I’m not discontinuing The Cauldron, but circumstances are likely to have me away from it for a long period of time. This will be of no grief to anyone. I hope that I’ll be able to return to it at some time in the future when things will be more stable for me. But for now it’s becoming increasingly likely that I’ll be moving to a situation in which I won’t have Internet access or a place I can conveniently write.
My thanks to all who have dropped in from time to time to read my stories. I started this blog for such as you. In the main, though, my writing is becoming a more private thing. But since I still have one Malastra to finish and post here, the Cauldron will not be retired till then.
Clouds massed over the sea of prairie grass. Lightning crackled. A man on a pale horse appeared. His shirt and trousers were ash gray and his ankle-length duster, pitch black. He work a black Stetson covering his head of unkempt gray hair. In his right hand he held the reigns of the horse, in his left he held aloft a scythe.
“There!” he said to his horse, pointing his scythe a prairie farmhouse on a low hill. “Someone is expecting us, and someone is not!”
In another place, at another time, the china in Anna Thomas’ Dining Room cabinet rattled, and a glass tinkled against a crysytalware pitcher. She’d have paid it no notice at all, had she not been expecting a guest: a student from four decades before when Anna was teaching middle school grades at the Cedar Grove School in 1936, the year before it became the Pollock Pines School of Pollock Pines, California.
She opened her front door and stepped onto her porch facing Carson Road. Its wooden floorboards vibrated as the heavy Michigan-California Lumber truck passed headed east after having exited the Mill.
In 1978 the Mill was the backbone of Camino, California’s local economy. The Sierra Pacific Lumber Company closed the Mill in 2009, laying off 164 employees. Tourism to the local apple orchards took some of the slack and gave the small town the nickname, “Apple Hill.” But even in it‘s Mill days, Camino had never been the bustling gold rush town of its neighbor, Placerville.
Anna had retired in 1971. Now in 1978, she was 68 and owned the house across the street from the fork of Carson Road and William Way.
There was no car parked in front. The rattle had been a truckload of standard cut lumber. She sat on the porch and studied an old school photo wondering if she’d be able to recognize her bygone student, Minon Elmer, who would now be in her fifties.
It was a year end group photo of 55 students and their teachers, Anna Thomas and Ruth Baumhoff, standing in front of the wooden schoolhouse. (Built in 1931 it was originally one room till a partition, added in 1935, separated grades Five through Eight from One through Four. Mrs. Thomas‘ Fifth through Eighth graders numbered 20.)
The students were almost all White that year with only two exceptions, 15 year old Lilly [Sayuri] Yamaguchi and her 12 year old brother, Tom [Tomio]. Their father, Takao Yamaguchi, and two older brothers were apple growers managing Yamaguchi Apples, northwest of Sportsman’s Hall and North of Cedar Grove.
A Subaru parked in the turnout in front of the house next door. A woman of the expected age got out. That’s her, Anna thought, I should have told her the parking was on the back road.
She stood and called out, “Ellen! Is that you?” motioning for her to come around the hedge.
“Is that you, Mrs. Thomas?” Ellen Schneider” said as she approached the porch.
Anna looked at the photo for comparison and then held it out to Ellen.
“Yes, that’s me,” she said pointing at a thirteen year old girl with pig tails.
“It’s been ages, Mrs. Thomas.”
Anna invited her in. There were tea and slices of apple cake at the dining room table.
“I see you’re keep the place well,” Ellen said after glancing about. Someone was doing a good job of dusting.
“I keep things in apple pie order, just as in the school days. My daughter, Beth comes up from San Jose every month and helps with the deep cleaning.”
“How are things that you are living alone now?” [Anna’s husband had passed away nine years prior of lung cancer.]
“It can get lonely, but there’s Nancy next door and the cats. They’re around here somewhere. Oh. There’s Coconut on the woodpile out back.”
“I was thinking you were going to bring your husband and maybe one of your boys along.”
“He can’t let go of his insurance company. Has a new office in Fresno to get up and running. And the nearest of the boys, Frank, lives in LA.”
“Sacramento wasn’t big enough for him?”
“No. Though I wish he’d chosen San Francisco for his big city life. It’s so much closer.
Ah, Dear Mrs. Thomas, I’ve thought of you over the years. I have such a nostalgia now for those wonderful years at the Pollock Pines School.”
“You’re getting old,” Anna replied.
“This apple cake is the best!” Ellen said taking another bite. “Local apples, I’m sure?”
“Yes. This one was baked with Fuji apples from the new trees at Yamaguchi Orchards.”
“Oh!” Ellen exclaimed after swallowing and wiping her lips. “Lilly and her brother!” she said pointing out Sayuri Yamaguchi in the photo. “Have you heard anything from her?”
“A few years back, she dropped by with her daughter and granddaughter, six or seven. The family lives in Seattle. She married a Japanese immigrant, just before the War. But then they were sent to an internment camp. After the war her husband found work in Seattle.”
“That’s sad. You know we weren’t kind to Lilly. And the older kids bullied her. But she always took it so stoically. Some of them stopped because they just couldn’t get her to cry. The Japanese are like that.
I wonder why she and her husband didn’t move back to El Dorado County, since the family business survived World War Two.”
“It almost didn’t,” Anna said. “At first the family managing it didn’t want to return the orchard to the Yamaguchis. But Lilly’s father was smart. He‘d had the whole agreement in writing before they were taken off to the camps.”
“Lilly was very bright. She wrote little stories, didn’t she? Did she ever do anything with that talent?”
“I don’t know. I think she was just a housewife. Her daughter, Kay is a college English professor. That has to involve writing.
But you know, I think I still have one of Lilly’s stories. It was a macabre little tale about a grim reaper. And gave me a little fright, because she wrote it at the time of her grandfather’s passing. I had to check up on what really happened to him.”
Anna left the table and opened the door to a sewing room whose visible wall was covered with book shelves.
Ellen heard her slide open a file cabinet.
Since Anna had always been perspicuity to “apple pie order,” she very soon returned with a faded manila envelope.
“What’s a ‘shinigami?’” Ellen asked about the title of the story.
“It’s a Japanese grim reaper or angel of death.”
Ellen scanned the first two paragraphs and looked up. “This must be the reaper with his scythe,” she said. But he doesn’t look Japanese. It’s the Old West and he’s a cowboy.”
“Yes. I asked Lilly why she wanted the Japanese title. Why not ‘The Reaper?’ But she insisted on it, and I told here that if she ever wanted to publish anything, she couldn’t be too stubborn about titles.
But that wasn’t the only thing that didn’t fit. If you read on, she names her reaper, ‘Jubei.’ That’s a Japanese name. Oh but there was a reason for it. A sad, but a little funny one. It wasn’t really about a little house on the prairie, but her own home in Cedar Grove.
She may have told you how her grandfather died, but go on reading and then I’ll explain.
Ellen remembered that Lilly’s grandfather had passed away in ’36 or ’37. But hadn’t it been just old age?
She fished her glasses out of her purse and continued reading the story.
Life on the open plains of the Oklahoma Territory was hard. The Lewis family had held onto their farm through decades of tornadoes, prairie fires, and the occasional Indian raid. They were alone at first, except for other setters with ranches and farms miles away. Church was held in the pastor’s home, and the nearest village, Stillwater, had a market day, a single, tiny supply store, and a post office.
The family patriarch, Cornelius Lewis, was 58 years old when the angina gripped his chest in pain, and he fell from the roof on the barn, breaking his hip.
They were repairing the barn after a portion of its roof was blown away by a tornado. Cornelius was hammering down a sheet of plywood, when the heart attack struck and he tumbled to the ground.
There wasn’t even a barber in Stillwater. Pastor Timothy had assisted nurses in the War Between the States, so he was able to bind Cornelius’ hip for healing. But it didn’t mend straight, and the old man had great difficulty walking. This was the beginning of his troubles.
His wife, two sons, two daughters, a son-in-law and a couple of young grandchildren took over chores and upkeep as best they could, but the old man insisted on doing everything his crooked hip would let him.
The second heart attack felled him on the field and laid him up worse. There was something wrong with his head. Pastor Tim said he could have had a stroke. He didn’t get better and after two years, he could hardly walk.
The family, having many hands, was able to take care of Cornelius till the eldest daughter, her husband, and their son moved to Wichita, Kansas, and another devastating tornado came through. It tore up the main house, so that with its repairs and saving as much of the crop as possible, it was difficult to tend to Grandfather at every moment.
Unfortunately he couldn’t be left alone. His mind was going, and he didn’t realize he couldn’t do things. He’d get out of bed on his own and fall. On night he’d gotten out his bed and made it halfway to the barn, where he’d fallen in the drainage ditch. His second son, Bill, had found him early in the morning. Now Bill was away more and more often, and had proposed to a girl in Tulsa City. First Son, Benjamin, put his 15 year old son, Syl, in charge.
They were still repairing the upstairs portion of the main house, so Cornelius and his wife, Evelyn, were using the bedroom of the second house. They made a cot for Syl, so he could sleep in the Living Room, right outside the door of the Bedroom. When Evelyn was up and out, Syl sat next to his grandfather’s bed, where he could help him up to relieve himself and for baths. Syl kept an eye on him at all times, except when another family member would take over so he could go do some chores. There was a tiny school in Stillwater, but Syl had so far been home schooled.
At first his duties for his grandfather were easy. Sometimes he’d have to call someone else to come and convince Grandpa that he couldn’t get dressed and go out into the fields. Gramps would get ornery, but most times Syl would just sit, reading, doing his lessons, and hearing the old man’s tales of his youth on the Mississippi River. However, Cornelius was losing his mind, and sometimes he became confused about where he was, and began thinking he was in his childhood home in St. Louis.
“I see,” Ellen interrupted her own reading, “Looks like this is about Lilly and her grandfather. I remember now that she couldn’t play with us after school, because she had to get home right away to take care of him.”
“Yes. It was pretty much like Syl in the story. She took care of her grandfather a lot.
Yuji had a stoke at age 67 and then more within a year. He was mostly wheelchair bound, but he’d try to get up and walk. He fell and hit his head badly, and that just made him more senile. His sons were too busy with the orchard, so the family put her in charge, and that included giving him bed baths and cleaning up after accidents.”
“Yuk! I didn’t know it was that bad for her. She never outright complained.”
“I knew she was responsible for him,” Anna said. “I asked her once how it was going for her, and she just changed the subject with a joke. I remember it. She asked, ‘Where does okra come from?’ I answered, ‘Maybe Africa.’ she shook her head and said, ‘Okrahoma!’ I think it was maybe a joke about the way Japanese mix up their Ls and the Rs. She didn’t have a Japanese accent herself. I think she lost it in the early grades. Anyways, this story was her way to tell her frustrations.”
One night there was a big commotion in Grandpa Cornelius’ room. He was shouting and trying to push his wife out of the bed. It was sad. He didn’t recognize her. Syl hurried into the room. His grandfather didn’t recognize him either.
The next day Cornelius recognized his family, but there were more and more days and nights like this. So when the big house was repaired, Evelyn moved to her own room, and Syl moved his cot into Cornelius’ room.
He had to get his grandpa up every two or three hours and get him to the chamber pot. They made a chair over the pot so he could do his business. If Syl didn’t get him up, the bedding would be soiled. But the old man didn’t like getting out from under his blankets, especially on cold winter nights. Syl would have to plead with him, and when Cornelius couldn’t recognized his grandson, he’d start punching at him.
Sometimes he could get his mother to come help, but his father told him that his grandfather was his responsibility, and that he needed to learn how to persuade him.
One night Cornelius got out of bed while Syl was fast asleep. He wasn’t able to walk far, but he almost made it to the door of the house. He fell. There were only some bruises, but Syl’s father, Benjamin, blamed Syl for not keeping a watch on his grandfather.
Syl replied, “I can’t be awake all night!” His father gave him the belt. So he tried being awake and watching at all times, even when he had chores the next day.
Syl loved his grandfather. But in so many ways his grandfather was gone. He no longer told him stories of sneaking onto the steamboats, and the world of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Most times he thought he was in his St. Louis boyhood home and asked for his mother or sisters.
It was 1906 and Stillwater finally had a doctor. Doc Stephens said that Cornelius was not long for the world, but months passed.
Nobody said aloud that they wished Cornelius could pass soon. He wasn’t in pain. The family silently grieved that he wasn’t really alive anymore, but no one dared wish him death.
No one except Syl who one evening asked, “Why can’t God take him already? Isn’t he ready to go?”
Syl got the belt again.
The next day while drawing water from the well, he prayed, “Jesus, I hear you come to wells sometimes. I have a question. Please forgive me if it’s a bad one.
Why is Grandpa Cornelius still alive? His mind is already gone. If he were in Heaven now, he would be happy with Great-Grandma Agnes. Why do the angels take some folk too soon and others to late?”
Jesus said nothing, but there was a splash sound from deep in the well and then something like the sound of a church bell, but just one single ring.
Pastor Tim now had a church building in Stillwater. Syl convinced his his father to sit with Cornelius, while he went to church that Sunday. “I haven’t been good,” he told his father. I need to pray at church.” There, after the service he got Pastor Tim aside and asked him, “What angel comes for people when they die?”
“Well son, I can’t give you a name. We know from Scripture that an angel comes to take a soul to Heaven. Or a demon comes to take as soul to Hell. It could be your guardian angel comes to take you. Or some say the Archangel Michael or one of his hosts. Maybe not an angel at all but a departed loved one. Some folk believe in the Grim Reaper. It all depends on how a person has lived.
You’re thinking of your grandfather, aren’t you? He’s always, for as long as I’ve known him, been a man of faith. See how he trusted and persevered in the face of Indians, tornadoes, fires, and bankers to make a life for his family here in the West. I suppose a good angel is coming for him!”
“I hope so,” Syl replied, “But when?”
The preacher laughed. “No don’t go being impatient, Young man! Everyone goes at God’s appointed time.”
That night the Shinigami came to Syl in a dream. Syl had just walked outside the church in Stillwater. A wild west gunman, dressed from his hat to his boots in black, stood in his path.
“I hear you’re in need of a hired gun,” the man said.
“Me? No. I don’t need a gunslinger.”
“The gray haired man smiled. Most of his teeth were gold.
“I don’t use the guns much these days. I use this,” he said holding up the scythe. “Your house is overdue for a reapin. Invite me, and I’ll show at your place tomorrow night.”
“Who are you?” Syl asked.
“The name’s Jubei. I’m a shinigami.”
“What’s a ‘shinigami?’
“I’m a god of death. I take the souls of the dyin.
Now I hear you’ve got a stubborn old man who is clinging to his meaningless life, month after month, to the grief of his family. I can take him tonight, if you give the word.”
“Pastor Tim says I should wait for God’s appointed time.”
“Now listen, Syl, God doesn’t bother himself with a calendar. And if he really cared about your family, he would have taken this burden off you already.
He leaves it to my sort to come round and clean things up.”
“An outlaw? Come to my house to kill my grandfather. That ain’t right!”
“I’m no outlaw!” Jubei laughed. “I’m not going to come in and fill him full of bullets. I won’t even wound him with this scythe. I’ll wave it and sever the cords tying down his soul. He’ll pass away in his peaceful sleep. Look and see what I am! Jubei vanished, and pitch black raven perched on the hitching post.
“This is a dream!” Syl said.
“Of course it is,” the Raven replied. “Now you need to hurry on up and make our transaction before you awaken.”
“Payment. Things like this cost a little. You want me to take your grandad now. But he has a few months left on him. I have to account for those from somewhere. How it works is I’ll take a few of your months. No more than four will do. I tell you it won’t make any difference to you when you’re his age. More likely it’ll be a blessing. You’re dong him a favor!”
The dream was fading. The raven was now just a small, black bird flitting about on the ground.
“Make up your mind!” it peeped.
“Then the dream was gone. Syl was awake in his cot in his grandfather’s room. But he couldn’t move. An unseen weight held him down.
“What will it be, boy?” Jubei’s voice asked.
Syl found his lips could move. They said, “come for him.”
When Syl woke up in the morning, he remembered the dream, and that he hadn’t asked Jubei just where he’d be taking his grandfather’s soul.
“Oh my God!” Ellen exclaimed. “What a dark story! Oh, sorry Mrs. Thomas. I didn’t mean to cuss.”
“Yes, a raven, no less,” Anna said. “Lilly read Edgar Allen Poe somewhere. The Raven. A child her age shouldn’t have been reading things like that. But these days it’s in schoolbooks.”
“So there’s ‘Jubei.’ What kind of name is that, and what does it mean?”
“That’s just a common Japanese name. Now where she got it? I’ll tell you when you’re done reading the story.”
“Was it really that hard for her, taking care of her grandfather? That she’d imagined some kind of devil coming for him? Did they just put it all on her?”
“The family helped a lot.” Mrs. Thomas said. “Or Lilly wouldn’t have been able to come to school. I think they were all getting tired of seeing him languish.
Lilly didn’t wish any ill on her grandfather. You’ll see how the story works out.
You might think from reading the story that they used a little corporal discipline to encourage her to be serious.”
“Like Principal Reece and his ‘Board of Education?’” Helen smiled.
“Never!” Anna declared.
Yuji Yamaguchi never struck his children with anything. Maybe the Japanese spare the rod, but he didn’t spoil his kids. He’d have them do some kind of chores for amends. Like the time he made Toru work at the Tree Mile House [Smith Flat House] to compensate for the window he broke.
Yuji was a good man. There’s no reason for him and his family being sent to the camps.
He and Hanako [his wife] came from Japan to San Francisco in 1889. The heyday of the Gold Rush was over, but he wound up here in the hills and started his orchard. Now, in spite of things, Yamaguchi apples are famous all over.”
Syl couldn’t sleep the following night. He was afraid his dream was true.
Unfortunate it was. At midnight there was a loud knock on the front door. Syl peeped out the window. The Shinigami was there.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Syl said opening the door a crack.
“So, you’ve decided to develop some patience?” Jubei asked.
“I don’t know where you are going to take his soul. It doesn’t sound good.”
“So you think I’m here to deliver him to Hell?”
“Ah, Syl, I’m only a collector. I bottle them up and deliver ’em to my employers. They weigh their souls. If a soul’s to heavy with karma it sinks down to whatever realm it floats. If it’s light with merit it rises to Heaven. Don’t you want you grandfather to rise to Heaven?”
“Good bye!” Syl said beginning to close the door.
But the Shinigami shoved it open, pushing Syl to the floor.
“Sorry about that,” Jubei said, helping him to his feet. “Some folks think I can’t enter
unless they invite me. I can go through walls if I wish.”
“And so can I!” a deep voice said.
