Alpha – Where the swans live


We were late for the conference because we waited for more people. First arrived the twins, Sky and Slava. I knew them from Belgrade. They were jokers. You could never tell whether they were serious but they always meant business.

Then came two comedians I haven’t met before. They made a spectacular entrance. First, I spotted the short one in the lake. He pretended to be drowning and I was about to run and save him, when I spotted that he was an Aspirant. Then I spotted the tall one on the lakeshore. He was running up and down, making a fuss. He was basically essentially letting every passer-by know that there is a drowning in progress. He looked panicky but he wasn’t.

When the crowd was large enough and the tall one ran out of new ways to say that there is a spectacle happening, he rushed off to save his drowning fellow. A few plot twists ensued, once they were almost out and the crowd even started to cheer, but then they went under again, this time for good.

The crowd waited for a few moments. Then they emitted a wave of beautiful catharsis. By the time the ambulance arrived the two jokers were sitting with us on the terrace, enjoying their success. Only the tall one speaks but he would never shut up. His name was Gilles.

“It was meant to inspire catharsis,” he said. “They hadn’t done a thing but they love to see others being heroic.”

Melchior wasn’t happy with all the attention but seemed resigned to it. The pair absolutely enjoyed their little joke. They implanted a sense of almost-heroism into the people who witnessed the show. Those people would all swear that they would have done the same if someone else wasn’t doing it already.

“Why bother, the irony is lost on them” I said.

“Sometimes they actually help. It’s good for them to have a little controlled challenge in their lives. They are living way too safely.”

Mirrors could become Aspirant just as they can become Shells. But teaching them doesn’t do them a favour, we all learn that sooner or later. Maybe the twins are right. Maybe pushing them out of their comfort zone does.

For now I could see an elevated level of energy around us. Mirrors witnessed heroism and they were all better off from it. Saving someone from an obvious danger such as drowning is indeed a very controlled challenge. They only risk death, never disapproval. It doesn’t require any actual courage. The situation is clear-cut, everything is ready for them to be heroes. They might drown – and be a hero. Or not drown – and be a hero.

The weather was turning cold and clouds were gathering. Something told me this was not in the weather report. We left for the hotel.

On our way we saved another young Aspirant from a tight corner with Shells. The attack similar was to mine. Melchior was visibly concerned.


The Ugly Duckling was born to a duck mother and had duck siblings. He worked hard to be accepted by the ducks and the poultry high society of the backyard, but the Duckling was slower and uglier than the other ducks. So the other ducks criticised him and eventually chased him away. Even his own mother. After a long journey and a gruelling winter alone in the wilderness, the Ugly Duckling reached a lake where the swans lived. In a suicidal desperation the Ugly Duckling decided to swim with the swans, even if that’s the last thing he did in his life.

Of course, the Ugly Duckling turned out to be a swan. Ugliness and the inability to imitate others may just mean that you’re not one of them. I felt like the Duckling stepping into the lake when I first met another Aspirant. I have always been on the lookout for my swans. It was unlikely, of course. People don’t usually get invisible and read minds, but if I did it, so could anyone else.

But I haven’t noticed just how much I wanted to see them until I have actually met them. It was now a thing.

With hindsight, it is obvious. Aspirants must exist. There must be people without the widespread and endlessly repeating psychological limitations. People, who don’t let fear, roles, and peer pressure gradually cloud their minds.  Non-deformed minds of fearless thinkers.

As I said, it is obvious only in hindsight. Back then I felt relief. The kind of relief that sick people feel when they finally get a diagnosis. It means they are not going crazy, something really is wrong. Even if it’s just a name of an illness and there’s no cure. Even if the diagnosis is that they are going crazy. It still feels like a relief. And it wasn’t a sickness I was having. It was health.

I always knew that I wasn’t a duck. But I didn’t know that there were swans. And this is how Zarah obviously felt. It was her first time to meet another Aspirant.

“Who are we?” she asked.

“Do you want to know whether you are one of us?”

She didn’t get it first. No one does.

“Technically, I’m not one of us,” I explained. “There is no such thing as us. It is called an Aspirant. We all aspire to be more, understand more. People would probably call us immortal because that’s the sexiest thing about us. But that’s not even true.”

“Extreme longevity?”

“Not necessarily.”

“Slow ageing?”



“No. But you may be good at recovering, it depends.”

“How does that work?”

“We all have different superpowers,” I made quotation marks in the air. “Because we discover things our own ways. Some Aspirants have spectacular healing abilities.”

“And what’s your superpower?”

“I can read minds. But that’s more of a curse than an asset. And it doesn’t work on Aspirants.”


We took a few more circles, just in case, then headed for the hotel.

The street was awash with announcements and signs leading to the 33rd Annual Forex Trading Event, but we were not going to be lectured on Japanese candlesticks. By the time we reached it the conference was underway.

A conference of immortals is exactly like human conferences – not least because Aspirants are often scientists.

