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TheThreat From Helios - ByJose Gainza

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THE THREAT FROM HELIOS—By Jose Gainza

One week in early summer, in the early evening, nineteen year old Justin Firkin, was riding his blue mountain bike through the wide, quiet paved streets of Toronto’s Bridle Path. He was almost unconscious that he had stopped before the property jeweled by a large glass structure. Squares, triangles, and curves were attached together and stacked atop each other. It was a large glass home of blue-green, like a piece of rough exotic emerald stone waiting to be cut for a ring, though born from the earth with clean geometric lines. He thought that it was the type of home he would like to live in some day.

Suddenly he saw smoke rushing out of a place he knew smoke should not emit from, a large window that could have been the location of the master bedroom, or a home office. He climbed the brick wall, unaware of the pain in his feet from landing from such a height. He flew to the entrance of the house, and smashed through the door’s glass with a lawn sculpture. He opened the door and yelled out. No one answered. He yelled again, even louder. No one answered. He flew up the long curved staircase, the smoke as thick fog before his vision. On the landing he heard a coughing at his feet, where he felt something living hit his feet. He picked up the victim and rushed him outside to breathe the sweet oxygen, and to meet the ambulance that would soon arrive, so indicated by the distant sirens. It was an elderly man and he was conscious, though struggling to breathe.

“Is anyone else inside?” Justin said it in a commanding yell.

The old man shook his head, indicating no, coughing violently, as he lay outstretched on the soft, well-manicured lawn.

And soon the ambulance arrived. The fire department managed to save most of the structure, though a very expensive renovation would be required.

The old man subsequently moved to his Muskoka cottage for rehabilitation and to await the completed renovation of his beloved city home. But by late summer the work was done, and his health was much better. Though as reward he had promised to pay for Justin’s college education, he insisted that Justin borrow his cottage for a week, before the summer were to end. He would allow a few of Justin’s trustworthy friends to join him, or Justin could use it alone. Justin chose to go alone.

Justin chose to use the large quiet home as a sort of fortress of solitude, to rejuvenate, and enjoy himself alone, before he was to decide what career he would choose. He enjoyed the long quiet drive to the cottage, gradually, step by step escaping from the loud, busy, crowded city; driving the copper colored Range Rover he had borrowed from the old man he had saved. He enjoyed the reading he was able to do, which he rarely did in the city, from the old man’s grand book shelf. He enjoyed the jazz, intense and rare, from the owner’s collection. He enjoyed the fine meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables, left for him in the owner’s fridge. He enjoyed some of the fine wine, scotch, and brandy, awaiting him with bows and notes addressed to him. He enjoyed the cool morning awaking wrapped under luxurious fox pelt. He enjoyed the walks through the green echoing woods, and the sounds and buzzing of nature. He enjoyed the sun basked swims in the lake and the naked dips at night.

And on one of those nights after one of those dips, he felt unusually cold, as he exited the lake pool. He began to shiver immediately, which made him rush to the cabin, all the way thankful that he had lit a fire in anticipation of his return. As he passed the threshold of the door, he began to take off his robe, which soon was dropped to the floor as his naked body arrived at the fire; his skin beginning to tingle in delight amidst its warmth. He stood before it like a man carrying two pales of heavy water, both arms outstretched so. He turned around slowly to feel the shifting streams of radiation hit his skin. He began to stretch and breathe measured and deeply. He began to squat and he enjoyed the stretching effort, part pleasure part pain, of his firm thighs, hamstrings, knees, and calves; the growing freedom of his lower back, and the length of his spine. In that moment he loved fire as such, as he loved the feeling of saving his benefactor some months ago.

And he thought about fire as such as he stayed close to the one before him—as his body grew hotter and hotter amidst the stillness of his thought. Fire can be destructive, he thought, as it could have destroyed the owner of this oasis. Think of Nero and Rome. Think of San Francisco, twice. Think of volcanoes. And yet we need it so, the source of light, the source of warmth. And the tool of brutality and nihilism: think of the library of Alexandria and the lost works of Aristotle. How blind would we be without the sun! How futile and degenerate our ocean travels without our lanterns, lighthouses, without our stars. How dark our searches without the flame to shed the light. And isn’t ignorance like a darkness? And isn’t knowledge like an enlightenment? I open my eyes and expose my ignorance to enlightenment. And yet I can shut my eyes—and I can shut my mind. So that my mind is like a moving flame of my control; I can control the time, duration, and subject of thought; I can control the intensity of my mind’s fire: I can think harder, I can harness a better light more engulfing, and grow in wisdom—with my burning will, my glory flame.