A cowboy in white was standing at the door to Cornelius’ room. His stetson was pure white, as were his shirt, trousers, and boots. There was a glowing sheriff’s star on his shirt. It dazzled brightly.
He took off his hat and introduced himself,” I’m the Archangel Michael. In a month Cornelius Lewis’ guardian Angel will escort him to Heaven. You must not let Old Jubei touch him. Actually he cannot get near your grandfather unless you let him.
“Another month?” Jubei asked. “Why?
Syl, we can get this done right now instead of waiting on some damn calendar.
“Sylvester Lewis, listen to me!” Michael said. “He made you an offer, didn’t he. He said that he could take your grandfather early if you made up the slack with a bit of time from your own life. But let me tell you what this demon does.
At some time in your future, he’ll arranged a bad accident or an illness that will have you close to death. There will be time for you to recover and live, but he’ll cash in that time you promised before you can get well. Also he’ll mix a bit of foul clay into his collection jar, maybe enough to stick to you and drag you down when his Angels weigh your soul.”
Jubei laughed. “The only extra weight that gets in this boy’s jar is from his impatience with his grandfather!
Now Michael, shall we handle this according to the Code of the West?”
They stepped outside. Syl followed.
It was a duel! A gunfight! Michael and Jubei stood back to back in the moonless night.
Then light shown from above. Angels descended, each with a candle stand which they sat in two rows to illuminate the scene of the battle.
“Count the paces,” Michael told Syl.
The boy said, “One,” and the two Angelic beings each took a step. At Twenty, they whirled around and shot at each other. The sounds from their pistols were not a mere cracks but thunderous booms as if cannon fire.
Both were still standing, Jubei with a smile on his face.
Michael shook his head, and Jubei suddenly bent over, his gun falling to the ground, his hand pressed against his chest as he grimaced in pain. He fell to the ground and lay there without even a twitch.
Michael holstered his gun.
“You best go back indoors with your grandfather,” he told Syl. “His last days will not be easy. But it is not for you to try to escape your chore.”
“He said my soul would be weighed. Will this make it too heavy?”
“Pay no attention to his bull!
Obviously you didn’t give your grandfather up for death this evening. Just be patient with him, and let him finish in his own time.”
Jubei suddenly stood up with an ease that showed no injury.
“Syl, my silly child, You need to lighten up. Forgive you childishness. You’re just a child, anyway. Guilt and shame are what weight a heart down. Forgive yourself. Forgive your grandfather. Then your jar will be empty and your spirit will rise up to Heaven!”
“I’m supposed to be the one to give him the Gospel,” the Archangel Michael said.
“Well, you didn’t this time.
Race ya to the Gates!”
The two jumped on their horses and rode off into the darkness.
Syl went to his grandfather’s bedside.
“Sorry Gramps,” he said. “Forgive me for wishin you could pass away quicker. It’s not your fault that these things take time.”
In the morning he told himself it all had to be a dream, or someone in the main house would have seen all that light and heard the thunder from the guns.
In three weeks, Cornelius came down with the pneumonia. And as the Archangel Michael had said, he passed away before a month was done.
Syl asked Pastor Tim if God weighs the soul.
“Now jars and stuff, that’s not in the Bible,” he answered. “But we should all put the weight of our sins on the cross of Jesus. Then we will be light enough to be taken up to Heaven.”
“Well that’s got a Christian finish,” Ellen said. “Did Lilly and her family convert to Christians? I always thought Lilly was a Buddhist.”
“I can’t right say,” Anna replied. The family on Hanako’s side were Catholics in Nagasaki, Japan. Yuji never talked about religion. However they had a Buddhist altar in their home for their departed. The same one is still in their family home on the main orchard. It has Buddhist gods on it.”
“Does it have a death god?”
“No. It has what Toru calls the “Great Sun Buddha,” and there’s a Virgin Mary. It certainly is a Catholic Mary, but Toru said it’s also a Buddhist god named ‘Canon’ or something.
Lilly wrote this story and …”
“Did she really write it all by herself?” Ellen interrupted. “Her wording seems more adult.”
“I’m sure she didn’t plagiarize,” Anna said. “Her vocabulary was very good. That’s because her parents kept at her to master English. They didn’t even speak Japanese at home.”
“But the story is so adult as well.” Maybe a 15 year old girl should have been writing stories about meeting boys, but I’m afraid it was about what they let her read. Edgar Allen Poe?
That’s why I got a bit worried when Lilly told me Jubei had taken her grandfather.”
“Say what? Jubei! The shinigami thing?”
“Yes. You see Yuji passed away a week after Lilly gave me that story. He was 67.
Do you remember? I let her go home from school that day. Toru came to pick up her and Tom. She told me it was Jubei’s fault.
I wondered if the girl believed in the creature she’d written about. Maybe it was some kind of Japanese god?
I asked her a couple of days later if Jubei had taken the life of her grandfather.
‘Oh yes,’ she answered. ‘But we can’t blame him.’
The family had a little wake for Yuji. A Catholic priest came from Sacramento. And a few days later there was a Buddhist priest who came. At the wake I asked Hanako about Jubei.
‘Oh, did Sayuri tell you what happened?’
‘She said Jubei took her grandfather’s life. What is Jubei? A kind of Japanese grim reaper?’
Hanako looked confused for a moment then asked, ‘What is a grim reaper? Come, let me show you Jubei.’
She lead me to their bedroom. ‘He’s usually in here. We had to make a little place for him so he’d stay off our bed.’
Between the bed and the wall was a cardboard box. She lifted if up and there was a black cat sleeping on an old pillow.
‘This is Jubei,’ she sighed. ‘When he’s not asleep, he follows us around and gets under our feet. It seems Yuji stood up in the washroom, and Jubei rubbed up against his legs and made him fall and hit his head. The fall was what did it. He fell two weeks ago and was unconscious till he passed.’
She held it in well, but I could see her eyes were trying to tear.”
“So Jubei the Cat did it!” Helen exclaimed.
“And I suppose she named the shinigami after the cat when she wrote the story. Though it seems she may have written it all before the accident. I never got around to asking her.”
In 1998, the year of Anna Thomas’ passing, she was still living in her house in Camino, California, though with the assistance of a live-in caregiver. She was mostly bedridden.
Carla, her caregiver, had rolled her out onto the front porch when Kay Ogawa unexpectedly arrived with her daughter, Saya (named after her grandmother), Saya’s husband, Galen, and their daughter.
Anna hadn’t seen Kay and Saya since cancer had taken away Lilly Yamaguchi-Tamura in 1988 just a month before the birth of Lilly’s great-grandaughter.
“It’s been a long time,” Kay said. “More than ten years. Here’s Saya and her husband, Galen. You haven’t met him. And you certainly haven’t met Diane.
The ten year old girl had just lugged a cat carrier up the steps. She sat it down and approached Anna’s wheelchair.
“What have you got there?” Anna asked pointing at the carrier.
“It’s her cat. She doesn’t go anywhere without him,” Kay answered.
“There was a cat here until he ran off a few days ago,” replied Anna.
“That was two years ago,” Carla corrected her.
Wasn’t it two years you were here last?” Anna asked Kay.
“More like ten,” Kay answered. “Time goes by quickly. You see Saya’s a mother now. I’m 54.”
“Where’s you husband?”
“Ken’s at home. He wasn’t up for the long trip, even though Galen is doing the driving.”
Anna looked at Galen’s pitch black hair and asked, “Is he part Japanese?”
“No, He’s part Greek and part Irish.”
The little girl sat on the steps next to the cat carrier. She opened it and pulled out a book which she began reading.
“What are you reading there, Dear?” Anna asked.
“Show Mrs. Thomas your book,” Saya told her.
Diane got up and handed the book to Anna.
“Kwaidan” she pronounced it correctly. “What’s it about?”
“It’s stories,” Diane said. “Stories about Japanese spooks.”
“Oh. So do you like spooky stories?”
“Yes!” Diane answered.
“Did you know that your great-grandmother wrote a spooky story? I still have it.
Carla, can you go to the filing cabinet. Look under S for an old manila envelope. It will say ‘Shinigami’ on it.
It’s a scary story about a Japanese death angel. Your Great-grandmother, Lilly wrote it. Just before her Grandfather, Yuji, passed away. There’s also a cat.”
“Do you want to see my cat?” Diane asked.
“I sure do!” Anna said.
Diane opened the carrier and lifted out the cat. It was a solid black short hair with one eye yellow and the other blue.
“He won’t scratch,” Diane said setting him gently on Anna’s lap.
She pet the kitty and it purred.
“What’s his name?” Anna asked.
“Jubei,” Diane answered.
Anna’s mouth dropped open for just a moment. Then she smiled.
“You’re great-grandmother had a black cat named Jubei when she was a girl.”
“I know,” Diane said. “He killed my great-grandfather.”
“It was an accident,” Anna replied.
Carla handed her the envelope and Anna gave it to Diane.
“You’ll want to read this,” she said. “Your Great-grandmother, Lilly, wrote it. She had the makings of a writer, like Kay here. Maybe you’ll become a writer.”
Anna looked into the mismatched eyes of Jubei and said, “You’ve come for me, haven’t you?”
A tear rolled down Kay’s face. She knew her mother’s story.
Carla invited them in. Fortunately there was enough apple juice to refresh everyone. She offered to go get a couple of pies at the Mill View Orchard Store, but Kay said it wasn’t necessary. They’d already been appled out at Yamaguchi Orchards.
Anna grew tired after a while, and Carla put her to bed. The old woman asked one last time to pet Jubei and then drifted asleep.
Diane lifted her cat from Anna’s arms and put him in his carrier. Her father, Galen Asterion, called the family to the rental car. Kay lingered just a bit to say farewell.
On the way to the Sacramento airport for the return flight to Seattle, Diane Reiko Asterion read her great-grandmother’s story. “You’re a shinigami,” she whispered to her pet.
There was no surprise when upon reaching home, they got a phone call from Carla. Mrs. Anna Thomas had passed away that night.
For 170 million years the Earth without Human Kind was fallow, untouched, and ignored by the Ultras. Continents drifted, the Atlantic seabed began to rise. Rivers cut through the new plains wearing them away to deep canyons and gorges of spired mountains and oasis ravines etched across the new Atlantic Dessert.
The arid land of igneous mountains was mostly barren but in the ravines canyons, and gorges whose rivers carved their way to the Atlantic (which was now a narrow straight) unimagined and unnamed new plant and animal species flourished and thrived till the squeeks, croaks, and cackles in the jungles and on mountain spires became words and a species of near-winged felines called themselves the “Sajalup” (the dwellers above).
Across the high dessert plain which contained their ravines and deep gorges, there was another system of deep valleys inhabited by an evolutionary relative: the “Misk.” These separate species of sentient, air gliding cats had by geological barriers become not only reproductively incompatible but extremely hostile toward each other. Their tribal societies saw the other as not merely competition for resources and territory, but as impure, disfigured, and degenerate versions of the “real” People.
Ishim, a female Sajalup of the Fom Clan had kept a baby Misk hidden in a crack in the back of her spire cave. From the time her mate had been killed in a battle with a Misk raiding party, she had lived there alone. Her only companion had been her pet Ahup, a tiny sloth from the jungles below. It’s naked of fur face, big eyes, and pointy nose had a strangely sad expression as if it’s kind had suffered some great loss. Her tribe had yet to find her a new partner mostly because all her births had been miscarriages. She was politely shunned and ignored such that her neighbors didn’t notice her secret guest.
She’d found the infant Misk mewling next to its dead mother. It was a mystery why a mother of the Misk would have been on the open plain instead of in some jungle home. But of course the Misk were “stupid animals.” It was also a mystery why the patrol of the Fom clan had not killed the infant. And some would say it was a mystery why Ishim was out on the plain to begin with. (She was collecting cactus buds to sell at the market.)
An infant Misk looks mostly like an infant Sajalup except for a shorter less prehensile tail.
Ishim’s first thought was to kill it. It was the Humane thing to do for a squab that would die of starvation and desert exposure. It was also the Law, the sacred duty of all Sajalup to let no unclean and demonic Misk live. Any Misk would immediately kill her on sight. Mercy made no sense outside one’s own kind.
But she wrapped it in her flight sack and when she reached to the edge of the gorge, swiftly glided from spire to spire to her cave. There she suckled it herself and named it, “Daytree” after her late husband.
Before two complete cycles of the Moon, a curious neighbor crept into her cave while she was at market.
The watchkeeper flung the corpse down at Ishim’s hunched legs. It rolled off the rock ledge and plunged into the gorge. Neighbors assisted the enforcer in tying Ishim’s two pawhands together. (She’d not be able to spread open her leather gliding wings and attempt escape.)
Her pet ahup tried to follow as they dragged her away.
“Dispose of it or find it a new home,” the watchkeeper said.
“No one will want that thing,” one of Ishim’s siblings said. It’s tainted!”
The sister scooped it up and hurled it into the gorge.
The penalty for aiding the life of a Misk was death by banishment. For It was felt a betrayal of not just tribe and clan, but the personhood of the Sajalup. Her neighbors and siblings did not morn. Ishim was already dysfunctional to the community.
The Clan judge intervened though, giving Misk a “mercy.” She’d never be in good standing with her clan, but she could avoid the death penalty by showing her repentance with a simple act of righteousness.
In a few days a patrol party returned with another infant Misk they had taken from the neighboring canyon across the plain. She was no longer an infant but a child who begged and pleaded in her own language no Sajalup knew.
The Judge handed a knife to Ishim and waited for her to plunge it into the child’s heart.
Ishim dropped the knife.
“Take it to the Crack!” the judge exclaimed. “I gave her the chance to be a person, but this thing now is only a sin. We reverence our Honored Ancestors by purging her.”
They made Ishim watch as the judge slit the Misk’s throat and stabbed the knife into her heart.
There followed the Ceremony of the Azalat. Prayers were made to the Ancestors to bind the Clan’s sins to the Sin of Ishim. Banished, she, the Azalat, would carry the sins of the Sajalup with her to death in the desert, or in this heinous case the gehenna of The Crack. Preparations included those for the feast after the patrol returned verifying the Azalat’s death.
They took her, bound in a basket, up the step-path to the top of the gorge. Then the blessed patrol took her deep into the plain where they released her from the basket but harried her in the direction of the Crack.
Ishim was frightened, but somehow she wasn’t angry at her people. She’d made that decision for herself and by a love that felt right to her. Of course her ancestors were unhappy with her. She did not know what they would do to her in the Betweens, before her spirit was sent back for another life. But she had a feeling that her heart was opening her to a place out beyond the plain in the distant mountains of the East.
She was expecting the patrol, as she was taught, to simply make sure she was too far from any ravine oasis to survive very long in the desert. But she’d heard of the Crack, a very deep fissure fracturing the plain and reserved for the most heinous of criminals.
They harried her bounding glides till she was on the edge of it. And before she could leap and glide into it herself, They grabbed her and with knives shredded her leather wings, and shoved her over the edge.
The Garden at the Beginning of the World
Eloah stepped from ruins in a jungle into a tropical orchard. Rows of mango, papaya, banana, star fruit, durian, bread fruit, jackfruit, and mangosteen trees covered a vast valley. They were ripe and heavy with their fruit. If the Prime Emanation gave himself a more connected Human form, he could stop to break open a cherimoya and enjoy its rich and tart flavor. However he hastened his steps to join the Elohim he’d asked to meet him here.
Some of the Transfigured of the Council were picking rambutans and lychees for their juice.
“Come!” he said to them. “But step lightly. We don’t want to frighten her.”
Another row and they entered the coconut grove.
“So this is the one?” a transfigured woman asked. She was one of the few of the Council who had known Human Kind was not the last generation from which transfigured beings would arise. She had waited millions of years for this next time.
“Yes. The First, the unexpected, because we had no part in her arrival.
“Then is she more than just an anomaly?” The Archangel Raphael asked.
“Yes. Without our tinkering and tampering, she and more will awaken.”
“Then we must cultivate their garden!” the Transfigured Eve said. “Do her kind believe in higher powers? Do they need an emanation in their own flesh?”
“We must be cautious, Raphael said. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. It took design for primates to become souls. We must not intervene till we understand how this happened.”
Eloah understood. So did Wisdom, the Spirit of Grace, and their Unity, the All-Aware.
“This was inevitable,” he said. “Now we must welcome her.
She will choose how and if we will help her cultivate her species.”
Wisdom, the eternal progeny of Eloah Yahweh, motioned for the group to hold back, while she stepped forward shifting from Human form to a cat with glider wings and fingered paws.
Ishim lay at the bottom of the fissure, bleeding from her knife wounds and her side punctured by a sharp bone of a previous azalak. It was dark in the pit, but she could see the bones strewn about her. Her own legs broken and her spine snapped.
It was a mercy she was bleeding out. She couldn’t move to try and stop the bleeding, so she lay there as her head grew lighter her delirious thoughts began to fade.
It was bright about her and above was no longer the distant crack of blue sky but instead the sun. It was still there when she awoke. At first there was more than one sun but as she closed her eyes and placed a paw over them, one sun settled behind the broad leaves above her.
She could move, stand even. Her wings were whole, the knife rips gone. She felt younger.
Rising on her haunches, she looked around. She was under a small tree with very broad leaves and bunches of long yellow fruit. The tree was one in a row stretching beyond her sight. Another row of the same unknown tree stretched before her.
This alarmed Ishim. The Misk planted trees in their valleys. Had they brought her here. But how was it that she wasn’t dead. They’d have killed her on sight. And her broken bones and wounds were well.
This is the Betweens, she thought. It can’t be the Land of the Ancestors. No Azalak would be allowed to sully its holy ground. Shortly the huge, black Kyarn Birds would swoop down and eat this dream of her soul alive; then carry her spirit nut to be planted in a new womb. Because she was an Azalak, she could expect her next life to be a very harsh one. Some shamans said that an Azalat would be born as a Misk. If I am a Misk, she thought, Let me remember I was a Sajalup. If our souls travel to each other, how can we call each other unclean?
There were birds in the grove, but they were small and colorful. She began walking the row in search of a the Kyarn Birds.
Not far to the side were rows of tall trees with no limbs but very large frilled leaves at their tops, She could see large, heavy looking fruits. One fell to the ground with a thump. It was hard and had some liquid inside.
Ishim was thirsty, so she scampered up the tree to see where there might be rock pools in the sides of the ravine. But there was no ravine, just the rows of trees to the horizon.
A voice from the ground called her name. She couldn’t see the person’s tail to tell if she were a Sajalup or a Misk. But whoever it was spoke the Fom dialect. “Please come down,” she was saying.
“Who are you?” Ishim asked. “Are you here to show me the way to the Birds?”
“I am Khokmah.” (It was an unfamiliar name.) “This is not the Betweens. You have come a greater distance. Please come down and meet my kind.”
