It was a moist and moonless night at the turn of the century. I was meandering down a typical Manhattan alley, having just come off another unfulfilling night. My flagrant thoughts were punctuated by sounds of revelers finishing their night, which I tried to ignore in my self-imposed, and indulgent, solitude. As I passed the alley’s median, seemingly appearing from the ether, was a half-unhinged door two steps behind me. I only noticed it because of a glimmer at the periphery of my vision that disappeared as turned back towards the door. There were no distinguishing markings or symbols to reveal what lay beyond except for, what appeared to be, a scratched out clam or oyster that once was inlaid with mother of pearl.
I don’t know what part of my psyche prompted me to knock, but knock I did. And then…nothing. I don’t know what I expected to happen, but the knock, and my continued strengthening banging, elicited no response. I was about to rejoin my road to nowhere when, what I can only explain as, a light coming from the remaining mother of pearl inlay caught my eye. I gingerly ran my fingertips over the inlay and felt instead of the expected silky smooth surface, a roughness, almost like a cat’s tongue. As I continued to probe the mollusk, my fingernail caught on a small almost imperceptible latch that pulled outward and clicked so loudly I thought two city blocks must have heard it.
At this point, overlaying my curiosity was a growing sense of dread. But against all reason and my risk aversive nature, I continued and pushed on the door. Pushing with all the strength I could muster, the door wildly swung inward and I toppled into a heap within the pitch-black inner chamber. As if in slow-motion the door swung closed and clicked again with an equally intense ring. I knew I was locked in. Locked in a strange place in the dark.
I sat on the floor for what seemed like hours, but in all probably was only a few minutes when I heard faint music. The music was melodic and alluring. Like when you hear a song that seems so familiar, but also new, and you can’t help but hum along and yearn for more. I rose to my feel and felt my way towards the music, coming to yet another door. At this point, I had my fill of unknown doors and was not going to entreat anymore of my curiosity. However, I didn’t need to because the door swung open on its own accord to a blinding light and the melody flooded over me like a wave. Two pairs of strong, but gentle, hands reached from the light and seized me, escorting me inward. At this point, my senses were so overwhelmed I thought no stimuli could take me further, but I was wrong.
After several moments, my eyes adjusted to my new environment and I found myself in a large chamber. Now, the word “large” does not aptly describe the sheer enormity of the room. It was if I had entered a stadium, a stadium that would put Madison Square Garden to shame, centered in Manhattan. Every seat was occupied and each person was dressed in similar attire. The best I can describe their strange dress as Steampunk. Think of Steampunk as a retro-futuristic style where mid-19th century Victorian England is mixed with steam-powered machinery instead of advanced technology. As I was absorbing in this overpowering experience, a sudden deafening silence moved over the crowd. Within a few seconds, the apocryphal pin could have dropped and in unison, the eyes of every soul in the chamber turned towards me. Where was I and what was happening?
As if orchestrated, that crowd again moved their gazed, but this time to the round stage at the center of the chamber. Strange, such a large object, easily encompassing 1/3 of the floor, and I hadn’t noticed it. And on that stage was a lone figure. A man in his early twenties, of medium height, with dark tousled hair. He had a rugged good look and nature about him, but more overwhelming was the strong sense of confidence he exuded. A conference that enveloped the crowd and seem to entice you to “come along for the ride.” He was dressed in similar attire to the audience, with one notable exception. He seemed to be wearing a pair of corrective lenses. Now, I don’t mean glasses, but large goggles almost of the World War I flying ace vintage. They made his eyes seem abnormally large due to their convex lenses (which would mean these lenses made objects smaller for him). He also had at his side a hand-held musket with strange golden wires hanging off it.
I was knocked out of my musings by his strong and melodious voice, “Welcome sir. We have been expecting you. You are now within the Chamber of the Pearl and you have an opportunity like no other.” At this point I didn’t want any opportunity. I just wanted to go back to my now enthralling doldrum. “Come with me sir and all will be explained.” At that the crowd shouted with passion and worship, “The Adi, our past. The Adi, our future. The Adi, our light.” And with that, a heat shimmer appeared on the stage and The Adi was gone.
I was moved by the same strong and gentle hands, who I was belonged to one overly muscled man and equally large and muscled woman, to a antichamber below the stage. This room was furnished in a Victorian England decor, with dozens of gadgets and machinery on bookcases, tables, and even the floor. The rooms seemed to have a combined purpose of entertaining guests and workshop. Perhaps the work was to be the entertainment.
Seated at a high-backed chair with a crushed red velvet cushion and back was seated The Adi. His mouth held a quirky smile that expressed don’t be alarmed, but be excited. He gestured with slow grace towards an open seat directly across from him. I took the seat that was of the same design as his, but made of yellowish-brown crushed velvet. I folded my legs and looked expectantly at him, not knowing what else to do.
For long moments The Adi didn’t say anything and I began to fidget uncomfortably at the silence. The Adi eventually broke the silence by asking, “What do you dream?” What do I dream? What kind of question is that? I suddenly got angry. This was just too much for me to handle and now I had a question that seemed better asked from Willy Wonka. “Ah, I see you’re upset,” he said. “Let me ask it a different way. Do you feel your hopes, excitement, and dreams are just around the bend, but you are never able to turn the corner? Hmmm, I see I hit the heart.” I shifted uncomfortably at the truth he was uncovering.
The Adi continued, “I have an opportunity for you like no other. Do you know how a pearl is made? Of course you do. A speck of dirt gets in an oyster and the mollusk defends itself by building a protective coating over the intruder. Thus a pearl is born. However, most pearls are not natural. They are grown and cultivated in farms. And furthermore, these cultivated pearls are of exceptional beauty, size, and purity. They far exceed what nature gives us randomly.”
“Now think about what in our world has propelled us to new and unimaginable heights. Yes, yes, I see you are sensing it. Technology. Technology is the way humanity can achieve peace, security, and enlightenment. Now, should we leave this to society to haphazardly hope for an imperfect pearl that is rare or might never occur at all, or do we want to cultivate our leaps forward by planting the seeds that take root? We believe the latter is of way forward and we have been doing so for hundreds of years, since the age of enlightenment began. Think of a transforming figure and we planted the seeds: Copernicus, da Vinci, Rembrandt, Hamilton, Salk, and Wozniak to name a few. We have architected the world you see today, and today, I invite you to be a part of this dream, the Pearl Oyster.”
I was taken aback, I was confused, and most of all I was excited. With a rush of adrenaline, I left to my feet and pushed past my two escorts by the door. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing, but I knew I needed to leave. As I ran, I heard behind me, “Let him go, he will return.” I continued running; running through the large chamber, which now stood empty, and continuing to run back to the darkened room I first entered. To my utter surprise, the pearl inlaid door that began my rabbit hole adventure stood open to the alley way. It had begun to rain and I could see overflow collecting in gutters. I stood on the door’s precipice between my former rain drenched reality and this unknown world I’ve been invited into. I felt the rain from the outside brushing my face as I stood. Not thinking. Just being. The moment past in the briefest of nanoseconds, but felt like an eternity. And with that, I took two steps backwards towards the unknown and watched as the door slowly closed.
So, this is how I met The Adi, as I recall.