A wanderer traveled from town to town, searching for the meaning of life. The mystics said that the answers were in silence. The philosophers said that there were no answers and only questions. In the last town, the scientists told him that what mattered was the number of the questions and possible answers and how to measure their constant changes. They also provided some rules on testing, publication and funding. Wandering in the woods, the poor man came upon a witch. The witch spoke of an ancient god who, not knowing the origin of the earth or the nature of things, went on a quest to find the narrative of life among the very giants who would later destroy all life. This was followed by stories of elephant gods, goddesses of murder, rapacious lightning bolts, and sacred hares. In the end, the witch offered to sell him some herbs and aromatic oils. The wanderer declined, and continued on his journey. The wanderer crossed mountains of silver fir, holm oak and mountain pine, passing among ridges of the whitest snow. The sky could have blinded him with its radiance. In the snow on the slopes of a hill, the wanderer came upon the body of an old priest, who had succumbed to starvation and the elements while making his pilgrimage. The wanderer retrieved the crucifix and rosary which the trembling old hands must have dropped in the snow. After burying the body, he whispered his promise to complete the unfinished pilgrimage on behalf of the old priest.
The man who was tired stopped before her threshold. Once again, he could not enter, for again he had arrived with all the wrong questions. The ciphers she would strip from her dark hair were a down-splashing rain through a voice like a sieve. Many cigarettes later, he then realized and determined not to venture back into her five-cornered street, not to get lost and wander her seven bridges. The formulas she had folded and those she had torn were thrown a great distance beyond shadows and unknowns. And his shadow was sleeping, regardless of time, blurring into a whisper of sickness and death. An obsolete silence struck his analog head. Then one night, he went out, shaved and dressed for a wake. And to the darkness he whispered. My cold fingers twine an abacus without beads and hold a cheap cigarette lighter with one single flame.
It was snowing. Smoking and thinking hard, the cryptographer watched the large wet snowflakes sparkle in the blue twilight through the window of his study. He returned to the desk, where the mysterious artifact sat, an ancient wooden box covered with a large lock consisting of several concentric circles or dials of various metals, some with the finger holes one would find on a rotary telephone, others with numbers, symbols, and scripts that nobody at the museum could decipher. One cigarette after another, he smoked and scribbled and thought about the mysterious box and its impenetrable lock. It was after midnight, some hundred nights since the beginning of this mess, that he solved the riddle in a glorious epiphany immediately celebrated with a glass of sherry. The numbers were for seasons and years; the runic symbols referred to metaphysical questions. It was only by sheer luck that he thought of the right question for this great and terrible year. The other years, their questions and laws, remained to be found. The lock clicked, and the box opened. Inside, to the left, sat various coils, batteries, hookswitches and a capacitor, all disconnected. To the right sat an apparatus that could have been a transmitter or speaker. The cryptogropher picked it up and spoke. Breaking all the laws he had hypothesized or imagined and almost breathless with a bittersweet fear, he asked several questions at once—where was his favourite book of woodcuts, who was the pretty girl on the train, what world was this and who would like to play with him in the snow? Then he held it to his ear. The night beyond flowed from the transmitter. It sounded like crushed stars, static and falling, wet snow. I really want someone to play with me.