Sword of Damon Cleese

26 04 2012

[fiction]

Damocles was, naturally, quite enthralled with the prospect of standing in as archon of the day.  Five servants attended him in attiring himself for the evening feast.  It would have been six servants, but the sixth servant was Damocles, himself, and the ruler with whom he had traded places appointed himself to the role of waiting on tables.  It seemed that a direct and literal trade of roles was out of the question.  The real archon still had a job to do after this charade was over, and he still had a reputation to go with it.

Then, it was time.  Two heralds preceded him into the hall, and a train of attendants followed.  The doors opened, and everyone stood, as though for the bride at a wedding.  He appeared before them in his lavender robes, with real gold thread woven into elaborate patterns of what probably was supposed to be olive branches.  Stately, he walked up to the dais and took his place at the table.  Just before sitting, he had a second thought and readjusted the positioning of the salt boat.  Then, he sat, and the rest of the assembly followed.  He patted the arms of his chair with great satisfaction.  Gingerly, he leaned back into the seat, as though the back might give way at any second.  There, in the front row, instead of serving appetizers, was the real archon, Dionysus the Second, sitting on a bench and smiling at him with great satisfaction.  Had the roles been actual, Damocles would have ordered him beaten for his insubordination.  Apparently, the archon had no intention of keeping up more than half of the bargain.  At least he was dressed down for the occasion.  Dionysus locked eyes with him in a hard, unfaltering stare, until Damocles had to look away.

To Damocles’ right sat the wife of the archon, sitting as far from him as room would allow, folds forming in her neck as she held her head back like an adder ready to strike.  To his left sat the archon’s daughter, leaning away from him to talk in low tones with a friend, while surreptitiously hiding her face from him with a hand or a linen head scarf.  Opportunities for lively conversation were lacking.  Near the other end was a friendly cousin of Dionysus, with whom Damocles had chatted often.  He called out the man’s name, and the man sat there, ignoring him, staring down at the table top.

Damocles drummed his fingers on the table with irritation, until a nervous adolescent servant girl arrived with his dinner upon a silver plate.  He tried to graciously accept her service by thanking her, but she gave him a worried look in return, and her eyes, ever so briefly, glanced up toward the ceiling and then down again.  He watched her retreat, and he noticed, again, that the archon was giving him the cold hard stare.  There seemed to be meaning in his look.  Damocles had learned to read what people were trying to say by their looks, especially when there was something unusual about it.  He struggled to understand the stare of Dionysus, until he realized that it wasn’t a stare to give meaning, but it was a stare to hide meaning.  The man was fixing his gaze in order to avoid looking at something else.  He recalled the server glancing up, quickly, and he realized that she was either trying to tell him something, or else there was something up there that she was trying very hard not to look at.

Up above him, Damocles caught a glimmer of something metallic catching the light of the fire that burned in braziers about the room.  Then the object turned and became dark.  Then it turned and caught the light again.  A moment of horror fell upon him, and he dashed his wine and food to the ground in his scramble to get out from under the thing.  At a safe distance, he looked up and saw that a very large sword, possibly the precursor of what would later be known as a falchion, a sword that could double as an axe, seemed to hover high over his seat, suspended point-down by nothing but the air, itself.

“What the…?!  How…?  For the love of life, somebody take that thing down!” shouted the horrified Damocles.  He looked over at the archon, and saw a smile beginning to curl upward the corners of his mouth.  “How did you do that?”

“Don’t worry, Damocles,” said Dionysus, “I assure you, it’s very securely held in place by a single horse hair.”

Almost whimpering, the distraught Damocles asked, “Were you trying to kill me?”  It’s an important question, because if the archon wishes to kill someone, he usually gets what he wants.

“Perhaps,” Dionysus replied, coldly.  “It’s just that when you came in here flattering me like the sycophant that everyone knows you are, I felt the need to teach you a lesson.  You think the life of a wealthy man is secure and full of every happiness, but it’s not.  The more I have, the more I have to protect.  The more power I exert, the more people want to kill me.  I couldn’t let you experience all of my wealth and pleasure without giving you a sense of the danger, could I?  You wanted to know what it’s like to be me.  Even though we traded roles, no one would ever try to kill you, because you still aren’t really the archon around here.  If an assassin walked through that door right now, he would still be out to kill me, not you.  So, I added a little spice to your experience.  You want to be an archon?  Okay then!  An archon you shall be!”  Then, he called to a servant, “Take it down.  I want Damocles to have it, so he’ll remember.”

Damocles got his sword and continued to be a servant in the house of his ruler, and Dionysus went back to being a ruler, ever mindful of the constant threat that comes with having what other people covet.  By the way, does anyone know which of the two lived longer?  Perhaps Dionysus was wrong and outlived the other by several years, due to an unfortunate plague.  Perhaps he was right and died a few years earlier.  Both have been dead for thousands of years, now, so the difference in their respective times in the grave amounts to about one percent or less.  They’ve both been dead for maybe two and a third millennia, and one wonders that they ever discussed how one might be likely to die one or two decades earlier.  The difference is negligible.  Even the entire kingdom is entirely dead.  Even their lineage is lost.  The corpse of Damocles has been no safer than the corpse of Dionysus for more than a couple thousand years, already.

It’s really not just a problem for the rich, though.  Our king, God, has set us up in much a similar situation, wherein he watches us pursue and enjoy riches for a time, with the threat of our mortality ever hanging over our heads.  We all have a certain consciousness of it.  For some, it’s a jeopardy that causes us to cast all to the floor in disdain.  Who cares about such things with death barely suspended over us?  For others, it is merely the aging process, a commonplace thing that everyone experiences.  If cancer were universal, then they would be calling that a commonplace process, also.  Perhaps it is time to illustrate the extraordinary life of death, the unnatural nature.

Therefore, we shall extend this tale.  Besides, I concocted the tale years ago when I was just a kid, and it’s still bouncing around in my head.  I might as well let it out, so here it is.

Half a world away, thousands of years later, a similar sword, or perhaps the same sword, appeared once again, floating in the middle of the air.  It was first discovered by a couple of farm boys on a breezy, sunny day.  The way it caught the sunlight acted as a beacon, drawing them near.  This time, there was no horse hair to suspend it.  It hovered about four feet from the ground, over a field, near a stand of oak trees, pointing menacingly toward a nearby town, which will remain unnamed.  The two boys studied it circumspectly, doubtlessly feeling a little intimidated by it.  At first, they tried throwing rocks at it, which is, for some strange reason, always the first thing boys seem to do with most foreign objects.  They probably threw rocks at the first cat they saw, the first bird, the first rusty can and the first girl (a sister, of course).  The sword was unyielding, and they tired of the game quickly.  Next, they tried touching it, then pushing it and hanging on it.  With all of their efforts, it would not budge in the slightest.

