Chapter 2: The Monk

 "The Machinist, Monk, & Mesmerizer Chronicles"

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In the near future, a machinist, a monk, and a mesmerizer are looking for the Source of the universe, but among the ancient scriptures, they only find the devil …

Few humans in the future find the secrets of what words and sounds can do, for the Apocalypse and war have led them to evolve in mind and physique. Two of them end World War III with just a four-minute speech. Some say they did mass hypnosis. Others say it was their voice and will. Fifty years later in South Asia, KUSHA, a twenty-three-year-old machine-geek with social awkwardness and amnesia, tries to get the Devil’s Book with secrets of voice. But her idol of voice and everyone's beloved war heroes, YUAN and RUEM, are also after it for power.

TITLE: The High Auction (Wisdom Revolution #1)


No of Pages (Paperback): 180

Inside Illustrations & Cover Art: Misba

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2. The Monk


HE MONK HEARS THE ANIMALS hundreds of meters away—the ones with hooves running while the pawed ones hunt them. He also hears the birds chirping, the leaves rustling, the waterfall roaring, and the wind speaking. Yes, speaking. Not every High Grade voices the wind or hears it speak. But he does.

As the flora and fauna ring in his ears, a thought disturbs the Monk—Yuan—why after two decades? He frowns. How unusual for a monk to frown or to think needlessly! Yuan shields his mind. His eyes closed in deep meditation. A ninety-nine-year-old monk who mastered time and desires shouldn’t let little thoughts infect his inner quiet.

Mastering time isn’t about stopping time, rather, slowing down its effects. Though in the last decade, he has let his dark wavy hair fade and wrinkles grow near his eyes. Even a line or two is visible on his forehead. He sits on a cliff now. His toned torso half-covered in a dark, plain shawl. His chest swells in flawless, mathematical rhythm when he breathes. Mist rises from the roaring waterfall as the water hits the foothills below. All that water, flowing among the hills, forms the river that looks like a serpent from here. His home, Lotus Lodge—a white disc-shaped structure with a lotus pond half-encircling it—stands above the cliff opposite the waterfall where he meditates.

He waits; they will be here soon, the wind says.

Here they come—

Yuan smiles. Subtle stirs in the prana field eke from the forest, spreading, constantly tapping his ground. At first, they’re few, then more, but not countless. Nothing around him is countless, not while he is in focus. The stirs, caused by light footsteps, grow stronger.

Something is different today.

Blood and a whimper.

Yuan opens his eyes. White rabbits wandering all around, poking him, touching him, rubbing their noses at his feet, or merely exploring the thick grass, ignoring his presence, as if showing their appearance was enough of a favor. Yuan sees the tiniest rabbit struggling to reach him. One of its legs wounded, and a dark rotten feather sticking to its body. The feather smells of death. There must be a dead bird somewhere.

Dead bird! Why didn’t he smell it earlier? Yuan, removing the feather, stretches his hand towards the rabbit. It hops on, sensing the burst of healing energy. All living creatures always sense what heals their woe—it’s a code in their subconscious.

Removing the thought about the rotten feather, for now, Yuan calms his core, inhaling pranathe source energy from the air. The animal’s wound healing. All the rabbits turn their necks, watching him. At last, he deserves attention. They run to the Monk; jumping; climbing along the layered folds of his dark shawl; settling on his lap, thighs, and shoulders; competing with one another for the healing energy; seeking a share of the purity coming from the highest possible evolution in the universe. A monk’s purity procured through strict abstention won’t stain. Even a dead bird’s foul feather can’t tinge it.

Swish and halt!

A bot, flying from Lotus Lodge, stops inches from Yuan. A sphere head floating on a cylindrical body—Yuan’s personal AI, Pico, is linked into it, but not in a full version. So, Pico Not-Full-Version watches these wild rabbits, as it does every day.

“Yuan, it’s time,” it says.

The Monk, Yuan, stands, done with afternoon meditation. What would make a feather rot? He looks at the forest, and then, closes his eyes. Focusing his mind, he searches for any sign of death in the forest. But nothing. Prana diminishes with death. He won’t know if the dead bird is far away.

His thought about the bird halts as the CRAB in his wrist glows. CRAB—Conservable RNA Augmented Body—the faithful servant for a citizen, as the advertisements from the New World Government say. This parasitic bio-computer, installed in his left wrist, bears his identity. A text message came.

Read it? Or not read it?—the Monk wonders.

Read it, he commands his CRAB. A hologram shows on it when he fists that hand near his chest. A message visible in his inbox: You’re missing the Independence Day Speech, auto-signed with Ren.