And in that moment he fell in love with fire—and feared it too. For, weren’t there, too often, those geniuses who went too far: those scientists, philosophers, psychologists, those who burned themselves with their own torch? At what point is light an evil? In what way does fire destroy? In what context will too much thought make us lose our mind?

That night he knew his vacation was worth it, and that one day before he died, he would find out when thought is dangerous—or what type.

Leona Greenwood possessed a profound love for her father. She was protective of him, of his fragile, vulnerable soul, because she felt he loved his job too much. He, Allistor Greenwood, was the CEO of Greenwood Lumber, headquartered in a lumber town of northern Ontario. Since her earlier youth she hated the changed countenance that greeted her some nights. It was tired, sad, angry, bewildered. But she knew that he worked most of his hours with a stern face that still promised a faint delightful glow that was his ever-present love of living action, work. She would often remember the smile on his face upon witnessing his cavalcade of trucks marching away with a shipment destined to become the homes of some new neighborhood. And yet there were nights when he came home with that horrid face. As she grew older, and became more involved in the operations of the business, she came to learn that Allistor often had to deal with nagging government inspectors, encumbering government regulation, looting competitors, whining customers, apathetic employees, Machiavellian managers—all a drain of the usual delight of running a business that supplied North America with lumber. Leona wanted to protect him from all this, she wanted to save him, to fly him to a place where the realities of the modern lumber industry were not real.

And when she would tell him of this wish, Allistor would laugh. He could not imagine a world where business was not the way it was. He was not a dreamer but a doer, who basked in the delight of doing work he loved, in the delight of growing bigger, to do more of the same. He would call her his little flame, because that is what she would be if she got her wish: an annihilating flame for his enchanted forest.

And so she became a part of it. She grew to love it like he did. But her motive was to run the company, and not out of some brutish ambition, but out of her love for him. She wanted to take the helm, to protect Allistor from the storm, to lead him to a happy retirement, where the sun shone all day, extinguishing night once and for all.

Because, really, her happiness sprung from a different activity, an activity that was more profound and more complex than the mechanism of running a lumber company. Essentially, she was an aspiring philosopher. Her most enjoyable activity was to read the sages of the last three thousand years, to write her theories down on paper, to walk the forests of her father in a solemn philosophic contemplation, in her peripatetic forests. Helping to run her father’s empire was what she did when she was not involved in philosophic inquiries. She rose quickly and Allistor admired her for it. She rose to the stage where it was clear that she was a dangerous rival to the other executives in waiting. She was just a regional operations manager but she was only twenty.

One day Allistor Greenwood decided to take a vacation. It was in the form of camping out on a newly acquired parcel of land in British Columbia, for the purposes of surveying, and determining manufacturing logistics. Leona stayed behind to run the main operations.

Justin Firkin, still nineteen, still undecided as to his career, still in the autumn shortly after his cottage of solitude, was watching the national news one afternoon, stretched out on his sofa. One of the top stories made him shoot up from the couch, and stand staring at the news anchor and the video footage provided. Vocelios Daily reported in his deep, strong, thunderous, ominous voice,

“In British Columbia today a conflagration, the magnitude of which has not been seen in recent history, is ripping through hundreds of acres of forests. It is reported that the land has been recently acquired by Greenwood Lumber of Ontario. Among the casualties is believed to be Allistor Greenwood, CEO and founder. His reasons for being at the scene are unknown at this time. Trustworthy sources predict that Mr. Greenwood is unlikely to survive the fire because the flames appear to have engulfed the location of his camp. Mr. Greenwood is 68 years old and would leave behind his twenty year old daughter and heiress to his billion dollar fortune. “

The footage was of a rolling blanket of forest, and the scattered walls of fire, smoke black and grey rushing to a grey sky. The vista promised nothing but destruction. Justin’s first instinct was to fly into the television and transport himself to British Columbia, to save his second victim of fire.

