The Dodecahedron Mystery Episode 1

To David and Colin for your ceaseless belief, advice, along with your magnificent talents to make this project happen.

To every wonderfully “weird” student that I was fortunate to connect with. By searching for your truth and authenticity, you challenged me to do the same!


1. Alien

I’m a contrarian. I might even be related to the nursery rhyme character “Mary, Mary, quite contrary.”  If someone orders me to go one way, I ‘ll instinctively do the opposite. What’s considered “in” at the moment has no appeal to me. But being fashionable parades as truth these days.  It’s just a never-ending cycle of jealousy and manufactured opinion. I don’t get it.

Being independent has its costs. I’ve been called “weird,” “freakish,” “shrill,” and, of course, the “B” word.  More than a few times I’ve been told, “Don’t worry honey, you’re still young.” 

Maybe they’re right, but I’d rather take my chances relying on what I feel to be right for me. It has been working out more times than not. This way I can’t blame others when I get stuck. I’ve been lucky. I seem to have a knack for getting out of trouble.

But this time it’s different. I wouldn’t mind some advice. I’m lost in a deadly storm, climbing some treacherous mountains on a strange planet–hoping to find an observatory to deliver a package. 

For what purpose? I wish I knew.


2. Nature Rules

I’ve been on a trek for three straight days without rest. Anything that can walk, crawl, or fly has taken shelter. Except me. I’ve been told that I’m in a race against time. If this package doesn’t arrive  at its destination before dawn, I will have failed. And that failure will trigger some kind of dark, even violent, time.

An intense surge of wind and rain knocks me backwards. I’m feeling like a pinball in an old arcade game. I temporarily crouch behind a fallen tree

The Dodecahedron Mystery

These gusts have been vicious. They’re snapping, even uprooting, trees. All that is alive, and able to move, has taken shelter long ago. I do not have that luxury. 

I start again. Another wind blast pushes me around. This doesn’t feel like a fair fight, but I keep plowing ahead.

After two more hours, the wind starts to calm. But a quick drop in temperature brings shivers to my drenched and muddied body. Buttoning up, or shedding the excess water from my hat, doesn’t help at all. 

Yet, comfort is hardly my main concern. With the weather clearing, I will have to deal with another powerful force. 

I can’t let them catch me.


3. Gatekeeper

At the edge of the pass, I scan the area with my binoculars. I spot the bridge that I need to cross. I’ve been warned that it can be dangerous  even in good conditions. There may even be a grumpy, old guard  protecting its entrance.

The Dodecahedron Mystery

But this is the most direct route to the observatory. I’ve got to try it.

As I near, I spot the back of a figure lurking next to the bridge. It’s the size of a large human. It’s at least my height and built more thickly. It’s wearing what appears to be a trench coat without the bottom half. It moves awkwardly. 

Maybe this thing will leave. I’d rather avoid it, but it remains by the entrance. I can’t wait. I’m running out of time.

I move closer. Maybe I can distract it and then zip over the bridge. I believe I have a speed advantage. What if I throw a stone off to the side? Will it go inspect where it lands?

My mind churns. I have to plan for the worst-case scenario. My fear is that it will not allow me to pass. If things go wrong, what are my options? Fight? Flight? I only have a knife.

There’s a tree nearby by the bridge entrance. If it wants to fight, and I see there’s no way to win, I could get to the tree first. I believe I can climb higher than it can. 

I’d rather show it that I’m not a threat. What goodwill gesture might it understand? What about the magnifying glass from my backpack as an offering? I will need to move slowly and keep my hands open and in sight. I’m not comfortable with any of this, but I can’t think of anything else.

“As ready as I’m going to be.”


4. Questions

I’m close enough that it will detect any sound I make. I actually want it to discover me now. Otherwise, I may frighten it and make it mad. I gently kick a small rock toward it.

I place the magnifying glass between my thumb and forefinger. I raise my other hand to signal a peaceful hello.