The sword was first discovered at about noon by two kids who should have been in school.  Four hours later, the first adults heard of it.  Twenty-four hours after that the first adult  believed enough to have a look at it, when the number of kids who had seen and told of it reached critical mass, which is to say that once every kid in town said that they had seen it an adult finally took them seriously.  Two weeks later, someone from the local news agency heard of it enough times on a slow news day to go out and have a look.  By the evening news, the story had gone viral, and the whole world knew about it.  By dawn of the next day the sword was gone without a trace.

Two days after the sword’s disappearance, the world forgot about it.  Two months later the locals stopped talking about it.  It wasn’t gone long before someone found it again, on the other side of the town, twenty miles away, pointing toward the next town on the highway.  The poor woman who discovered it was lucky enough to have survived by swerving hard at the last second when its golden hilt glinted in her headlights in the predawn hours.  The sword was back on the world stage.  Experts arrived from all over the world to give opinion on it.  Someone brought a tractor to see if it could be moved by any force, which it couldn’t.  The thing just hovered there, indestructible and absolutely immovable.  On its blade was some foreign script, which, when transliterated, said, “mene, mene.”  A quick internet search (insidiously cited by the press as an expert analysis, though it was none other than that infamous site known as Wikipedia) showed that it derived from an ancient phrase, “mene, mene, tekel upharsin,” meaning, roughly, “your days are numbered, and your empire will be divided and given to the Persians.”  By itself, “mene, mene,” only meant, “your days are numbered.”  Of course, no one knew what it meant.  Some doomsday addicts made a great deal out of it.  Screenwriters were already brainstorming it into a full-feature film.

So there it hovered, two miles from the nearest town, pointing directly at that town. The local hotels flooded with curious visitors, and the local residents cleared out as quickly as they could.  Clearly, the town was cursed.  No one knew what the sword was about, but many feared it.  One man, in particular, watching the news from his rented room in the town, did know what the sword was about, and he feared it more than anyone.  After two restless nights and a third that left him swimming in his own sweat, he packed his bags and hit the road yet again.  That night, the sword disappeared from sight and was not found for a few days.

A door to a bar opened, and an eighty-year-old man staggered into the room looking like he could just as easily ask for cyanide as ask for a beer.  He plopped his disheveled self onto a stool and regarded the patron next to him.  “I don’t know why, but it seems like the only place to meet people and talk about things is a bar,” he said.

“That’s not true,” said the other patron, a dumpy middle-aged man who had only just begun his binge for the evening.  “There’s always the confessional booth at a Catholic church.  Then, you have internet chat rooms, brothels, orgies and… I forget what else.”

“Now, I don’t feel so bad,” said the old man.  “Maybe I’ll try a confessional booth, next.  Actually, that might not be a bad idea.”

“Now, don’t go running off too soon,” said his new friend.  “I have ears, too.  Besides, I haven’t heard any good gossip in weeks.”

So the old man told him his story.  Damon Cleese, as he turned out to be, had put a great deal of effort in his younger years toward uncovering a certain cache of stolen treasure.  His friend, Danny Nice, had figured that trains of stage coaches in the area had been robbed all within a ten-mile radius of a craggy region, back during the rough days of the wild west.  The band of robbers responsible had been caught in a trap, possibly because of their predictable pattern, and all of them went to the grave, taking the secret of their stash with them.  Their stolen goods were never recovered,  but a simple analysis of terrain and distance suggested that they probably did have a hideout in the area, from which a person could ride for half a day or less, rob a wagon train and get back by dusk, without overburdening the horses.  Hence, the stolen goods must be stashed somewhere in a narrowed area, and because they were never recovered, those stolen goods must still be there.

With two months of searching, Damon and Danny finally found the cache of goods in a cave, just sitting there waiting for the return of their robber barons.  Most of it was in gold coins and moldy notes.  There were a few rusty guns and other items of interest, but the thing that caught Danny’s attention the most was a shiny, heavy sword with a gold hilt encrusted with jewels.  They counted out the coins and divided the spoil evenly, but a small boulder, not much bigger than a large sow, fell from the ceiling of the cave and landed on Danny’s arm, crushing it badly.  Damon rushed to his aid, rolling the boulder off and wrapping the poor arm in a sling and a poultice.  Danny immediately went into shock, shaking and pallid.  His friend covered him in a blanket and did his best to make him feel better.

By the next day, Danny was feeling well enough to attempt a ride back to the nearest town on horseback.  They took as much of the loot as the horses could reasonably hold, and they headed off down the trail.  A mile down the trail, Danny began complaining of his aches and pains, and eventually he became too weak to remain on a horse.  He noted that his urine was strangely brown, and later he found he had no more urine of any kind.

“Damon,” Danny told his companion, “I don’t know why, but I think I’m losing more than just my arm.  I can’t pee anymore, Damon.  I’m a sick man.  You need to go for help.”

Instead, Damon insisted that they stay where they were for a while, to allow for him to convalesce.  Truth be told, he was afraid of leading rescuers too near the rest of the stash and having to explain how the injury occurred.  By the time they returned, there might not be anything to return to.  The days whiled by, and Danny got worse.  Finally, Damon agreed to go for help, but Danny insisted that it was already too late.  He was about to die.

“Forget about dividing the stash,” Danny said, “You can have the whole thing.  Just promise me you’ll bury me with the sword.  Just give me the sword and you can have everything else.”  Then, he died.

At first, Damon tried to carry the body back, but in the heat of the day it began to smell bad.  He couldn’t just leave it for the vultures, so he opted to bury Danny where he was.  After digging the hole, he was about to place the sword over the body, when he began to think about it pragmatically.  In truth, the dead body could never care what happened to the sword, and it was, after all, quite beautiful and would probably fetch a couple thousand dollars, should he choose to sell it.  Why bury a perfectly good relic like that?  It would be a shame!  So, he kept the sword and buried the body.

“Seems reasonable to me,” said the dumpy man at the bar.  “I would’ve done the same.”

“Anyone would have,” said Damon, “but it would have been a terrible mistake.”

As Damon was turning to repack his things, he heard the voice of his old companion speak to him from the grave.  “I said you could have everything, didn’t I?”

Damon turned around and saw the sword hovering there, pointing right at him.

“Take the whole thing, I said.  Just bury me with the sword, I said.  Was it really too much to ask?  I couldn’t have just this one thing?  Are you so bent on wealth that you would rob a dead friend?!” the voice scolded in rage.

With that, Damon jumped on his horse and rode away as fast as he could.

“Ah, I see.  You’re saying this all has to do with that freaky hovering sword that’s been on the news lately,” the other patron said with a slight slur to his words.

“Yes, that’s the one.  That’s Danny’s sword,” said Damon.

“So why don’t you go back and bury it?” suggested the patron.

Damon eyed the man skeptically.  “I don’t know, but I think it would kill me.  Would you try to take a weapon from a ghost?”

