Drs. Cruxton and Krenshaw, are studying the properties of the realms to learn how they work.”

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After all the heavy speeches, Cindy and I were standing next to a large table covered in historical documents and other data. I looked over and gave Cindy a small tap and pointed at Allira and the very handsome Secretary-General holding hands, and walking out on the terrace. Both had a drink in their hands.

Cindy leaned over and whispered in my ear with a giggle in her tone, “Seems to me Oceana has brought more than they expected.”

I nodded and whispered back, “It does look to me like they are more interested in something other than diplomatic relations.”

Cindy stood and pulled me to my feet, “I know it’s not really convenient, but we have the two people we want in the same place at the same time.”

“But .. Cindy …” I sputtered. She wouldn’t hear it as she pulled me across the ballroom to the terrace. When we arrived, the Secretary- General and Allira were standing very close and actually holding hands.

Allira noticed us, but she did not drop the Secretary-General’s hand nor step away as she said, “Come on over, Dr. Crenshaw and Dr. Cruxton, join us.” She turned slightly and indicated a small mobile bar. I could see the many drinks, the fridge to hold ice, and other chilled items.

I said, “Forgive us for interrupting … “

The Secretary replied, “Nonsense. There’s no need to apologize. It’s that I have never met someone as delightful as Allira and I wanted time in a place we could hold a normal conversation without having to yell.”

Cindy nodded. “I can understand that.” She pointed her thumb over her shoulder back into the very loud and noisy ballroom, “It would take a bomb going off or something to get over all that.”

We all laughed.

Allira asked, “Is there something you wanted to tell us?”

Cindy replied, “Yes, there’s a special place I would like to take you and the Secretary-General. I think it will be a truly unique experience.”

“By the way,” said the Secretary-General, “my name is Robert Williams. Glad to meet all of you. Where is this place and what’s it called?”

I answered, “A beautiful place called Djandra. Theres a mezzanine I want you to stand on … both of you.”

Allira gasped out, “You don’t mean the Whale …” she didn’t get to finish.

I had learned how to whistle very expertly, and how to make certain frequencies, even though they weren't the same tone. We vanished from the balcony on Earth and appeared in a very pretty and extremely quiet place. I walked to the balcony rail. At first, the only sound I heard was the quiet lapping of the ocean at the beach below.

Rob said, “Where are we … ?”

Cindy put her finger to her lips, then tapped an ear. Rob got the message and listened. Allira was all wide-eyed. Her expression was either extreme surprise or outright astonishment as she too kept whatever questions she might have had to herself.

Over the soothing whisper of the surf kissing the shore, the strange, mystical sound of whale song was heard. We looked at Allira and Rob. The two of them had the strangest faraway expressions for an instant, then slowly, began packing on PDAs.

I leaned over and whispered softly to Cindy as the music sent wonderfully tingly thrills all through my soul, “This is the balcony of the Whalesong Wedding March. I know it is presumptuous of me, but nothing would be better for Earth and Oceana than a mutual marriage. It has sealed more deals than anything else in history. Since the two of them had a very large spark of mutual attraction, this would seal the deal.”

“But … the Secretary-General of the UN?” asked Cindy.

“Could be anybody,” I said. “But they were obviously attracted to each other.”

“Does this mean they’re married now?” asked Cindy.

“I mean … here it does,” I said, “but I don’t know if it means that in Oceana, and it definitely doesn’t mean that back on Earth, since they’ve never heard of Djandra. If they really want, they could get married in both places.”

“Two weddings?” Cindy asked.

“How many worlds have we visited now?” I asked her. “And in how many of them do people like a good party?”

Cindy smiled. “All of them.”

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The UN has always been good at creating organizations, so it created a UN Commission on Muse Tone Destinations, to study the places on Earth that would be most acceptable for determining Muse Tones for. That work was ongoing, but once negotiations with various countries were complete, they’d be contacting me to work out the Muse Tone for making portals for various places on Earth for people on other worlds to come to. Meanwhile, the world’s militaries had stood down from their stance anticipating an invasion from other worlds. The only nations where there were still military patrols in all corners of the country were the ones where that was true before the scare.

Physicists like Dr. McDowel were working on how the musical gateways worked, and about whether the places reachable via Muse Tone were in our universe, other universes, or what. It was interesting that the only reachable places seemed to be on planets, not in outer space, and planets with life, at that. I knew the answer, of course, and I told them, but they just found something else to debate.

