Vrin Ten Mortal Gods(56)

By: John Michael Hileman


He stared at me. “Have you lost your mind?”

I smiled. “No, I think I've found it.”

“What exactly have you found?” He put the books down.

“I'm not sure, but it's peaceful.” I turned and began walking through the shopping mall, passing shop after shop, with Stephen following close behind.

“We have plans,” he said.

“I know, and we can continue to move forward. I just don't think it's important to put so much weight on making a buck. Too many people will get hurt.”

“What? Have you gone lazy on me?”

“It's not the hard work that bothers me, Stephen. It's what we're working toward. I don't want to waste the talents God has given me on the selfish pursuits of money and comfort.”

Stephen came to an abrupt stop. “What are you talking about? You gonna become a monk or something?” He kept talking, but I took no heed, I’d found what I was looking for.

The heavy metal door creaked open, revealing a huge locker room. I left Stephen standing in the corridor, his mouth gaping.

The place was filled with football players preparing for a game, but I wasn’t interested in any of that. I walked past them into a row of lockers, then continued on through more lockers, past aisle after aisle, then into a huge shower area. Drawn to the other end I entered back into more rows of lockers, row upon row, until suddenly I found myself surrounded by a group of cheerleaders.

I looked down and noticed that all I was wearing was my underwear and a pair of slightly tattered wolf slippers. I looked back up in a panic. Fortunately for me, the ladies took no notice.

Under different circumstances, I might have explored this unique and rare opportunity, but regretfully, I left the scene of scantily clad women and headed toward the bathroom stalls. There were more urgent needs to attend to.

The graffiti laden door swung open-- but to my utter amazement and despair, the wall behind the toilet, was missing The stall was wide open. I could see out into the shopping mall. Across the way, an old woman sat staring at me, her shopping bags nestled neatly against her leg. This was not going to do! I stepped out and checked the next stall. It was the same. I checked the next, and the next...

Only when I turned to consider one of the sinks as a possible solution to my problem, did I realize, that I was dreaming.

I opened my eyes and with a grunt, rolled off the mattress. I grabbed my robe, and headed for the bathroom.

My next stop was the kitchen. I wasn't hungry, but that had never stopped me from snacking before. I helped myself to a piece of chocolate cake, then walked over to the door leading to the patio. Someone was sitting on the edge of the pool. I slid the door open, walked over casually, and squatted down.

“Cake?”

“No thanks,” said Rebecca.

“Having trouble sleeping?”

She swished her feet in the water. “I had a bad dream.”

“About what?” I took a seat beside her.

“It was weird. First I was in a funeral parlor, and you were...” She looked over at me. “You were dead. --But I wasn't sad, because I knew you were okay.” She paused and furrowed her brow. “Then I followed what I think was your ghost across this really long white bridge until you disappeared into a wall of swirling smoke. Beyond the wall, I could hear people being tortured, screaming for mercy.” She shuddered. “Then I woke up.”

“--Wow.”

“I told you it was weird.”

I put my arm around her shoulder. “Yeah, well, you've been dealing with a lot lately and-- dreams are always weird.”

“I know, but it was still unnerving.” She studied my face. “So why are you here? You have a bad dream too?”

I smiled. “You don't want to know.”

“What?” She returned my smile.

“Well, I was trying to find a place to go pee.”

She laughed.

“And all I could find was a stall that was wide open to this shopping mall. Everyone could see me.”

She laughed harder, then put her head on my shoulder.

We sat for a time staring at the reflections in the pool, and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude washed over me. I had lost so much, but had been given back far more than I ever could have hoped for. It made the loss almost bearable.

“It was hard for a long time,” Rebecca said, breaking the silence. “But after a while I was able to let you go. Then it was awkward when I found out you were awake.” She lifted her head up. “Don't get me wrong, I was happy you were awake. But I had built a relationship with a silent sleeping father. You were everything to me, because you were a fantasy.” She looked thoughtful. “It was that fantasy that shut out my stepdad, and when I heard you were awake, I wondered if it would shut you out too.” She shook her head. “How could you possibly live up to the expectations of a foolish little girl?”