“Have you tried an exorcist?” the patron offered.

Just then, someone stormed into the room, shouting, “The sword!  I just found it, about a mile up the road, pointing this way!”  The bar cleared in seconds, everyone being in a hurry to go find the sword or to get far away from it as fast as possible.

Damon gripped the edge of the bar tightly and whispered, “It’s getting closer.  It’s almost here.”  He looked to the side and found his companion still sitting there.  They and one unconscious fellow in the back of the room were the only ones left.

“Interesting,” remarked the other, “So this thing has been following you all these years.  How long has it been?”

“Fifty-five years,” Damon answered without even having to calculate it.

“Fifty-five years?!  The blasted thing sure is taking its time, isn’t it?  How old are you, anyway?” asked the other patron.

“Eighty years, last June,” replied Damon.

The other patron roared with laughter.  Damon was obviously upset by his reaction. “Sir,” said the other, “You’re not going to die by the sword!  You’re going to die of old age!”

Damon got to his feet and replied in anger, “You might think this is funny, but once it’s done carving me up, it might come for you, even if I have to haunt it myself!”  Then he stormed out.

That night was the worst of his life.  The mysterious hovering sword had, apparently, been covering miles and miles of uninhabited and rugged terrain, slowly approaching him unnoticed for all of these years.  Finally, it happened upon civilization, and nothing anyone did to the sword could stop it, and nothing Damon did to get away from it could increase that distance.  After leaving the bar, he journeyed for five hours to a roadside motel, where he attempted what he figured would be his last chance at sleep before the sword arrived.  Somewhere out there, a mile away or less, the sword was still coming.  He could only guess how much time he had left.

Damon miscalculated.  The sword, like death, does not come by a human schedule.  We can see it coming and estimate the end to some degree, but sometimes it arrives much earlier than anticipated, and it makes no apology for its impolite punctuality.  The door to the room crashed open, split down the middle, with the blade shining in the moonlight that streamed through the window opposite the door.  Damon screamed in abject terror.  Even then, it just hovered in place, stationary, like it never intended to advance further.  The movement was slow, like the movement of shadows cast by the sun.  If Damon moved to the other side of the room, though, it repositioned itself quickly to maintain its aim at his heart.  Needless to say, it was a long night, and he could not get past the sword and reach the door.  Every time he moved, it cut him off.

By dawn of the next day, the sword was less than an inch from his flesh, and he found himself seriously imploring to God for his salvation.

The reader, at this point, will be happy to note that the poor man did not, in fact, die from the sword.  Rather, he died of a stroke, a complication of his old age, just before the sword could hurt him, and the sword had nothing to do with it.  What a relief!  All of this time, Damon feared what would happen when the sword reached him, but instead of dying, as he thought, he died before it could happen.

[/fiction]

Ah, but a mysterious hovering sword is so much more fearsome, is it not?  If we all had hovering swords threatening to take our heads off at every turn, we might consider it a fact of life, and, instead, be more terrified by death of old age.  On a serious note, though, the fact is simply that whatever ultimately kills us, that thing and its destiny are on a determined and unstoppable collision course for our lives.  Whatever it is, it definitely exists, and it will definitely get here in due time, and it will definitely kill us.  Cheery, isn’t it?  The real sickness, then, is not that we fear death, but that some of us are so consumed by our present riches that we do not notice the steady progression of doom.  Thousands of years from now, no one will care what riches we owned, no one will know who we were, and nothing will matter about the fact of our former existence.  All that will matter is whether this human soul, the thing that some people are dumb enough to insist does not exist, is in a place far better or far worse than it is now.

Salvation from death is not an issue.  There is no salvation from death.  It’s the death after the death that we might resist.  This life is just a temporary endeavor, more like a game.  We pass through it briefly, to serve a temporary purpose, and then we enter the afterlife, where the story really begins.  Thanks for playing this game with me, and I hope you find what you came here for, even if it isn’t what you think you came here for.





Dipolar Christianity

9 01 2012

For those who weren’t paying attention, over the years the Christian faith has largely split into two camps, the highly charismatic, and the cessationists.  It used to be that we identified ourselves along the lines of protestant and Catholic, but in places where that battle has come to a truce, more or less, we’ve come to divide ourselves along the line distinguishing ourselves between those who expect God to work miracles every day and those who think that all miracles died with Jesus and failed to rise again.  Unbelievers like the first group, because they’re easy to mock, and they like the second group, because that form of Christianity is so dead that it poses no real threat to secular normalcy.

Before the old protestant-Catholic battle, there was the Catholic-orthodox conflagration.  Before that, it was the Christian versus the Jew.  With the earliest split, the Jews were the persecutors, and the conflict ended when a third party, Rome, trampled all over Judea and made the Jewish divine privilege look like a bankrupt gentleman’s club.  Then the Catholics split from the Eastern Orthodox, and the Catholics became the persecutors during the crusades.  Then the protestants split from the Catholics, and the Catholics were still the persecutors.  We can thank Napoleon for confining the Vatican to a tiny little plot of apolitical territory.  Since that emasculation, we’ve only found our nemesis in the Anglican Church (the other papacy), which persecuted people as power in England shifted back and forth between the Catholics and the Anglicans between the times of Henry the Eighth and Queen Elisabeth, and the Episcopalians (the other Anglican church), which brought us the glorious Salem witch trials.  Are we done yet?

One would think that we could be done with dividing ourselves into fundamental opposition.  Here, in the United States, the Catholic church has no power to persecute.  The Orthodox barely exist.  The Jews control the media (just kidding).  Actually, Jewishness has lost its cultural identity to such an extent these days, that they could hardly be considered a social force at all, anymore.  These should be the golden days of Christendom, but we apparently seem addicted to culling the herd and refining our social set to the true faith.

On the one hand, we have the Vineyard, the Assemblies of God, the Foursquare Church, etc., along with some really wild charismatic offshoots, doing their best to promote glossolalia, prophecy and miraculous healing.  On the other hand, we have all of the old-school mainstream churches such as the Methodists, Wesleyan and the Northern Baptists taking the tamest and safest route to faith, which is to say that God ignores you until you die (until he kills you), and then suddenly he becomes your benefactor and your very best friend, ushering you into Heaven.

If I had no clue which were true, I would have to say that I would rather be a Charismatic and be wrong than be a cessationist and be wrong.  I would rather live with the hope and faith that God still intervenes in our lives and performs encouraging miracles along the way, even if I’m wrong, than believe that Christ abandoned us when he ascended into Heaven, and be wrong.  At least, if I’m a charismatic, I have hope.  If I’m a cessationist, then I lean upon the arm of an apathetic God.  I would least want to be a cessationist and be right.

If nothing else, at least the charismatics have the guts to stick their necks out and make themselves an easy target.  The other extreme believes in little more for this life than does the unbeliever.  It’s easy to say that we can expect nothing miraculous until after the grave, because it can never be tested or verified.  This is really just a lame excuse for faith.  The faith of the believer approximates the faith of the unbeliever, and that’s nothing to live by.