And his eyes began to tear at the realization that his intentions were futile, and that this old man would surely perish and that the plane dropping water would only tease the thirst of the fire, and that the small army of firemen would be fighting the fire for weeks. And he remembered Vocelios Daily’s mention that he had a daughter his age. And he felt the torture she must be feeling at this very moment. He wanted to hold her, to console her, though he had never met her. He remembered the pride he felt in saving his benefactor, and he knew what he would do with his life: He would become a fire man.

Meanwhile Leona Greenwood sat in her office staring at the television she had just turned off. She knew that her father would not survive the inferno. And she commanded that she not cry in that moment; she would wait until the evening when her day’s work was done. She was also not the type who rushed into her suffering; work, thought devoted to lumber manufacturing, would be her way of postponing the inevitable.

But she did allow herself to think about the matter, though she would suppress the hurt. This is not the way I wanted him to retire. It was not Earth that I wanted him to leave; not earth I wanted him to turn into. I just wanted him to leave the heavy politics of lumber. He called me his little flame but I was not the flame who burned his forest and his soul. It must have been human accident because it’s too late in summer for the sun to cause the inferno. How many acres will we lose—and what will be the consequence of that? It doesn’t matter … because now I wonder if it’s worth it for me to stay with Greenwood, now that my father is dead. There is nothing left to save. It is fitting that he died amongst his trees, melted and fused into his forest. All that remains is his soul found in the remnant of his business. His vision still remains: to be the best at the lowest price. His style still remains: honesty, justice, reward. His industry must still remain. His wealth must be transformed. I must still remain to provide him with the legacy he deserves.

In January Justin Firkin enrolled in the Academy for Fire Prevention Training. In preparation for that he trained every day at the gym to develop the body he would need to bear the endurance and strain of fireman training. He began to read used textbooks he bought at Goodwill on chemistry, physics, and biology. He began to dream of the day when he would become fire chief, or the day when he would be appointed National Commissioner of Fire Prevention and Safety. He even dreamed of some time when he would invent a new type of portable fire extinguisher, or discover a substance that would instantly extinguish a forest fire. The idea of his new found career excited him.

Leona, within five years, took full control of the management of Greenwood Lumber. She became CEO, Chairman of the Board, and majority stock holder. She became known in the business world as a prodigy: the Atlanta of the woods—so young, a female in a man’s sport.

It was time for her to make one of the biggest decisions of her career. She had to decide where the next big investment was going to be. Everyone in the company, almost everyone, thought she was crazy. Her idea was to build a giant greenhouse, the size of ten football fields, to begin the nursing of Palm trees for the fine furniture industry, and to start a new trend. She was going to hire designers to tell consumers what they could use the new wood for; and scientists who could discover ways to grow tall trees in a matter of months, when it used to take decades perhaps. She found a scientist who promised he could do it. Working in seclusion and isolation at the new greenhouse-laboratory, the scientist would be able to apply his new developed method and nutrients to the species of trees that constituted the bulk of the mainstream forestry industry. She had showed the necessary people the numbers and the science behind her idea, and after a hard, hard battle, she won them over and secured the funding. The landsite was chosen, cleared, and tilled. The seeds were ordered. The endeavor would be starting in a matter of weeks.

Justin Firkin was performing squatting exercises with a long bar weight on his back. He was looking, concentrated, into his own eyes, grunting softly with every plunge. He wore a now moistened tight fire department t-shirt, and fire department cargo pants that wrapped his legs tightly. The television was on behind him and he could see the reflection of the grey-haired, glasses-wearing, white Vocelios Daily. Suddenly Vocelios’ voice caught his attention for he was discussing a series of suspicious outbursts of forest fires.

“The sun seems to be setting for Greenwood Lumber, amidst a series of infernos. Greenwood Lumber lost its’ founder and then CEO five years ago in another tragic forest fire. The great, great majority of Greenwoods’ land holdings are now in flames. Vast forests in B.C., Quebec, Ontario, Alaska, and California burst into flames suddenly at approximately the same time today. Arson is highly suspected. In fact, authorities believe that Islamic terrorism may very well be involved. It is widely known that Allistor Greenwood was one of Canada’s major contributors to the cause of the state of Israel and its defense. His contributions have totaled into the tens of millions of dollars. Since his death, a fund was started in his name devoted to the support of the state of Israel. Osama Bin Laden in one of his recently released audio recordings is heard encouraging his disciples to sabotage the industry of the western world. He is even heard specifying the burning down of our forests. Allistor’s successor, Leona, has refused commentary. On behalf of our station we would like to sincerely give our condolences to Miss Leona Greenwood. Experts believe that Greenwood Lumber will never recover and will fold soon.”