I squeezed her. “Oh, honey...”

“I missed you, Dad. And I hope we can start fresh. I want to know who you really are. I want to replace the fantasy with something real.”

“I’d stick with the fantasy if I were you.”

She scowled playfully.

“I’m serious. I’m not the saint your mother is. You deserve a better dad than me.”

“I don’t need a saint, Dad. I need you, the father God gave me.”

“Yeah, well, you got short changed.”

“Why do you say that?”

I slumped. “I don’t know. I guess I’m feeling bad because I don’t want to be a part of this whole battle for humanity thing. I feel like a selfish jerk.”

“Is it so bad you want to reclaim your life? You've been through a lot, and besides, you need time to recuperate! I'm sure there are plenty of capable people at the center who can handle this kind of stuff. You shouldn’t beat yourself up about it.”

“What? Are you saying I'm not action hero material?”

She laughed. “Look at you, you're skin and bones.”

“And wrinkly.” I smiled. “Don’t forget wrinkly.”

She leaned over and nudged me with her shoulder. “You're right where you're supposed to be, Dad. The cloak and dagger games are best left to the professionals. But you know what, you are a remarkable man.” She looked at me, her eyes smiling. “I believe God has a plan for you. I don’t know what it is, but something tells me you were meant for something great.

“Well something tells me I will be spending a lot more time at home now, than at the office.”

Rebecca smiled-- the smile melted into a yawn. “Sorry.”

I gave her a warm hug. “Yeah. I’m tired too. I’m going back to bed. You coming in?”

She nodded. “I just hope I don’t have any more nightmares.”

“Yeah.” I chuckled. “Me neither.”

I did not dream this time, but passed quickly into the darkness, through The Separation, and beyond. When I entered the substance of Dantra, there was a shimmer in my perception, but I wasn't disturbed by it; I innately understood it as a natural result of shifting dimensions. Dantra, being a timeless environment, waited for me to rejoin it. And as my consciousness completed its shift, I found myself standing in the exact spot I had been in before I departed. Humphrey was moving, and Constance filed in behind him. I thought to tell Humphrey about the experience of shifting to Earth. But I sensed he already knew.

I was beginning to understand a great many things about Dantra, as dormant memories deep within me awakened. It felt like returning home, though, I had never truly left.

We passed under the great and ancient archway of the crystal fortress. And Constance stopped.

“What is it?”

She raised her hands into the air and closed her eyes. “It is strong here.”

“What is?”

“The love.”

Humphrey smacked me on the arm. “Hey! Has your memory completely returned?”

“Ow! Would you stop doing that!” I said, rubbing my arm.

“Sorry.” He winced. “Well-- has it?”

“Yes, I believe it has.”

“Great! That will make things a lot easier.” At once his body began to glow. Then points of light burst through cracks in his skin. Until there was nothing left, but light.

“You know,” I said, “even though I can remember now, that still freaks me out.”

Constance gasped.

I motioned for her to calm down. “It's okay, it’s okay, it's just Humphrey.”

She approached him and cautiously touched him on the chest. “He's tingly,” she said, running her fingertips downward.

“Are you okay with this?” I said.

“You talking to me or her?” asked Humphrey.

She continued to touch Humphrey's chest, so I figured everything was cool. She did not have her memory back. That was why it had scared her. But she knew deep inside, that it was natural.

I stretched out my arms and pushed away the energy of Dantra, revealing my true form. It had been a long time since I had moved about Dantra as pure thought. It was exhilarating!

“Come, there's more to do,” said Humphrey, telepathically.

We lifted Constance into the air and traveled out into the brightness of Dantra. Below, the white bridge faded, and was replaced by a desert.

“There.” Humphrey pointed.

We touched down in front of a single story nondescript building. Humphrey gathered the substance of Dantra and became corporal again. Reluctantly, I did the same. In the center of the building, was a single red metal door. It was chipped and rusted, with a large yellow hazard sign upon it.