On the other hand, because the charismatics do stick their necks out and stand for the miraculous, the result is that we’ve had a lot of rolling heads over the years.  We have the miraculous speaking of other languages (glossolalia), and those languages often don’t exist, and often, just based on what’s being articulated, the person could hardly be speaking more than repetitive gibberish, anyway.  We have notorious cases of miraculous “healing” that did little more than prevent the victim from seeking conventional medicine, even to the point of death.  We’ve had outrageous preachers who blaspheme, distort and self-aggrandize.  In short, charisma has come to be synonymous with sensationalism.

The truth of the matter is that in a side-by-side comparison, the charismatic movement will always provide plenty more fodder for debunking.  They get it wrong and they blunder several times a day, globally.  The cessationists never prove wrong, because they never stand for anything.  Claims can’t be false if they’re never made.  The positive assertion is always the riskiest assertion.  The skeptic’s position is the easy one, in all respects.  It’s always easier to sit back and poke holes in the opponent’s claims than to stand up and make a positive assertion about anything.  Ambitious people fail more often than the lazy, because they try more often.  Professional sportsmen fail more often than the armchair quarterback, because they play more often.  Hence, charismatics make fools of themselves, and the cessationists do not.

If we take the Bible at its word, then miracles do still happen.  It’s exactly as the charismatics say, but it is not necessarily as often, or under the same circumstances.  Of a thousand prophecies, one may actually be true.  Of a hundred-thousand speakings of an angelic language, maybe one is genuine and useful for teaching a person of the gospel.  All it takes is one example of a genuine miracle, and the cessationist is proven wrong.  He is not proven right every time the charismatic offering comes to naught.

Personally, I understand both sides, and I respect both to a great degree.  One is hopeful, and the other is rational.  One runs blindly, and the other convinces himself that he sees nothing.  I would love to see both sides in the same church, waiting patiently and expectantly for the move of the Holy Spirit, not daring to make it happen by their own will, and not daring to condemn it out of hand.

My brother, a charismatic preacher, once asked me if my church was the kind where the Holy Spirit moved, or whether it was one that didn’t believe in the work of God.  I said, “Neither one.”  Then he asked me if it was the kind that believed in the work of the Holy Spirit, but was essentially dead, waiting around for something that never happened.  He believed it to be the saddest kind of church.  Oh, but it was not that at all.  It was the most honest kind of church.  It was the kind that refused to prevent the work of the Spirit either by faking it or by dismissing it before it even happened.  It was a church that remained on the verge of something big.

What the church needs today is not a hyper-rational sect of witch-hunters tearing down the charismatic movement.  It would be better to die young than to discourage and dismay the body of Christ, first.  What the church needs is not a three-ring-circus miracle roadshow, condemning the cessationists for their lack of faith.  The only thing worse than a lack of miracles is disillusioning believers through exposed farce.  Personally, I would love to see more miracles in the church, today, but I want it to be real, and nothing less.

What we really don’t need is another religious split, but that’s what we might get if we don’t treat each other with gentleness and respect, not for having perfect theology, but for being a child of God.





Modernists’ Angels

5 04 2011

Oh, but the modernist can accept angels, only on his own terms.  Robin Parrish, a current writer of Christian fiction, or, I should say, writer of fiction marketed as Christian (according to him),  wrote a novel called Nightmare, essentially a fictionalized telling of various known ghost stories from around the continental United States.  What, at first, appears to be a very pre-modern plot about angels, demons, ghosts and other paranormal phenomena, ends in a climax of an entirely modernistic nature.  In his story, men have learned how to harvest and bottle the human soul.  All of this requires special materials, special machinery, several hundred life-support systems and a full lexicon of spirit-controlling hieroglyphs.  In essence, he took the magic of the supernatural and brought it under the dominion of everyday science, though it be a purely imaginary one.  Somehow, when the world of angels and demons falls into the realm of the test tube and the litmus paper, it ceases to be the very thing that made it special: it ceases to be magic.

The modernist will forever reject the supernatural, until he finds a way to manipulate it and control it, just like so many other things.  Then, not only will he believe it, but he will state that the existence of such things are an absolute fact.  He will not be reverent of them, and he will teach us to be equally irreverent.  Fortunately, the supernatural lies forever outside of his grasp.  Spiritual things are not physical, therefore they cannot be studied as physical things.  A permanent barrier leaves the modernist in ignorant bliss, while protecting us from yet another technology that threatens to wipe us off the face of the earth.

Occasionally, we may meet a student of public broadcasting who will tell us that the Bible could not have been accurately copied for thousands of years.  He tells us that we accept it blindly, on faith, that we call it inerrant simply because we want to believe that it is so.  The quickest way to shut him up is to tell him that there is a field of science called textual criticism, whereby the oldest codices, actual thousand-year-old parchment, are compared with each other to determine what the original text actually said.  Considering that our recent translations are based on that very same science, he doesn’t have much to stand on.  He puts his faith in science.  More to the point, he puts his faith in processes subdued by mortal men.

Magic can be seen simply as technology that is not understood or fully grasped by the human mind.  The assumption is that it actually cannot be contained.  Take a person from a thousand years ago and go on a walk through a field just as the pop-up sprinklers activate.  To him, that’s magic.  Mushrooms mysteriously sprout from the ground and begin watering the plants.  Such a person would either be struck dumb or run in terror.  The monitor in front of your face, the ability to talk with people anywhere in the world, the chance to board a flying airship and travel the world, such things are magic…no, they’re just technology.  Ah, but if I could say the magic word and turn you into a toad, now that would be magic.

The problem with magic, real magic, is that not even the person wielding it has a complete grasp on what it is she’s doing.  The witch uses superhuman powers, she thinks, but she does not reconcile the fact that she is only human, and she does not understand her work well enough to think of it as technology.  If it seems like magic to her, then it’s because it really isn’t her magic.  It’s the magic of a demon.  If it’s yours, then it isn’t magic to you.  If you think you wield magic, then you aren’t really the one wielding it, sucker.

On the other hand, the modernist wishes to turn all things into technology, or else reject them.  Hence, the modernist would take that which is not his and possess it.  That which he could not possess, he would reject as mere myth.  Here we have the original sin repeated in Technicolor.  The domain of God is…well, he has no domain, in the modern mind.  Is the spirit the possession of God?  If so, then it does not exist, and if not, then we can manipulate it, harvest it and do what we want with it.  That is to say that a modernist can deal with angels only if he can find a way to make an angelic handgun and hold them for ransom.  So long as he is helpless in the world of the spirit, he is certain that the spirit does not exist.  Miracles follow the same line of thinking.  Miracles that come from God are fake, to the modernist, but miracles that come from men are real.  The only difference is in the possession.  God gave us the whole earth and everything on it to subdue and claim dominion.  Yet, we would have what God has not given us, or, having failed at that, we would reject the very existence of the thing that we cannot accept, the thing that we cannot have.