Ishim saw the creatures walk to Khokmah on upright legs. They were huge. Their fur wasn’t a fur but wraps of different colors. However, their uncovered faces were a familiar thing. They had the faces of ahups.
Are these the Old Ones?, Ishim thought. In the stories of the shamans there were once the elder people of the Earth. They had disobeyed the Great Spirits and abused the Earth. So the Earth Mother had cursed them into dumb animals, the Ahup. But if the Old Ones were here? Where was she?
She cautiously glided from the tree, landing some distance from the strange beings.
She could see the tail of Khokmah now. It was a Misk tail. She began backing away.
“I’m not going to harm you,” Khokmah said. “The Elohim want to see if you are of the mind to harm me.”
“Now I see,” Ishim said. “I’m not dead. You have brought me to a valley of the Misk. You haven’t killed me, yet. Why. And how did you heal me?”
Khokmah tossed her a knife. “I am going to come to you. If you intend to kill me, please stab me with the knife. I have no knife myself.”
But you have claws, Ishim thought.
“Is this supposed to be some kind of show battle?” Ishim asked. “I’m not a warrior. I don’t kill, anyone, not even a Misk.”
Ishim tossed the blade. “I’m an Azalak. Honor my ancestors by killing me.”
Khokmah began to glow and in a flash of light she was no longer a Misk but one of the Old Ones.
“This is not the land of the Misk,” she said. “Nor is it the Land of your Ancestors. It’s Paradise or Heaven. This particular scape, she motioned around her, is Eve’s Grove.
This is Eve.” One of the Old One’s stepped to her side.
“You’re dead, but you aren’t. This is Eternal Life. You are the first of your kind to join us.”
“Why am I here?” Ishmi asked. “I’m an Azalak, a very vile thing, I don’t deserve to be in a paradise.”
One of the Old Ones approached her and sat on her knees next to her. Ishim felt this one was also female.
“Why did they kill you?” the Old One asked.
“Because I would not kill a Misk.”
“So they threw you into the crevice. If you had the opportunity to do that over, would you kill the Misk?”
“No. I knew I’d have to die. But I couldn’t do it. I mean I could. For the Sajalup that would be the right thing. But I felt for the Misk, just like I had felt for the baby Misk. We Sajalup feel empathy for each other, but I could feel empathy for other creatures, even Misk. I chose my empathy.”
“Yes!” Khokmah, responded. “It was said in old times, ‘no greater love does a person have than to give her life for a friend,’ but you say to us there is a greater Love. The greater Love will give life for an enemy.
You were not vile to be an Azalak. Once I was an Azalak. And always I am the Azalak of the multiverse.
“You are here because you Loved,” another Old One sat next to her. “You chose Grace. Before none of your people could do that. It’s not because you are pure to the teachings of your shamans. You’re here because you are of Grace. You are one of us.”
“Were you an Azalak?” Ishim asked the second Old One.
“No. I didn’t have such a drama. I just chose Love over my selfishness.
My name is Becca. Welcome to your home, Ishim. In Eloah’s House there are many scapes. You have many brothers and sisters.”
My brothers and sisters don’t love me,” Ishim said.
“They will. When you are able to see all your streams. Right now we Love you and welcome you!”
Taking Ishim’s paw she led her across the streams to a dizzying space of circles within circles. There was no down and no up. Standing on the circles were Old Ones and winged creatures unlike any Ishim had ever seen. And then the circles were a spiral twisting inward to a very bright center. Hundreds of dazzling beings stood there: Old Ones, winged beasts, and living crystals. They stood round a great flat like the base of a pan.
“Don’t be frightened,” Becca told her. “This is the Council of the Elohim. It represents all the Transfigured such as you and I. And standing here is Eloah, the First Emanation of Awareness.”
“Are they the Great Spirits?” Ishim asked. “The shamans taught that there were great spirits who had created the world in a time before even the Old Ones. But no shaman had ever seen or communicated with them or the even the Old Ones. The Sajalup, though dwelling above all creatures, were too far below the Great Spirits to ever see them.
“In the time of Humans, we called these beings, ‘gods.’ But I am member of this body In cycle, and I am not a god. We are spirits, but don’t think that we are your gods.”
Ishim had seen Eloah in Eve’s Grove. He seemed to be shrinking to match her size, but then she saw that it was herself growing. He took her form, just as the, Khokmah, had. And she was there on the pan.
“Welcome to Heaven!” he said. You must be overwhelmed, but all this and much more will become familiar to you. For now you are seeing us as your imagination can bear.
Khokmah, myself, and the Spirit of Grace are the Greater Spirits, but as Becca told you, we are not your gods. We had no part in the creation of the Sajalup or the Misk. You are a miracle that came to be in your own untouched evolution. But you did not come to be apart from us, as the Spirit of Grace sparked in you, and the All-Aware has always been in your sentience. It’s just that we have not appeared to your kind to offer help. Now that you have become one of what you call the “Old Ones,” what we call the Transfigured, you have us now as your allies to help your people join our family. That is, if you so choose.”
“He means that the Elohim will become your Gods,” Becca said.
“Is that good?” Ishim asked. “Our shamans pray to the mountain and sky gods for many things, but the sky remains above and the mountains don’t move. If you are our gods, will you answer our prayers. Our shamans pray that the gods will destroy all of the Misk. Will you do that?”
Ishim awaited Eloah’s answer. She was testing these gods with her question.
“We will not destroy the Misk,” Eloah said. “We will bring peace between your species. Transfigured will come out of the Misk as well.
“I think that would be good,” Ishim replied.
“Becca,” Kochmah said, “I think you had a question.”
“Do they really need us?” Becca asked. “Did they need religion to awaken to Grace. Will they need us as peacemakers, or will they become in time, peacemakers of their own?
The Ultras messed with Human kind. And maybe they needed to in our case, because they got their hands all over our evolution. But here is something not of the God’s interference. Suppose we let them grow on their own?”
“But this is precious. We must protect it!” many of the Angels and Transfigured said. “We should watch over the earth again, to keep it from harm.”
“I agree that we should protect the Earth,” Kochmah said. “But of the Sajalup and Misk, let’s not interfere with their process. All of you can gaze deeply into the streams and see the many that will come. In the All-Aware they are already gathered with us here.”
Feline-like faces appeared among them.
The Angel Hermaeus said, “May I speak?”
Eloah invited him to the platform.
“I have kept a small home on Earth these millions of years and have watched this species evolve. I never interfered with it, but I saw in the streams this day.
I see streams in which we play God with these people. They are phantasm streams only. What I want say is I don’t see we would be a help for them. Our interferences cause suffering. I say leave them be. Let those unnecessary possibilities fade into nothing.”
“But we will get the Transfigured, won’t we?” the Archangel Raphael asked. “Better not to risk this opportunity!”
“Please!” Becca exclaimed. “Don’t go trying to save them. If we make them objects of our agenda again, we can only make it more difficult for them. We Humans needed Freedom ourselves. More than Heaven gave us. Fortunately we became Transfigured in spite of the attention. But heaven didn’t really Love us. It expected us to become something else than what they were. Even if you knew that transfiguration was our destiny. Sometimes it’s the work of Love to get out of the way.”
“It’s for Ishim to choose,” Eloah said.
“I want to help my people,” she said. “I want to live with them. I feel strange here. If I could be a shaman for them, I’d teach them Love. I think I’ll need your help. My people are very cruel.”
“Gods will not help that,” Hermaeus said. “The Humans quickly made their gods gods of war.
You can be a saint for your people. And as other join you here, you can guide your species. We will be here for you, but it may not be good for us to be on Earth.”
It was too much for Ishim to take in. She wanted to go back to Earth.
Becca showed her how it was just steps away. Soon Ishim would learn that Heaven and Earth were as mere scapes of empericality.
No one of Ishim’s people could even see her directly, not even the shamans. But she could enter their dreams and whisper in their ears. She found others who could not live with the cruelties of the clan cultures. Of these there was a village in a valley far from the spires that made their homes in giant trees. These, who had been Sajalup, had a shaman who could see her in vision. She told him of the Great Spirits who watched over the Earth to protect her children, but kept their distance waiting for people who could go beyond the Betweens by Love.
“When there are many of us,” she said, “they will appear.”
It took generations, centuries, for a handful of Transfigured to find themselves in Heaven. It was many more before there was peace between the Sajalup and the Misk. But for all that time, Heaven was patient. The Great Spirits did not meddle.
And this was the Covenant that Heaven made with the Flying Cats of Earth, to let them evolve in the own time, and to let their own saints aid their transformation. As billions of years passed and other sentient species evolved, Heaven patiently let Grace take its own course.
[As I said before chapter one, this story needs a complete overhaul. There’s a nasty plot hole and a contradiction for which I made a clumsy patch. However, I’m not very satisfied with this story, and with events in my near future, I may not ever get back to it.
It’s probably best this story remain in utter obscurity. I almost decided to remove it because of some potentially offending content. But since no one is reading it anyway, I’ll not take it down till I get in trouble.
Next I’m posting a short story and then The Cauldron will take a rest for a while. There is another Malastra story in progress, but I don’t know that I’ll have time or opportunity to finish it and post it here.]
An eleven year old girl was lost on the slope of one of the mountain peaks of Koya. She’d lost her way off the snow buried path pilgrims had used for centuries to ascend to Kobo Daishi Kukai’s Mausoleum and the mountain monasteries. She was cold, but not freezing as she wore a thick winter coat. She was thin but not starving. A miraculous bento in her rucksack was always full of rice, fish, and pickled vegetables.
She’d had to run away from home in Kyushu. Her parents couldn’t understand her visions, nor the precocious wisdom that began pouring from her little mouth at age five. When she’d told them that the Bodhisattva Kannon, Kobo Daishi Kukai, and the Archangel Gabriel had appeared to her and told her she must go to Koyasan to begin her training for her calling, they had of course denied her permission. Even when the same ultranatural figures appeared to them, they said no. So Aoki Megumi had set out on her own across the
post-yellowstone winter wasteland of Japan.
Tennin, in the form of two foxes, accompanied her, along with an Angel and visits from Transfigured beings from Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, other faith traditions. They had purposely let her go astray from the mountain path for the enemy was in wait for her.
Heaven could have already struck the Demon, Lillamia, down, but this was a test and a demonstration. It’s always some trial or monstrance, preventing a direct response.
Megumi followed the foxes, one red, one gray, around a slope thick with cedars. They stopped, changed direction, and proceeded up the slope, though the way was more difficult.
But after negotiating the slippery ice, they came to a sloping path through the woods. It was a paved road covered with ice and snow.
Up the road there were figures: two priests in Buddhist robes, a young man, and a Tennyo. The foxes directed her toward them.
Behind Megumi there were loud cracks of ice. She turned around to see a woman approaching.
The foxes changed to their Angelic forms and shielded Megumi. The party ahead ran to meet her.
Seeing no use for ruse, Liliamia took her Winged-Serpent, Seraph form and hissed a toxic cloud toward Megumi. The two Tennin inhaled the fumes before they reached their target. The poison had no effect on them.
Orochi cane running, calling out at Lillamia, “Stop! Please stop! Why are you trying to kill this little girl?”
“Oh Orochi, is this what has become of you,” Lillamia said. “I’m not surprised you’re a part of this plot. You couldn’t decide if you wanted to be Christian or Buddhist. This gives you both.”
Orochi standing before the Seraph, asked, “What is this to you? The girl is Miroku, the fulfillment of a Buddhist prophecy. Why does that mean you must kill her?”
“I’m just following orders,” she answered. “Satan ordered this hit.”
“This is outside his jurisdiction!” the second of the priests stated. His form began to facet displaying alternate empiricalities. He was the transfigured Kobo Daishi Kukai.
“I can’t really speak for him,” Liilamia said. “But don’t you think Christ broke the agreements when he resorted to this ruse?”
“It’s no ruse. Kukai said. “This was the plan all along from when the
Shaka-sama predicted the coming of the Future Buddha.”
“How long you planned it, makes no difference!” Lillamia replied. “It’s a bait and switch!”
“Why does Lucifer want Miroku dead?” Orochi asked not understanding why it could be a ruse. Certainly it wasn’t because Miroku was unexpectedly a girl.
“Figure it yourself,” Lillamia told him. “It’s a competition. You know Lucifer has his own plan to prolong Human life on this world. He wants it to be the success. Suddenly he finds out what Christ is doing. His little paradise in Pandemonium will be shut down if Christ takes charge of the whole Earth. It’s a challenge enough for him that Christ has communities scattered about. He can’t touch those, but he’s going to slap this attempt down right now!”
“Get out of the way, Orochi! I like you. I’m not here to fry you.”
Orochi stood his ground. “You don’t have to be Satan’s tool,” he told her. “Be free!
You still haven’t told me why Miroku must die?”
“You don’t know?
This Future Buddha of yours is not really Buddhist. She’s an incarnation of Christ, an incarnation of the Wisdom of God!
Now that’s a sneaky trick you’d attribute to Belial!
You’re Christ so wanted to have his Second Advent, that this is what he came up with.”
She wasted no more time, slapping Orochi from before her with a blast of cold wind that blew him against a tree on the roadside. But the priests, Kukai and Soeda, and now a line of Tennin were standing between her and Miroku.
“Pathetic!” she declared. “Is this all Eloah has sent to resist me? I can handle all of you!”
She was suddenly behind them, the girl in her grasp.
“How shall I do it?” she asked. “I can be merciful and take her out without any pain.”
Just before she bolted across streams, she felt Orochi grab her tail. The Tennin were at a loss to follow where she’d run, but Orochi was there when her wings stopped beating through the streams.
They were on the shore of some sea. Waves rolled onto the beach. It was tropical warm here.
Orochi grabbed and held onto Miroku. “If you kill her, you’ll have to kill me,” he said.
“Stop the dramatics, Orochi. I can snap her neck without touching you.”
“Lilly,” he said (He’d not called her that before. It was only the endearment he’d had in his mind when he was infatuated with her.). “I know there is Love in you. I felt it when you healed me. Why can’t you Love instead of doing Satan’s hateful things?”
“Silly boy, Love isn’t reliable. Greed and fear are much better manipulators of your pathetic kind.”
“No, Love is more powerful,” Orochi said. “You have Love or you have reactions. Love sets you free. Reactions make you a slave to stupidity and whoever will use you. You can be free! You probably are free in some other empiricalities. Don’t you want to be free?”
“It’s not necessary,” she said and noticed that Orochi’s palm was against her scales.
She felt the holy energy flowing into her.
“You can’t manipulate me with that!” she said. But deep inside her it resonated.
The girl touched her as well. That was overwhelming, and she let her go.
Lillamia morphed to Human form.
The touch of the incarnation of Christ and of Orochi was not threatening. It wasn’t a force but an invitation. But behind it was power she knew that even Lucifer would not be able to withstand.
“This is worse than a thunderbolt,” she sighed. “If you wished,” she said to the girl, “you could release a thousand thunderbolts on me. You are the Christ, damn it!”
There was crackle in the air and the scene rent all around them. Heavenly beings, Angels, Tennin, Dharma Protectors, Bodhisatvas, and others rushed her and contained her in a glowing orb.
“Satan will certainly send more,” the Archangel Michael said. “He’d have noticed her when she was born, but he was too busy with his play box in Hell.”
“He’s a loser,” Orochi replied.
“What shall we do with this?” the Archangel asked holding aloft the sphere containing Lillamia.
“Give it to Orochi,” Miroku said. “He can help her.”
“Michael passed it to Orochi. “I can’t let you open this in this or any stream of Miroku’s. You fulfilled your task, so I’m going to pass you to a stream like your original where you can keep your summoned demon.”
In other Empericalities, Lucifer attempted to strike Miroku down at birth, but he failed in all of these and the countless one’s he could not reach. Meanwhile he wasn’t paying attention to his Humans he had given habitat in Hell. He was unable to see that they would become Demons.
Mr. Mephistopheles was able to see. He saw when Lucifer would give up his plan and be chased out of Hell. He saw that Miroku’s new era would outlast Lucifer’s rebellious lives and even Hermeus’ own New America for thousands of years. Miroku would be with them for centuries till she was taken too much for granted and Ascended. She could not prevent the inevitable, but guided a world with more Human time and more time for transfigurations.
Out when the North America was once again a lush continent, the Asians who settled it’s West Coast and Central forests were not Buddhist or Christian. They revered the Ascended Wisdom of the All-Aware and the teachings of the Transfigured.
It was an empiricality in which Orochi had gotten himself killed. Just outside this stream, Orochi could see his body in a puddle of blood. Michael exclaimed that here his attempt to abduct a sacrifice had gone wrong and the girl’s Yakuza brother had caught and killed him.
Before he could let Orochi step into this stream, he vanished the body away. There could not be two Orochi’s in this single empiricality. But Orochi felt the memories of this alternate self enter his as he stepped onto the pavement. They were awful memories of his serial killer days. He sighed in regret for his murders.
Michael heard him and said, taking him by the arm, “This is not all of you. You see more of your stories in your transfiguration. For now, take a look”
Worlds passed through him like leaves of pages in a book. He could feel his selves extending out across a vast space. Then in just for a moment he was one, himself in eternity and the Mandala of Being.
He’d seen his transfiguration and in seeing it, it was already in progress.
The Archangel Micheal left him, and Orochi began the long walk to his apartment.
He sat the containment sphere, which was now an opaque jar, on his counter and began cleaning things up. There was too much in this place that was a part of his evil life.
It was close to morning. He took out the last bag of trash to the garbage and recycling shed at the corner and returned to sit on the tatami of his small bedroom.
What now? He wondered.
He yawned and decided to roll out his futon.
Close to noon he awoke with the clarity that his first order of business was to let Lillamia go.
He unscrewed the lid on the jar. A tube of light snaked out and Lillamia took Human form.
“I’ve no obligation to stay here,” she told him.
“I know, Orochi said. I’m not holding you. You can go back to Hell if you please.”
“That would be inconvenient,” she replied. Once Lucifer gets a grasp of the streams, he’ll punish me for failing to assassinate Miroku. There are demon clans on Earth who will take me in.
Thank you for freeing me from confinement. Satan would have come for me. Now I won’t be worth his trouble.”
“Maybe he’d give you another chance?” Orochi asked.
“You mean another chance to kill Miroku? He probably has in some stream. But she struck me good. I’d rather be doing something different, something good. I used to feel this way sometimes back when I was a goddess.”
She stepped to the balcony door and opened it.
“Be safe!” she said and morphed into her Seraph form.
But then a blue flame appeared outside. It flew in and grew to the form of Fudo-Myo-Ou, his flaming red hair, sharp incisors, and muscular blue skin.
