Arrival and departure of an unidentified mirage
Letter from my mother to her best friend Emilie De Saint Phalle, after her accident
Thank you for your kind words and for always being there, as usual. I’m happy to try. I remember seeing the tower for the first time this summer, on a late afternoon. I was feeding my kitten Minú when I realized I had forgotten my crutches in the living room, next to the armchair. I turned to look for them. I caught a glimpse of a foreign object in the corner of the window. I moved to get a better look at what it was but in doing so my legs gave out and I fell to the ground face down. I gave a frightened cry and Minú ran away. From where I was I could no longer see the object but I didn’t need to anymore. While I was falling I was able to see it in its entirety, in a fraction of a second.
As you know, I am now in room number 26 of the Hôpital Riviera-Chablais in Vevey. From the news I have been able to contemplate several times the object that the whole world is talking about. Yet what I saw with my own eyes two weeks ago is in no way like what they show on video. I can't get out of bed to see if what I saw that day really matches what the world says it sees. And to me, this says a lot about this whole situation, or about me. I just hope they won’t transfer me to the Secteur psychiatrique de l'Est Vaudois of the Foundation de Nant. Pray for me, I will keep you posted.
Hôpital Riviera-Chablais, Site De Vevey Providence, Vevey, Suisse
September 4th, 2022
Post-mortem release of pastry chef and cake sculptor Adrian Goodman's 146th session with his private therapist, Dr. Donovan
The Tower came out of nowhere on August 21st. It was an ordinary day like many others, when it appeared on the horizon. Everyone wondered what it was, where it had come from, why it was there. I also wondered. At first everyone thought it was the end of the world, but soon they were going to be proven wrong. Then they thought they were the enemies. You know, the stranger is always real. All nations mobilized their armies to attack. I think that's when they discovered that the Tower was unreachable. No matter where the planes left, the ships, they never got to touch it. It could not be reached or approached. What exactly is it? An apparition, a divine sign? What does it even mean? Why did it come here? We’ve been wondering for forty-six days now. Fortunately, people don't stop ordering cakes even though there's a giant thing in the sky. I don't think it's an invasion, however. To me, that thing up there is some kind of symbol. A symbol of brotherhood. A symbol of peace.
From the security cameras’ tapes of Soleil Rodriguez's villa, in addition to his Viber backup messages
-What do you want?!-
-You have to hear something.-
-What is it?-
-This morning, I open Viber and found this voice message.-
"My first attempt failed at 5am today. I’m about to set off again. Look, I've been running away all night, I thought I ditched them. I stopped but at the first light of dawn I saw it again: it was always there, between the peaks of the Ushba mountain behind me. I'm pretty sure it’s following me. They found me... In 6 hours, I will cross from Russia to Georgia. Please help me hide. I know you haven't heard from me for two months but... nothing has changed, look... it’s just this thing that’s been following me. It’s been more than 17 hours now. I beg you."
- Oh yes ... it's that idiot of my ex.-
-Oh yeah, they’re chasing a dream then.-
-Pathetic isn't it? -
Suicide letter from historian of disasters Yip Van Möers
This is an unprecedented global event and I'd like to see how it turns out. Obviously, at the same time I feel afraid. It's certainly not like Kennedy's assassination or Lady Diana's death. Even 9/11 was different from this. It is somehow hard to explain. On a planetary level, this is a time of grand confusion. Which is understandable since that thing appeared out of nowhere. People are in total panic. Military is in a state of maximum alert. The media is screaming “invasion”. It’s everywhere. The Internet is flooded with images from all over the world. There must be hundreds of them. Hell, I can hardly believe it myself. And I understand it even less. The troops are trying to surround the artifact. They form a ring to isolate it and then come as close as possible to understand what it is. But every time they try, they end up colliding with each other in the center and the thing is still far away on the horizon. They say maybe it travels with teleportation or something. In some places they are sending supersonic planes to catch it, monitoring the target with radar and other experimental technologies. But they will never make it close. It’s too far away. It’s too clever.