A picture of Leona was flashed on the television and that moment seemed like an eternity, for Justin saw her in that moment so beautiful, such a goddess, such a precious gypsy. He had already put down the weight and was seated now on an exercise bench. He hoped to meet her one day. And he seriously started to think about that substance, yet to be invented that would stop forest fires instantly. Because, to him, nature was not malevolent at all, and the two tragedies at the hands of fire, were not the result of nature’s conscious providence or some doomed fate. Destiny was not punishing Leona, certainly not, for being so beautiful, so intelligent, so talented, so successful. Nature was on his and her side, he knew.

And so until he could discover the opportunity by which he would meet her, he would remain working for the Marine Unit of the Toronto Fire Department, located on Queen’s Quay West. The chief had enthusiastically welcomed Justin as part of the team.

After ensuring that the company pension and the company emergency fund were intact and could provide for just severance pay for the thousands who would remain jobless, Leona Greenwood retired from the lumber industry forever. For five years since her father’s death, she still did not let herself engage in the activity of sad wailing that she knew would have to come some day. The emergency death blow that had struck her company—the consequent urgent need for the head executive to be at the utmost rational, patient, and diligent—could not allow her the long since promised lament. And now she was free. She left behind the forests of Northern Ontario for the granite, glass, and cement of Toronto.

She moved into a penthouse condo at Spadina and Bremner, a skip and a jump to the Rogers Centre. Her suite was on the southeast corner so that her vista on the south was the vast waters of Lake Ontario, and on the east, the wall of rising towers which was the dominating skyline of Toronto. Her tower was fifty-six floors of grey-toned glass and industrial plastic, which gave its skin a silver, fish-scale-like illusion of geometrical perfection. On the roof in the middle, stretching from north to south was a white concave elliptical cylinder, which gave the entire structure the illusion of a very tall mast and sail.

To contemplate the lake on a daily basis provided her with a constant comfort, a guardian against the memory of the infernos that had plotted to ruin her life. And the wall which was the city to the east of her, was a majestic barrier against the flames of the past.

And then one morning she let herself feel. It was still purple in the east when, naked, she pressed her raised palms and forehead against the glass of a window, and closed her eyes, and breathed with effort. When she opened her eyes again the sky was metallic blue, and on the horizon she could see a small ball of fire. It was the sun. Her fear returned in that moment.

“Have you come to get me too, Helios? Have you come to end the peace and tranquility, which is all I have left? Have you come to start and end my sorrow in one swift blow, one scalding scorch? Man has worshipped you since the beginning of time and yet you bring such doom—is that your final end? Are you my destiny—to be engulfed by you? The only man I have ever loved in any way—you consumed him: my father. My work, my sacred mission—was evaporated by you! And what is to become of me? Or have you come to watch me weep? Have you come to laugh at me, laugh like you always do when the beams of your laughter reach every man? And when my face is wet with tears and body drenched in sweat will you allow your rays to dry me?”

But the sun did not answer; it just kept growing closer, brighter, perhaps more menacing. She watched him, Helios, marching closer and closer to his conquest of her and the world, until her eyes began to hurt and she had to fight the ensuing temporary blindness. She now only felt the sun by the pain in her eyes. And then it was time. She crashed to the floor and lay on the soft carpet, and cried, wailed, convulsed, shivered, choked, and screamed—finally.

When it was over she rose from the wet carpet and smiled. It was over. The sky was now light blue and the sun was too blinding to look at. But she was not sad anymore. The sun of this day had set her free. And in that new moment she welcomed the sun again. The full context and benevolence of its energy came back to her. She thought of the Greek man who stole the fire of the gods and was punished by the gods, left chained to a rock to be eaten by carrion birds. And she thought about the other ambitious Greek who tried to fly to the sun on wings made of wax, and met his doom when the sun melted those wings. And she thought about the Greek philosopher who held the sun as the symbol of his intellectual enterprise, the ultimate goal of it, where men should seek to grasp the sun, the source of light and enlightenment, so that the holder can see the most. And that was the end of his goal and he asked not: what for?