Inside the hotel I could distinguish between two kinds of attendees. Most were here for the currency trading stuff. The rest were Aspirants. The conference seemed to cater for both. Or maybe the forex event was just a cover. But why? Aspirants don’t need covers to remain unnoticed. They could just divert attention, or not even that. This time, however, there was almost nothing going on

There were two doormen, two hostesses, two waiters with refreshment, two girls collecting business cards. One always stood in the Silence. The welcome sign had two layers. On level one it read “Welcome to the 33rd Annual Forex Trading Symposium”. In the Silence it was just an arrow to the left and a smiley face in someone’s handwriting.

I scanned through the session topics. Most were bland forex mumbo jumbo on ‘Portfolio Building’, ‘Crosses & Pairs’, ‘Technical Master Class for Advanced Traders’, ‘Index futures’, ‘Japanese housewives’ and indeed on the ‘Candlestick method’. There was one very puzzling session on ‘Patterns: Ascending Triangles, Double Tops and Double Bottoms, Head and Shoulders, Channel, Wedges, Flags/Pennants and Fibonacci Retracement.’

They had favoured strategies and charted plans on which sessions to attend. Their belief in their favourite strategies was not unlike religious belief. They needed need to trust and have a special connection to a capricious decision maker.

The crowd could be easily split in two: chatty humans whose minds I could read. Their energies were weak, directionless. Their thoughts muddled but clearly human. Dispersed among them were a few equally chatty Aspirants.

And there were the obviously immortal immortals. They were the legendary Ancients. They were easy to spot because they were the tallest in the room and androgynous. I’ve never met any of them but I knew Melchior did. The fact that they came meant that something was up.

Excitement among the Aspirants ran high and not due to alarm. Zarah wasn’t the only Duckling there. I was excited myself.


“Melchior, my friend! How come we’re here?”

An overly friendly stranger interrupted us. An Ancient one.

“I’ve come to trade my currencies. You should try it too,” said Melchior, keeping his distance.

Melchior’s arrival was well noticed by the Ancient Ones, not that they have given any clue. Melchior didn’t seem to like this particular stranger though.

“Does your presence mean that our little event is of …professional interest to you?” asked the stranger. “What exactly are we doing?”

“Formulating strategies, of course.”

“I see. Is this why I was dragged away from my business?”

Melchior was occupied with something only he could see, so the stranger turned to me.

“My dear, you’re keeping very risky company.”


“My name is Ainsley.”


“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Alpha. So you know our good friend, Melchior?”

I looked at Melchior but he pretended to be lost in thoughts.

“Tell me about him!” I asked Ainsley.

“He is a good friend really. Don’t believe me when I say I’m angry. I just have better things to do with my time. But whatever the reason to summon us it must be serious. I don’t need to emphasize to him the gravity of the risk he caused by gathering so many of us at the same place at the same time.”

Ainsley looked at Melchior, pointedly.

“All of us,” said Melchior.

“Oh, that’s much better. My mistake,” Ainsley rolled his eyes with a theatrical gesture. “If it’s all of us, then it’s much better.”

He was obviously not happy with it but decided to play it cool and didn’t leave. He turned to Zarah.

“Did you hear the Call, my dear? Wasn’t it ingenious?” he said, making small talk.

She told him that she came to Geneva on a whim..

“But you’re still here, right? That means you have heard it, only you thought it’s something else,” he explained. “Let me guess! You felt it was time to visit your old aunt in Geneva, or you suddenly felt an urge to come sailing on Lac Leman.”

“Actually, I felt a powerful urge to buy a ring I always fancied,” she said. “They only sell it in London and Geneva.”

“And you were, at the time…”

“In London, yes.”

“You see? The Call is personalised. It gets everyone at their weak spots. Really hard to tell, when you don’t know it is happening to you.”

“And what was your urge?” she asked.

“Oh, mine is not that fancy. I merely felt angry with our friend here and wanted to give him a piece of my mind. I resisted for days but eventually I had to admit his Call was perfectly aimed. I really do want to give him a piece of my mind.”

“Can Shells not hear it?” I asked. That could be the reason why they’re on alert.

Melchior gave me an anxious look. Ainsley looked at him too, as if I asked exactly what Melchior should have asked himself in the first place.

“It does seem that the message was intercepted, yes. It oughtn’t be,” Melchior said.

Ainsley nodded gravely. Then he turned to me and explained himself.

“There’s no way those low-lives would be able to hear it. It is a message that requires the key to both minds. A code, if you like. It means knowing the other on a level no one else does. Like a secret language between two individuals. But it changes the moment it is observed. And the message only takes shape in the recipient’s mind. Besides, it spreads on level four. That means they have no chance ever to stick their ears in it.”

Melchior nodded. I looked at him.

“I’ll tell you all about it later,” he said.Then he looked at Ainsley.

“Is he coming?”

“He had moved on,” Ainsley answered. Ihad no idea what he meant or whom they were talking about.

