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The Fourth Tower of Inverness

The Fourth Tower of InvernessThe majestic spires of the ancient Victorian mansion of Inverness rise out of the fog as a lone figure walks up the mountain from the bay.

"I've hitchhiked a lot," Jack Flanders later explains, "consequently, I've walked a lot."

At the end of the journey, he meets his aunt, Lady Jowls, and hears the odd strains of 1950s music wafting down from the fourth tower except, his aunt explains, "There is no fourth tower of Inverness."

Thus begins Jack Flanders' quest to find his way into the non-existent tower and discover the secret of the Lotus Jukebox. Unlike most mysteries, this adventure leads Jack deep into his own consciousness in a trip that spans several of the many dimensions that make up reality.

Fortunately, writer Meatball Fulton and the rest of the cast and crew at ZBS Foundation are willing to take us along on the journey. It's a massive undertaking -- the seven-hour audio drama spans six compact disks -- but there isn't a dull moment in the lot.

Writing and producing audio dramas is a labor of love for the folks at ZBS and it shows in the quality of the work. A non-profit organization dedicated to keeping aural fantasy alive and helping people use their imagination more skillfully, ZBS proves it doesn't take a massive organization and high prices to turn out top-quality products. These people care about what they do.

Fulton has done an expert job of weaving music, mysticism and mystery into an updated version of the classic 1940s radio drama. It's an eclectic blend to say the least. That's what happens when you mix gurus and vampires.

In fact, it's the seductive energy vampire, the Madonna Vampyra, who first introduces Jack to the Whirlitzer of Wisdom, an antique jukebox hidden in the walls of the mansion. At two plays for a dime, the Whirlitzer provides quotes from Ram Dass and other metaphysical gurus.

"You finally get to a place where you can say Krishna's name with love," Ram Dass intones, "and your ego pats you on the back and says 'pretty good'."

"Kind of a short selection," Jack muses, "but not bad."

Meanwhile, the interaction between the Madonna Vampyra and Jack Flanders harkens back to the glorious patter true film noir buffs have come to love. For example:

The Madonna Vampyra: "What did you do before you became a houseguest?"

Jack: "I was a hitchhiker."

Those hitchhiking skills get quite a workout when Jack gains entrance to the fourth tower only to find it a gateway through limitless dimensions, each posing its own unique challenges and promises ... and each providing one more clue to unraveling the mystery of the Lotus Jukebox.

In addition to the Madonna Vampyra, Jack is aided -- and at times confounded -- in his quest by a host of intriguingly quirky characters, including:

  • Little Frieda, a young girl with pigtails and a love for Havana cigars. She has no pupils in her eyes, but the condition allows her to see much more clearly than normal beings. In fact, she can even see thought forms.
  • Dr. Mazoola, an alchemist of the first order, obsessed with capturing the dragon that lives in a cave by the old temple ruins just beyond the mansion.
  • Old Far-seeing Art, the mansion's caretaker, who's tuned into the sound coming from the center of the universe. It's that sound, he says, that's bringing on the new age.
  • Chief Wampum Stompum, a Hindu yogi, who decided since so many Westerners were coming to India to study meditation and take Indian names like Rama Lama Booga, he'd go to America and take a Western name. It's said a Hopi Indian named him Chief Wampum.
  • Lady Jowls, Jack's aunt and the lady of Inverness, who gathered this cast of eccentrics in order to help spread the wisdom of the coming new age throughout the world. Of course, while everyone else has been evolving, Jack's been off having a good time...

Her plan to bring Jack up to speed results in a highly satisfying, entertaining and thought-provoking seven-hour drama. It's a story that's meant to be savored, preferably in a dimly lit room with a comfortable chair, a little incense in the air and your favorite drink close at hand.

The Fourth Tower of Inverness is available from ZBS Foundation on five cassette tapes) or six CDs. For a catalog or more information, call ZBS at 1-800-662-3345; write ZBS Foundation, RR #1, Ft. Edward, NY 12828-9702; or check out their website at http://www.zbs.org.

Originally published in the July 1998 issue of Eternity Online.
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