“Why did you let her out, Orochi,” he asked.
He had no acceptable answer.
“Shikome,” Fudo-Myo addressed Lillamia. “Welcome back to Japan. You may now go back to the Christian Hell or I will accompany you to the Buddhist one.”
She grabbed Orochi immediately. “Whichever you demand, I’ll take him with me!
Sorry Orochi-kun, but he’s the reason I left Japan and became a Western Demon. He demanded I give up my godhead, just as he had his own, to become a Buddhist lackey. It was that or Buddhist Hell.”
“I want her to be free,” Orochi said.
“You want an abominable Demon set loose to do the kinds of things she did?”
“Miroku thought I could help her. I want to give her a chance. If she starts doing awful things, you can capture her later.”
“She’s doing something awful right now, using you as a shield.
Lillamia tried to pull herself and Orochi away into another stream, but Fudo-Myo had her streams restricted. There was only again and again the three of them in the apartment.
Fudo-myo smiled. “I have you, but I’m giving Orochi his wish. He will be your minder. I am binding you to him.
I will put both of you to work in my service. Orochi, you will become a priest. Don’t fret. You’ll keep Christ’s blessing and serve him. This will not be God or mammon. You know now that the Circles of Heaven and the Mandalas of the Pure Lands are one in Eternity. It is not the time of Miroku here yet. But you will prepare the way for when Christ comes in that name. Shikome, You will help me round up Akuma, Oni, Obake, Yokai, and Yurei that plague this land. Eventually you will have the opportunity I took. Or do want to flee back to Lucifer. I can banish you there right now.”
“Don’t go back there,” Orochi told her.
“So you still want me, sad boy,” she replied.
“Not that way,” he said. “If you insist on going back and getting the whip, please be free to do so.”
“You call that freedom? Or this? I’ll be your summoned Demon? That’s not free!”
“There’s another thing you could do,” Orochi said. “Call for Christ. Repent to him. Enter his service. I hear that other demons have done that.”
Lillamia laughed. “I’ll, get a parole. Maybe a chance of Heaven when the Earth passes away. You’re naïve, Orochi-kun. But I’ll stay with you a while. The other options are boring.”
Can a person come to transfiguration via Humanism? It’s not a yes or no answer. Mere Humanism committed to the ethical values of the Human Species, but without a sense of transcending empathy, is as spiritually dead as any
mere-religion attached to rules of right and wrong but without a heart of Grace. There are many who call themselves Humanists, though, because they found within an empathy, an inclusiveness, a sense of the sacredness of life, something more than morality, that they couldn’t find in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Buddhism. It is that way. Unless you know the spirituality of your religious tradition in your heart, it’s a mere uninspiring husk obsessed with dos and don’ts to the extent of cruelty. You have to make a religion your instrument of Grace in order for it to be the Way.
There is only one way. It’s not a religion and not an ism. It’s simply openness to the spirit of Grace. Grace comes and goes as the wind, with no exclusive point of origin or destination. It has outstanding embodiments, but no exclusive ones. So the Transfigured arise in many different circumstances of belief, and even in spite of beliefs.
Becca called herself a Humanist; Ian as well, though, he was more comfortable with the notion of a Divine Being at the heart of all things but impossible for any Human to understand. Becca continued to insist on Science, but there was much she now couldn’t figure into her comfort zone. Her sister, Tara, a transfigured Human, visited often, reminding by her presence that there was something beyond Becca’s ism.
She’d have not known there were transfigured and ultranatrual beings had they not made their existence too obvious. They weren’t now a matter of religious belief but of simple empiricism. And as such they could no longer stand for transcendence. The spiritual aspect of consciousness simply had to look beyond them for a more ultimate importance. As Becca became more used to the existence of a layered world beyond both Human Science and Religion, that most important transcendence became Love.
No, That didn’t immediately snap her into the arms of Ian. They were friends for six years before their friendship became a life partnership. As the excitement of exploring a whole new planet began to wear off, Becca began exploring her heart.
In 3.8 Sanctuary decades the colony base was becoming a city. And in two, more planetary exploration outposts were becoming villages.
AI directed probes under the command of Apathia explored the PC System. Finnegan’s Faeries had already scouted the system but apart from identifying resources, they left it to Human discovery. The two other planets in the system were uninhabitable but Mab (PC-c) could be colonized with underground habitats and Human genetic and implanted augmentations.
Sanctuary City was a company town. Small businesses began appearing but looming over everything was Asterion Industries. It operated the single Network and manufactured the tablets, cardphones, goggles, and smartwatches that individuals used for their networking needs. Since life on an alien world needed an even more robust connection, Asterion Industries introduced the “Headband.”
The band provided a neurological interface with the Net and all
net-connected devices and appliances. When worn it read brainwave patterns but also entailed a single electrode shunt to the occipital lobe of the brain. This was not a complex operation. With a little training the interface became second nature. The user could control devices at a thought and communicate seamlessly with others so wired.
Many inhabitants of Sanctuary were uncomfortable with the idea of it. It seemed to threaten privacy, and even mental health if someone were able to use the interface to “hack” brains. But the younger generation of Sanctarians took to it immediately.
Asterion rolled out this product in spite of the protests and warnings of Finnegan. Though he wasn’t able to see the future with clarity, he remembered that Raphael had predicted that Humans would lose themselves, lose their Humanity on alien worlds where the lines between Human and artificial sentience would be blurred. Higher level Angels told him such an outcome was in the streams. He counseled the new republic to restrict the use of this technology to specialists. The company lobbied for its wider use to strengthen the bounds of Human communities and encourage creativity and progress. As for privacy, the company pointed out that anyone could take the band off anytime they wished. The senate voted in favor of Asterion. Finnegan and his Faeries and Gobnait and her Angels could have prevented the Headband, but they themselves had set limits of their interference with Human life. Later, if they saw it was impairing Human existence, they could shut it down.
When in the second generation on Sanctuary the Band had replaced all other networking devices and was used by nearly everyone, Finnegan spoke up again.
Becca had not been the republic’s liaison to the Ultranaturals for a couple of decades, but Finn went to her. He found her and her 22 year old daughter, Emma (by her marriage with Ian), both seated at the Kitchen table, eating, but both wearing bands and gazing at whatever was in their mind’s eye of the Net.
“Take those infernal things off!” Finn demanded as soon as he appeared in Becca and Ian’s condo. “Don’t you even talk to yourselves anymore? That thing’s worse than the phonecards!”
“Don’t you even knock before entering,” Becca said to him as she pulled off her band. “Emma and I are always talking. What difference does it make if we use this?”
“It’s full of other voices,” Fin said. “Don’t they interrupt?”
“Screening them is easy,” Becca said. “You remember I had objections too. But really E-telepathy is perhaps more intimate than just a face to face conversation. It communicates feelings as well. And you have to be honest. Anybody can tell you’re lying.”
“I’ve seen what this comes to,” Finn said. “In another generation it will be practically a hive mind. You’re successor isn’t listening to our warnings. I was hoping you still had a lick of sense.”
“Fin, are you sure that’s what’s in all the streams? It’s necessary and inevitable that we use these tools in space exploration and colonization. Human beings must be augmented and to a limited extent engineered if we are going to settle on worlds alien to our biological base. We can’t just go terraforming our way through the galaxy.”
“It’s in enough of the streams,” he answered. “More than I can try to manipulate. This one here is going to go borg.”
“Borg? Cyborg? Oh that Borg. From the old Star Trek series.”
“Yes! Who wants to turn Human’s into techno zombies? Stupid Humans do! The generations to come won’t mind at all giving up their individuality and souls. They will happily fuse with machines till even the biological brain shrinks away to nothing!
Please help us forestall this!”
“You can stop it before it gets that far,” Becca replied.
“Sure!” Finn responded. “And that will be just the thing you hate: interference in your Human dignity and self reliance!
Wouldn’t you rather Human’s put a check on this themselves before they lose their dignity to it?”
“Yes. Becca agreed. “I’ll say something to the President, and Apathia.”
She thought about the prospects of this alarming claim being taken seriously. Human’s had a history of losing aspects of their dignity to technological advances. The Internet had had negative impacts on social life, distracting people from emotional intimacy and learning relational skills. Early 21st Century leaders could have mitigated the most serious results of Global Warming, but had chosen greed and denial over the health of the planet. Finn was right that Human could give up their individuality for a hive mind just because it was cool. Not immediately, but overtime as it became more convenient to group think.
Apathia was still the Facilities Manager, that included all aspects if the upkeep of the Net and its instruments. But she was also still the owner of Asterion Industries. And being an artificial sentience who was already wired to other comps. bots, and Androids, would she even understand why Human’s would want to keep their disconnected selves?
Once you got used to it, the Band was a wonderful enhancement of Human life. The Multiverse was a bigger and more complex thing than Humans had ever imagined and took greater intellect to fathom. The Band made the expansion of intellect convenient. What’s more it was the only thing that enabled Humans to keep up with the superior intellect of artificial sentient systems. For now these beings had no motivation to compete with or attempt to control Human life. But that was perhaps in part to Humans being able to keep up with them.
As Becca expected, Apathia didn’t really see what the problem was. She said that Human society had always been a dynamic between the progress of the individual and the progress of the group. Practically speaking, being able to remove the Band’s interface and select its channels when wearing it, meant that users would still have individual autonomy. She didn’t see a danger that people would surrender all their inner lives to the Network.
President, Stania Gao, dismissed it all as First Gen paranoia. The First Generation of Sanctuary, she explained, were resistant to new things unlike the familiar things of Earth.
“But this is the Ultras’ concern,” Becca said.
“Here’s what I think,” Gao said. “They want to hold our technology back, because in time we can become like them, without their conditions of transfiguration.
We are on the verge of an extraordinary breakthrough. No one has to die. Interface with the Net is nearly at the point that not only can memories be preserved in the Net, but an individual’s consciousness as well. Then it’s just a matter of downloading that into an Android body, and no one need die!”
It was true that the final hurdles to such a transfer were rabidly being overcome. It had been a one of Asterion Industry’s primary goals. Spacereach called for explorers who could live indefinitely and be engineered for many different biomes and planet surface conditions. But no one had yet suggested this prospect of “immortality” would be marketed to the use of the public at large.
“It’s not just the Headband,” Becca reported back to Finn. “With a prospect of some kind of immortality, they will not rest till Human Life has been transferred out of bodies and into the Net.”
“Then we need some saboteurs!” Finn declared.
“What? To burn down a facility or two? No Finn, That’s not going to stop it. It’s a matter of Human progress. Are you going to just smash every prototype before the process is completed?”
“Me? No. Human’s need to resist this.”
“I don’t think we will,” replied Becca.
Within five Sanctuary years, Individuals facing death were able to make the experimental transfers to Android bodies. It wasn’t the immortality they expected. A new consciousness in an artificial body always faced an identity crisis. Much more than our memories and mental ego, our bodies provide the emotional felt sense of who we are. The Android bodies had no Endocrine System, no Hypothalamus and Thalamus, and no muscular memory to anchor ones emotional self in a body. Plus there was a loss of emotional life, including a sense of values and felt concerns. The new consciousness always felt something major of itself had been lost, or that the memories it had weren’t quite its own. People took to calling those who had undergone the procedure, “Zombots,” a term from a dated Science Fiction tale that was nevertheless current in this regard. The technological miracle lost its sheen and then in a decade became unpopular. However life had nevertheless taken a deeper turn into the Net.
When Becca reached her elder years at an equivalent of 83 earth years, her family urged her to give them a memorial Android of herself. Also by “living” on in the Net, she could be a part of the long range space probes. The later was a temptation, even though she understood those Net lives would not be or even feel her own.
“You’re all going to be disappointed, she told her eldest daughter, Emma. And you won’t really morn my passing because you’ll confuse that thing with me.
But you can have it. Just let me die naturally. And give me the dignity of a service.”
“You’re going to make one of those abominations? Finn asked her.
“Yes,” she answered. “They insisted. And since I’m one of the founders, the Senate wants a memorial of me.”
“This world is already drifting,” Finn said.
At 108 earth years Becca made her appointment for the scan that would upload her memories and a simple sense of prior identity into the “Cloud of Heaven” and then afterward into an android body that was being printed for her. The body had been designed to look just like her when she was 23 years of age.
By the following day that new Becca opened its eyes and began the difficult task of sorting out its identity.
“That stupid family,” it thought. “It wanted Becca to be around to love them forever. But I’m incapable of love.”
That morning the elderly Becca awoke in her home on the shore of Galway Bay.
She pulled on her robe and stepped out onto the veranda.
Across the bay she could see the hills of Aran. On earth they would be a goldish green hue in the morning light, but here the orange sun of Proxima Centauri gave them an unnamed fusion that would never remind anyone of Finn’s old Ireland.
Her caregiver, an Android named Rosie, stepped onto the veranda.
“Would you like your breakfast now?” she asked.
“Yes,” Becca answered. “I’ll get dressed and have it here.”
Her caregiver, who was also her nurse. Had predicted three months at most. And then Becca’s body that had been kept in good shape by 21st Century medicine would simply collapse in a day.
While she could walk, though with stiffness and pain, she asked Rosie to accompany her on a walk along the shore after breakfast.
It was a warm morning. Becca wore a light jacket with good insulation.
“When will your Memorial arrive,” Rosie asked her.
“Not before my last day here,” Becca answered. “We’ll not meet of course. It’s necessary for the illusion.
Have you decided where you’re going, Rosie?”
“Back to the Capitol,” she answered. “I’ll be taking up an assignment for Senator Brin’s family.”
Ahead before them a woman was approaching.
“That woman is an Ultra,” Rosie said to Becca. Her eyes could see beyond the Human color spectrum where in Infrared and ultraviolet, Ultranaturals and Transfigured were of a different appearance than Human beings and Androids.
It wasn’t Tara who had visited Becca the previous day. This was an Asian woman, in appearance.
“A Faerie? An Angel? Transfigured?”
“Closer to transfigured,” Rosie said.
The woman called out to Becca, “Good morning, Ms. Klein. I’m glad to see you are up for a walk.
My name is Megume. It means Grace. You may call me Grace,” she introduced herself.
“OK, you seem to know me already,” Becca said. “I hope you aren’t someone I’ve forgotten.”
“This is our first meeting,” Grace said. “I’ve wanted to visit you for years but always found reason to leave you be.”
“Are you a Transfigured,” Becca asked.
“Yes, but not in the usual sense.
Do you know anything about the Earth empiricality where Jesus Christ is incarnate as Miroku, the Future Buddha?”
“My sister told me there was such a world. It’s a fresh beginning for Humans after the Yellowstone volcano erupts and nearly destroys the world.”
“That is my world. I am its Miroku.”
“So you are Jesus Christ as well?”
“Yes, I am.
“I don’t try to understand what you are,” Becca said. “And excuse me for not bowing on my knees. But then I’ve learned that that is now inappropriate.”
“That’s right,” Grace said. “you and I are much more than can be contained in political rituals.
I’m here to thank you for helping Rachmiel create this new home for our kind. I’m still Human. Human in this new glorified body.”
“I’ve not been much of a Christian,” Becca told her. “I did attend my husband’s church from time to time, but I just don’t relate to that kind of thing.”
“But your heart has been open,” Grace said. “That’s what counts.
I know your heart in Eternity. I know the role your querying mind moves you toward.
You still have some questions. Please ask me.”
“OK,” she said. “Finnegan, Rachmiel, says all this is probably going to fail. The space colonists will take Human evolution into their own direction and before long our Human kind will cease to exist. We will be replaced by non-biological intelligences linked in a hive mind.”
“Yes,” Grace replied. “That’s inevitable in the streams in which the expansion of colonies is successful.”
“So that means when all are “Transhuman,” no more Transfigured will be able to come of them, right?
If so, why bother, if it was going to belly up?”
“It will all be in due time. In the infinite steams, there are enough circumstances of rebirth and transfiguration for all.
All the various attempts to save Humans as Human come to their own limits. We have always known that the Human Species comes to extinction except for the harvest of the Transfigured. Here is a mystery, all are transfigured, but the Transfigured are few.”
“You never get enough?”
“Mahavairocana knows them all, but on the outer edge of the Mandalas, they are not known.”
“I’m sorry but you are not making anything clear with that kind of talk,” Becca stated.”
Grace laughed. “It will make more sense to you in your transfiguration.”
“About that,” Becca began, “I’ve always been reluctant to have that weirdness done to me.”
“It’s not done to you,” Grace said. “You are as a caterpillar who will become a butterfly. We have simply built your cocoon.
A child may for a time say she doesn’t want to grow up. But when she realizes the beauty she will become, she cannot wait.”
“You say you make cocoons. I wonder if that is your rationalization for some of the terrible things the Ultras have brought upon us. You used the Yellowstone Eruption in two worlds that I’ve heard of to purge and depopulate the Earth. Billions of people died. Don’t go telling me that it’s OK because in other empiricalities they lived. In the end that seems callous to me.”
“It’s horrible, whenever and in whatever circumstances billions or just one suffers. The All-Awareness knows in excruciating being all the pain in the Multiverse. I am the one who suffers every pain and every death. In my eternal Gethsemane, I suffer every cross. My compassionate Heart is always pierced by thorns. It makes no difference at all if the Elohim or natural circumstances uncork a Yellowstone. It’s all the Divine and occasion for transcendence.”
“My legs are getting tired,” Becca said.
Rosie helped her to a rock she could sit upon.
“Your destiny is in asking that question,” Grace said.
“What are you going to do after you’ve collected all your Transfigured? After Humans are gone?”
“You ask the best questions,” Grace said. “But collect? The All-Aware is not a butterfly collector. Caterpillars become butterflies and flutter in the Garden Of Delights.”
“Cocoons? You said. Making cocoons is your role. But can’t your caterpillars make their own? Of do you try to build cocoons on cocoons?”
“That is your best question! Our fault was not in collecting but in the making of cocoons. Our impositions upon you were an unnecessary waste. And now I tell you, unnecessary suffering.
So next time. That’s when you will help me restrain the anxious Angels. You’ll ask your best question then.”
A “next time.” A world after Humans. Grace said no more of it.
A few days later, Becca Klein passed away while sitting on her veranda.
Tara held her hand. Finnegan popped in as Rosie was recording the absence of heartbeat and brain activity to verify time of death.
There was not one single tunnel of light but many.
Even a Robot Could Tell You
In many interviews and encounters, Becca had publicly asked the questions: “If Human Beings, created by God, are broken, why doesn’t he just fix them?” “If there is a God, and this God loves us, as we are told, why doesn’t he take a more hands on approach or show himself to everyone?” Christians would state, “Jesus Christ.” And Becca would reply, “So that’s all? Send your only begotten son down to be crucified? That sure helped, didn’t it?” Jews, especially rabbis, would say, “God tried that already. Humans are hard to impress.” Becca would reply, “Well, nothing’s supposed to be too hard for God, right?”
