Vrin Ten Mortal Gods(54)

By: John Michael Hileman


A prophet? The word forced a memory to surface. I was not yet a man of God, but God had chosen me anyway. He’d sent his angels into the dark land to bring me out. I had been in Dantra-- but the struggles of life were weighing me down. I remembered the pain of being in the love of God. It was painful because I held on to destructive things. Thomas was a shrewd businessman, an overachiever driven by success-- but with success came difficult choices-- choices that effected the lives of thousands...

Humphrey smacked me. “Think while you walk, lad. If you stop every time you get a revelation, we'll never get there.” He turned and entered into an enormous engraved archway. Reluctantly, I followed.

Deep inside the courtyard of the crystal fortress, the light was much stronger than the light outside, and this light was also love. Love and light were the same. In my mind, words from Davata Notrals echoed: Good lives for the day and the brightness of the sun, but evil flourishes under the dim light of the moon. It was a metaphor. The sun was a representation of God's love. The moon was simply a reflection. Kric' tu was the moon. He was once the greatest of God's angels, but he was merely a reflection, a reflection that grew dimmer as he moved away from God. Some loved Kric' tu, because they loved darkness, they believed the darkness would hide their wicked deeds.

At the end of the courtyard was another angel and the light reflecting from him was blinding. Though the light was weaker here, this angel seemed to magnify its reflection.

He lifted his wings high into the air. “WELCOME!” His voice was deep and resonating. “I AM MAGNUS. I STAND IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ONE TRUE GOD. COME. I WILL TELL YOU WHAT YOU MUST DO.”

“Do we have to do this?” I whispered.

“I don't,” said Humphrey.

My throat constricted. “You're not coming with me?”

“I'm coming with you.” He scowled. “I just don't have to.”

We approached the foot of Magnus.

“DO NOT BE AFRAID. GOD HAS CHOSEN YOU, AND YOU HAVE DONE WELL. THE DAUGHTER OF ROBERT HELM IS IN THE LOST LAND-- AND YOU MUST MAKE A CHOICE. WILL YOU RISK YOUR LIFE FOR HERS, THAT YOU MIGHT SAVE YOUR ENEMY?”

Save my enemy? Thomas would have said no, he would have chosen his own needs. I did not like what Thomas had become, and was thankful that God had given me a second chance with Charm. He had learned the value of selflessness. I liked Charm. I chose Charm.

“Yes. I will.”

“WELL CHOSEN. TAKE YOUR SWORD AND ENTER THE PORTAL.”

I could see the portal behind him, swirling around in melted gold and silver spirals. But I did not see the sword he spoke of. I looked at Humphrey.

He let out an irritated sigh. “Your sword is in your mouth.”

My tongue rolled in response.

“Words are our sword.”

I gave him an uncomprehending look.

“In Dantra, even in the lost land, truth cannot be denied. If you speak truth, it must be obeyed.”

“And--” I looked at him sideways. “What is truth?”

“It is what sways the hand of God. He is our weapon.”

His reply did not answer my question, but I didn’t press the point, partly because of the towering angel watching me with fierce eyes, and partly because Humphrey was already walking toward the portal. I hurried to catch up. He passed through without hesitation, but I was not so comfortable with the idea. Although this was not my first trip to the lost land, it was my first time entering with the understanding of what it actually was-- to an extent. The memory had not completely returned, but what I did remember made me realize that I did not miss this place.

I closed my eyes tightly, and pushed through.

On the other side, was darkness. And it was complete. My short nervous breaths sounded much louder than they should have, as if the sound was reflecting off a hard surface inches from my face. I reached out my hand. But there was nothing there.

“Humphrey!” I whispered.

“What?” His voice made me jump, like he was right next to my ear.

“Why is it so dark?”

Something flashed in my face. The sound, and subsequent reduction of flash, told me it was a match-- before my heart could fully leap from my chest. Humphrey’s face appeared in the orange glow, his wrinkles deepened by the harsh shadows.

My feet sloshed in water upon the hard obsidian surface we were standing on. I turned and squinted into the darkness, listening. There was no sign of life. Just me and Humphrey. In the middle of endless black. I should have been afraid, but I wasn’t.