The government has ordered a quarantine. We are all holed up in the house, the streets are teeming with dozens of troops carrying military weapons I have only seen in superhero movies. Yet despite all those movies, all the video games, the books, my studies, my career, no one and I repeat, no one, expected it. I should have been able to foresee such a scenario. I believed I was at least up to par, if not to prevent, or at least to cure. I thought I was equipped with the necessary toolbox to face a similar emergency. But in all honesty, I am not ready. I am terrified, disoriented, heartbroken, and feel deeply useless. My whole life has been in preparation for this moment and now that it has come I have utterly and unequivocally failed. I can't live with the likely death of millions of people in the next few hours on my conscience because I couldn’t save them. I won’t be able to stand that. I hope this personal disaster of mine will be the last recorded in the history of disasters. Forgive me Victoria, forgive me Kirman, forget me Ida Ayua, forget me if you wish, but forgive me first. I truly hope that sooner or later you will all be able to forgive me.
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
Introductory note to issue 76 of the magazine Подібні Речі (Things like That), by Umanian-Ukrainian editor-in-chief Alistair Krum. Re-published shortly afterwards as a preface to the essay volume “Modern Myths: the first democratic legends”, by his wife Melissa Madison Krum
Every modern phenomenon or catastrophe that occurs on a global scale and that has any historical significance, is by definition inseparable from the cultural, religious and mythological past of the society that suffers it. Let's take the events of the last year as an example.
The first nickname the phenomenon in question received was "Babel" from a group of religious heretics. Some people still believe that it is indeed the gateway to the Promised Land and that only the “chosen people” will be able to reach it. Others say it is a machination of the Devil himself, to make the human race fall prey to hubris and violence once again. Then online communities of nerds and fantasy fanatics started calling it Orthanc, from the name of Sauron's lair in Mordor, in homage to the historical saga of the great English author J. R. R. Tolkien. Some variants emerged such as Isengard, the Black Tower or the Ivory Tower also from Tolkien, Stephen King and Michael Ende. The media immediately took a more neutral stance and gave it the phantasmagoric title "The Tower." I'm sure most people out there still believe that it’s an alien doing. You hear all sorts of conspiracy theories. Whether it's a hologram, a mass hallucination or an image projected into each of our minds, a wormhole or a passage to another dimension. To counter this underworld of gobbledygook, the brightest scientists from around the world came together to study it and eventually created a digital simulation of its supposed real form, hypothesizing that it was only one and taking into consideration that everyone was able to see it from all over the world. The results leaked on the Web show an impossible object, stretched from pole to pole and projected out of the Earth's atmosphere, like a Rorschach test seen through a malfunctioning kaleidoscope. None of them was yet able to come to a plausible conclusion, nor have they published a satisfactory explanation. "The Tower" has remained the impenetrable philosophical enigma that it is still today.
Ultimately, dear readers, I cannot not address the elephant in the room. Anything that passes through our five senses is filtered through our wealth of past experiences before settling into our brains. Though, if our knowledge is studded with absurdities and fantasies, from modern entertainment to most religions, then it is almost certain that our judgment is ultimately and hopelessly compromised. The point is thus one: are we experiencing the same phenomenon that is said to have affected the aborigines of Tahiti at the arrival of James Cook's Endeavor? What are we seeing today when we look at this unknown "caravel"? But above all, what are we not seeing if we do not possess the mental or physiological instruments to do so? Are we perhaps simply blind men touching different body parts of said elephant and each thinking it’s an entirely different thing? What is "The Tower" really?
BBC report nr 73.048.102 - interview with Mr. Gordon O'Sullivan, farmer by profession
At first the thing was odd but after a while you get used to it. Just like everything else in this life. One moment people are writing letters to each other and the next they are sending messages through small beeping boxes that fit their hands and pockets. First you think it’s magic, but then you just get used to it, don't you? This was no different. It just kind of settled in the background like a familiar shape. Even still, it seemed to have changed people. It’s as if they suddenly realized how many things they didn’t know, right? Even simple, everyday things like animals or plants. All these city slickers - with their ties, and fancy offices and big cars - they started moving out to the country saying they wanted to be farmers. Listen… I was born a farmer! My father was a farmer before me and his father before him. I was making cheese and spinning wool before I could write my own name. We always know what our herds have on their mind just by looking them in the eye. We didn’t need no miracle or aliens to make us understand! Now all of a sudden everyone thinks they’re Old MacDonald! Say they want to get back in touch with Nature. Growing vegetables on their terraces. Talking to their plants. Ridiculous. And it's even worse with animals. Before that tower thing came, the only people that were becoming vegetarians were the hippies. Now no one wants to eat animals - they want to talk to them! Jesus Christ, talk to them... as if after millions of years they are suddenly gonna say something back to us! And now that everyone is playing farmer, it's driving up the prices on fertilizers, seeds, and supplies for real farmers like us... That's it, everybody’s getting the worms out of their potatoes and nobody cares about aliens no more."