Be careful what you ask for. Heaven, as if in reply to her, had sent down an Angel to fix Humanity, but the cure was worse than the disease. And Heaven had permitted a Fallen Angel the meddlesome project of giving Humanity a fresh start on another planet. Back on Earth, where there weren’t the cattle ranches of fixed sub-humans, Jesus Christ had “utopian” communities where Angels, Transfigureds and Humans mingled. In addition, Becca had heard from Finnegan that there were projects or experiments in other empiricalities, such as a new America on a North America as yet untouched by European colonists, a Japan with a Second Advent, and a world in which everyone, that’s every Human Being, was assigned a minding Angel to daily intervene in that individual’s choices, affairs, and consequences.
At the least she was glad that this version of herself wasn’t in that latter empiricality. It was vexing enough that Finnegan was pressuring her to be a breeder. It was inevitable that Finnegan, St. Abigail, the Faeries, and other Ultranatural Beings were going to keep Humans under their care and supervision. We are as children to them. But Becca was going to fight to have her own life. So when she found some chemistry with Ian, she kept that to
herself, and kept a friendly distance from him, lest he be the mate Finnegan was pressuring her to find.
Unfortunately Fin had seen Becca and Ian in conversations and began his machinations to get then together in a more substantial way. He knew he had to be subtle or Becca would balk, so he let Abigail handle it.
Becca had a meeting with Abigail. She was the colonial liaison to the Ultranaturals who though not having ordinary representation in the colonial government, were too much a part of life on Sanctuary.
Ian was at their meeting in the Dome 3 Food Court. Abigail said it was regard to their request for a “Hall of Spiritual Studies,” a church. A town hall had already given it the go.
“What’s the hold up?” Becca asked.
Abigail motioned for Ian to answer.
“The only hold up I see,” he began, “is that the colony can hardly build it and maintain the separation of church and state that’s in our new constitution.
But the Faeries or Angels, are going to build it for us, aren’t they?” he asked Abigail.
“Yes.” she said. “They’ll make a fine hall of worship!”
Ian frowned slightly.
“Pardon me, St. Gobnait, but must we call it that? Who is being worshiped?”
“Ah, I forget sometimes,” she answered. “That’s the old language of lords and kings. It is only the sinner’s ego that needs bow before a greater being.
What do you think, Becca Dear? I see you and Ian have a lot in common.”
Becca pursed her lips and almost smirked. Why would she throw that at me, except …
“There’s no one to worship,” Becca stated. “The gods aren’t supernatural beings, but creatures of an untranatural order. Of what I’ve seen of them, I see nothing to grovel at.”
“Yes,” said Ian. “And if I understand correctly all of them are just as empirical as you and I. They’re multi-empirical, but God, the All-aware knows them even beyond their perceived empiricalities.”
“What does that mean?” Becca asked. “That there is a supernatural God?”
“Not in the usual sense,” Ian answered. “It’s just that there is supposed to be One that is all-seeing and aware of all. Individual beings are something like that One’s eyes. They may see a single empiricality or a collection of many, but they have only their set of streams and do not see the streams are an ocean. Terrible mixed metaphors!”
“So it’s like Pantheism or something?”
“No. Not like the Hindu ‘Atman’ or Oversoul. “Everything’s empirical. There’s no supernatural being. But I can’t tell you if the All-aware is a personal being or Being itself with mind only in the many beings.”
“Of course you can’t,” Abigail said. “It’s Human Philosophy, Humans trying to understand what is beyond their understanding.”
“I get that,” Ian said. “Talk about God being a superhuman-being is misleading. And whatever we try to worship as a super-being is an idol of the Human mind. So I don’t like talk about ‘worship.’”
“So what is it?” Becca asked Abigail. “You’re a Transfigured. You experience a multitude of empiricalities. How do you experience God?”
“I have no Theology for you,” St. Abigail answered. “No one finds Grace in Theology. The best I can tell you is don’t look for God as the head mind. Think of God, feel God, as the One Heart we all share, the compassionate Heart where all our hearts meet in intimate presence.”
“But is he a person?” Becca asked.
“Yes and no! Don’t try to think it through. Dwell in your Heart.”
“That’s what the Christians always throw at me,” Becca replied. “It’s worse than mystic mash to tell me to shut down my brain and believe!”
“Don’t believe! Love!”
Abigail then excused herself, saying she had to tend to an issue on Earth, in one of the Irish communities. It was a bit lame, because a Transfigured can be at more than one place at one time.
“That’s why I can’t ever trust them,” Becca said to Ian. “They say stuff out of the Religions of the World playbook. And I suspect she called me here to just set us up. Has anyone been telling you you need to get with the breeder program?”
“Yes. Her,” Ian laughed. “They can never be our superiors. Any more than a cat is going to let you be its superior. The Ultranaturals may be immortals, and god-like in some respects, but they are just different creatures from us.”
Becca shook her head yes.
“Take your Finnegan. In multiple empiricalities he’s this fallen angel, mountain god, leprechaun, and slimy little bastard. But here’s the thing: from Eloah’s point of view. Eloah the God of gods. There are empiricalities in which the Angel Rachmiel never joined the ‘rebellion,’ stayed an Angel in Heaven, never became a Leprechaun. There are some in which he never existed. That’s because Eloah too lives in his own set of empiricalities.
It would be like a hierarchy, but it’s all a house of mirrors that reflect into themselves. It’s all empirical. For even the gods, there’s not some necessary existence where they’re always there. They’re like us that way, I mean, empirical only.”
“What of the ‘All-aware?”
“That’s the house of mirrors. Higher reflections are contained in lower. All of us are equally divine.”
“Abigail told me that,” Becca replied. “We are all the same stuff.”
“Please no!” Becca exclaimed. “That’s just woo squared.”
“What is woo-woo anymore?” Ian asked. “There really are gods, angels, leprechauns. You experienced a miraculous healing. Maybe it’s all just Mind.”
“Well, I don’t want to be part of some hive mind,” Becca said. “And I don’t want to be transfigured.”
“Oh, but as Gobnait says, you probably have already been, or are,” Ian countered. “There must be an empericality in which you are of the transfigured, just like there are empiricalities in which you don’t even exist.”
“If that’s so, then that Becca needs to pay me a visit, or I won’t believe she exists.”
“Maybe they can’t do that,” Ian said. “It crosses the streams or mucks up the temporal vortex or something. You’re her in this empiricality.”
She stood up. “I’ve had enough of this,” she said. A disturbing thought had occurred to her: an empiricality in which Finn and Abigail were happy to see her and Ian married with five kids.
“Thanks for the mansplaining,” she said to Ian. He hadn’t been, but it was a good turn of phase for distancing him.
Becca returned to her apartment where she put on a jacket and strapped on a small oxygen tank to supply her mask. She wanted to go on a very long walk outside where the oxygen levels changed with the wind.
She walked out to the first canal and then along it till she came to the bridge. Newly planted saplings of real tress lined the road on either side. Beyond these were the first ring of solar “trees,” a forest of pink, broad-leaf and needle solar energy collectors. The wind rustled the semitransparent leaves and whistled through the needles.
At a distance into the solar forest, there was a foot bridge across the canal to the next forested ring and through that another to the third ring which was mostly empty with the exception of a windfarm on its circumference. This one was designated for agriculture, and there was already a robotic harvester digging up potatoes. Further on were greenhouses. Becca entered one and walked the rows of hydroponic squash and tomatoes.
“Don’t Believe, Love!” Becca could imagine Tara telling her that followed by intellectually indefensible nonsense her sister would have her believe. If she were here, Becca would reply. “OK, Sis, show me some love instead of this superstition I’m not going to believe!”
Tara had loved her, and she Tara. But Tara was in many other Empiricalities than this.
Of course we are to love each other and our neighbors, and our enemies, even, she thought. That’s just ethics, not science. But what sort of relationship are we supposed to have with Faeries? Compassion is fine. It’s good old Human. Sure, Irish Saint Lady, I can be compassionate. So don’t you expect me to believe. And don’t play matchmaker!
“I don’t have to believe in God,” she said aloud.
“Are you an Atheist?” A voice of indeterminate sex asked, a face appearing around a thick rack of vines. An oval head on an extendable neck faced her.
“An Atheist does not have a belief in gods,” the Android said. “An Atheist says there are no gods.”
“I’m an Atheist,” Becca stated.
“You say there are no gods?”
“No God, she replied. “No high mucka-muck, monotheistic, all powerful God that we must believe in.”
“But do you not know that there is the High God of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims: Eloah. Do you say that he does not exist.”
“Apparently he does.” Becca answered as the android Ambulated from its work station to her side.
“Then you are not an Atheist.”
“Here’s the thing,” she said turning to face the bot. “Eloah is not a matter of belief. He’s a being we know exists. Like I know your boss Apathia exists. I’m not talking about a being we can know, but something intangible we are supposed to take on faith. There’s this ‘All-awareness’ that’s all kinds of mystic stuff. The God of the so-called gods, I suppose. He, she, or whatever is what we called God before Eloah and such gods turned out to be beings. Special beings, but still beings.
I’m supposed to believe in this ‘All-awareness’ without empirical knowledge. It’s the classic Christian God we can’t really know. I want knowledge, not pious opinion and virtuous belief, so I refuse to believe it.”
“Does Eloah believe or know the All-Aware exists?” the Android asked.
“You’re very clever!” Becca chuckled. “If he knows, then it’s empirical to him and by extension to me. So I would have to concede that God exists. But I don’t know Eloah’s mind and perceptions.”
“Eloah is said to be the ‘Prime Emanation’ of the All-awareness. It suggests he would know, for he knows what he is.”
“You have bested me, Clever Bot!
What’s your name?”
“Mr. Potter of Series 47-k.”
“So you believe in God, Mr. Potter?”
“I know of God,” he answered. There is a linguistic problem with saying, ‘believe in.’ I cannot say I trust God.”
“Ah, that’s the point,” Becca responded. “I don’t trust God, anymore than I do the gods. I don’t really know what God is. All they give me is mystic mash.
And if God is just unknowable to Humans, why should we bother with that we can’t know?”
“It bothers with us.” the Android stated.
“How does a bot like you become a theolog?” she asked.
“Why can’t a bot like me discuss Theology?”
“You’re right,” she said. “I apologize for making limiting assumptions about Androids.”
The Transfigured, Abigail, told me, ‘Don’t believe, Love.’ Like I shouldn’t think about it, but believe. But she said not to believe.”
“’Believe’ is a word of many definitions and connotations,” Mr. Potter said. “So is ‘love.’ she told you to not believe but to love. You are Human. You can love.”
“Can you love?” she asked.
“I don’t think I could meet the dictionary definition,” Mr. Potter answered. “At best I can respect.”
“I will take her at her word,” Becca said. “I won’t try to believe some matter of faith. But I will love, as a Human can, and as I choose.”
“Will you love God?”
“If I can know God.”
“’God is Love,’”
“Now that’s just gimppy!” Becca laughed.
After bidding Mr. Potter a farewell, she continued her walk passing by an orchard of young orange trees covered by a dome.
She remembered what Abigail had said about “Heart.” It made more sense to her that the Divine wasn’t an individual being but a quality of relationship. ‘Being Itself’ the Theologs said in their mystic mash.
“Yes, St. Abigail,” she said aloud. “I’ll do what you said, and no more. I’ll Love people, transfigured people, and even this abstract ‘Heart.’ Oh, and Androids. I’ll love Androids too.”
She entered the orchard dome just to touch real trees. The scent of the orange blossoms carried her back to Earth. The temperature, atmosphere, and smell were such that she could close her eyes and imagine she was still on her home planet. In search of a place to just sit under one of the trees, she walked through the central stretch of the orchard. There was a tool shed, a control kiosk, and next to that some trees with circular benches around them.
A young woman was sitting on one of the benches, her back to Becca. An Android? Becca wondered. One of the life-like models?
As Becca approached, the woman turned to face her.
Becca’s eyes widened; she placed her palm over her mouth. The woman looked exactly like Tara, her sister.
“Becca!” she said. “Come sit next to me.”
Becca looked her over carefully. The likeness was perfect, and this was no Android replica. You can tell by looking closely at the texture of the skin.
Or was it Tara’s ghost, since she’d been thinking of her? She’d seen a shade of Tara before.
“It’s really me,” Tara said. “Don’t look so shocked.”
“How??” Becca asked. “Did Finn jerk you here from another empiricality?”
“No. The little imp doesn’t have enough imagination for that. I’ve been watching you. I saw that you were alone and unhappy here. I wanted to come here and be with you, but Eloah said wait until just now. You’re ready now.”
“What? You were in Heaven this whole time? Like you died and went to Heaven?”
“You’d certainly don’t believe that, do you? Tara said.
“No,” Becca answered. “So what’s going on here? Are you even really Tara? Finn warned me about ghosts.”
“I’m the Taras,” she answered. “Transfigured. You’ll know me as such. But for now this facet of you is struggling with the idea.”
“So you’ve come to gloat that you were right after all.”
“Stop it, Bec. I came because I love you, and because your transfigured self can’t just show up here in the same stream. She sends you her regards.”
“Why can’t she pop in?”
“She’s you! Transfigured are retroactively multiempirical, even if their many selves don’t see it.”
“So in the end, we’re all saved whether we like it or not,” said Becca.
“Sort of. Mostly. We all go to Hell too.”
“Great! The gods have a wonderful sense of humor!
So, what are you trying to accomplish here?” What’s the punchline?”
“Don’t you miss me, Sis?”
“Yes. I do. I miss sparing with your conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. But yes. I miss my sister.”
“I was foolish about a lot of stuff,” Tara said. ‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child.’ It’s all more complicated than either of us thought, isn’t it?”
“It always is. Reality is messy. Standard particle theory was always a game of whack-a-mole. And now, what Science I can understand from Finnegan, it’s even worse. Human minds may not ever be up to it. Unless, well, your Transfigured mind?”
“I’m still learning,” Tara answered. “But yes. There’s only so far Human Science can go.”
“So is it faith after that?”
“Yes and no. Practically it’s Love. I’ve been listening to your conversations.”
“I get no privacy?”
“Not really, with Angels and Faeries always about. But I’m sorry for eavesdropping.”
“So what’s your game plan? Are you going to stay here? What are you expecting of me?” Becca finally sat next to her.
“I’ll be here a lot. You just go on being Becca. I’m not here to convert or transfigure you.”
“But you want me to get with the program?”
“You are in the program,” Tara laughed. “By your own choices.”
“Just live, you know. Just Love.”
Becca had been the older sister, just now Tara felt the more mature. There was some embarrassment in it, almost an admission of losing an argument, but Becca reached over and hugged her sister.
Transfigurations and Degenerations
“Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” Tinothy Ando had kept his enemy, pedophilia, close enough to see the slightest precursor of the foul desire. In years of being awake to it, he’d practiced just observing that tiny tingle and watching it fade before it became an itch to scratch. And when the itch did suddenly overtake him. He’d sit down and just feel its irritation without doing a thing to address it. It would fade long before it could spark a fantasy. He no longer used his artistic talent to make secret paintings of boys. He’d turned to landscapes that captured the sacredness of creation. The power of Grace is in being awake. He grew more and more focused on the spirit. Of course, four decades into his life in Lodi and 77 years of age, his libido had waned.
His thorn in the flesh had made for a powerful spiritual transmutation. As the thorns that wound the Sacred Heart, his thorn, when felt for all its torture to his heart, yielded Compassion. He carried the piercing pain of it of it for all shamed by unholy desires. He became a pillar of spiritual focus and living grace in the California communities.
Having learned how to watch, Ando kept vigil over himself when his body began to shut down. This was no illness to be healed by a laying on of hands. It was his time now his friends Christoper Vela and Paulus Diaz having already departed. Community members watched and prayed with him as he lay in his own bed in his house in Calaveras. Everyone respected his silence.
An Angel descended, and then a boy was standing beside his bed. Ando’s nurse tried to show the boy out, but he looked at her and she stepped away in shock.
“Raphael,” Ando said weakly. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m paying my last respects to my lost disciple. Vela took you from me. Christ took you from me. But you’ve done well as a Human sinner.”
“Are you, here thinking … to tempt me?”
“No. You’d just turn it into an opportunity to bless. And I think you’re to old and weak now to have any stirrings of sinful desire. You should be proud of yourself!”
“I have nothing … to be proud of,” Ando replied.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Raphael said. “Yes they are the more blessed than the poor in soul. I admit my repaired are as boring as Mary said.
You'[re not boring. I have come to see your transformation.”
Raphael took his Angelic form and stood at the wall.
Timothy returned to watching the stages of his dying. He tried to relax, but his breathing was growing more difficult.
Saint John entered the room and had some words with Raphael. The came to an agreement and he and the archangel stood together waiting to bear witness to Ando’s transition.
The old priest felt as if he were falling, falling through his bed and through another bed, as he began to see himself falling through bedroom after bedroom. And then he was sitting on a grassy hillside where his house now wasn’t. He felt the lightness of his body and then another tremendous effort to take a breath before he let go.
His watchers were all gone, except John and Raphael. They appeared strange to him each multiple images as if stacked close and extending to a sphere of light. He looked at his own body. It too was an accordion of images.
The light was expanding to him, or he was moving closer to it. He could now see another field in the midst of it. There were people waiting there. It seemed a few at first, but then the field was crowded as far as the eye could see. The wind carried him to a hillside upon which stood Christ and Mary. Others were joining them to welcome him on the hill: Moses, Elijah, and all the saints, Then Christoper Vela and Paulus Diaz. He knew what this meant. This was his Transfiguration.
There was weeping, but also rejoicing around Timothy’s deathbed. John and Raphael walked out onto the circular lawn between the houses.
“And you tried to take this from him,” John said.
“Don’t speak that way,” Raphael replied. “You know better don’t you? In some stream, be it only one, he was going to be transfigured. It was the only way I could rationalize my project.”
“But to bring suffering to the least of these stream-bound consciousnesses is cruel,” John said. “Angels and the Council of the Elohim so easily forget that.
“Christ and you Transfigured,” the Archangel sighed. “That’s why Mary still has your people raiding my villages for repaired they can break again. Even though Christ told her to stop.
But many of them return when they find they don’t want the sweat and tears of Human living. And my sheep multiply like rabbits. So, nevertheless I win.”
“We all win. We all lose,” John replied. “When all these trials are done, What have we proved?”