Ignore, Yuan tells himself.

The next text plays in his brain when he is not looking at the CRAB: Come on! The war hero can’t miss the speech in Alphatech when the war hero himself is its owner! Ren.

Ignore … Yuan doesn’t reply to Ren Agnello, the CEO of Alphatech—the world’s leading transport and robotics industry, of which the Monk is the founder. Well, one of the two founders.

Ignoring me? Pico said you saw my text!

Yuan looks at Pico as his CRAB sends this message right into his brain.

“You didn’t say I couldn’t tell him,” Pico defends itself. It’s not in its full version, but so what? It still is a young AI. In two decades, it learned how to recognize facial expressions, at least.

Look, old monk. You can’t ruin this. It’s my Alphatech, too. Ren. The next text message comes.

Manage. I’m busy—Yuan thinks the reply. The CRAB in his wrist reads his thought and sends it to Ren, adding the auto-signature YY. Everyone knows it’s the signature of the founder of Alphatech, the signature of the monk war hero—Yuan Yagmur.

Pico mentioned who you’re meeting tonight. Ren. The next message soon follows, and Yuan looks at Pico again after reading it.

“Who do you serve?” he asks in a flat tone with no hint of surprise or anger. A monk never gets angry. He simply states, witnesses, and flows along with the current of prana.

“Lotus Lodge,” Pico replies.

“Lotus Lodge?” Yuan asks. “Are you serving a house instead of its master, then?”

“Sorry,” Pico says, “Ren changed a few lines in my coding.”

“And you let him,” Yuan states calmly.

“I’m a home-service bot now. You don’t let me connect to my source!” Pico complains the same way it’s been complaining for five years. It was disconnected from its source AI—the real Pico—twenty years ago, right after it was made. Within fifteen years, this bot collected enough data to grow into a strong AI itself. At least, intelligent enough to know about its source, which is sleeping in the basement of Lotus Lodge—secured and locked, never to be awakened again.

However, anything intelligent always looks for its source—it’s the oldest law of the universe.

“You could defend Ren’s codes. But you didn’t,” Yuan replies. “You wanted an excuse to talk about your source.”

“But you said I don’t need defense from Ren Agnello.” Pico uses all its logic. “You said he passes the definitions of ‘friend’ and ‘trustworthy’ and ...” Pico begins a list of keywords.

Yuan ignores the keywords. The thin lines on his forehead deepen, the wrinkles near his eyes tighten, and the frown in between his brows grows visible. These days, the word Source is coming frequently, ever since that man asked to meet.

Don’t meet him. That monster has an agenda. Ren. The CRAB forwards the text to his mind. Yuan silences all texts, but they keep coming anyway: Why after two decades? Ren.

It smells fishy. Ren.

Just because he's a childhood buddy, you'll run to him? Ren.

Maybe I didn’t see the Apocalypse with you, but I'm your war comrade, too. Ren.

The texts stay unread in his CRAB.

Yuan approaches the edge of the cliff. Jump? Or not jump?—he wonders. The waterfall feels like a magnet full of untainted energy when his hand has touched something dead. Although, the hand feels energetically cleaner after healing a life with prana. His half-aging, half-youthful skin at the back of that hand has tightened. It looks younger than his other one now. He examines that hand. His skin hasn’t felt this smooth for so long.

Jump, he decides, letting his shawl fall on the grass baring his torso. He doesn’t step away from his wooden sandals, each with a two-inch block at the center.

“Recharge my car,” he says.

“Won’t you use the AT?” Pico refers to Aerial Transports.

“I want my ride slow,” Yuan says.

“Why do you shower in the waterfall?” Pico asks again.

“I have too much time.”

Yuan jumps from the cliff, diving into the air. The wind whispers in his ears what you may never hear. Target: the tree branch thirty feet below. Next, the stone twenty feet further down. Then, the flat slab and another branch. Finally, the bed of stones where all the water, falling from a few hundred feet, gets collected like a whirlpool and overflows into the river further down. The Monk doesn’t go below. He stays near the whirlpool.

The cold water beats the muscles beneath his skin. He senses his energy, the prana, vibrating, looking for a release, either as a subconscious beast or as a conscious creator.

Prana heals.

Prana kills.

Prana helps you evolve.

The twinge of guilt comes. It’s hard not to be glad that the Apocalypse happened. Or they never could’ve found the highest possibilities for humans. Yuan breathes deeply. Is this what greed feels like? Is he turning into a monster, like him? Yuan browses the CRAB in his mind. His brain sees an older text:

Let’s meet where we met last.