The answer was that they were worlds where the whales could go. There were worlds that had destroyed themselves with nuclear weapons or extreme climate change, or where their star had gone supernova – their Muse Tones now did nothing, since those worlds no longer had oceans, or possibly no longer existed at all.

The reason why music worked to open portals? It got the whales’ attention. That was all. None of this would work without them. The Ocean Singers were the bridge. There was no negotiation or discussion with them other than via music. I had learned to sing their song better than anyone else but the Master Muse, that’s all.

And the techniques that our musician friends had learned while making the portal had already spread like wildfire throughout the didgeridoo playing community. The only Muse Tone they knew was the one to Oceana, and to that one point in Oceana at that. Of course, not just any instrument could do it, without the advanced and very specific training that I had received and shared with Cindy.

It required specific instruments made and tuned a specific way, but it wouldn’t be long before there were people on Earth who knew how to make them. A massive geopolitical shift was coming. There would soon be musicians that no nation or corporation had any claim or control over, that no border could keep in or out. The US State Department was forming its own didgeridoo ensemble for diplomatic outreach, and other nations were doing the same – but even the tiniest country could do this.

Island countries such as Vanuatu and Tuvalu were forming ensembles in hopes of finding worlds where they could live and where their islands weren’t endangered by climate change. Likewise, vanishing ethnic minorities were forming groups in hopes of calling interplanetary attention to their cultures and languages.

Nations like China that were trying to abolish or assimilate the cultures of conquered minorities like Tibet or were trying to prevent those minorities from establishing groups, but those attempts were failing, largely because of, well, me. Tibetans had established a colony on a specific world that I won’t name here, and their players knew Muse Tones for various points within Tibet that dissidents could travel to and from.

Even if they couldn’t free Tibet itself from China, they could emigrate en masse and vanish from within China’s borders, keeping their culture alive. China couldn’t send military or police forces or even assassins to attack them, because it simply wouldn’t work. The travel simply wouldn’t happen. The whales didn’t allow it. China could guard those specific Muse Tone points, but somehow more Muse Tone points simply kept being discovered. Eventually there would simply be no more Tibetans in Tibet, which was sad, but they had a New Tibet now.

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Cindy and I had managed to escape from the many ongoing meetings and news interviews. We had actually found a secluded lagoon-like place where we could sit and basically contemplate our belly button lint. I lay back on the towel and wiggled my toes. There was plenty of shade to keep the sun overhead from burning us. The birds came and settled into the flowering trees and began to chirp and sing their little melodies.

Cindy rolled over and got a soda from the ice chest and opened it with a hissing pop, “Ya know Cathy? This place seems so familiar, somehow.”

I took a quick more observant look around. Sure enough, this looked like one of the places on other worlds where a balcony of rock had been carved into the side of the cliff. My eyes opened a bit wider as I realized that even Earth had a place like that, although this one wasn’t enhanced to accommodate a whale song location, as on other worlds.

I stood and walked to the water’s edge. The lagoon was deep and could easily accommodate a large vessel. As I looked into the crystal clear water, from the depths came a creature. It broke the surface of the lagoon and basically stayed with its head and pectoral fins out of the water.

I stepped back several steps due to the unexpectedness of the creature’s arrival. I said, “Well, hello there. I do hope we’re not disturbing you.” Cindy looked at me with a really weird expression.

The creature’s squeaks sounded exactly as if it said, “Un Unh,” as it shook its large head from side to side.

I was intrigued. Cindy was fascinated too; she stood and came to stand beside me.

Both of us almost fainted as we clearly heard the creature say, “We welcome new master and her student. I come to teach the wedding march if you so inclined.”

I was flabbergasted. Here I was actually talking to a medium-sized whale. I did remember my basic biology and remembered that the spine-to-brain-mass index in cetaceans, based on the way mankind judged intelligence, showed they should be on an almost intellectually similar footing.

Cindy and I gathered our towels and moved them closer to the edge. I said, “OK, I’m willing. Lets hear what you have to teach.”

The whale seemed to be overjoyed, and it began the mysterious, overly beautiful, and extremely powerful tones. Cindy and I didn’t really know how much time passed. But I do know the tones were now forever burned in a very pleasant place in my soul.