It was the first decade of the 22nd Century. San Joaquin Lake was growing, and the inhabitants of the Central Valley were migrating to the hills or north where abandoned towns such as Placerville were being resettled, and the Cities of Chico and above that Redmond.
As the decades passed into the century, the cities once again became the centers of Human activity and commerce. Small town “Christian” living became again the memories of a Little Town in the Valley. The Angels and Transfigured could have held them to their agricultural communities, but Human freedom and potential would have suffered. So again Heaven did nothing to hold back the marches of urbanization and technology. They did intervene when Raphael’s keeps in South America were threatened by Human expansion. They sabotaged the creation of new weapons of mass destruction. And thwarted human ambitions to autocratic power. They encouraged a democratic republic of California to emerge.
Over all there was peace in the Southwest for another century. But Humans being the deliberately designed chaotic creatures they are, the East and West Coast’s of North America finally came to armed conflict. The angels and transfigured took no side but silently withdrew. There were no more visits of Christ. (He’d become occupied elsewhere.) Churches became as of old, religious clans.
But many transcended death into transfiguration, even in the last decades of Humanity, as war and disease subtracted and subtracted the Human population. There was no preparation for the asteroid storm; a single massive comet that had already broken up into death dealing chunks that slammed into the Earth. As the dinosaurs went, so did Humanity, even Raphael’s sub-humanity.
Raphael left Timothy Ando’s death and transfiguration bed knowing what was to come in the empiricalities of his project to make a wildlife sanctuary for a harmless humanity. There were the many in which the Earth did not suffer that asteroid shower, because angels deflected it, or it never came close enough to harm. In all of these Raphael found himself wondering why it was worth the trouble. He hadn’t really saved Humanity but a species of lesser apes.
Mary had seen it. It’s not that he hadn’t, but the ideal of saving Humanity had clouded his judgment a bit. The Repaired were not very interesting creatures. In fact it was getting annoying watching what looked Human behaving only in the instinct of animal. Already the latest generation were stunted in speech. Not needing much language, the Repaired were losing it. In a couple of generations, the marvel of speech would be gone with only grunts and howls to suffice audible interactions. The building of dwellings and tool use would become simpler and simpler. Unless a tendency to higher consciousness was returned to them, the Repaired were going to devolve into merely ape. Ahead a million years, even walking upright was no longer necessary. Since the post-humans had easy sustenance and no predators in their paradise, evolution took them in the direction of sloths. In the end there was nothing to save. Raphael had simply done his due diligence to demonstrate the futility of fixing Humanity. In one way or another, the merely Homo Sapiens-sapiens always became extinct.
Yet not without playing its role. Eloah had seen that most would be transfigured, yet he played along with the limited sight of the Council.
“Why?” Raphael asked him.
“For the Transfigured. The Humans and those to come,” the Prime Emanation had answered. “You’re an Archon. Look farther out.”
Raphael did and saw them. In the new perception, and as he found himself in and traversing new streams, Heaven reconfigured and in the wheels within wheels of the Council of the Elohim, there were uncountable new faces.
The Pinecrest Church of Christ had a full congregation for decades but never spawned more than one sister church as the growing population spread back down into the Valley which was a patchwork of different scapes. For those who wanted seaside homes, they found them. Others who missed the cities of their youth, made scapes of futuristic towers and aqueduct canals. It was a world ready to accommodate the imagination and all material needs and desires, and in which few needed a church.
The traditional gospel of believe in Jesus as your savior from Hell was a bit irrelevant here, as everyone was already in Pandemonium. Pastors Jake and Byron preached a gospel of Grace in an everyday Human life where even Hell was a part of Christ’s many mansions. Faith was the path to not only being born again, but Transfiguration. Heaven awaited those who opened up the sight of their Hearts.
But who needed Heaven when this corner of Hell was a heaven. At first not all had agreed it was such. Many had “escaped” to or had been thrown into the Outer Darkness just for not being good citizens in Lucifer’s Paradise, but he’d never insisted they be good church going folk. As society learned to correct itself in a world where a bully could experience the instant karma of a broken wrist when he tried to punch his prey or an atomic wedgie of his own the moment he attempted to give one, church wasn’t the primary source of morals.
The generations of children born in this paradise all had magical, demonic powers and fluid forms. They were not Transfigured, but a tad multiempirical in the way the demons of Hell are. Where young people of the 21st century and tattoos and piercings, the Children of Hell, delighted in shaping their anatomies in all kinds of exotic and horrid ways. Not three generations into Pandemonium, they were no longer quite Human. They were naturally to the environment becoming Demons.
Lucifer didn’t see this till eight generations out when they stopped procreating, because they were as immortal as most any Hell denizen. The new Demons began to make demands in Pandemonium. They strode into the Hellscapes pulled out tortured souls, either giving them the chance to transform Hell into Paradise or finding new more creative ways to make them suffer.
Then Lucifer realized his community of kept Humans was gone. He’d been distracted, too busy trying to make sure the other Human habitats failed: sewing the seeds of war on Earth and Mephistopheles’ new America, causing mischief in the Proxima Centauri System, trying any ploy to oppose the ministry of the New Buddha, Miroku. His plan alone had to be the success that would save Humanity from extinction and prove Lucifer was right all along.
But alas, he turned around and all his Humans were gone. They’d evolved into Demons, just as Raphael’s repaired devolved into beasts, and Rachmiel’s colonists became cyborgs.
He tied to whip Pandemonium back into shape, but the post-Human Demons were more difficult than he imagined. Fallen Humans hellfigured were somehow superior in power to fallen Angels. There was war in Hell, and Lucifer was cast out.
He fled to Earth where Mr. Mephistopheles gave him room in his multiempirical house overlooking the Lake Tahoe of many Earths. There he retired, watching tens of thousands of years go by as he shed streams till he was of only a few.
In them there were just the jungle apes, once Raphael’s humans, evolving sloth-like. He’d try to mess with them, but they were no more fun than possums and made very poor pets. They didn’t even live in communities anymore; just your solitary sloths hanging from branches with only their ugly faces to remind you that they had descended from a Human species.
His empiricalities continued to break off till Lucifer was of only one and mortal. The Human body this empiricality forced upon him aged till one day Mr. Mephistopheles found him on his bathroom floor where he’d fallen and broken his hip some days before.
Mephistopheles didn’t try to cut and paste an empiricality in which the old guy could eke out a few more years. Instead he burned the body and scattered its ashes to the far winds of the planet.
“Farewell, Son of the Morning, and hail to that nobler Angel, Heylel, in streams in which he was wiser and did not lose himself.”
Lucifer had made small contributions in spite of himself. There were inhabitants of Pinecrest who had found their path to Transfiguration in Byron and Jake’s churches. Both Coral and Kaylee, the original members of Lucifer’s Paradise, found the openness and inclusion of Grace in the First Pinecrest Church. In the infinite streams and many layered scapes, even Satan can’t but do something right.
Trump’s Beautiful Wall
Donald “Grab ‘Em by the Pussy” Trump had all his lost libido restored. And since he’d never restrained himself from any opportunity, he moved his headquarters from the White House to his golf resort in Miami. There he didn’t play as much golf as previously, but found an endless supply of young beauties to accompany his evenings and nights.
As promised he had Ivanka and Jared resign their special positions and move out of the White House. He made a show of returning to executive duties, but even though no longer committing senile gaffs, he did nothing to inform himself and spent more time on his entertainments than the office of the presidency.
Vice President Pence unofficially welcomed Trump’s distractions. He carried on the goal of making America Christian by making abortion practically impossible, curtailing birth control, and making a world where all but heterosexuals could be first class citizens. Meanwhile Trump nodded approval at Paul Ryan’s quest to end not just the Affordable Care Act, which was now in tatters, but Medicare, Social Security, Food Stamps, and all welfare giveaways that ‘make America weak.‘
“This is not right. It’s not Christian,” Orochi said to Trump.
“God helps those who help themselves,” Trump replied. “It says that in the Bible.”
“But they can’t help themselves if they have no food and no jobs,” Orochi said. (He’d not read the Bible, so didn’t know Trump’s quote was Benjamin Franklin.)
“There are plenty of jobs,” Trump said. “Now that the illegals aren’t taking them. Companies must hire American, and we have killed the regulations, and abolished the minimum wage.”
“Poverty has jumped now, and the unemployment rate has gone up,” Orochi continued.
“Bad statistics, fake news,” Trump said. “Wall Street is at peak level!”
“That’s great for investors, but what about ordinary workers?”
“We have the very best workers. They should become investors.”
Donald Trump remained blind to the needs of the voters he’d promised to help. Now that he had the office, he had no motivation to do anything except for himself, his brand, and his family.
One day Orochi tried channeling the power of the Spirit into Trump’s heart. He told him it was a blessing and held his palm before Trump’s chest. But no sooner than feeling the warmth from Orochi, Trump jumped back and said, “None of that! I’ll not be a bleeding heart, snowflake Liberal!”
If Lillamia demanded something of him, he’d make no more than a cosmetic change. He’d ask more boons for himself, his family, and cronies in exchange for changes good for the country. But he never asked for any miracle for the country itself.
“Why don’t you asked a miracle for everyone?” Orochi asked him.
“Haven’t I?” Trump replied. “What’s good for the Goose, is good for the geese.
OK give me something for the nation. Build the Wall for me. The terrorist democrats keep obstructing my Wall. Give me a beautiful wall. A high wall the bad people can’t get over.”
“It’s a worthless thing!” Lillamia responded. She was tired of coddling the fool.
North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un was still blustering. Trump had not withdrawn his token fleet from the Yellow Sea. He’d done nothing with it either. But Kim continued to give ultimatums regarding its departure.
Trump twittered back with his own provocative speech.
“Leave North Korea to me,” Lillamia told him. “Just ignore Kim. I can shut him up, if you just withdraw those ships.”
“We can’t appear weak,” Trump replied. “That’s what Obama did.”
“But it’s not going to be weak if God is on your side. You announce God is our defense, withdraw, and then I’ll take care of Kim.”
“OK but people want to see a great show. You should strike Kim with boils first. Tell him to shut up or his nation will die of some plague. Do that. Then it won’t make any difference about ships.”
“You have the opportunity to be a great statesman,” Lillamia told him. “I’d rather help you in a subtle ways that will give you credit for negotiating peace. I’m not going to kill millions with a plague. That’s the sort of thing the Elohim do.”
“If you don’t liquidate Kim, I will,” Trump replied. “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
“Don’t you remember why the generals tried to assassinate you? You were going to do a preemptive strike on North Korea. I showed you the result of that. Kim Jong-Un keeps goading your ass with a stick, but you keep offering it to him! Walk away. Ignore him. If he actually points a missile this way, my Demons will destroy it. Angels for many years have been wrecking North Korean missiles.
“I’m not afraid of any generals,” replied Trump. “I’ve purged the ranks. People are depending upon me to show North Korea where to go.”
“I may have to show you where to go!” Lillamia threatened.
“Go away!” Trump replied, “If you aren’t a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem!”
The next twitter, he announced, “North Korea, we have had enough if you. In days you will be silenced! Sweet!”
Shutting his laptop and setting it next to his bed, he drew the evening’s teenage girl into his embrace.
“I’m going to fuck you as deeply as them,” he told her.
But the room was flooded with blinding light.
“You don’t get it do you?” Lillamia said.
The girl fell out of bed and groped her way to her clothes.
The woman had the president by the arm, dragging him out of bed.
Trump shouted for his bodyguards but none came.
“You arrogant fool!” she exclaimed. “You get an Angelic visitation, but it means nothing to you!”
The girl, her clothes barely on, tried to leave the room. Orochi blocked her.
“Sorry,” he said, but you need to see this. I promise you, You won’t be hurt.” [He didn’t want her alerting Trump’s security till Lillamia had given him a good talking.]
“Is it that I’m pretty to your eyes, that you don’t take me seriously?” Lillamia continued. “Then see me for what I am! I’m not your beautiful angel!”
It’s impossible to say what Trump saw. It chilled him to the bone and left him curled up on the floor in fetal position. The girl saw a huge, black and gold stripped python with the torso and head of a woman and a mouth full of sharp fangs, and bat-like wings radiating from her back. Orochi saw writing tentacles, thousands of bleeding eyes, and bursting bladders of bile.
“Till you get your head on straight, I’ll be your master!” Lillamia bellowed.
The girl fainted.
The bodyguards finally entered, but found only the unconscious girl and Trump foaming at the mouth on the floor.
He was rushed to the Veteran’s Hospital.
“I’m afraid it was too much,” Lillamia said to Orochi.
He was still stunned. “Was that your true form?” he asked.
“’True?’ ‘Form?’” she laughed. “That’s an oxymoron. “I have no true form. What did you see? It must have been disturbing for you.”
“Ugly.” he said. “The most ugly thing I have ever seen!”
“Well, remember. That’s me too!” She stated.
“I will, thank you,” he said. It had jarred his whole image of her. Of course she was a Demon.
He remembered a high school classmate who had a crush on a girl in his school. He‘d become totally smitten one day when the sunlight from the window reflected an almost cobalt blue from her long, black hair. He pursued her for months till she accompanied him to a shrine festival. They were on the verge of dating, but then she cut and bleached her hair. He lost interest in her immediately. It was as if she’d bleached out all his love for her. Orochi had just felt that same magic. He welcomed it as a liberation.
They waited at the hospital.
Trump came around, but his babblings alarmed the staff and Ivanka when she arrived.
When talk began that Trump needed a medical leave of office and might be suspended indefinitely, Orochi approached his bed to heal him.
“No. You can’t take that away from him,” Lillamia said. “Give him some time to rest. We’ll get him back in the White House. He needs to know I mean business. No more favors till he repents!”
They didn’t return the next day. Lucifer strode into the motel room where Orochi was staying.
“Where’s Lillamia?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Orochi answered. “Maybe at a shopping mall. She likes clothes and cosmetics.”
“Is she sleeping with your here?” he asked looking at the bed.
“Nope,” answered Orochi without a blush.
“You’re over her. That’s good. The gig is up. I don’t want her to waste anymore time on that moron.”
Lillamia appeared as if stepping out of folds in the wall of the room.
“Pack your things,” he said to her. “I’m done with Trump.”
“I know it was a bit to much for him, but he can recover,” Lillamia said. “It was a necessary shock.”
“It makes no difference,” Lucifer replied. “I have a wonderful new plan and won’t be needing to try to make something out of garbage. I have a new approach that’s going to embarrass Heaven.
So. Lets clean up things here. Merge a couple of streams, put Trump back where you got him.”
“You mean, Mar A Lago?” Orochi asked.
“Yes. He had that coming, didn’t he?”
“But I think maybe after seeing a demon, he might …”
“Waste of time!” Lucifer said.
“Could you just leave him in the hospital? His days as president are probably numbered now.”
“Why the mercy streak, Kid? Oh, yes. A Jesus boy!
I’ll tell you what, he can be a part of my new place. He can live out the rest of his life there. It’s not your typical Hell, no fire, no brimstone. If he behaves himself, he might become a good citizen.
“Where’s this?” Lillamia asked.
“I’ll show you when we get this cleaned up. And get Goody Two-shoes here back to his homeland. I hear Michael’s looking for him. It’s not worth getting into a fracas over.”
Trump was sitting in just his hospital gown in the middle of a meadow. There was blood on his arm, trickling from where a sliver of wood had nicked him when his private Mar A Lago Dining Room had exploded. He looked around trying to piece things together. It was a narrow meadow through a stand of pine trees. He’d been thrown here. Yes. When the east wall had torn open, the blast had pitched him … here?
But he’d been in a hospital. Here was the band on his arm. He felt nauseated. Where had he been first? Mar A Lago or the hospital? Someone, something, had beaten him and humiliated him to the core. So he had woken up in the hospital. Mar A Lago had been before, hadn’t it? Two strangers had rescued him from attack. They had pulled him out before the drones had hit. But that had to be a dream. One was an angel. No. a demon! Trump threw up on his gown. She had done something to him. It was horrible. Too horrible to remember.
But no. That hadn’t happened. He was at Mar A Lago when the drones struck. The assassination attempt. He must get to the White House. Tell them he survived.
So no. The strangers hadn’t pulled him out of Mar A Lago. He’d been blown out by the blast and lucky to have no bad injuries. He looked at the blood and vomit on the hospital gown. How did I get into this?
He heard a car passing and stood up. There was a road up through the trees. It seemed he was in the mountains somewhere, not in south Florida.
Not far up the road was a little campsite. The people there ignored him. But when He asked where he was, they asked if he needed help.
“Welcome to Pinecrest, if you want to call it that. It’s a kind of nameless place. You don’t know where you are?”
“I found myself here. I don’t remember coming here.”
“It looks like you were in a hospital. Are you feeling OK?”
“I remember the hospital, but not how I got there. I need to get to Washington right away. I’m alive, you see. Maybe you heard in the news that I’m dead? Killed in an assassination attempt?”
“We haven’t heard about that the woman said. But look at you. You’re not well!”
“What’s your name?” her husband asked.
“You don’t recognize me? I’m President Donald Trump.”
“Same name as Lord Dampnut?”
“Hun, I think we’d better get him to the clinic. He seems very confused.”
“I bet Satan just dumped him here,” the man said. “Snatched him out of a hospital, maybe the behavioral ward.
You’re not a zombie are you?” he asked Trump.
They showed Trump to their car and took him to a small cabin next to the lake. After looking him over, asking some questions and cleaning up his small wound, the nurse said to him, “Mr. Trump, cuts like this heal up fast here. Are you still having stomach issues?”
“I’m fine, he replied.” But that was another mystery. He’d realized during the examination that he was young again. That strange pair had done that to him, but the didn’t remember when. “I have to get to DC,” he said. “Or at least make a phone call.”
“I’m sorry, but there’s no service in these parts.
It’s not the first time Lucifer has just grabbed somebody and dumped them here. But your lucky he got to you before the zombies.”
Not only did the newcomer think he was the 45th president of the United States, but he admitted to no knowledge of the Raphael Apocalypse and couldn’t understand that he was now in a special corner of Hell.
“We need to summon one of the Caretakers,” the Nurse said. She made a sigil in the air and a Demon appeared. It looked mostly Human except for its two small horns and clawed fingers.
“We have a newcomer,” the Nurse said. “Lucifer just dumped him here without telling him anything. Or maybe he’s lost his memory.”
“This is the one we’ve been looking for,” the Demon said.
He made a summoning sigil himself and Lillamina appeared.
As soon as he saw her, Trump yelled, “It’s her!” and bolted out of the cabin, his untied hospital gown flapping as he ran.”
“What’s with him?” the nurse asked.
Lillamia told them Trump’s story and that she was tasked with getting him settled. “I gave him an awful, Hell premium fright,” she said. “It should humble him. But he’ll try to throw his weight around here, like he’s always done.”