If you could put a demon in a bottle and sell it at the dollar store for a buck, then this world might believe in demons.  If the demon could put you in a bottle and sell you at the market for half a farthing, then you only need medication.  It’s all in the wielding of power.

This world does have its own version of the angel, though.  It’s called the outer-space alien.  In it, you have an intelligent creature from without, influencing us with power that we do not have, formed in an image that we have not learned, but the alien creature lives by technology, and that technology can be learned.  The difference between the alien and the angel is in the potential to subdue.  It’s all in the wielding of power.  The modernist can accept the alien, because the modernist can have some hope of assimilating its magic and subduing it.  No such hope exists over angels.

The modernist is obsessed with power.  The modernist does not want a God that he must fear.  He wants the whole Garden of Eden, its forbidden fruit, the angels and God, himself.  What he can’t own, what he can’t hope to own, he would rather pretend does not exist.

Hat tip to Nina Stone.





The Problem with Divination

29 06 2010

A man came back from vacation telling of his trip to the top of Half Dome, a great mountain of rock with a sheer cliff on one side.  According to him, a man was seen feeding a marmot by placing the tidbit on his foot and offering it to the small furry creature.  The marmot, used to the generosity of humans, approached the man and gratefully took the piece of food.  A second later, the man kicked the poor animal right off the edge of the sheer cliff, where it fell to its death.  “Don’t feed the animals,” the park rangers say.  In fact, they’ll land you with a hefty fine if they catch you doing it.  Few people understand the harm done by taming the wildlife.  When the cute little beast approaches you with his plaintive pitiable stare, you might find yourself offering a piece of your granola bar, or a small morsel of trail mix.  What harm could it do?  The poor thing is starving, and it was brave enough to beg from a human.  It behaves as though it were your own pet, and, in a sense, that’s exactly what it has become.  You certainly wouldn’t hurt the little creature.  You know I wouldn’t hurt it.  Most people would not dream of harming it.  But while its trust in you may be well-founded, it’s trust in the next hiker is a gamble.

Rattlesnakes are dangerous, but squirrels are safe.  Is a human safe?

Up in a small town called Sierra City, there lies a small pond teeming with trout.  Next to the pond stands a gumball machine that dispenses food for the fish.  All day, people buy a handful of pellets for a quarter, tossing them in, one at a time, for the merriment of watching the fish attack the bait.  Most of the people who visit the pond would not harm the fish.  To them, the fish are a joy to watch and a pleasure to feed.  Sometimes, a person comes to the pond with a fishing rod.  They aren’t there for more than a couple of seconds before getting a bite from some unsuspecting fish.  Where humans were known to be harmless, the fish swallowed anything that they were fed, and they did it aggressively.  The safe humans made life more dangerous for the fish by teaching them to trust humans, in general, and unsafe humans, in particular.

A scorpion is dangerous.  A polar bear is dangerous.  A black widow is dangerous.  A hummingbird is safe.  A rabbit is safe.  A mouse is safe, even if it is a pest.  Is a human safe?

Generalizations can be made about each species with regard to its relative safety to other species.  In fact, generalizations can be made about the temperament of each species if it is wild, or each breed if it is domesticated.  If a squirrel were to ask you if you were safe, you might say “yes,” and you might be telling the truth.  What the animal may not realize is that while one human may be safe, then next one, a kid with a new bee-bee gun, might pose a serious hazard, even if his aim is bad.  Animals are predictable creatures, and they expect the same from other animals.  Humans, on the other hand, display a unique tendency toward individualism.  That is to say we have a propensity to make our own decisions and carve out our own nature, independent of the nature of our species, as a whole.  If you don’t believe me, just ask the marmot.

The human marmot is a woman who attempts to communicate with her guardian angel.  It is a boy who tries to use his Ouija Board to contact the spirit world.  They beg and they plead, and if they got what they wanted, then they would learn to beg and plead more fearlessly.  Most of the angels are faithful to God.  Only a third rebelled with Satan, and yet, on any given day if a person managed to get a message from the other world through active divination, that message would almost always be from an evil one.  The reason is simple.

Are angels safe?

Angels have one thing in common with humans that they have in common with nothing else.  They had and have the ability to choose between good and evil, and some, but not all, have chosen evil over good.  They cannot be generalized as a species in the same way that humans cannot be generalized as a species.  That being the case, anything that a good angel feeds an eager audience merely serves to make people more vulnerable to the fallen angels.  As I have said before, we are clearly at a disadvantage in our relationship to the spirit realm.  Unless we approach the matter with a healthy dose of fear, we stumble blindly into a dark room with lions and lambs.

A divine law has been set that, except under special circumstances, the angels are not to feed bits of communication to the humans, lest they become tame and vulnerable.  Unlike the human campers, the angels tend to do as they’re told.  That’s the problem with divination: invite the spirit world to your party and the demons will come to crash it.  I do say facetiously that the angels are commanded not to participate in our divination.  This I cannot verify, except to say that the outcome of such involvement would be certain evil.  God has commanded us not to engage in divination, and one must consider that no good being would encourage disobedience to God.

The problem with humans is that they cannot be generalized as safe or unsafe.  The same is true for spirits.  The problem with divination is that only the evil ones respond.  The good thing about divination, ironically, is that only the evil ones respond, which keeps the sanest among us leery of anything that comes from it.





Here and Now; The Spiritual Unity Principle

6 03 2010

In an earlier post, Perceptual Fog, I discussed the principle of Now, that span of time that we inhabit, which occupies absolutely no space on the time line.  Now is a very important concept to consider, because it clearly defines the difference between one’s body and one’s eternal soul.

My body has been smeared across the time line like butter on bread.  It exists along a range of points, and it encompasses an infinite number of infinitely small points, of which Now is one.  However, Now is where I am, and Now does not exist at all of those points.  Therefore, I do not belong with my body in the past, nor do I belong with my body in the future.  If you could build a time machine and travel back in time, you might see me living my life, doing all of the things that I have done, but I am not there.  You would only see the physical shell of me.  In theory, if I went back to that time, I would think all of the same thoughts that I did then, and I would be unaware that I had traveled back to that point.  This may be true, but I am, in fact, not at that point.  I am here, even if for a fleeting fraction of a second.  I can no more inhabit the body of my past than I can inhabit the body of my neighbor.

This is the essence of my immortal soul: regardless of my body’s influence on my memory or my temperament or my rationality, I am what I experience.  I am that, even if what I experience is a dream or a hallucination or an illusion.  Even if it’s wrong, so long as I experience it, then it was me.  The reason that Now occupies no space on the time line, despite the fact that our bodies occupy an entire range of the time line, is that the soul is of this property.  The soul has a location on the line, but it occupies no length of it.  If it did, then it would contain an infinite number of infinitely small points, meaning that it would be not one soul, but many.  A soul is indivisible.  You cannot be more than one person, and you cannot be less than one.  The essential you is a point.