On the 19th, 19:20 hours. Ruem D.

Didn’t even ask if he will be free on the 19th at 19:20 hours! That arrogant devil!

Many lose their paths, blinded by evolution. Addiction to power is like any other addiction; you’ll just want it more. That earthquake, ninety years ago, spared few to record it for the next generation. Humans sinned. Persistently existing in clogged colonies was their sin. The series of quakes lasted a week; each shake came in between long intervals. Oh! Those intervals! A week of despair and questions. Why did I survive? … Why did fate save me and not them? … Will fate save me the next time? Uncertainty—not for food or shelter, but for life. Fear of death. Fear of living alone.

He was a child back then. Him and also Ruem.

“Win your fear, and you’ll evolve.” Their Master’s voice lulls the Monk in his mind.

He stands below the mighty waterfall, facing up, and stops breathing for minutes. He opens his eyes, welcoming the water falling forcibly. Evolution has its charms. People think harsh training has been its door, but in reality, it was easier to find. The door stood right before their eyes. Always.


Time was and always has been the door. The time that school, work, and social gatherings couldn’t take after the Apocalypse. Distractions ended. Thoughts began. Then thoughts stopped, too, and the universe entered. The true power came during the long nights. Sometimes while watching the stars, sometimes, fearing the lightning and thunder. Sometimes, accepting the energy the universe pushed through their navel when their stomach growled. Soon, no religion or ritual told them to fast, yet they were fasting. Deliberately. The door opened. Secrets came as they inhaled the cosmos, the prana, and not just the air.

“Yuan.” Pico flies down to the base of the waterfall. “You’ve four appointments with—”

“Cancel,” Yuan says with an unreadable face. A monk’s face has to be unreadable.

Among the roaring water, there’s one slanted wall of flat rock at a side where the stream runs smoothly. In that smooth stream, the Monk looks at his reflection. His faded hair usually touches his built neck and shoulders; it now drips water. Negligibly aging body cells have made his strong muscles. The dominant life force—pranakeeps their metabolism perfect, decreasing their weakening rate. His light-brown skin has gained a texture like an unevolved man in his fifties should. Not bad for a human close to his hundredth year of living.

As he dives into the whirlpool of water, Pico tries to convince him again. “What about the online linked-speech at nine other news portals?”

“Cancel all.”

“You canceled everything in the morning. You were home all day, doing nothing,” Pico says.

“Doing nothing is hard,” Yuan says calmly as if his voice is another part of nature and not noise.

“I don’t speak philosophy. I’m not in my full version.”

Yuan ignores. Soon, he gets the sensation again—something smelling of death. Keeping his face calm, he focuses his senses.

The forest. That’s where the smell is coming from. He stares for a little longer. Go? Or not go?—he wonders.

Go. It has to be ‘Go’. The forest holds the earth’s rarest treasures. His treasures, and they took fifty years to grow.

“Give the speech on my behalf. Create my voice and face,” Yuan instructs Pico, approaching the forest. Leaping on this stable stone, jumping over that thick log, and crossing a few fierce streams, he walks towards the depth of the forest, the end of Lotus Lodge property. The only sound coming is from his wooden sandals: pit-pat … pit-pat …

“A war hero’s fake speech! That’s a crime!” Pico keeps complaining. “Even a home-service bot bearing the ghost of a legendary AI will be processed for that!”

Yuan ignores as Pico brings up its source again. “A war hero is permitting you. Keep it a secret,” he says.

“You’re using your war hero privilege!”

“Privilege exists not to be stored in a locker,” Yuan says, feeling the time again from the dimming daylight. He will be late.

“Is the meeting that important?” Pico asks. “Ren said Ruem Drohung is not the same person you once knew. I saw Ruem’s files. By your definitions, he’s not human.” Pico emphasizes ‘your’ as much as a drone robot’s high-definition voice-box can.

Yuan looks at Pico. As a private joke, he and Ruem recreated their master’s voice, installing it in Pico’s AI three decades ago. Now their own master’s voice—the master who trained them both—says Ruem isn’t a human. “You’re judging humans. One of your creators, no less,” Yuan says, half-informing, half-praising.

“I’m repeating what Ren said.”

“Stay here,” the Monk says, leaving Pico near the waterfall.

“Are you angry because I said Ruem is not a human?” Pico asks while doing what Yuan asked it to do—staying where it hovers. “Are you going to visit your pets?”

“They are not pets.”

“I think canceling meetings and visiting five-hundred-and-sixty-seven pets isn’t a good idea. Ren wouldn’t call it profitable.”