And she inferred that the story of Prometheus was a warning for men who want to know too much. And that the story of Icarus was a warning against those who think their mind is adequate enough to know the truth, but out of pretense. And the prescription of Plato was a recipe for lethargic insanity. And this was enough for now. All she had to remember was what there was still to live for? And this was it—to think like this. Philosophy was still the sanction of her life—though not necessarily for all—but it was for her, the individual. This was who she was: a philosopher. And she could afford the lifestyle. And it would be philosophy that would allow her to bear never falling in love or to taste a man.

She was very conscious of the trauma that the two great losses of her life had caused. She was convinced that she was doomed never to experience the greatest of human ecstasy. Love and sex were not nature’s promise for every man. A person who has it within him or her to feel the depths and magnitude of sorrow that she had experienced that morning could never reach the heights of joy henceforth. Philosophy would help her along the way, though—thus was her lesson from the sun.

She went for a walk along the lakeside in the afternoon. She sat on a bench by the fire station. She was accepting with serenity the destiny she had convinced herself of. And then she saw him.

He was not tall but his body was proportioned and balanced. He was not skinny but lean and well sculpted, not bulky at all. His male beauty was not of that highest class, which borders on the feminine. It was a masculine beauty but it was fine; that point where masculine beauty escapes from the feminine but still dances among the highest class from which it has escaped. His nose was a perfect triangle, on a small but hard head. His skin was the color of a cashew nut. His eyes were brown but sweet, loving, and angelic. Though his face was fit for that of a warrior in the act of slaughter, it also was the face of a loving father holding his beloved infant. His head was shaved and black, though it may have been coffee brown. His skull had the quality that could serve as the standard for a master sculptor and his bust. His cheeks were thin, delicate, and flat, not too high, and not low; though they could promise a terror if one were to witness them in rage and fury. His hands were strong, a little bit rough, and a little bit long. His legs were thin but seeming large only because of their strength, perhaps the legs of a swimmer. His torso was compact but hard and well-trained. And she could swear that his pointed chin owned a dimple. His walk was calm, steady, relaxed, but his step was strong, when not in a hurry, and walking causally instead. The rhythm of his strides was even except for a subtle contortion of his buttocks: his left leg led, and his right followed, simultaneously raising his right buttock cheek as if it were winking at some pleased on-looker. It, and he, was truly adorable, she thought.

She saw him enter the fire station. She waited for him to come out. Two hours later, he was rushed out hanging from the side steps of the fire truck, dressed in uniform.

She bought a high-powered telescope that same night.

The next morning, she arose just after sunrise. She sat at her station, fifty-six floors up, and surveyed the station. She sat there all day. She found that he was there a lot. But, also she found that he left for calls frequently. But so did others and he was left behind, for he was not hanging on the truck’s side, as he always was when he did leave the station. She knew what she would do the next day.

She decided that it would happen in the afternoon, when most of her neighbors would be at work. She waited for the truck to leave on which he would not be on. She turned on the stove, set the element to highest, and let the egg on the pan overheat and burn, she poured an excess amount of oil, over the element, and soon a flame was born, which grew bigger and bigger. She had succeeded. She locked herself in her bedroom and waited. She heard the sirens start.

When it was all over, and she had convinced Justin to carry her downstairs to ground level, she was bewildered by the mocking smile on his face. A few firemen stayed in the apartment to investigate the cause of the fire. The kitchen, living room, and den were ruined. Justin and Leona were alone in the elevator, and she held him tight.

“Leona, my name is Justin.”

“Justin, the fire was arson by my own hand.”

“Why did you do it?”

“So that I could meet you; so that I could meet you in the act of putting out my fire; so that I could love for the first time in my life, the hero who could save me from the flames. Beautiful angel.”

“I’ve wanted to meet you since the tragedy of your father—and more so, since the ruin of your business.”

“I will willingly face charges and pay for the damages.”

“Yes, you must.” He looked at her with sincere reproach but was too glad to be holding her. She brushed his cheek and looked him in the eyes, “You are the Helios of my destiny, my destined romantic passion.”

THE END.

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