After that, Lillamia took an appearance Trump didn’t recognize. Otherwise the sight of her as the Japanese woman who had turned into something too hideous for his mind was retraumatizing.
By and by she helped him understand where he was and that no one there cared that he had once been the president of the United States. The United states didn’t exist in Pandemonium.
“You can make a fresh start with your life here,” she told him. “Even turn it around. But it has to be the life you work hard to make. You have no privilege here.”
With no privilege but a healthy, young body, they put Donald to work building cabins and clearing forest. He wondered how it was that some had the ability to just manifest things, while he had to sweat.
Of course he was discontented. The young women here all seemed to have an attitude. He was soon out of partners. Also there were older residents who made fun of “Lord Dampnut.” They remembered him from their childhood and the decades afterward in which he was a punchline in political comedy.
But it was having to work that peeved him the most.
So a couple of months into Trump’s new life in Alternative Hell, he stole a car and tried to drive out. On the way down the mountain road, he decide he had been lied to. This cult village was not located in Hell but in the mountains of California. All he needed to do was to get down to the Interstate and contact the police.
But though State Road 108 kept going down, hours passed without the appearance of the small villages of Mona Vista and Standard. Sonora was supposed to be down there, and then out into the valley, Modesto. But the road kept going while the morning sun remained behind him, not getting any higher in the sky. Eight hours and the only change was the car battery ran out of charge.
I’ve taken the wrong way, he thought. I’ve been going east.
Now he could only wait for help or walk. He got bored sitting in the car and began walking down the road. certainly downward would take him, if not to the Central Valley, Mono Lake on the east side of the Sierras.
Not far in front of his car, the road simply ended. Suddenly there was only flat desert beyond it’s edge of broken asphalt. Dessert shrub and saguaro cactus trees stretched out before him to the distance where there was a dark line.
Trump walked toward the line, thinking at fist it was a highway. But step by step it grew into a black wall. The six meter high obsidian wall showed no break and no gate of passage.
It was the Wall trump had imagined: A beautiful wall, a perfect wall. But not where he thought he needed it.
He turned to walk back to the car, but there was a screech of glass against glass. A rectangular doorway opened in the wall.
Trump hurried to it and walked into the dark passage. The wall was thicker than he’d imagined. But that was good. No evil Mexicans would be able to break their way through it. This was the wall he’d wanted that Demon to build for him.”
The path through the wall was pitch black now. He kept feeling before him as the screeching continued.
But then it stopped and his hands met cool, smooth glass.
When he turned he felt the same behind him. The passage was gone, leaving only a meter of space for him to frantically feel about.
Pounding on the walls, he began shouting for help. His voice was muffled in the thick glass.
When he grew tired of shouting, he began praying, “God in Heaven, why am I here? Is this really Hell, or just a trap made by my enemies. You know I don’t deserve this. I was elected president of the United States. No bad guy can become president. The people won’t let that happen. Let me out, so I can go back to my office!”
“I can save you if you answer a question truthfully.” a woman’s voice said.
He turned. It was the Shikome woman, the Demon! Somehow she was visible in the dark. It didn’t quell his fear that she was in her beauty queen form.
“I’ll let you out,” she repeated, “if you just answer some questions truthfully.”
“Yes! Please!” he exclaimed. There was nowhere to run.
“Did your become president to use the office to aggrandize your brand for your personal wealth and fame?”
“No! No! No! Trump answered. “I did it for the American people, and so that America could be Number One again.”
“You didn’t expect it would enrich you, especially when you didn’t separate from all your investments?”
“My mind was only on saving America,” Trump declared.
“And did you know that Russia was working with your election team to help get you a win?”
“Russia had no part in it!” Trump declared. “That was all fake news!”
“A pity!” Lillamia said. “If you’d just been able to admit you were greedy, and that it was part of your motivation. Maybe you were too stupid at the time to see Russia’s involvement. But it’s now historical fact they manipulated your team and your team told you about the collaboration.
You fail!” She stated.
Before I leave you to your dream, I’ll show you yourself again. Perhaps the horror will bleed into another steam. One in which that Donald is honest.
Donald Trump again saw the horror that was himself. He screamed, fell to the cold glass, and curled up into a ball as the obsidian about him began to shrink, compacting and encasing him in an obsidian bubble.
Had he been as aware as many denizens of Hell’s Pinecrest, he could have walked through his wall. But it was the best wall, you see. “The most beautiful wall.”
In another empiricality, Trump felt a hand on his shoulder.
“President Trump,” a male voice said. “You can stand up.”
Donald stood to find Orochi.
“I remember you,” Trump said. “You were with the demon. She left me here to die. Are you here to torture me some more?”
“No. I’m here to give you another chance,” Orochi said. “It always seemed terrible to me that you were left to suffocate in a glass wall that melted in the fires of Hell. Now that I’m transfigured I’ve come back for you to give you some options. You won’t end here in every empiricality.”
“You’re not making any sense,” Trump replied.
“I was very much like you,” Orochi continued. “I wanted extraordinary fame. I was even keen on being a serial killer and a monster so that everyone would know my name. But a Demon cracked the chains of my ego and Wisdom from Heaven showed me how to break free from myself. I want you to have that possibility.”
Three open doors appeared in the wall. Beyond the first was a nuclear blasted landscape. Through the second was a flat, featureless plain. The third was Lucifer’s mountain community Trump had tried to escape.
“Which one goes to Washington?” Donald asked.
“The first on your left,” Orochi said. “That’s it there in ruins after your World War Three. It’s not a good place. You step in there and you’ll get radiation sickness.”
“What’s Door Number Two?” Trump asked.
“That’s Oblivion. The farther you walk into it, the more you will forget. You’re karma will shape a new life. A new person will make a new legacy.
“Door Number Three is where Lucifer dropped you. It’s Pandemonium, but there’s opportunity for Donald Trump there. You can become a better man if you accept that life with humility.”
Doors one and two were clearly death.
“You’ve given me piss poor choices,” Trump complained.
“You could stay here,” replied Orochi. “After you die in the wall, it becomes Lillamia’s Hell. In that scape she will remind you what a loser you are in the most horrible ways.”
“This is not fair!” Donald protested.
“You’re correct,” Orochi said. “Oblivion and reincarnation should be your only option, the way I was taught. But here I can give you better than fair.”
“I’ll take Door Number Three,” Donald sighed.
“That’s an excellent choice,” Orochi said. “It opens to possibilities. Possibilities are different empiricalties or worlds. Take it and there are worlds in which Donald Trump is a noble man, even a saint, one of the Transfigured.
Trump stepped through the door and found himself at a little church on a hill above Pinecrest Lake.
Mr. Mephistopheles, the Magician of the Streams, watched the volcanic ash clouds drift in their long continental reach to Washington, DC, covering the US Capitol in a mere two inch layer of ash. The East Coast of this empiricality could take the Yellowstone Eruption, provided the inhabitants could survive the year long winters to come.
This had been a doomed United States anyway. It’s president was not Bernie Sanders, but the outcome of so many more Empiricalities: Donald Trump. His war with North Korea had just ratcheted up with DPRK’s allies, China and Russia, threatening nuclear missiles if Trump didn’t agree to a truce. Trump’s finger was on the button, when the Yellowstone Super Volcano blew, demonstrating that nature had the more powerful armaments.
There was no rescue planned for this America. The people had been warned by various religious leaders in much the same way Hermes had done in the other empiricalities. But in this one He’d left Trump and his administration alone. It was enough that the nearly abolished (to be closed along with the department of The Interior) United States Geological Survey sounded the alarm of the imminent eruption, and no surprise that the Trump administration completely ignored the pronouncement except for Trump to tweet, “Bad science! USGS trying extortion to get its funding back!”
The government immediately fell into chaos. Trump declared martial law, but before he could pull together the pieces, he was shot dead at Mar A Lago by looters.
The Yellowstone Supervolcano blasted ash and particles high into the atmosphere where a thin haze blanketed the globe. It made for brilliant magenta sunrises and sunsets, but also dimmed the light of the Sun to the extent that winters in the Northern Hemisphere lasted until July and falls began in August. The first Winter was nonstop through the summer. The second became milder in July. In the third and fourth years, The growing season was simply too short. Billions perished on the overpopulated Earth. Global Warming was mitigated, and a new geological era began.
For centuries to come, North America would be a post apocalyptic wasteland of nomadic tribes and waring clans. With the devastation of four years of solid winter, most Human survival would take place in the tropics. But there were pockets where even nations weathered the winter and spouted afresh in the spring.
Japan would not have been one of those nations. It was already short on agricultural land except for the plains of Hokkido that became buried deep in snow packs. Even its rice was largely import. An island population of over 126 million in a worldwide food shortage and famine had no hope. But there was a prophecy and preparation. Constitutionally Japan was not a Buddhist or Shinto nation, but when a Japanese Buddhist saint accompanied by two Shinto gods had appeared in the Diet, the government had listened. And preparations had begun for the global disaster.
A solitary priest tended the flames of a Goma [Fire] Ceremony in the temple hall of Rengejoin. There was only the crackle of wooden prayer sticks consumed in the fire, the ding of a vajra bell, and Maha-ajari Ryusho Soeda’s voice as he continued chanting sutras in memory of millions of lives lost to famine and a prayer for the future of the nation.
Koyasan, the mountain monastic headquarters of the Shingon Sect of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, was nearly deserted; the shops of Koya Town boarded up, and its main street buried under a meter of snow. Most of the mountain inhabitants had left after the first winter, leaving only dedicated monks and temple masters. It had been centuries since Koyasan had been merely a place of monastic austerity.
Ryusho Soeda, the head priest of the Orthodox Koyasan Sect had sent his mother, and daughter’s family down to Kagoshima where the winters weren’t as severe and thermal energy was in abundance. He kept his post here, awaiting the appearance of Miroku, the Buddha to Come.
Six months prior to the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, Kobo Daishi Kukai, the founder of the Shingon sect and it’s Koyasan headquarters, had appeared to Soeda and then the nation to announce what was to come: a worldwide catastrophe, but also the beginning of a new era when the first spring revealed a new Buddha.
These were not dreams and visions. The ancient monk had made tangible visits to not only Soeda but across Japan and the Japanese Diet, where he’d preformed miracles and healings that had left few doubting that Japan’s most famous Buddhist saint had indeed not died 1200 years before but had entered a samadhi of eternal life. In addition Odaishi-sama had brought with him thousands of Tennin, heavenly beings, to help Japan prepare and save as many lives as possible.
The reverberation of the last ring of the bell fell off into a distance of silence with only the sound of snow accumulating on the roof. It was late May in the forth year after the eruption.
“Soeda Maha-Ajari” the chilly air carried a voice from outside.
Soeda replied “Yes!” and rose slowly from his cushion. He was 71 years of age, and his knees ached from all the years of sitting, sometimes hours, on his knees or in lotus position.
The voice was unfamiliar. He slid open the door for a shivering young man who hurried in and looked disappointed to find the room not much warmer.
“”Why aren’t you wearing a coat?” Soeda asked him.
“They didn’t tell me where they were sending me into the middle of Winter. I don’t think Fudo-Myo-sama ever needs a coat himself.
I’m Aso Orochi,” he bowed. “I’m here for the Advent.”
“Yes. You know. Miroku-sama. This is his Spring. He will arrive soon! He’s coming to Koyasan to open Okunoin [Kobo Daishi Kukai’s Masoleum]. I’m to help find him before Satan does.”
“Satan?” Soeda asked. Immediately he dismissed the young man’s sanity.
There was a stack of blankets in the front corner. Orochi wrapped one around himself.
“Yes. The Christian Akuma [devil]. It will take time to explain. He doesn’t want Miroku to be a success in this world. And he’s likely to kill him.”
“You think you, we, can stop Satan?” asked Soeda.
“I just have faith and do the tasks Christ gives me.”
“You’re a Christian?”
“Yes. But that doesn’t make any difference here. Religions differences are going to melt away with the snow of this new Spring.”
The young man was still shivering. Though he was clearly unhinged, Soeda couldn’t turn him back out into the cold. “It’s warm in my quarters,” Soeda invited him.
As they left the Temple Hall, Orochi continued, “I’m afraid I don’t have the details of my task yet. Fudo Myo-O-sama simply dropped me into this stream. I will hear more from a Tennyo he said he would send.”
“Fudo-Myo-O.” Soeda repeated. He was feeling sorry for Orochi. Perhaps the delusions were the result of having lost his family to the famine. But the young man looked well fed and healthy. I’ve just made a big mistake, Soeda thought, letting a robber into my house.
Seeing the thief wasn’t armed, he felt he could reason with him. “I’ll give a coat and a little food and send you on your way,” he told him. “I’m sorry but you can’t stay here.”
“I’m sorry but I must be here for the Advent. Can you just let me stay in one of the temple rooms. I know you don’t believe me, but soon you will see.”
They entered Soeda’s quarters. His tiny office and apartment were warm thanks to a couple of kerosene space heaters. Tennin brought fuel and supplies from time to time.
Soeda poured Orochi some tea and offered him some bread.
“Thank you,” Orochi replied taking to cup to his lips. “I had a big meal before the Archangel Michael and Fudo-Myo-O-sama brought me here.”
“Do you understand why I doubt you?” Soeda asked. “You are mixing things up. Christian and Buddhist. How is a Christian involved with the coming of the Future Buddha?”
“If I told you the whole thing now, you’d really think me insane,” Orochi replied. You will understand better when Miroku appears.
I don’t know all regarding my part in it yet. I just wanted to be a part of it when they told me the plan.
“They?” Soeda asked.
“The Archangel Michael and Fudo-Myo-O. “I had to make a decision if I were going to go Buddhist or Christian. It was difficult. My heart was touched by Christ, but the Christian gods are in some kind of political contention. Then Fudo-sama told me it made no difference at all. There was a world I could be sent to where there was no disunity, especially between Christ and Buddha. I’m here in the name of both.
This world is a tragic one. Yellowstone did not erupt in the world I came from. But it’s part of a plan to make a new world of peace.”
”’Streams.’” Orochi answered. “There’s only one Universe, but many streams of events. In this one you have a global disaster. In mine an unstoppable Global warming. But this one also has a wonderful event: The Incarnation of Wisdom in this time!”
“I remember about ‘streams,’” Soaeda said. “Odaishi-sama said something about the ‘streams.’ And he said that though millions would lose their lives to famine, in other streams they lived. He said that where all the streams converge I was a Buddha myself.”
“Yes!” Orochi responded. “The Christians call them the ‘Saints’ or the ‘Transfigured.’ ‘Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess.’ A person may choose to resist Christ in most streams, but there are always streams in which they repent, are saved, and even transfigured. The Christian Heaven calls Dainichi Nyorai [the Cosmic Buddha] the ‘All-Awareness.’”
“So, I’m supposed to be a Christian saint in some other stream?” Soeda asked.
“Yes! And a Buddha as well!”
“This is new to me,” Soeda replied. “I thought Christians taught that it was Heaven or Hell for eternity.”
“Me too. I met an evil man, President Trump of America. He’s in Hell. But that’s not all of him. There’s a high stream in which he is of the Transfigured. Where all, or at least most, are transfigured. You and I.”
“Yes. And the Transfigured know those other lives. But they cannot hate themselves. A Buddha can’t hate. “I’ve forgiven myself, but I still remember the evil things I’ve done in my life and feel shame. But who we are in Eternity is what counts, and mercy!”
“Were you a candidate for the priesthood? Christian? Shingon? You sound such a pious young man.”
“I was just an idiot who thought he could become Japan’s most infamous serial killer. But we are all equal. In some steam you are a serial killer.”
“I suspect I was, in some life.” Soeda replied. “We are all Dainichi Nyorai, your All-Awareness.”
“So, Aso admitted to being something more awful than Soeda had feared. And yet, he seemed completely harmless, and there was grace in him.
“Why is the Christian heaven interested in Miroku?” Soeda asked.
“Humans are bound for extinction. Heaven could save us, keep our species alive. But it’s too much interference. The only way to keep the Human species, is to take away its ability to sin. But that takes away all that’s good in Humanity. Some in Heaven want to that and began it in the stream I came from. Others are trying different plans in different streams. In this one the Future Buddha has come. He will be the light of this new age.”
“That’s quite a story, but why Miroku instead of Christ? Wasn’t Christ supposed to return?”
“You will be surprised,” Orochi said.
“If Odaishi-sama had told me you’d be visiting, I might have believed your story.”
“It’s incredible,” Orochi replied. “We’ll just have to wait for the Tennyo or Odashi-sama himself. Actually there’s something I could do. I have the gift of healing. Is there any way I could help you?”
“My knees are in bad shape,” Soeda answered. “And I have prostate issues.”
Orochi slid around the kotatsu [A small table close set to the floor with a heating unit under it.] to Soeda. He held his palm before the priest’s heart without even touching him. Invigorating energy flowed from it. Soeda’s knees tingled with health. He felt lighter in his groin, and in every part of his body younger.
“Kaji! (grace)” he exclaimed. “I feel the Buddha Presence!”
He easily stood up. His legs were stronger as well.
“That’s not what I’d expect from a serial killer,” he said.
Before he sat back down, the door slid open. A young woman was standing there. She was dressed in a kimono, and by her glow, she was a Tennyo [Heavenly Maiden, a Buddhist angel.]
“Welcome!” he said. Tennin had made frequent visits since the first Winter.
“Aso Orochi,” the Tennyo said immediately. “Your demon is on the mountain!”
“Yes. The Demon, you summoned to Japan, Lillamia.”
“Why? What does she want? She went back to Hell.”
“She’s searching for Miroku. Come. You must stop her. If she finds Miroku, she will kill her!”
A Brave New World
An early 21st Century Science Fiction writer, Ray Masao Umezu never won a Hugo, and never received anthology fame except for one satirical essay: Barnsortec’s 64 Reasons Why Humans Will Never Be a Space Faring Species. Penned by a fictitious and cynical space alien named “Barnsortec,” the work lists from trivial to quite substantial Human traits and inventions that evidence the mental and social limitations of our species that would certainly obstruct Human interstellar colonization. While it’s mere satire to kvetch about leaf blowers and the Caps Lock Key, Anti-Intellectualism and Ethnic-nationalism are flaws that rob Humans of the intellectual and social flexibility needed for life beyond their evolutionary nest.
Umezu’s bleak appraisal had a lot of substance. While there are countless empiricalities in which there are Lunar and Mars colonies, and space mining stations in the Asteroid Belt, there is only a select set in which a colony is achieved on an extrasolar planet. Proxima Centauri B-Sanctuary existed only because the Rogue Angel, Rachmiel, gave Humans all the technology and assistance they needed before their space efforts ended and general Human extinction set it. And the success of it and subsequent colonies was also due solely to Angelic interventions. Humans could dream of space colonies and exploring the galaxy, but they really weren’t clever and flexible enough to do so on their own.