It swivels around and stands up in one continuous motion. I do a double take. What is it? A hybrid walrus? Its facial expression changes from neutral to surprise and then suspicious puzzlement.

The Dodecahedron Mystery: Chapter One

It’s way bigger than I hoped—a foot taller and at least twice my weight. When our eyes lock, it lets out an ear-piercing bellow. I stagger back from the vibration. Fortunately, it doesn’t move to threaten me.

“What do I do next?’’ I ask myself trying to keep calm. I feel like I am dealing with a child—a very dangerous one. 

“Do you know where you’re going?” It says clearly.

Startled, I answer, “Yes.” I speak slowly, so it will understand me. “I am looking for the observatory.”

“Of course! I know that,” it responds. “But why do you want to go there?”

I’m not only surprised at his command of my language, but how does he know where I’m going? And it is a “he.”

“I’m new on this planet and learning its ways. I’ve been directed to visit the observatory,” I tell him.

I remind myself to remain cautious and be prepared for anything.

“Are you a player?” he asks.

“Huh?” I didn’t expect the random question. Since he has the upper hand, I go along. But does he mean a player of games, or a “playah,” or fully engaged in life?

He answers his own question. “I’m guessing that you are. Otherwise you would not be here. So, ready to play?”

I play it safe. “It depends on the game.”

“Oh, a cautious young one. This game is always deliciously different. You will experience many things that you never have before.”

How does he know what I’ve experienced? My annoyance slips out. “I really don’t have time for this. I’m on a mission!”

It isn’t what he wants to hear. He roars again. But again, no movement toward me.

He calms himself before he speaks. “Your comment is arrogant. I am a Gatekeeper for my People. My job is to see who you are, and what you stand up for. If you don’t want to play the game with me–such a pity–you have two other options. The first is to perform an experiment that I choose. Or, you can choose to answer three questions.”

I realize I’m screwing up. My attitude is making both of our lives harder.

“What kind of experiment?” I ask.

“I will choose one,” he answers.

Since I have no idea what the experiment might be, I respond quickly: “Three questions, please. Hopefully, none requiring historical dates or proper grammar.” 

“You understand that if you cannot answer the questions adequately—and only I determine what ‘adequately’ means–you cannot pass? Do you agree to that?”

“Do I have a choice?” I answer with a tinge of sarcasm but hopefully not enough to upset him. At least, he’ll know that I’m not a pushover.

“You have a choice. You can always turn around.”

He pauses and waits. I remain silent.

“Good!” he says, “I so enjoy visitors. First question: ‘What are the five elements in every game?’”

“Oh, great,” I mumble to myself. I should have chosen to play a stupid game with him. Now I need to be mind based. Rational. That word has always reminded me of “rations” like the food soldiers carry, or “rationing” as in limited supply. Anyways, not my style.

I order my mind to stop complaining and be of help. I refocus on the question. “Ok, every game has a goal.”

“Yes, a mission,” he agrees, “And?”

“Every game has rules,” I add.

“Yes, yes, good, good!”

“Every game has a board, or a field, or a screen…”

The walrus interrupts. “There are exceptions, but you’re on it. Every game has a specific environment!”

“What else? What else?” A memory comes to mind—sitting on floor playing jacks with my friends. “Friends!”

The Walrus smiles.

That’s four, I think. One more, one more. I look at my memory.
My friends. The pointed, metal jacks in my hand. The sound of the ball bouncing on the varnished floor.

“A ball! Jacks! Things to play the game!” I practically shout it.

“Yes, Tools!” he chimes in. “Like a ball, or a weapon, to help you play. Congratulations! You’ve got all five! Every game has a Mission, Rules, Players, Environment, and Tools. To remember it more easily, use the first letter of each of the elements: MR PET. It’s silly, but it comes in handy. And MR PET serves as a tool for more than just casual games. Sometimes we use it as a system to figure out other systems: like how to choose what to do in life, or in your case, how to deal with a gatekeeper.” He laughs with self-satisfaction.