The paradox in all of this is that while your body can exist at different points in the time line at the same time, your soul cannot.  As soon as your soul moves to the next point in time, it no longer exists at the previous point.  Now is the only point you will ever occupy, even if Now moves onward.  The important thing to note, here, is that the idea of whether a thing can occupy different points of time at the same time uses a secondary time line for comparison.  That is to say that we’ve inadvertently added a second dimension to time, making it not a line, but a plane.  The body occupies all of the same points in time that the Now merely visits.  The former does all at once what the latter does in sequence.

The time line that we measure with clocks is only for physical things, as clocks are physical things.  The spirit is not physical, which is why, though it can be located on the time line, it cannot take up any space on it.  It’s like the intersection of two lines, or, in this case, the intersection of the two axis of our now two-dimensional time.

In Ezekiel 3:16-21, the Lord tells us that we will be judged by what we are at the end of our lives, regardless of how good or evil we were formerly.  Some take this to mean that the future trumps the past.  It does not.  The last moment of our lives possesses no future.  In that instant, there will only be the Now and the past.  Because we are the Now, and the past is but a shell that we left behind, God judges the Now.  That is to say that God judges our souls, not our bodies.  God isn’t waiting for you to die to judge your soul.  If your soul has not been redeemed by the blood of Christ, then you stand condemned already.

The body occupies an infinite number of infinitely small points along the time line, but it also holds a similar quantity of points in physical space.  The soul, however, is not matter.  It does not occupy any space.  It does, however, have a location in space, just like it has a location along the time line.  That location is an absolute point, and it cannot exist at two points at the same time.

Many authors have speculated about the exact abode of the human soul within the body.  Some have written theoretical works on mining that magical organ from the body and refining it to a pure soul-body interface.  Descartes believed it was the pineal gland.  C. S. Lewis speculated in an unfinished fiction that it might be a special part of the brain.  All of these authors hit at a profound point, and all of them miss it, entirely.  The entire pineal gland, and any section of brain would be far too large to be called the most essential part of our existence.  If a whole organ is as far as we can narrow it down, then we have not gone much further than to say that the human soul exists somewhere within the human body.  In that case, we’re just dealing with a smaller chunk of flesh and no more.

The key to understanding the soul’s relation to the body is to consider their analogy to the time line.  The soul is a point, and the body is a region.  They can both cover the same areas, but while the body takes the whole region at once, the soul moves about, taking one point at a time.  Even secular science has tried to narrow down the place in the brain where we live.  They think that it exists in the temporal lobe, near its junction with the parietal lobe.  However, there are two of each lobe and only one of me.  If we can narrow it down to that, then can we identify the exact neuron?  Any particular ion pump?  A single ion?  Perhaps, an electron?

We can eliminate as much of our body in the quest for the abode of the soul as we wish, but so long as we have any left, then we are no closer to the truth than if we had eliminated nothing.  You can remove a leg, yet still be yourself.  In fact, you can remove your entire body and still be yourself.  In a way, you have done exactly that already.  The body of your past has been cut away from you.  None of it was left intact.  You have no power to re-inhabit it, like you have no power to inhabit your dog.

Now is a point without a range.  Here is also a point without a range.  There is an age-old question that asks how many angels you can fit on the head of a pin.  The answer is that you can fit them all on the head of a pin and still have room for more.

Two lines intersect at a point.  One line is physical and the other is spiritual.  The physical component is made of time and space.  The soul forms a point in time and a point in space.  One is the Now, and the other is the Here.  The soul has no substance in either, but it has a definite location in both.  That point is always on the move.

The only question you have left to ask yourself is, “Where, exactly, is it going?”





Demonic Progression

29 01 2010

Axiom 1: not all potential hosts are equal.

The demon roamed the countryside in search of a suitable host.  A matter of chance brought him to the eastern shore of the Galilee, mostly populated by gentiles.  As such, they were mostly followers of pagan gods.  But not all of them were to become the host to this parasitic spirit.  Only one would fall victim to that fate.  The fact that he was a subject of an idolatrous religion probably helped.  Likely, he was a little further along than his neighbors.  How the demon homed in on him is left to speculation, but something about the man was a draw.

There he was, living on the peaceful coast, drawing fire from the well with no bottom.

Axiom 2: a subdued host is an easier target for further possession.

The thing latched onto the man with its talons, digging deep into the poor victim’s mind.  After a psycho-spiritual struggle, the demon won, and the process of further possessions had begun.  One by one, new monsters found him and came to feed off of his life.  Ultimately, a whole legion of these vile things had him.  It was not the entire countryside that became possessed, though there were enough demons to do so.  Nay, as with the first axiom, not all potential hosts are equal.  A man already subdued makes for easier colonization by others.  A legion in one body is easier than one in a legion of bodies.

Axiom 3: the host cannot or must not die.

As with any parasitic relationship, the goal is to take a little here and a little there…as much as possible, without actually killing the host.  When the host dies, the parasite is in jeopardy.  No matter how many demons possessed a single human, the human soul was not to be parted from the body.  This was not to say that such a thing could not be done.  If one demon could subdue the human spirit, then a legion might be able to permanently separate it from the body.  Such a thing would be death.

Axiom 4: the demon is not a counterpart of the human spirit.

Separating the human spirit from its body would be death, and as by axiom three, such a thing would be undesirable.  If the human spirit could be completely replaced by a demonic one, then there would be no problem with this mortal severance.  However, a human spirit apparently has traits that a demon does not.  The demon cannot take the place of a human spirit, because it is not comparable in nature.  Therefore, no matter how many of these evil things involve themselves in the human psyche, the human’s spirit-body connection must remain intact.

Axiom 5: possession causes insanity, a mental disconnect from the body.

The poor demoniac, now hopelessly consumed, went raving mad, wandering the land, howling and wailing.  He cut himself with sharp rocks and bits of pottery.  The pain no longer evoked the same kind of reaction in him that it would have in a sane person.  Something had come between him and his senses.  This may be why he had seemingly gained superhuman strength, like a man drugged and unable to feel the pain of over-exertion.  His friends and family attempted to subdue him and to chain him, but he was able to break the chains.  Eventually, they were not even able to subdue him enough to put chains on him.

Axiom 6: demonic possession causes demonic affinity.

Taking on the unclean spirits, the poor man developed an attraction to graveyards, where the unclean decomposing bodies were stored.  Could he but roll away the stones blocking their entrances, one might wonder what he intended with those bodies.  Perhaps he succeeded.  His interests were no longer his own but the ones cast upon him by the alien influence.

Axiom 7: demonic possession may be contagious.