Extraordinary sermon from Pope Gelasius II°, broadcasted to 187 countries worldwide
“My children. Brothers and sisters. Do not listen to reporters and bloggers, for this lonely tower does not herald the coming of the Kingdom, nor the beginning of the end. There will be no Judgement day, no Apocalypse. Neither now nor ever. God did not create the universe to destroy it. This is a test of our belief in the Most High. Today we all are called to prove our faith in the Lord our Father. It is no coincidence that this mirage appears in the skies. For it stands halfway between us on the Earth and the very gates of Heaven, above the celestial spheres.
Today I implore you all, children of the Mother Church, citizens of the world, politicians and entrepreneurs. If we leave our world behind on vessels we fabricated, if we fly into Space, we must be ready to enter Heaven. We have to leave behind all our sins too, remorse and guilt, to enter heaven without any unfinished business. Listen to me all of you, Christians, Muslims, Indians, today it doesn't matter which God we worship. It matters today what we do once we meet Him out there. If they truly came here from somewhere else and are capable of standing beyond the clouds, looking down at us and creating a vision of such power... then either they are Satan himself, or they are emissaries of the Almighty. So what will we do if we run after those visitors when they will be ready to go back whence they came from? We will shoot them? Will we call them names and curse them with our tongues? Will we send convoys and imprison them when they’re most vulnerable?
I do not ask you to stay and forget. I ask you to pray. Listen to what your heart says. Can you hear that its beat resembles the sound of the tower when it landed and when it took off again? What are we going to do now that they’re gone? Will we follow it? Why? What if we find it? How do you ask for permission to enter God's door?”
Article in the magazine Polis Mundi from columnist Marco Antonio Savonarola - October 11th 2023
I will never forget the day the Fata Morgana appeared. It's been over a year now. The media nicknamed it that way, echoing the scientists who were trying to explain it as a mirage above the horizon and because, although everyone had tried to reach it, no one ever succeeded. To be completely honest, at first everyone reasoned that many towers must have appeared around the world, gigantic constructions or spaceships emerged from behind the mountains. But soon after it became clear that the matter was much more complicated than that.
The world's major superpowers sent entire fleets against them, first the coast guard, then the Navy and soon after submarines, torpedoes and warships. Then they sent planes and helicopters, fighters, stealths and even supersonic jets, but none of them ever reached the eerie figure in the distance. None. Not a missile, not a bullet, not a soul. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were created all over the globe specifically to devise new ways of reaching, clearing out or even destroying the Fata Morganas. Scientific, diplomatic, belligerent expeditions… all strategies failed colossally. No matter how fast one tried to get near them, the Fata Morganas always kept the exact same distance from the viewer. It was like an optical effect. That’s when people started proposing that the tower could just be one object and that in some weird way everyone could see it from anywhere on the planet’s surface. Clearly this freaked everyone out. Not only had a completely alien presence infiltrated the Earth's atmosphere as if it had always been there, but there didn't seem to be any logical explanation for how it got there. And above all, what was more frustrating, there was no way to approach it or to interact with it. Some said it was a hologram, that it wasn't really there, but those voices were quickly dismissed, because everyone remembered - and still remembers today - the extraordinary wind that was blowing the day the tower appeared. The animals were all on high alert and the ground was frequently shaking. In fact, the whole climate has changed since its arrival, and this time there’s no place for climate deniers. As if the melting of the polar ice cap was not enough, temperatures were suddenly warmer, even though each one of us was shaking and could swear it felt chillier than ever. All of a sudden everything was about the Fata Morgana. The news, social media, the stock market, politics, gossip, religion, science, entertainment, philosophy. Even the things that had absolutely nothing to do with it and that could have gone on completely untouched by the presence of the tower, were completely transfigured because of it. Cosmetics, sport, sex. All of it. There was the world before the Fata Morgana and the world after. As was to be expected, after all.
Usually we are afraid of what we do not know. And even more of what we don’t understand. The tower attracted all of our expectations, phobias, conspiracy theories and paranoias like a giant magnet. Suddenly all the evil in the world seemed to reside up there, all the bad guys moved into the Tower and were at the helm of it. The reptilians, the vampires, Jack the Ripper, the Freemasons, the dictators, the Big Brothers, Hitler, Bin Laden, Kony, the witches, the immigrants, the gypsies, the boogieman, the spies, the homosexuals, the Jews, the negros. Each of us projected their anger and frustration onto the tower. People wanted to destroy the tower at all costs.
