An Empty Cup Holds the Soul of a Dream (excerpt)

When Kyle woke up, again it was not quite dawn, but he was so exhausted from the day before that he noticed the edges of the blue sky starting to come up, seeming to embrace the sun in a warm glow. “That’s really not how science works,” he said to himself. Maybe in art though. Once again he walked through the apartment, turning on the lights and quickly putting on some house music to wake him up, which sounded at such a high frequency on the laptop speakers that it was almost like a compression had been put on all the tracks (Kyle was at one time a musician, and sometimes still was.). “I know how this feels,” Kyle thought, did all the morning things, and then headed out up the stairs, into the car, and out into the day. “Coffee.” Kyle thought. Coffee. In a few moments, he was down the hill and back onto the highway, headed back into Old Mill. He knew the shop would be open, and he got free drinks as part of his employment package. In a situation where there were so few benefits, it was a welcome addition to the income he received. That and the tips, that’s what really kept his head above water sometimes. Besides, and more honestly, the exact reason he got to work so early in the morning was to take a look at the map. He couldn’t help it, he had to know. “Hey George, hey Jose, could I get a blueberry scone and a shot of espresso? Actually an Americano, thanks so much, how’s the store this morning?” “Hi Kyle, we’re slammed, could you ring yourself up?” “Sure,” Kyle said, and quickly turned into the counter and rang himself up, punching precisely on the menu screen he had memorized in his mind. It was a matter of nanoseconds. The register automatically opened the drawer in a sound that was so satisfying to him. He placed his percentage for the pastry and looked around. There were no customers at that exact moment. I have to see what this is. He thought, he reached underneath the drawer and pulled out the map piece, photographed it with his phone, put it back, and closed the register, all in a matter of seconds. 

He needed to wait for the Americano, so he sat down with the pastry and looked around the room. Sometimes it was strange to sit as a customer and look back at what he did all day, as the baristas moved about their motions against the whirr of coffee machine sounds, espresso shots, and steamed milk. There were apparently a lot of mobile orders since it seemed to be constant work behind the register, he knew it would be a few minutes and so he sat and opened his phone, flipped to the photo library, scrolled horizontally to the map, and studied it. It looked really old, the paper frayed at the edges and an almost pale brown surface, splotched like dabs of sunlight across the surface. The script was something he had never seen before in real life, but it felt familiar. He must have seen something like it somewhere. “I know what to do”, he thought. And smiled at his cunning, yet completely obvious and not necessarily cunning at all, realized that he could do an image search on it. Passing it to Goggle, he quickly saw a series of images that were similar, all of them Tibetan manuscripts. After a bit of scrolling, he found the exact one. Clicking on the image took him to a very strange site. It looked like it hadn’t been updated since the dawn of the internet. The page was a light violet, and the images looked bitmapped, probably before JPGs existed at all. It was technical and didn’t matter. But what he read was fascinating. 

Reading in a voice he had never heard before, Kyle often thought about the audio imagination in context with the written word., he read each HTML bold headline and what it said. The script apparently was part of a map leading to something in a mountain range he had no idea where. He would have to do some more research to find out, he could do this at home, he thought. He was lost in thought,. “Kyle, Americano?” Came Jose’s voice across the floor, he looked up quickly and then saw it. Rising above the steamed milk section, a series of steam forms moved up into the ceiling and dissipated into the crisp morning air, coming into the coffee shop from the enormous open windows. It looked like a Dragon from Asian myth. He quickly remembered a parade in when he was very young in Chinatown, holding his mother’s hand, frightened but really happy to see the flowing costumed dragon as it passed through the street, the sound of drums and bells. It reached up into the air and became, at first imaginary, and then absolutely clear. Kyle was stunned. Quickly, like steam, disappearing quickly, It made its way out through the window in a last powerful, beautiful arc and disappeared. 