Were there two demoniacs, or was there one?  Most say there was one, but one person recorded that there were two of them.  In all likelihood, there was one primary victim, the most notable case, someone who had been possessed longer and to greater effect.  The second victim may have come later, or been a weaker case.  Either way, they were found on the same shore, together, grappling with the same enmity at the same time.  This can be no coincidence.  They were related cases.  The vastly overwhelmed original demoniac may have spilled over to a second victim.

Axiom 8: demons in possession have perception that extends beyond the limits of the human senses.

This is another throwback to axiom four.  The human spirit cannot see beyond the confines of its own mortal shell, but the demon can.  They are not built the same.  One is not just an unclean version of the other.  Somewhere across that lake, they perceived an enemy.  He was coming.  Their hosts could not see that man, but they knew well that he was on his way, even as far away as he was.  They knew that if this man were allowed to arrive, that their demise was imminent.  They knew that he must be stopped.

Axiom 9: demons in possession have powers that extend beyond the limits of the body.

They would cause a storm.  Somehow, though they were physically confined to the shore, they were able to reach out across that lake and stir up the winds and the water.  They filled the boat with water and terrified its passengers.  They nearly capsized it.  But they could not overcome just a few words spoken by that man.

Axiom 10: demons are absolutely helpless against the Word of God.

He could not be stopped.  With a few words, he caused their power to melt like butter on a griddle.  The storm ceased.  He stepped onto the shore, and with a few words, they knew that he would remove them from their host.  Like a parasite removed from the body, they would writhe and suffer.  Nothing could be done to stop the Word.  Once spoken, it was an unbreakable law.  They begged and pleaded to not be left without a host.

Axiom 11: between one body and the next lies an Abyss.

“Don’t cast us into the Abyss,” they pleaded, “Don’t torture us!”  The option on the table was not to stay in their current host.  They already knew the intentions of that man, the Word become flesh, the Son of God.  They could not keep their present abode.  They begged for an alternative better than being left with nothing.  They asked to be cast into a bunch of pigs.  The alternative was the Abyss.  A spirit without a body is thoroughly dead, lost in darkness.  Anything would be better than that.  And then they were granted their wish.

Axiom 12: possession of an animal is not comparable to possession of a human.

They could not adhere to axiom three.  The pigs could not be controlled the same way as a human.  Once in the pigs, their behavior was different from that of the human.  Unlike the human, they caused the death of the porcine host.  Something went wrong.  The connections didn’t line up, or the host response was erratic.  What they had not anticipated was that the pigs would cast themselves into the sea.  At least, they had not expected the pigs to drown.  The host was lost, and the end result was the same.

Axiom 13: a newly freed host is a vulnerable host.

The former demoniac begged and pleaded to follow the Son of God back into the boat and across to the other side.  He sensed his own weakness, and he knew that he was vulnerable.  He was afraid of being left alone without his savior, and for good reason.  Had the demons returned and found this host clean and uninhabited, they might have possessed him in greater numbers yet.  But God did not leave him alone.  He would be safe.  Though the Christ got back into the boat and left, the spirit of God remained, and the man was safe.





Kenophobia

1 01 2010

[fiction]

Ned was an obsessively cautious fellow.  He never drove when he could walk, for fear of car accidents and greenhouse gasses.  He never drank sweet drinks for fear of tooth decay, if it had sugar, and for fear of artificial sweeteners, if it did not.  He feared the cold, lest he become sick, so he often wore a coat on a hot day if he believed that the weather might cool down during the day.  Everywhere he went he carried a small bottle of sunscreen, which he applied faithfully every so many hours, that he might avoid skin cancer.  In his coat pocket he carried a pair of nitrile gloves (he feared the toxicity of latex), and in his back pocket he carried a spare pair.  Often, he left home already wearing some, which meant that he had three pairs on his person at one time.  He did everything at the exact same time each day, to the minute.  He avoided social situations that might put him in unexpected circumstances.  He touched no one.  He avoided public restrooms as much as humanly possible.  He was terrified of aerosols and dust, and he kept himself stocked with a supply of dust masks.  His life was a perpetual flight from death.  He didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink, and he didn’t stay up after nine o’clock at night.  Life was a vicious set of jaws perpetually bearing down on him, seeking to snatch him up and devour him.

It is with great irony, then, that one fateful Wednesday night found him hiding from the rain under the awning of a pub entrance, caught without his umbrella.  As he stood there, he considered the exact wording of the letters he would write to the news agency that had said nothing of rain.  He had been walking with a friend, a man named Wayne, when this friend seized upon his opportunity to quench his compulsion to drink.  Ned, however, harbored his own compulsion to remain outside of dark creepy businesses such as this.  So there he stood, watching the dry halo of the sidewalk beneath his feet, when from the darkness to his left came the sound of running footsteps.  A man appeared under the illumination of a distant street lamp, running full speed toward the pub.  He disappeared in the darkness and reappeared under a closer lamp.  Ned peered at him as he bore closer, appearing a little more distinct under each light.  When he finally arrived under the awning, Ned nearly jumped backward into the rain to avoid a collision.

“Ned!  It’s you!  What are you doing here?”  Ned looked into the face of the rain-soaked man and recognized the wild-eyed face of his friend, Bruce, the genius of unimaginable inventions.

“I happened to be walking by with Wayne….” Ned started.

“Wayne?  Is he here?” Bruce exclaimed, barging straight inside, where he found his friend sitting at the bar with a hand at the waist of a disreputable woman, the other hand holding a frothy mug and a cigarette dangling from his lips.  He was hugging, smoking and drinking as hard as he could, desperate to fill that emptiness inside with as much pleasure as he could before it was too late.  He did a double take, not recognizing the frantic madman at first.

“Bruce, man, what’s wrong?” he asked, stumbling off the stool and approaching him.

Bruce propped his elbows on the table and ran his fingers through his hair, as he dripped profusely all over the floor.  “It’s that portal I was going to build…did build…I don’t know.  I’m out of pencils.  Gosh darn it, I can’t find a single paperclip or eraser to save my life.”

“Wait…what?” Wayne begged, “Man, you’re not making any sense.  What are you talking about?”

“The portal,” Bruce began, “I think I built it, but I don’t remember building it.  I was in my office looking for a pen or pencil, but I couldn’t find one anywhere.  I couldn’t find a small object of any kind anywhere in the room.  I didn’t realize what it meant for several hours, because I had forgotten that I already built the blasted thing.  I was at my desk, working on the plans, when I realized what was wrong.  If I had succeeded in building the portal and turning it on, then I would have tested it by poking a pencil into the interface to see if anything happened.  If I were successful, then the pencil would be removed to the parallel universe, and it would no longer exist in ours.  What I didn’t account for is the three components of reality: space, time and matter.  By putting the atoms into phase, I caused matter to lose an essential property, the fact that it occupies space.  What I didn’t account for was that it no longer occupies time, either.  It not only disappeared, but it never existed, so I didn’t even know it was missing.  With my pencil missing, I grabbed the next best thing, thinking that I was still testing it out for the first time.  One by one, I caused every small object in my office to be as though it had never existed.”