If many were afraid, however, just as many attempted the opposite enterprise on their own. When the military and scientific forces of states or the resources of billionaires ran out - or perhaps it was patience that ran out - many "normal" people set out on a journey in an attempt to touch the foundations of that impregnable stronghold with their sailboats, yachts, motorboats and hang gliders. For many it became unquestionably a matter of principle. Rightfully so. Therefore, mass migrations occurred, both from industrialized and developing countries. People said “this second Avalon could solve overpopulation, serving as a new home for those in need”. “Noah's Ark is back to offer everyone a second chance and awaits those who want to survive poverty and extinction”. “The garden of Eden has finally shown itself and has opened its otherworldly gates to the pure in heart”. Finally, out of place as ever, the hopeful Flat-Earthers argued that some higher species had hacked the "Edge" and was finally showing the truth to all humanity.
I remember when Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of UFOs as collective hallucinations came back into fashion. There was a ridiculous spike in funds suddenly being invested in research on mass intelligence and collective consciousness, which is quite funny I must admit, given how much they had been vilified and mocked up until that point. Institutes and departments of neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry and philosophy around the world flourished and expanded, welcoming ten times as many students, researchers and teachers as before. Unfortunately, the same thing happened with the asylums. Everyone sought with renewed ardor the answers to the questions that had remained unanswered for centuries, as if that damned tower really had all of them stacked behind its gargantuan walls. Who are we? Where do we come from? Why are we here, inexplicably aware, incredibly complex, yet inevitably doomed to an existence of boredom and mediocrity?
Unfortunately, however, any answer that was provided that somehow included, ignored or was somehow linked to the Fata Morgana in any way, became by definition useless and obsolete, because it could not be verified in the first place. How can one refute something impossible to prove- asked the scientists. Fata Morgana was the quintessence of an unfalsifiable claim. The unassailable scientific method, which had elevated science out of philosophy, chemistry out of alchemy, medicine out of witchcraft, betrayed them once and for all. It was impossible to deny the tower, because it was there in front of everyone, every day, on every screen, channel or site, on people's cell phones, on their posters, comics, movies. There are other things like that, of course, starting with God.… but nobody ever took a snapshot of God. On the other hand, billions of people have a photo of the Fata Morgana as their desktop background or Whatsapp profile picture.
Shortly before it left, rumors began to spread that some had finally reached the Fata Morgana. Obviously no one believed them. Nothing more than vague and rather unlikely anecdotes. Who got there by astral travelling, who via a near-death experience, who in a dream, who through meditation. Sure, they were out of their minds, but not as much as a flying tower. Yet no one could prove it. At least, not with means that can be considered scientifically plausible at this present time. So what to do? The dilemma remained, while a handful of very lucky few sported the blissful success of finally reaching the unfathomable caves and spiers of the titanic Sea Stack.
The tower left in Fall, shortly before the first space missions were going to take off, to watch it from outside the planet. The atmosphere was suddenly more still and silent than ever. When it disappeared an unexpected coolness caught everyone off guard, along with a myriad of questions and a sense of failure for asking the wrong questions and not trying something radically different.
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From the diary of my father, Saverio
So much noise. I got up from my chair and finally there was silence. A few seconds later I said:
“I think you’re wasting your time. Have you ever wondered why you never get to the clouds when you run? Have you ever debated why the rainbow is always far away? How many times have you seen the sun go down on the horizon and touch the mountains, yet have you never believed that those mountains were about to burn.
The tower is like the sun, the rainbow and the moon: it is cyclical and a messenger of change. The same way it left, it will also come back.”
As the stonecutter I am, I tell you: if you really want a tower to know everything about and to look closely, give me a project and I will build a hundred of them, one for every city in the world.
And if you want a moon you can touch, I will cut a sphere for you to lay on the column’s top. And if you want a sun to warm you, I'll build a brazier to be placed at its base. And if you want clouds, I'll pour water on the glowing embers.
That day you will know it all, about everything, and you can finally get bored in peace.
About the author
Storyteller, artist, producer.
Author of "Tesla - lo scienziato contro", 1st scientific biography of Nikola Tesla in Italy.
Sci-fi and Cli-fi novellas. Sciencey essays.
Co-founder of NYADO and producer of Mission to Earth music-film.