“Is the Playboy here?” Ainsley asked back.

Melchior shook his head. This time I knew whom they meant and I got worried too.

“Why don’t we go and register,” said Melchior. “The meeting is about to start.”

And indeed people started to move inside the conference room, its rooms ajar. Two hostesses were handing out badges to the human attendees who signed their names in return.

Melchior nudged me and between the two curtains separating the lobby from the conference room we both entered the Silence. Only, it wasn’t silent in the least. I have never been in a room full of chatty immortals before. Even though humans were now completely tuned out, there was a humming background noise of people. There was a spectacle of energies flying around. Even the attending mortals must have been affected, even though they had no idea why.

We slipped through between the hostesses. We seemed to have our own host who greeted us with a smile and gestured me in.

“No seats if you don’t feel like it,” she said.

Melchior excused himself and left. There were thirty-six Aspirants and about a hundred and fifty Mirrors in the room.

I found a leaflet on my chair. It said we were at the beginners’ session: “Risks and Benefits

Predictably – for a forex event, that is – a white screen descended for presentations while a smartly suited male with overly white teeth walked up to the podium. He stepped up to the pulpit and proceeded to wet ladies’ panties with a dashing smile by talking about currency trading in general. He promised to talk about how to open an account, build a portfolio, after which we were instructed to proceed to our selected seminars, the topics projected above his head.

I shouldn’t follow the forex event. The view from the Silence was a bit different.

Aspirants were sitting in a circle, some sitting up on the back of their chairs, two of them standing next to the wall. It wasn’t a one-sided lecture either.

In the consensus reality some took notes, others looked confused but no one asked questions. There was a projection of fancy trading platforms alternating with smiling people and fabulous riches. Here, on the other hand, there were no projections and no one gave a second thought to talking. Undisciplined bunch.

Next to the forex-speaker, another man was also on the podium, visible only to us. He welcomed the new arrivals and continued where he left off.

“We are going to explain the fundamentals but please bear in mind that this is all very risky. We are doing this because there is an emergency. Classes like this are not supposed to happen. Our community, if you can call it that way, is very divided along this line.”

Then he proceeded to talk about teaching and learning. Explicit learning is when you are told something and you passively accept it. Implicit learning is when you realise it for yourself. Needless to say that the second one is the real thing. Seminars like this are not supposed to happen.

Teaching is widely associated with learning, but they rarely happen at the same time. In fact, teaching crowds out learning. The more you learn by accepting facts – the less you learn on your own. You don’t trust yourself to make sense of things without someone confirming it to you. You are vulnerable to poorly researched facts, spread by confident morons. In the human world feigning confidence pays, seeking knowledge does not.

By the age of 12-13 one is supposed to have their own take on things. Before that, one naturally learns by emulation and by being taught. But eventually you’re supposed to grow up and be capable to make judgments on your own. That rarely happens though. Not to Mirrors anyway. Most people get mentally petrified at the early stage and expect explicit learning to come to them. To make things worse schools press explicit learning to the extremes. Learning on your own is not welcome because you make mistakes. It is true. It is still better than the alternatives.

“Therefore everything you hear today may risk your further development,” the speaker continued. “If you wish to leave, you can do so now.”

No one did. As I said, swans.

The usual questions followed in the usual sequence. I was getting restless.

“Who are we?”

“How do you instruct someone not to take instructions? How do you influence them not to be influenced?”

“Are we organised?”

But where was Melchior? Where were the Ancient ones?

There has been a curious build-up in agression among the Mirrors recently, the speaker explained. A look of understanding ran through the Aspirants. They became so serious, even the temperature dropped. The mentioning of unprovoked attacks triggered a series of questions.

“What I present here today is a mere speculation,” said the speaker, “although widely accepted among Aspirants. But if we are right and there is something going on, you will be exposed and you better prepare for it.”

Clearly, he was not a born educator. One question led to another, until he ended up at the basics.

“Most people you know are what we call Mirrors”, he said. “Mirrors work as an echo chamber. No peer – no one to echo – nothing to say. They cannot risk being alone because they aren’t sure who they are. Without witnesses they don’t know whether they exist. It is called anxiety. Their identity is the image of themselves in other people’s minds. Hence their name. They don’t know what a self is supposed to be. When they want to change, they manipulate their image in others’ minds. And there are, of course, the Shells. They are the agressive Mirrors attacking you all week. They are not normally this numerous. They have been multiplying in number and seem to be on a systematic attack against Aspirants. Inexperienced Aspirants are the most exposed. Hence this meeting.”

Do I seriously have to listen to an introduction? Then I realised that it was indeed a “Beginners’ Class” – on both level of reality.

I rose to leave.


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One thought on “Alpha – Where the swans live

  1. Pingback: 7. Zach – Interviewing for promotion with a cancer diagnosis is a motivational roller coaster (Part 1) | Those Who Are Not Seen

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