Wayne blinked hard at him and then sought out his unfinished beer.  Then he ordered a refill.  “I’m sorry, Bruce.  What were you saying?”

“The interface!”  Bruce gesticulated, “it grew beyond the confines of the portal machine and swallowed up the very machine that I had used to make it!  I never remembered making the portal, because it was consumed by the doorway that it created.  It must be lurking in some parallel universe even as we speak!  I was sitting in my office, wondering why there was a big table in the middle of the room with nothing on it, and all my desk drawers were empty, and I felt like there was supposed to be something in all of that emptiness.”

Then, in the dark veil of rain, something grew.  Ned’s nostrils twitched, and his eyes grew wide with fear.  He sensed a danger lurking out where he could not see it.  He looked down the street from whence Bruce had come, but he could see nothing noteworthy.

Bruce stopped mid-sentence, lost in the confusion of his own thoughts.  “It was an empty room,” he whispered like a mouse, “a big empty room that looked like a table should have been in the middle of it, but there was no table.  The desk drawers were empty.  I felt like there was a dangerous void sitting in that room, mocking me, daring me to enter it.”

Wayne reached for his newly filled beer and joked, “Yeah, man, I get that feeling too, except, I like to fill that beer with a good void to make it go away.”  He screwed up his eyes to think about what he had just said, wondering if he had made any sense.

Outside, something grew.  No one knew that it had grown, but some of them suspected the void that crept in the darkness.  The more it devoured, the bigger and hungrier it became.  Inside every person not yet completely swallowed by the void, there was a feeling of the void, the sense that something was missing.  They could not remember the thing that they had never known.  It was missing as something that had never existed, but it left a gaping hole like something that once was there but had been removed.

Bruce paused in thought, not really sure of how to explain what was going on.  Wayne waited expectantly, with the mug to his lips as though poised to take a drink the moment Bruce began to tell his story.  “I…” Bruce began, haltingly, “I don’t know how to explain it.  I was in Lewistown, walking along Main Street, and I happened to notice that Third Street followed First Street, but there was no Second Street.  I don’t know why, but it really freaked me out.  There was a big vacant lot with nothing in it, right about where Second Street should have been.  There was an intersection and a short stub of a road that went nowhere, and beyond it was nothing.  I just felt like I had some connection to the place, but I didn’t know what.  It’s like the void was sitting out there, mocking me and growing, but I don’t know why.  I wondered what would happen if I crossed the empty lot.  I half expected it to swallow me up.”

“You were in Lewistown?” Wayne asked.  “Sherri lives there,” he said, indicating the wayward woman beside him.

Then, outside, something grew.  Ned stared down the street, which was lit by a short row of two streetlights before terminating abruptly before a section of town that was planned but never built.  Something out there was wrong, but he didn’t know what it was.  Beyond the lights was an inky darkness, like a growing evil, but there was no darkness to be seen, apart from what could be explained by the fact that the lights didn’t go any further.

Wayne stood there with his arm outstretched as if to embrace some imaginary woman, but there was no woman, because Lewistown did not exist, and she did not live there.  It had never existed.  That woman had never entered this bar.  He sensed that something was missing from his life, but he did not know why it was missing.  He didn’t know what it was, because it had never been there, though it left a gaping hole in its departure.  Everyone left in that room stared at each other, wild-eyed, wondering if they were the only ones who noticed anything.  Yet, no one actually noticed anything, because there was nothing to notice.  Bruce had simply come in out of the rain, looking more than just a little worried, complaining about a vague feeling.  He had not been telling them about his inter-dimensional portal, because he did not have one, and he had never written down plans to make one, because the portal and the plans, as well as his laboratory on Second Street and all of Lewistown had never existed.  They had all passed through the doorway into another realm, to be forgotten.  In fact, they had never been known.  All that was left was a deeply seated feeling of vacancy in the pit of one’s stomach and the feeling of utter dread, an awareness of one’s own mortality.

Bruce was nearly in tears.  “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, man!  I’m just scared.  Come outside and I’ll show you.”

Wayne followed him outside, where Ned was still standing, staring at a guardrail with two reflectors.  The Pub was the last business on the street, before it ended in a field of weeds.  There were no streetlights beyond it.  It was a road that had never been traveled, never even built.  They stood there and considered it, thinking nothing of it, but knowing that there was something to be feared.  The rain had stopped.  The storm front had even disappeared into the void.

“Looks like it’s the proverbial end of the road,” Wayne jested.  “Where do you think it will go, once they get around to finishing it?”

“We can never know where it will go.  We only know where it came from.  Out there lies a great uncertainty.  Within me lies a great big hole.  I don’t know what it is, but something’s missing, like it was ripped from me, even though it was never there to begin with.  Something evil lies beyond the end of that road and it scares me.  I think it has come to devour me,” Bruce whimpered.  He turned to Wayne and asked, “Tell me, what do you do with a hole like that?”

“I don’t know, man, fill it?” Wayne offered, “Fill it with whatever you’ve got, man.”

“What about you, Ned?” Bruce asked, “What do you do about the emptiness?”

“Run from it, fight it, get as far from it as I can,” Ned replied, emphatically.

“Well,” Bruce mused, “I don’t think I can fill this…whatever it is, and I’m not so sure I can run from it.  Perhaps there’s a third choice.  Perhaps I can stand up to it.  I’ll let it do its worst, and if it kills me, then so be it.  At least then I won’t succumb or waste my life running.  I’ll consider this life as nothing.  I’ll die to myself and let destiny have its way.”  Then he stepped over the guardrail and fell into nothingness.  All was black, and he was falling faster and faster.  At first he was afraid of hitting bottom, but then he was afraid that there might be no bottom.  Then, somewhere in the darkness, he felt a hand take hold of his own.  He sensed in that touch that whomever it was, a man, was not afraid.  In fact, the one holding his hand seemed not to be falling.  It was then that he realized that if he was holding the hand of someone who was not falling, then he must not be falling either.  The next thing he knew, he was standing on his feet without ever landing.  In fact, it was as though he had not really been falling.  It was then that he opened his eyes in the next world.  He turned and looked to the one who had pulled him out of the darkness.  In a moment he recognized his old friend, a stranger he had never known before now, a friend who was ripped out of his life so long ago.

Wayne and Ned stood under the awning in front of a pub, arguing about whether to enter it.  Their friend, Bruce, had never existed, and he had not created an inter-dimensional portal, and the street continued on to Lewistown like always.  Both were keenly aware that something was missing.  Wayne was determined to fill it with a beer, a woman and a couple packs of cigarettes.  Ned was determined to spend his life running from it.  Both were doomed to fail.

[/fiction]