“--That's weird.”

“What?” The way he said the word, I realized he already knew what I was going to say.

“I didn’t expect to feel God's love here.”

He nodded. “His love fills Dantra, even in the lost land, but it is fainter here because the inhabitants cannot tolerate the light.”

--Cannot tolerate the light. The words echoed in my mind. The idea was so familiar, so...

Humphrey smacked my arm. “Come on!”

I shook my head, and followed closely behind him, unable to take my eyes off the match. As we walked it continued to burn, but did not get shorter. I was about to comment on it, when a tortured scream broke through the darkness. I stopped abruptly and peered around. “That was creepy,” I said in a low voice.

“And to think,” Humphrey said, half sympathetically, “you used to live here.”

A memory surfaced. Pride and selfishness brought me to this dark place. I would come here to try to work through my financial troubles, always carrying my burdens with me, never able to trust God with them.

As I explored the memory, our surroundings began to flicker and change. Light filled the darkness and objects took shape in the receding shadows. Soon we found ourselves walking through an enormous office space with cubical after cubical of men and women frantically trying to get work done. The dark obsidian chamber had completely dissolved. “Did I do that?” I asked, startled.

“Yes, and yes.”

“What?”

“Yes, you changed our surroundings, and yes, you used to be one of these people, struggling to make a name for yourself, never trusting God, only trusting in the talents God gave you.”

“How? How did I do that?” He looked as though his answer was going to be a smart one, so I cut him off. “I mean, how did I make all this appear?”

He looked disappointed I had ruined his fun. “Don’t get your undies in a bunch. It’ll come to you.”

I looked into one of the cubicles at a man in a business suit. He was staring at a screen filled with charts and graphs. In the corner of the screen, a stock ticker flashed red. He laced his fingers into his curly hair and gripped hard. His elbows dug into the desk.

Peering down at him, I suddenly realized, I had once been this man. In fact, I had shared this very office! I looked around at the other workers. They were all here because of the same lust, the same perceived need for something more. I was once one of them, constantly worrying about money, caught in a cycle of endless frustration.

I had not created this room. These were real people sharing the same reality, the same struggle. I had simply merged my reality with theirs-- but this was not a place I wanted to remember. The emotions were growing stronger, painful emotions, and I had no desire to revisit them. I turned toward Humphrey. “Can we leave?”

“Yes, you are in control,” he answered. “You need to search for Gaza's daughter. Her mother is dead and her father’s in a coma. Look for someone dealing with loss.”

Could I do that? Could I find her by searching for her own personal hell? Wherever she was, she was experiencing the loss of a loved one. I thought of my love for my family, and of how I would feel if I lost them.

My soul reached out into the maelstrom of realities. In this realm, as in Dantra, thought became reality. But here, the fears and lusts of its inhabitants generated horrific self-made prisons. It was difficult sifting through the realities of unstable minds, but I realized, much to my surprise, that I had been created for this task. I could walk this realm because I had lived this realm. It spoke to something deep within me. A core belief? An insecurity? Regardless, it was the part of me that caused mistrust in my Creator, but ironically, it was the same part that allowed me to connect with these wretched souls. It was why I was uniquely qualified to rescue Gaza's daughter.

I latched on to the feeling of loss, and the world changed again. It was night and we were walking across a bridge. Several hopeless souls stood poised on the railing, working up the courage to jump. A young man leaned out and I reached to grab him, but Humphrey held my arm. “We can't help him. He has to work through this on his own.”

I turned to Humphrey and studied his face. “We're helping Gaza's daughter, how is that different?”

“This trial is made for that man. He would not respond to you.”

I understood what he meant. God knew I would respond to the angels when they came for me. He knew I had come to the end of myself and was ready to receive their message. I turned from the suicides. It was pointless to try to help; I did not have the message they would hear.

“There was a car accident, right?”

“Yes,” said Humphrey.

“Then maybe we're looking in the wrong place.”

The bridge dissolved and a new scene took form around us, this time, a busy city street. There was a flutter and a woman screamed. I searched for her amidst the sea of pedestrians shimmering into view across the street. She was standing over a body. A crowd was beginning to form.