“They are not pets.”

Minutes later, Yuan reaches the shield: invisible, built of strong magnetism combined with fatal frequencies. It burns whatever passes through the laser-wrapped wire mesh that surrounds the Lotus Lodge property. Yuan stands right before it. That’s when he finds them.

Birds. Mammals. Reptiles.

That one was George—a Cheetah with the most flaming fur.

That one was Gogy—a gorilla with the clearest pair of eyes.

That one was Ms. Mimbo—a hybrid of Macao and African Grey Parrot. And the one near the stone was … well, the Monk goes through around three dozen names. It took fifty years of careful watch to make sure they don’t go extinct. If you live long enough, you might, as well, end up befriending every life your neighboring forest holds. And if you are a war hero, you might even get professionals from the Wildlife Conservation Board helping you during their crossbreeding process.

But they’re all dead. At least, the rarest portion of what this forest, this world, has—had—are now dead. He thought he was protecting them while guarding the North.

Maybe he was wrong.

The Monk’s jaw stiffens. He stops counting the dead animal bodies scattered outside the shield. He even stops recalling the names he gave them. These animals didn’t die normally. Not from the shield or the wire mesh either, no. Animals never tried to cross the mesh because of its repelling frequencies.

They weren’t alive when they were thrown. Yuan freezes his gaze—They. Were. Thrown.

They need to be burned for whatever they went through.

And whatever they went through, no one must know. It’s evil. It’s sick. Evil and sick together brings chaos.

“Send some fuel, Pico,” he mutters, and his CRAB sends it to Pico as a direct call.

“Fuel?” Pico receives the call, still hovering where Yuan left it. Its voice reaches the Monk’s CRAB.

“For a fire,” Yuan says.

“It’s not night yet for your lonely bonfire,” Pico says. “But I could understand the significance of a daylight bonfire if I could access my source database.” If Pico’s voice had high-definition emotions, it’d have sounded hopeful now.

But ruining its hope, Yuan ignores the source part. Again. “You used lonely for the fourth time this week,” he says. “Was it Ren, too?”

“Yes.” The unapologetic reply of Pico comes soon.


BY THE TIME Pico brings fuel on a hover disc, and Yuan burns all the dead animals, his trousers dry up. He walks back to the falls with Pico hovering behind him. The entire time Pico doesn’t mention the words ‘pets’ or ‘meetings’ even once.

“Check the records around the shields over the last few days. The animals were thrown. Find their speed when they hit the shield,” Yuan says, checking the time. If he doesn’t leave now, he’ll be late.

He climbs the cliff, leaping to land on stones and branches, as if he’s a feather and not a ninety-nine-year-old man. His wooden sandals making sounds: pit-pat … pit-pat …

With one last pit-pat, he lands on the terrace along his bedroom, at the rear of Lotus Lodge. The transparent wall of his room slides, sensing his presence. From the floor, he takes the shawl, which Pico has made sure, were brought home from the cliff, cleaned of all grass and rabbit furs and kept perfectly folded.

Pico flies up, hovering around him. “The average speed was 800 mph,” it informs. “None of them passed through the shield.”

800 mph—Yuan frowns. Handmade bullets, when they existed during the war, had that kind of speed. The animals should’ve exploded. But they didn’t. Which means …

“They were thrown on Monday night,” Pico informs again.

The Monk’s frown deepens as Pico confirms what he was thinking. Monday night is actually Tuesday evening in the Arabic calendar since Arabic day begins with sunset. ‘The secrets of Tuesday’s darkness, coinciding with stoned and deceased animals hurled at a human territory …’ The words he read decades ago now bloom in his memory. It was in a book from Ruem’s collection. How can he remember it so clearly?

Why does he remember it? Why now?

“Should I inform the Wildlife Conservation Board?” Pico asks.

“They must not know.”

“How will you explain thirty-seven rare animals going missing without lying? Even lying wouldn’t help. They will find out the next day. And I still believe you shouldn’t have burned them.”

“I’ll handle it,” Yuan says while quickly wearing a dark shirt and trousers.

“You entered through the terrace again! And you dripped water on the floor!”  Pico complains. Though, the water won’t ruin the wood that has the era’s latest varnishing technology.

Yuan ignores Pico. He senses the cleaner drones flying here from the storage.

He soon leaves Lotus Lodge, taking his shawl, wooden sandals, and his car—dark, matte-finished, and metallic body.

Tonight’s rendezvous is beyond the walls.