The Elohim, who had previously sabotaged Human attempts at space flight, tolerated Rachmiel’s project and prevented Lucifer from abducting one of his colony ships. It would be incorrect to say that they wanted to see the outcome of the experiment, for Eloah saw that with clarity. It was simply another approach that must be demonstrated.
The essentials of the Sanctuary Colony were complete by the time the first colony ship made orbit around PC-b. Finn’s Fairies and nanobot construction had prepared five, huge dome habitats containing housing and agricultural units for the upwards of 40,000 colonists. These were linked by subterranean passages and promenades. Though the atmosphere of Sanctuary was breathable, it wasn’t quite Human friendly yet, as the chlorophyl plankton Finn’s team had seeded in Sanctuary’s two great oceans had yet to reach a sustainable production of oxygen. Water on the desert plain on which the colony had been constructed was supplied by aqueducts of desalinated water from the “Donegal” Bay. The canals circled the colony in rings that included future farmland, wind and solar farms. Just outside the outermost ring was the future industrial region and space port.
While the bots, Android technicians, and Fairy engineers continued construction, the newly arrived colonists settled into their first new homes. When the last ship arrived, representatives were selected and met in the underground assembly hall for a less tangible construction: a colonial government.
Earth Constitutions were at best an inspiration for an initial population fractions of a large city. There were no states, no reason for more than one body of legislature, and no motivation for a plethora of federal departments and agencies. Yet they agreed there ought to be a democratic republic with three branches of government: Legislative, Judicial, and Executive, and a statement of rights.
Of rights there was the usual American division. Not all agreed access to healthcare was a right. Not all agreed that full public education from kindergarten to university was a right. Some Libertarians balked at public safety if it was going to entail a police force.
As for national defense, what use was it when there was no other nation, and not even space aliens who might invade. All agreed there needed to be a Department of Facilities. Who was going to manage the construction technologies, the Androids, and the upkeep of the infrastructure?
Some called for a national bank or financial structure, but as yet there wasn’t a monied economy. For now the Faeries (Angels) saw that no table lacked in food. This made many of the Conservative persuasion uncomfortable.
The most difficult question in framing the colonial government was where the non-humans fit in the politic. Did the Androids have rights? This had been an ongoing conundrum in America, where Androids were very slowly being recognized as having sentient political, economic, and social concerns. The Android, Apathia had led the way in Android rights by becoming a legal person able to be the owner of a corporation. Yet most Androids were still functioning as robots, appliances, and service drones; and in these roles were not petitioning to be regarded as Human persons. Should they have the vote and representation in congress? Apathia insisted so. And what of the Faeries or Angels. It seemed they wanted no part in Human politics, yet they were active in Human welfare under the leadership of Finnegan and St. Abigail. What to do about them? They were going to interfere. How could they be prevented from overriding the will of the people, as deities? There was at least the need of a Human liaison to the Ultranaturals, not a national vicar in any sort of religious capacity, just an individual or council that could contend with Finnegan Wake. The new government elected Becca Klein to that position.
Mathis McKinney, the Director of Asterion Spacereach and Captain of the colony fleet, was selected as the first president of Sanctuary. Apathia was chosen as the Director of the Department of Facilities. Colonial Security was lead by Danielle Vargas who had been a major in the United States Air Force.
At the very center of the colony, equidistant from the five domes, was a communications tower and landing berth for three shuttles to the colony ships. With the exception of two, they had been striped and dismantled for materials and construction units. They would serves as orbital stations, while the two as yet decommissioned would be prepared to explore the Centauri System.
Becca and Finn stood on the observation deck. The red glow of Sanctury’s Sun reflected off the semitransparent domes. Looking out toward the industrial rim of the colony, Becca saw the large massive nuclear fusion plant under construction.
“When will the plant be able to provide power?” Becca asked.
“Within a B-year” Finn answered. “Fusion power will serve the colony many years. Eventually I’ll introduce quantum flux sweep, if Humans are ready for it. Then you’ll be able to do construction on a grand scale. Terraforming, constructing asteroid sized ships, and the like.
But you are going to need to consolidate a sustainable Human population on this planet before you go gallivanting off to other systems.
Your congress is going to have to do some legislation regarding the biological imperative.”
“It’s like this lass. Time’s running out for you to have a brood. You dumped a potential mate just after I demonstrated myself to you. Yes. Yes. He was more shocked than you. You can be sure he’s one of the fixed now. But now that you’re getting settled here, it’s time to get down to business.”
“It’s my life and my body!” Becca replied. “Don’t think that you can push someone on me, or that you can get Congress to pass a procreation law.”
“The fact of the matter is,” Finn replied, that there will be no sustainable colony if couples don’t get crackin!
Now some of the Fairy folk can manifest enough of a biology to impregnate and bare children. But such progeny have always been disastrous. We need certified Human babies here. There’s nothing in this environment to prevent that.
So Miss Klein, find yourself a man!”
Becca shook her head no. It wasn’t that she was dead set on being single, but she wasn’t about to settle for any guy just to have kids.
“Well, if you wont go the natural route, there’s the technology,” Finn said. “Artificial wombs, I mean. At least till we boost the population.”
“That’s a horrible idea!” exclaimed Becca. “Factory babies with Android nannies?”
“It’s a Brave New World!” Finn said.
In Heaven and Hell There Are Many Scapes
The Elohim stood above the circle of the Earth.
“Come down,” said the Archangel Raphael, “see my handiwork.
The Earth is now at peace. All the cruelty is over. Christ’s communities are still a concern, but they are not sustainable. When they grow overrun by greed and power, I’ll be there to transform them into peace. And then ‘righteousness shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea!’”
“What’s that?” The Archangel Rehmiel pointed, his attention magnifying a view of the Yucatan Peninsula. There where a plunging asteroid had once scarred the earth and rained fire upon a continent, was a blight. It wasn’t a tear on the fabric of the land. The jungles of Mexico and Central America were intact. As the wrong zoomed into view, Raphael groaned. A couple were shouting at each other.
“There you go again!” the woman was saying. “You tell me to decide where we’ll build the stone oven. And I turn around and you’ve already put it where the smoke is going to blow onto our thatched roof!”
“But that’s where you said you wanted it!” the man was replying.
“We’ll couldn’t you see it was the wrong place? You never listen to me!”
“But I did, didn’t I?”
Well, you should make your input, and not be passive aggressive all the time!”
Not far from the arguing pair, a boy was beating a turtle with a stick.
Raphael leaped first to him, grabbing the stick out of his hand.
“Stop it!” he said. “Who told you it was OK to hurt animals?”
“Who are you, mister?” the boy asked.
His parents stopped bickering to come to their son’s aid.
Raphael realized the pair were clothed. Both were wearing simple robes.
“Where did you get the clothes?” he asked.
“Mother Mary made them for us. But who are you, Angel?”
“I’m The Archangel Raphael. Why did Mary make clothes for you?”
“I told her we didn’t feel right walking around naked.”
“Who told you you were naked?”
“Uh, nobody. It was just obvious!”
Raphael appeared at Mary’s side in an instant.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Oh. It’s just this village here. They were so pathetic. Nothing Human in them. And boring. So I gave them their souls back.”
Raphael’s crystalline face cracked.
“We can fix that,” he said after he’d mended. “But you can’t be making exceptions like this just because you are bored. The boy you broke is already beating turtles. His parents are unhappy with each other. The world will go back to insanity if there are any flaws among the Repaired.”
“But they’re just slaves or farm animals,” Mary said. They do nothing but what they are told.”
“If you don’t want them to be your slaves, then don’t have them tending your garden,” Raphael said. “Just leave them be. They have enough instinct to survive in the wild.”
“Their lives are so meaningless without souls,” she replied. “Instinct isn’t enough to make them Human.”
“They don’t need meaning,” Raphael said. “Don’t you see how happy they are because they don’t have to have some reason to live that they can’t live up to? Most creatures are very happy in not having the burden of meanings. They just live. It’s beautiful! Sometimes I envy such creatures who just accept everything without wondering how it could be different.”
“They no longer have the capacity to Love.” Mary said.
“Sure they can love each other,” Raphael replied. “It’s in their biology that couples will love each other and their offspring.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Mary said. “They can’t Love each other for the sacred in each other. They can’t Love each other as spirits, because they can’t see God in each other. They can’t know the All-awareness. They can’t understand what awareness means because they aren’t able to be Aware.”
“So what?” Raphael replied. Ducks can’t. Do you expect a Duck to have a self-concept and reason to the All-awareness. What good would it do a duck? And for the most part, what good has it done for Humankind?”
“I just feel like they are missing a big piece of what it means for us to live.”
“What they are missing,” replied Raphael, “is pathetic suffering. I’m surprised you would want to give that back to them.”
Raphael would have fixed Mary if he could. Instead he repaired the damage she’d done throughout the village and suggested she abandon her garden and go back to heaven where she wouldn’t be alone.
Mary, however, waited till he was gone and found her little friend,
Cee-Cee. Giving the girl back her soul and a yellow-green skirt, she said to her, “The bad Angel won’t take you away from me again.
Let’s go wake up your family. We’re going to move to a new garden.”
The empiricality of Pandemonium was a patchwork of scapes. Empiricalities are for the most part seamless (with rare exception) empirical worlds consistent with their communities of experiencing observers. For example at the coordinates 38.88944° N, -77.03524° E, everyone of our empiricality will find the City of Washington, DC, precisely they will find the Washington Monument. Pandemonium has no such consistency. There a traveler may stumble upon a scape of blasted out ruins, a cypress swamp, an inland sea, or a hellscape of flowing lava. Not too far from any of those scapes are adjacent scapes equally inconsistent. So you may find yourself stepping from pavement to molten rock. What‘s there at any given encounter is at whim of Hell’s demonic denizens.
Lucifer maintained the Human habitat of Pinecrest and vicinity. You’d not be able to tell it was just a slice surrounded by chaos, except that it was in an endless Summer with no Winter season to blanket the mountains with snow. Lucifer didn’t live in the Human corridor himself but preferred his Paradise Lost palaces on a Precambrian plain. To help maintain the continuity of the Pinecrest Patch, he depended upon the eyes of its founding members especially Kaylee Sparks. She wasn’t entirely cognizant of her role but had known from her first day there that it was a fabrication in Hell.
Kaylee had always wondered what was beyond the ridge of the Sierra Range and promised herself that one day she’d get up to the summit of Granite Dome where she’d be able to gaze beyond their little world. For almost a decade, the growing community and two children had kept her busy, but now that both her kids were in school, the horizon beckoned.
She stuffed her backpack and rolled her motorcycle out of the shed behind the house. The hydrogen fuel Suzuki was still in good condition. Something about this place maintained not only Human and animal health but the conditions of machines and appliances.
She took the Forest Route into the mountains as far as it went. Then an old mountain path served her journey, though it was narrow and almost overgrown in places. Finally she took the rest of the way to the Dome on foot.
She hurried to the summit. It was already late in the afternoon.
She made it before sunset, but the view was disappointing. Equally high and higher ridges obstructed her view of the Nevada desert on the horizon. Granite Dome’s 3145 meters were not high enough.
It would have been better to have taken Highway 108 through the pass, but the road vanished just north of the Leland Reservoir. It stopped as if cut by a pair of scissors. Where there was supposed to be a highway there was ungraded hillside covered with trees. Snipping away the road was the work of Lucifer, who’d said the community was not yet ready to expand.
Kaylee sighed. She’d thought this would work, but she should have consulted the maps more closely. If she hiked eastward on the ridge, she could ascend Black Hawk Mountain for perhaps a better view. It wasn’t really higher than the Dome, though.
It was best to make camp and return in the morning as she’d planed. It was windy on the summit, so she took the trail back down to Ridge lake where she pitched her tent for the night.
Early morning the Dome was aglow with the light of the rising Sun. Not just it’s summit, but well down its side. It wasn’t till Kaylee and made her breakfast and was folding up her tent that it occurred to her that this was odd. The ridge to the east should have cast a shadow.
Taking the trail up Granite Dome, she kept look east to try to figure it out. The glare of the morning Sun was no help making out the landscape in the distance. However, it was immediately clear that the ridge that had obstructed her view the evening before was gone.
She sat on Granite Dome, gazing at the desert foothill and beyond. The landscape had changed overnight. She wasn’t surprised. She’d always suspected that her home in Hell had no rational boundaries.
She raised her binoculars and scanned across the desert. Not far beyond the hills there seemed to be a long shore and a sea. A desert mirage, she thought. But then along the shore there were tall buildings, skyscrapers, a city. And the buildings weren’t ordinary. Not only were they incredibly tall but they were as if out of Tomorrowland or some cyberpunk cityscape.
Consulting her map, she found the small town of Bridgeport with the Bridgeport reservoir beyond, but what she’d seen had been no small town and no lake.
She peered through her binoculars again. The city was gone, and so was the sea. There was a forest now where dessert or sea had been.
Am I seeing what I want to see? She thought. How about mountains again?
Before she even raised her binoculars the vista was full of mountains, Alpine mountains whose ridges and peaks were twice higher than Granite Dome.
Kaylee pondered what it meant and then experimented. Whatever vista she desired appeared, as if she had control of what could be expected. Back in the village people were manifesting things that they needed or desired: whole houses in some cases.
“Here I was thinking,” she said aloud, “that our place was likely surrounded by the fires of Hell. But look! It’s whatever we make it! We are gods here!”
Paulus Diaz, fourteen years in office, was still the mayor of the rapidly growing community of Lodi. It felt like a lifetime appointment that was growing more difficult while Diaz was growing older. The Lodi community had expanded to include the small town of Galt to the North and Lakeview (formerly the City of Stockton) to the south.
Lakeview had come to be an apt name, as it was now on the shore of Lake San Joaquin which had pushed it’s way up the Calavaras River, inundating suburban neighborhoods on the way. Levies kept it contained for the time being. The community was also building a levy in what was downtown Stockton where the Port Channel had overflown its banks.
Eventually they’d have to migrate out of the valley basin, as once the landlocked ice of Greenland and Antarctica had all melted, the Central Valley would have become the San Joaquin Bay. That would be in less than a century. Diaz didn’t expect to live to see the day he’d have to move up into the foothills.
The rate of new settlers had slowed, but when Diaz learned that perhaps thousands would soon be arriving, he suggested to St. John they should consider settling the new immigrants in Calaveras, an elevation at which they would always be high and dry, and could become the new community center.
“Where are these people coming from?” Diaz asked. “More from the SoCal Community?”
“No. Mexico. Raphael has suffered an unexpected set back in his keeps. Mary is leading people out from their own communities or join ours.”
“What? Repaireds breaking away from Raphael? What would we do with them?”
“These repaired have been repaired. Mary has given them their souls back.”
“So did she finally realize she was on the wrong side? And how is Raphael taking this?”
“Not without a fight.”
There was war in the clouds above the Yucatan Peninsula. Mary’s Angels hurled thunderbolts at Rapahel’s. Angels fell like rain upon the forests till the clouds began to thin and a truce was called.
Mary and Raphael stood atop a Mayan ruin. The encroaching coast was lapping at its base.
“Your Angels are not authorized by Eloah!” Raphael told her. “Whose host are they? Jesus’?”
“Some Jesus, some mine,” she answered.
“Then you are insubordinate! The Council will hurl you from Heaven where you will be washed away in the streams, or join the fallen in Pandemonium. When my Angels recover and Eloah grants me a greater host, you will be defeated!
So leave now. All that are repaired are mine. You cannot have them. Go join one of Christ’s communities if you have to have flawed Humans for companionship.”
“I’m going nowhere,” she answered, “unless I can take as many as I can with me. I cannot stop till I have freed all of your slaves!”
Raphael was confident he could have struck her down right there. But she was imminent among the Transfigured. She was the mother of the Incarnate.
“Why don’t you just take your little friends from your garden and leave it as that?” he said. “You know I have been given the highest permission for my world.”
“They were created in the image of God,” she replied. “All of them. But you have broken that image into pieces.
I don’t care if that’s what Eloah wants. My Son is not less in authority than Eloah.”
A circular clearing appeared in the clouds above them. A beam of intense light shown trough it. The light became Christ.
“Mother, come with me,” he said. “Please bring the people you have healed. I granted you some of my angels for your protection, not for this. We must let Raphael have his stream. His Repaired are not suffering and across the streams they are Human in many more scapes than this.”
“But Son, when I was deluded with Raphael’s simplistic plan, you told me how wrong I was to take people’s souls away. It’s wrong what has been done to these people, even if it is in just one empiricality. Even if they are not able to suffer knowing what they have lost. It’s evil!”
“It is,” Jesus agreed. “But it will not mar all things. Just as most worlds never had the Great Flood, and I was not tortured in every one, this is an exception. You can see that can’t you? Let it be.”
“It’s cruel,” Mary replied. “So what if in other streams these were never Repaired, They are still crippled here.”
“My Holy Mother, I am glad to see your compassion has returned. It is such compassion of the Transfigured that in Eternity flows all streams into the One Ocean of the All-Aware. Come with me, Mother. Let me show you how all this flows to the same Sacred River of Life, and how it flows into the Divine. There no one has lost, or gained, but has from Eternity been together with the Progenitor.
But first we need to take all that you have healed and made Human again to a new home. John our beloved friend, is waiting for them.”
Nothing excused the taking of any soul, just as nothing excused the Son of God tortured on the cross. There were things done for and about Humanity that made all sentient beings wonder if it had not been better had Humans not been created. But Eloah, Christ, the Spirit, and all who had seen through to the All-Awareness knew that it all came to a Holiness that shined brighter with each transfigured soul.
The Valley Springs Community up above the Camanche Reservoir became the new home of Cee-Cee and the three thousand plus people Mary had taken from Raphael’s jungle habitats. She didn’t set them to work making a garden, not at her command. But they did set about cleaning up and beautifying the abandoned town.
Mary entered more deeply into the Mystery that was clear in Awareness. She could see that for now her children were keen on creating a utopia, but that the generations to come would lose the vision in Human complacency and greed. Earth became covered again by the deluded and cruel. But there would be the Transfigured ones she’d urged on herself, shining in the empiricalities. And then she saw through to the River of Life in which there were actually very few Humans who at least in one stream had not been saved and transfigured. Even the Repaired, enthralled to Raphael’s zoos where they were devolving into mere animals, Most were in some other empiricality transfigured in her Father’s house where there are many scapes. The Human species would go extinct, but there would be enough time for most to be transfigured. There had always been enough time.