“Okay, okay, second question. ‘How many qualities do all creatures, including worms, have in common?’”

“That’s simple. They all need food to survive.”

“Ok, that’s correct. Can you go to another level?”

“Don’t I get credit?” I complain. 

Yes, you do. Do you want to give another answer, or stick with one aspect, and hope that will be good enough?”

I respond to the challenge, “They move.” 

“Yes, everything is vibrating. What else?” He asks encouragingly.

“They all need a certain degree of warmth.”

“Good. Keep going!”

I admit I’m enjoying this and have lost track of time—up to that moment. The thought of the time crunch tightens my mind and then my body. I think he notices my discomfort.

“How about this? he says. “The prime directive for all living things is to move towards pleasure and away from pain. Whether it’s worms, with 100 cells for a brain, or you humans with nearly a billion times that. Your people discovered what happens when a human’s pleasure/emotional center is removed or decommissioned. The rational part is left to make decisions. And when a rational-only brain is asked to express preferences, it turns out that it doesn’t have any. Without emotions, whether it’s chocolate or vanilla, or Bach or Chuck Berry, it matters not. ‘Ration Al’ has no preferences without emotions.”

“Wow! Then why do we give so much weight to the rational?” I ask puzzled.

“There’s a balance between the two of course. But your people rely primarily on the rational as the standard. As a result, the Rules you’ve created may appear logical but the Mission is out of whack. Your type can rationalize nearly anything. If the Mission is distorted, the Rules only lead you to the distortion more quickly. Imagine if your society believed that the Mission of playing a really enjoyable piece of music was to perform it as quickly as possible and finish it first before the other musicians. How much pleasure would be lost? The Mission is not very logical, and the rules to play it as fast as possible may be logical, but it doesn’t make sense. Ah, the difference between being sensible and rational!

But that’s a rabbit hole we don’t have time for now,” he adds. “Next and final question. ‘Nearly all creatures have programming to predict and affect behavior. Your people discovered that as well. Are you aware of a specific method, a system, or rule of thumb, that you use to predict and affect behavior?”

I stand there in silence. I have no clue. I mean I went through something like that before meeting this walrus. I moved through a series of progressions as to what my actions might be. But I don’t have any system.

“Isn’t every situation different?” I offer weakly.

“I’m going to give you a break. I just asked you a very important question as to how you steer your human equipment. It has major consequences. Not understanding this can, and has, caused you a lot of pain. On this planet, we are all given numerous chances to grow and learn. Skillfully steering our equipment to develop our talents… very much like your Ancient Greeks. They called it Arete.”

He pauses. “Next time we meet we’ll discuss the importance of predict and affect.”

“Yes, ok.” It sounds reasonable. It will also give me some time to think more about his questions.  I need to get moving.

“You may pass,” he says and graciously steps aside.

I say goodbye and immediately switch gears. I have this tricky rope bridge to navigate. But the questions he asked continue to rumble around in my mind. “Systems? What are mine?” My thought is interrupted. My next step is going to take my full attention.


5. Treacherous

The bridge is a bunch of ropes joined together in rectangles. Some of the ropes are frayed or torn. I have to get down on all fours. Every movement is a constant adjustment. It’s like dancing with spaghetti while wearing a backpack. My leg slips from the ropes. I need just one quick glance at the raging river hundreds of feet below to scare myself into into intense concentration.

The trail narrows and starts to rise. My feet slip on the loose, wet rocks. 

There is a chain railing. But my progress is slow. 

The wind returns. 

“Can’t catch a break!” I mutter.

I scold myself for complaining. It just won’t help.

“Just focus on the next step. That’s all you need to do.” 

That thought works for a few minutes.

Why didn’t I ask the walrus how far it’s to the observatory? And why didn’t I get his name?” He feels almost like a friend. 