Kyle rushed to the counter. Placing both hands on the surface as if to brace himself.“Did you see that?” Kyle asked, in disbelief. “What,” asked Jose. “What?” Asked George. “Here’s your drink. Sorry, we’re slammed.” “Ok, I’ll talk to you guys about it later, but there was a dragon in the shop.” “George and Kyle looked at each other and shrugged. Get some sleep Kyle, you need some rest.” “OK. I guess I’m still too groggy,” Kyle said, “See you tomorrow.” Kyle waved and then walked out the door, Americano in hand. He turned to the left after he walked out the door, and with the window wide open for the shop heard the patter of conversations. Passing right before the shop windows would be out of sight and heard Jose’s voice., talking to George. “Can you believe Amala quit?” Kyle heard. “Yeah she told me she had to take care of Family,” George said. “It’s fine, she was seasonal and not on contract.” “Woah,” Kyle thought, putting his phone into his pocket and getting back into the car. He didn’t realize his apron was still on. 

Back at the apartment, Kyle was focused. “I have to look into this,” he thought. Something told him it was important. Moving from page to page, Kyle found more details about the map, and finally found an image to translation beta of Goggles that he quickly loaded the image into. After watching a loading bar for over 15 minutes, he got up to get something to drink. Looking back at the French Press, he opened the cabinet door and looked into the area for coffee. He had forgotten to pick some up from the store before he left. He could head into town and get some but remembered he had some Kombucha, opening the door and scanned to the bottom of the shelves. Right next to the Oat Milk he saw he had one left, grabbed it, and hurriedly went back to the laptop screen. Not only had the progress bar completed, but he realized his screen had an intricate map of what he was looking for. He couldn’t believe it. He had never seen anything like this before.

He tried looking for the URL but he realized he wasn’t online at all, in fact, he didn’t know what had happened to the computer. He looked directly into the screen and saw a north passageway marked on the map, through a mountain pass, and onto a seemingly remote part of the valley somewhere. The only option was to hit print on the computer screen. His dusty printer made a whirring sound, and slowly produced tile pages of an intricate map. OK, Kyle thought, found his scissors and some tape, and proceeded to make a large map he could fold up and put in a notebook. He had no idea why he was doing this. It was almost automatic. 

Kyle was not a geographer and knew very little about locating exact countries on a map, but he could tell from studying Indian history in a class in college that this was of Northern India, specifically an area north of Dharmashala. From there the map showed a long entrance into the mountains. There were also unknown markings, that apparently Google couldn’t translate. They were what looked at a surface level like ideograms, but he wasn’t certain. He had no clue what to do next, but he was locked into studying the mystery. I have to find out what this means. He picked up the phone and called George. “Hi George, I came down with something, I may not be able to make it tomorrow,” he said. “Hey Kyle, OK, but could you come in sometime this weekend to make up for it, I’ll have to find someone.” “Sure thanks, Hope everything goes well at the shop today,” he said. Kyle looked out the window at the hills below, Maybe he would find a mountain someday. Was this all a test?” 

Kyle remembered, from a meditation class he took, that there was a meditation temple on the side of one of the hills to the east of Three Corners. He shut off all the lights in the house, and headed up the hill and back to his car, got in, and automatically, music from a spy series he had forgotten on his phone started playing, “Not this again,” Kyle thought, then thought, maybe no sound this time. Placing his phone down, turning corner after corner until he was back on the highway and headed West. Within 15 minutes he saw the meditation hall in the far distance, pulling up at an open space, uncommonly close to his destination (parking was awful in this part of the county) He climbed a set of stairs through a wide expanse of double doors and into a courtyard, a woman, in light yellow robes, sat at a fountain and looked up at him. “Can I help you?” she asked. “Um, hi, I thought someone here might be able to help me with something,” Kyle said. At first, there was the sound of a gentle silence, with inflections of water sounds as a fountain slowly and gently settled into a pool of water, reflecting light in the afternoon sun. 

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