Sufi Raags—a kind of music made with local instruments: Sarod and flute—gets interrupted by Pico’s voice in his car. “Yuan, I found the speech you prepared last night. Take a look and confirm.”

Yuan frowns. Nothing should interrupt a Sufi Raag. His frown disappears soon after. A monk must never lose control over his emotions. Not even the deaths of thirty-seven seemingly-pet, rare animals can make him lose it. He skims through the speech he prepared:

… Before the Apocalypse, the system gave us a goal, forcing us to exhaustion at the end of the day. We had no time to look inside. The system was a slave-reproduction module where we thought we were free. With time lost, we lost our only chance of final evolution at the end of our one life …

… The system succeeded, enough to turn talents into machines, warriors into lazy citizens, knights into faithful slaves, writers and artists into pets and trophies. They succeeded, and they laughed. But not after the Apocalypse. Not after the War. We fought. We lost many, but we won through evolution. Now, things are different. Now things are better …

Bullshit!—Yuan stops at this point. Too many lies!

Nothing has changed.

Nothing is better.

How can a monk with a voice lie? Moreover, a war hero favoring the Apocalypse—too dark! What was he thinking last night?

“Delete all of it,” he mutters sternly, and his voice doesn’t have the annoyed tone of impatience. Rather, it’s the Monk’s grimness on a face handsome with signatures of time.

“What should I use for a fake speech then?” Pico Not-Connected-To-Its-Source says from the car’s speakers.

“I gave you the most accurate Literature Understanding Intelligence,” Yuan says.

“That’s for book reviewing and suggesting you titles, not for making up a fake speech,” Pico protests. “I’m not connected to—”

“Find something from my last fifty years of speeches. Be useful. Never bother me with Independence-Day speeches again.” Yuan silences the line. This time his voice sounds a bit cold, scratching the line of anger. Just a little. Perhaps, the death of thirty-seven rarest animals on the planet shouldn’t keep you calm after all. Even if they are ‘not pets’.

His car wordlessly drives itself through the city of Alpha. The sky is visible in the rich areas of the city—areas where people can afford the airspace above their lands (and they must be able to afford them to be eligible of living there). Otherwise, the path is mostly dark until the forest preservation area comes.

The Himalayan music in flute and Sarod—a nineteen-string-instrumentrings in the silence again. He remembers building Alpha, the first city, formed after World War III. The city has one motto:


They have the motto ever since the war. But these three words got imprinted in his brain much earlier than that. How? The Monk doesn’t remember. Yet, at one point, in the very distant past, these three words became their religion. Their religion, and not his. The distant past of his was never without that man, the Mesmerizer.

* * *

WHEN YUAN YAGMUR REACHES the busy Central Alpha, on a highway much closer to the sky, it happens again. This time he witnesses it:

A crow—already dead, cold, and as unholy as uncontrolled emotions—hits his windshield at bullet speed. Yuan commands the car abruptly; it stops among the busy traffic. The dead bird couldn’t break the glass. His car hovers a few inches above the road. The cars behind him also stop, even though the Aerial Transports (ATs), much above the intertwined highways, are still flying past them. An AT from the Security and Law Enforcement Department, SLED, approaches, giving him red signals for stopping the car in the middle of a highway. Yuan mutters a sixteen-digit code—a privilege of being a war hero—and he sends it through his CRAB. The SLED AT leaves, stopping its siren and not disturbing their monk war hero anymore.

Privileges exist to be exploited.

The universe provides cheat codes so they can be used. He unlocked the cheat codes when everyone called him a war hero.

Yuan, exiting the car, takes the dead crow and carries it to his car’s trunk. He needs to burn it later. The other vehicles wait behind silently. Everyone worships a war hero in their hearts, even after five decades. Yuan ignores them.

Rotten feather.

Dead animals.

Dead crow.

Is this an omen? A threat?

The Monk looks for reasons. In programs, there are conditions, which the programmer must follow. Otherwise, the code won’t run. Throwing dead animals is a condition. Some may say it’s a ritual one needs to complete before the intention installs, before the will sets … But who is installing intentions?

Who wants to program the universe? Was it him?

Most importantly: Bother? Or not bother?

The evening sky is visible from this level of the highways; it looks as if a storm will soon invade above a roaring ocean. Ocean—the Monk thinks. There’s no ocean here. Yet, the more he looks into the sky, he feels himself sinking into the dark that screams like a storm in some distant, deep water. The water reminds him of that man. The Mesmerizer.

Don’t bother—Yuan, the Monk, decides with a sigh. He swore he wouldn’t get carried away, no matter how much others try.


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