My eyes focus on the steep drop to my left. For a moment, I struggle with images of hurtling into the abyss and never delivering the package. My hand checks my inner jacket pocket to see if the book is secure.

 “Why did I have to be the one stuck with this thing? I didn’t ask for this book!”

My self-pity turns costly. I lose track of where my foot needs to land next. With my hand still inside my pocket, I slip and lose traction. I need both hands to break the momentum but can’t recover quickly enough. My head hits the ground. I start sliding off the trail descending into a free fall. I reach out grasping for anything to slow my fall. I twist my body toward land. My shoulder bangs into an outcropping of sharp, wet rocks, but I’m going too fast to hang on. I continue downwards. 

The shock from hitting the rocks spreads to my neck and arm producing a most intense jolt of pain. But I’ve got a much bigger problem.

¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡ ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡ ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡ ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡

6. Casualty

I begin bouncing off tree limbs. I desperately try to hook onto a  sturdy branch. No go. I’m still moving too fast. The trees on the mountain’s edge have long dangling roots. I grab at some, but they tear away. My speed slows a bit.

I continue falling. I grab at more tree roots.

“Got it!” I jerk to a stop and hang there stunned. It takes a couple minutes before I stabilize. I feel fortunate and relieved. Yet, my life is dangling by mere threads—or roots.

Carefully I start pulling myself up to safety. My adrenaline temporarily numbs the pain in my shoulder. Drained of energy, I finally reach solid ground. I remain on all fours with head and body sagging. I never imagined that being drenched, exhausted, and in pain could feel this good. Unfortunately, the agony in my shoulder increases. I remind myself that I’ve got to keep going. I’ve lost precious time and have to retrace my steps. I grit my teeth and continue up the trail.

I spot a cave entrance. The desire to dry out, rest, and inspect my shoulder—even for a short time—is overpowering. Yet, I need to be cautious. A large, hungry animal may be awaiting inside.

I turn on my flashlight and enter slowly. I scan the floor, walls, and ceiling. No one or nothing here. A little clammy but dry enough. Off to side, there’s a fire pit with dying embers.

“Whose fire was this and will they return?” I wonder with some concern.

I restart the fire. I lay out my bedding and soggy clothes. My body takes over deeply exhaling. I swallow a painkiller from my med kit. Once settled, my attention turns to the package.

∙ ∙⎞⎛∙ ∙⎠⎝∙ ∙⎞⎛∙ ∙⎠⎝∙ ∙⎞⎛∙ ∙⎠⎝∙ ∙

7. The Book

I check to see if the package is still dry. It is. For the first time in over three days, I have the chance to inspect it. 

“If I’m risking my life, don’t I have the right to at least see what it contains?”

It’s true that I was never given permission. I was never told not to open it either.

“If I can discover a clue to make this mission easier, wouldn’t being as knowledgeable as possible make sense?”

It’s still dry. I unwrap it carefully. It’s definitely a book.

“Do I really want to mess with this book now? It may have some kind of power. Why would they have asked me to stake my life on its delivery if it isn’t valuable and potent?”

My defenses are low. “Maybe I should wait?”

But that’s not me. “It’s just a book,” I tell myself.

I open to a random page. Without warning, an image shoots out of the book and hovers six feet in front of me.

Then it shoots straight through my body. It’s not painful, but I’m so startled I slam the book shut. The image is gone. I am surprised, relieved, and curious. I hesitate to open the book again. But I do. This time more cautiously. I wait. Nothing happens. After reading just one sentence, I stop cold.

(  )   Ever shoot rubber bands out a window?

“This is what I’ve been risking my life for? Is someone playing a big, cosmic joke on me?”

Then I burst into uncontrollable laughter. Tears run down my cheeks. How ironic! Shooting rubber bands from my bedroom window was something that I did frequently as a kid. I was often sent to my room for violating some silly rule. To pass the time, I’d use rubber bands to hit objects outside. 