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Cindy and I made it back to our room. Somehow we both knew, though neither of us could explain how, the learning of this particular set of tones had changed us inside.

Cindy turned on the TV. We knew the news commentator, who said brightly, “Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, My name is Justeen Haroweitz. I’m the international roving reporter with WOKE TV in Miami Beach. As we all know by now, Dr. Cruxton and Dr. Crenshaw, along with their science support team, vanished for several months, then returned. They brought with them a new way to view our reality, and a representative from another world named Oceana. The woman’s name is Allira and she has been accepted as Earth’s first ambassador from Oceana … or in fact from any other world.” She shuffled a few papers on the desk in front of her and looked into the camera. “And in a bit of sensational news, it appears that our United Nations Secretary-General, Robert Williams, and Miss Allira are to be wed.” The images on the screen changed to show a huge cathedral-like room being decorated for a wedding. “This is a monumental occasion, since this is the first recorded instance of an Earth man marrying an alien from another world.”

My phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered anyway – I just sort of knew. “Hello? Is this Cathy?” said a familiar voice.

“Allira! I just heard! Congratulations! You’re getting married!”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, my dear,” said Allira. “I wanted to ask you something. I wanted to know if you would do me the honor of playing at the wedding.”

“Allira,” I said, “For you, anything. Name the time and place, and world, and I will be there.”

“You are not leaving me out!” Cindy added, having overheard. I switched the phone to speaker. “I don’t mean to intrude –”

“Intrude?” asked Allira. “Here I am asking if I can get just one of Earth’s Muse Players to play at my wedding, and you are telling me that I can have two? Why would I ever say no?”

Cindy and I looked at each other. “I think … we know the perfect song to play …” I said. I explained.

“They … they spoke to you?” asked Allira. “They taught you that song? I - I’ve never heard of that happening!”

“No, there’s no record of that ever happening before,” said Cindy, “at least, not in Oceana’s archives, and obviously not in Earth’s, of course.”

“I wonder what it means,” Allira remarked.

“I’ll ask Yindi,” I said.

“Good idea,” said Allira. “But one thing it means is that if you do choose to perform it at our wedding, it will be the highest honor.”

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“People keep falling in love whenever we practice this,” said Cindy to me. We had finished playing the song for right this minute, and Todd and Julia, who had been listening, were now out in the hallway kissing. The two musicians knew each other, of course, but now they were getting to know each other even better.

“Well, we haven’t yet,” I said. I loved Cindy, certainly, but not that way.

“I think we might be too involved in the mystical vibrations,” said Cindy. “But I think we’re going to need to go back to that beach if we’re ever going to be able to practice in peace.”

“Well, OK, then,” I said.

One portal later, we were back at the secluded cove, sitting on two rocks in the shade, playing side by side and practicing the song the whale had taught us. But as we played, we heard something strange; it seemed to have come from a distance and was … harmonizing with us? And then … there were more. No fewer than seven of them managed to crowd into the lagoon, some of them having to stay in the back, farther from shore, because they simply didn’t fit. We kept playing, though, and they sang back to us. Finally the song came to what felt like a harmonic conclusion, and we all stopped at once.

The whales looked at us. Cindy suddenly said, “That was awesome!”

“Youuuu are learrrning, small ones,” said one of the whales in its smooth, deep voice. “Keeeep leeearrrninnng.” They swam off, much faster than one might think possible for anything that large.

After a pause, we looked at each other. “We just can’t find anywhere to practice in peace!” I said.

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We finally managed to practice in a soundproofed studio, preventing our song from inadvertently having its effects on others, at which point we were confident that we wouldn’t be too much of a disappointment to our cetacean teachers when we performed the song in public. I didn’t know what effect it would have during a wedding, but Allira was fine with it, so perhaps she knew it would be all right?

Soon the day of the wedding arrived …

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Cindy and I stood in the hall leading into the huge auditorium. The both of us were seriously impressed with the beautiful decorations. Even the area the wedding was to take place in was ornate and beautifully done. The place where the wedding takes place is called the Chuppah, in Hebrew tradition. The Chuppah is a canopy in which the couple will stand during the wedding ceremony. The Secretary-General, being Hebrew, had told Allira about his traditions, and they had incorporated many of them into the ceremony.

There were scaffolds built on either side in more or less a circle where musicians were obviously to be. Streamers, candles of many colors, and the wonderful smell of many types of incense were everywhere.