Once in high school, my friend and I were at a fancy supermarket.  Out of nowhere, I told him to jump into the empty grocery cart next to us. Without hesitation, I drove him through the aisles at speed.

My childhood friend, who’s now a big guy, barely fit into the cart. He was a load. As silly as that was, the best part was his in-your-face beaming smile at everyone we passed. Any adventurous eight-year old would have been proud. But he was twice that age and three times the size.

We were violating some unwritten rule for proper public behavior: “Be predictably boring.” Dozens of people pretended not to see us. Only one woman, who stocked the hot food bar, dared look us in the eye. She gave us a big, wide-eyed smile of encouragement with a nod of admiration. However, she was the only one, and we were drawing the attention of the authorities. We quickly hightailed it out of the store.

Later that day my Mom’s friend, who was there, let her know. I was sent to my room. I started shooting rubber bands out the window.

“What is this book?” I hesitate for a moment. But now, more than ever, I feel I must check it out. I turn to the beginning.

When the images stop, I see this.

Book of

Discovery is the greatest high.
-E.O. Wilson

Welcome! We’re glad you’re here!
This book contains the wisdom we’ve acquired from the past
It’s now your present.
On this planet, how you choose to use the book
Will determine your future.
It’s in the form of a mystery wrapped inside a game.
Like our expanding universe, the more we discover
The more there is to know.
It is filled with questions, experiments, and more games.
And if you play this game well, as successful explorers know, the rewards are humbling.
You choose what interests you.
If there is an item that attracts your attention for more than a fleeting moment, highlight the code before the question. 
Or, cut and paste what interests you to form a new document. 
There is no need to answer any item.
As a result, the mystery you unravel will be different than anyone else’s. 
You will receive the experience that is unique to you. 
^xS  What surprise would you like to repeat? Remember the feeling of an unexpected day off? Or the best gift, or a great kindness, that you didn’t see coming your way?
][][C  How about a new holiday? How about a “Scientists Day” where we use “experiment and modify” to steer our lives instead of lose-lose reality of trial and error?
/’/’I  Are you primarily a whole-to-parts learner or parts-to-whole learner?  Knowing this can make a big difference in your life.
∆/V Can you guess how these were created?

Answer: Both are photographed in a dark dome. On top is a single rapidly vibrating white string with a rotating light of different colors shining from below onto that string. The next photo are glow sticks with prisms bending their light.

<\/What game has been played before the dawn of history, and is still played around your world today? 
Why is it still so  popular? Is the game Hunting or Hunted? In other words, Hide and Seek? Are these women the hunted, or the hunters?

Or, could the oldest game be Follow the Leader? What about No-Leader-No-Follower?

:[:]:I  What skill would you want to do brilliantly by just snapping your fingers?

<^>  What is causing these very different reactions at the same event?  Is there a lesson going on here?

√\/I  What rule would you like to break and not be punished for?

oioV  Using maps and compasses, explorers have discovered great treasures. Ever see this interactive map?

\|\N  Spin the map to Antarctica. The winds around Antarctica are the engine to your planet’s weather.

⎛⎛⎛I  When you find yourself confused, and in a negative thought pattern, life is painful. And every mental or emotional construct doesn’t work. A great “go to” is to get physically active. It may be the last thing you want to do. Yet, automatically you will be rewarded with feel good chemicals moving through your brain. When you feel good, the whole world changes. Just don’t try to run a world-class time your first few times out. Here’s some fun and different ways to be physical.

It all starts with finding something you enjoy doing. What physical activities did you enjoy as a kid?

|{|}|  Imagine a formula that explains how

coastlines, mountain ranges and cloud formations are formed. It was discovered in a dream. Check out a video on Mandlebrot fractals.

√][I  What if you had a magic carpet and you could visit anywhere real or imagined, where would you go?