Cindy walked over to the stairs of one of the scaffolds and told me, “I think we’d better claim a spot. Seems to this girl people are going to fight to be in the wedding.”

I replied, “We don’t have to worry over that. Our reserved spots are on either side of the Chuppah. The idea here is to keep the tones soft and not allow them to become overpowering.”

Cindy looked at me with one of her strange expressions and asked, “Are you joking? You know darn well how powerful the Wedding March is, and we’re going to be playing it in an enclosed location?”

I smiled and replied, “Well, you know what they used to say … all you need is love.”

We looked at each other and laughed as we walked to our designated spots on either side of the Chuppah and started taking our instruments from their special cases. I smiled as I saw that there was a bell cup that looked just like a gold crown. I just knew this wedding was going to be perfect.

About that time, a large group of 24 individuals, each carrying a didgeridoo and impeccably dressed in their concert best, proceeded in an orderly manner up the stairs of the scaffold and each chose a place. I did notice that they arranged each other in a specific order based on the tone of their instrument.

The sanctuary began to fill with spectators and camera crews, and even news crews. Of course, this was the wedding of the century – an Earth man was marrying a woman from another world for the first time in recorded history … Earth history, at least. Every step was going to be well documented and recorded by the most advanced equipment known to mankind.

Cindy and I sat in our locations and watched as the huge room rapidly filled. The soft buzz of voices filled the air as several individuals dressed in jet black robes, bright spotlessly white ruffled tuxedos and bowties came and stood at the large podium. One of the individuals placed something around his neck, kissed the large volume he was carrying, then opened it and placed it on the lectern.

Several young men and an equal number of young women on the other side all dressed in spotless white came and lit the candles in the very large candelabras all around, creating a soft glow when the main lighting was turned off.

Don’t ask me how I knew to stand and begin … somehow I just knew. Cindy stood exactly the same time I did and inhaled deeply. I set my embouchure and started …

History recorded this day as the dawn of a new era. The magical tones of the Mystical Whale Song Wedding March sent magical and wonderful tingles all through everyone present. Many fell in love … some for the first time in their lives.

The live recording of the wedding, viewed online by millions worldwide, carried a message within its mysterious tones … Love, peace, contentment. Something happened that was truly wonderful as well: UN Secretary-General Robert Williams married Oceana’s Special Envoy to Earth Allira. The entire venue was filled with magic as the officiant declared, “You may kiss the bride … and you may kiss the groom!” Let me tell you, I think they kissed for an excessively long time, but what do I know?

Well, naturally there were policies and diplomacy, contact with more worlds and more civilizations, music from Oceana climbing up the pop charts, and all kinds of changes. Earth’s climate was damaged, but another world out there had gone through similar problems and shared some wonderful technologies for fusion energy and carbon sequestration, so Earth’s cars were electric and electricity was cheap, and climate change was actually reversing.

Some things stayed the same; there were still people who were afraid of the changes the world was going through and tried to spread their fear and hatred. We always have to watch out for that kind of thing … you never want those people to be elected in your country, and every generation has to say no to it.

But Cindy and I kept exploring. Every world has its experts on other worlds, and Cindy and I are the experts for Earth. It turns out that yes, all these worlds are actually in our universe; it’s just that they’re all so far away that the light from their stars will probably never reach Earth, or if it has reached Earth, it’s just a tinier speck in a galaxy that is itself just a tiny speck when seen from our home. So this is why we’re never going to find a world whose physical laws are different; it’s all one universe. Some worlds are inhabited; some don’t have intelligent life except for occasional visitors like Muse Masters and Ocean Singers.

For the Earth, the Mystical Whale Song Wedding March had fundamentally changed humanity’s heart. Within days, all conflicts stopped, warring factions sued for peace and went home. Murders and fights almost completely vanished like magic as a new attitude of love and peace filled the once war-torn planet.

Cindy and I discovered many new Muse Tones that led to many fascinating and fantastic places. We had become famous and were respected Master Muse experts. We never used our new-found powers for doing bad things, but instead, used it to clean our environment and create the long sought after utopian world that humanity had for so long dreamed and wished for. We also had many more wonderful adventures … but perhaps we will tell you about those another time.

~~~~ THE END ~~~~
Sunshine & rainbows,
LilJennie
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