{\}  Do you remember what were you doing when completely absorbed? Perhaps, like the person who carved this wood sculpture?

Or perhaps building a 20 foot wide dome above two swinging 8’ by 8’ doors?

*( )*  What could this fellow be thinking?

////  Ever grow anything?

*/\*  What songs can change your mood? Do you have playlists for songs that energize you? Or, that can move you into rhythm? Or, calms you when needed? Or, is good for studying?

(  )  ///>  What if you knew there was a more effective way to learn? It’s happened before on your planet. The Ancient Greeks coined the term  “school.” It literally meant leisure. Through leisure they developed and codified activities like drama,

physics, geometry, history, architecture, philosophy, the Olympics, and astronomy.

(  )  /\<>  What’s the difference between a million and a billion?

One million seconds = 11.6 days
One billion seconds = 31.6 years.
One hundred billion = estimate of how many galaxies exist or the number of cells in your brain.

(  )  ←↑→  Bucky Fuller, designer, inventor of the geodesic dome, and futurist, wrote: “Don’t change people, change environments.” If you agree, what would you change?

(  )  ïηϒ Do you understand that you’re greater than any of your thoughts?

`’`’`  What if you were bored, or wanted to get into something new, and you keep procrastinating? Director Ron Lesson offers this: Take just 10 minutes to investigate what you’ve been postponing. It’s only 10 minutes. And if you like what’s happening, keep going. Otherwise you can check it off your list.

Do you have a “want” and/or “to do” list?

\\//  Over 4,000 years ago, a high-level civilization was located in the Indus Valley (parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India) that had no wars for 700 years. They even had indoor plumbing while your major civilized cities of London and Paris installed these  a mere 175 years ago. Yet deciphering the Harrapan symbols is still a mystery.

.:’:  Ever make a daydream, or thought experiment, real? Do artists, creative scientists, explorers of all varieties, like Richard Feynman, have a different way to look at the world? If so, what do they know we don’t?

I start to fade…

I awaken with a shiver and the book open.

“Better get moving. Dawn is the deadline.” 

I estimate there are six hours before my time is up. I quickly pack and head out. I feel a bit stronger. It’s still raining but not as intensely. At least, I’m dry.

The mountain has softened its incline. I start moving at a pace built for speed. The darkness is broken only with an occasional appearance from a waning moon. I stumble. The unexpected jerk ignites the irritated shoulder nerves. The intense shot of pain is a fresh reminder of how close to disaster I was earlier today.

I need to change this negative energy. It’s too costly. I start grunting in rhythm. Each grunt is louder than the last. But the pain from my stumble keeps triggering a sense of being out of control. My thoughts refuse to settle. They’re like a pack of starving dogs.

“I did not ask for this! I do not accept this destiny! I will take revenge on those who put me here!” I shout to the sky.

My rant surprises me. I sound like my former mentor whenever he lost his cool—which happened a lot. It’s why I left him.

I breathe in and out slowly and remind myself: “I am still here. I can accomplish this mission. But time is ticking. Concentrate!” Out of nowhere, I break into a childhood song:

“Row, row, row your boat, Gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.”

Strangely, I feel better. I would’ve never guessed that this simple song would have been the answer to the book’s music question about how to change a mood. I keep singing until I’m a rock’s throw from the mountain peak.

The storm is moving out. Stars are beginning to appear in the sky. As I near the top, a couple of lightning bolts explode on the summit. Deafening booms of thunder match the visual effect. It is a stunning experience, but I’m far enough away to not be physically shocked. Somehow, I feel no fear. I’m witnessing nature at a most magical and powerful moment. A surge of gratitude overwhelms me.

I wait for the last part of the storm to pass before I move to the top.

“There it is! YES!”

I’m filled with a childlike joy. How many times have I experienced this kind of happiness as a kid? Total freedom! “Game On!

Suddenly, I detect the sound of an engine in the distance. Zard is coming. He’s getting closer. I need to push on.


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