A Quest for Heaven
by James Rumpel
Part 1 appears in this issue.
When his foot landed, the fabric of reality was ripped apart and all hell broke loose.
Tormot was no longer himself. He had a sense of his existence as Tormot Sompo. However, he was also a soldier charged with defending his planet from an invasion by an alien hoard. This was not a hallucination. He was fighting aliens and had memories of an entire lifetime leading up to this point. A small part of him maintained fleeting glimpses of being Tormot and they seemed to be fading quickly.
Laser fire flew over his head. He glanced to his side and watched in horror when Sergeant Michaels was hit by enemy fire and fell to the ground with a heavy grunt.
He moved forward, leaving his fallen comrade. He wanted to stop and help the soldier but he could not.
“We must retreat, Captain,” called the officer on his immediate left.
“No, Lieutenant, I must move forward. I have to continue. You help Sergeant Michaels.” The Captain could not explain why he had this drive to keep going. Somehow, he knew that he had to make it to the center of the battlefield.
Leaving the Lieutenant behind, the Captain advanced another step. His boot touched the ground and was transformed. It was no longer a boot but a petite, black, buckled shoe. The battle that had been raging was replaced by a pristine meadow. A little girl, who had once been Tormot, held only an ever-shrinking tiny bit of his being.
The dog standing by her left hip suddenly barked and took off running, chasing some unseen squirrel or other prey. The collie bounded through the tall grass, disappearing and reappearing like a dolphin swimming out to sea.
“Lassie, come back here!” shouted the girl. She knew that she should chase after her pet. But something told her to keep going. There was a footbridge ahead that she needed to cross.
The moment the young girl set foot on the bridge, she was no longer a child. The human youth magically became an exquisite stallion. The meadow was now a path of perfectly groomed sand. The horse sprinted, spurred on by the kicks of a jockey grasping tightly to its reins.
The rider pulled on the left rein, directing the horse to begin to curve in that direction. The stallion resisted. Its instincts told the majestic creature that it had to maintain its current course. It had to keep moving forward.
The horse transformed. Tormot went through many more iterations of reality. Each time he maintained enough of his true self to know that the ultimate goal was to move forward, to reach the center.
Finally, after many different existences, an old man stood before a door. He reached for the knob and slowly turned it. To his great surprise and pleasure, it was not locked. The door gave way and the man passed through.
* * *
Tormot, once again the master of his own body and mind, stood in an expansive cave. The cavern was empty except for a small child sitting, cross-legged, at its center. As Tormot approached he noticed the boy was drawing on a large white sheet of paper.
“Are you God?” asked Tormot.
The child looked up and smiled. “No, I am not your God. Though, I suppose my appearance might be rather disconcerting. Would you rather I look like this?”
The boy was instantly replaced by an authoritative man with a long grey beard. He wore angelic white robes and held a staff in his hand. When he spoke, his voice echoed throughout the cavern. “Or maybe this.”
The cave was no longer empty. A gigantic computer filled it from end to end. Blinking lights and whirring discs vied for Tormot’s attention. Hundreds of automatons moved in and out of the gargantuan mechanism, constantly servicing and expanding the electronic brain. When it spoke, a panel directly in front of Tormot blinked in synchronization with the words. “But, seeing as you made the journey to find me, I would guess the best form for me to be in is...”
Tormot was sitting in front of a desk. The desk was occupied by a middle-aged woman wearing a green sweater and horn-rimmed glasses. A large sign, suspended behind her head, read: “COMPLAINTS.”
“So, what brings you here, Tormot?” asked the woman.
“You should know; you are God,” was the human’s reply.
“As I said earlier, I am not your God. I am different from a god. Your version of reality has an all-powerful God, but I am not him or her. For lack of a better term, I am Reality. Every possible reality emanates from me. I create every universe, every god, every version of truth.”
Tormot knew his expression showed his confusion. The woman tried again to explain her role. “You could say I begin every story, but the stories play out on their own without my interference.”
“Well, I need you to change my story. How can it be that I have had to lose my wife and have my only child be struck down with a deadly illness? It isn’t fair.”
The woman pulled her glasses forward and looked over the top. She examined Tormot. “You are right. It isn’t fair. But that was your story. You can call it fate or luck, but everyone’s reality flows along a singular course. I can’t change a reality once it is created.”
“Well, can’t you search one of your realities for a cure for my daughter.”
“Trust me, Tormot, I feel for you. There are an infinite number of different realities, and each has a nearly infinite number of events and individuals within. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t interfere. Your original reality has already passed by. By entering the region outside the cave, you left your version. You will never be able to return to that existence. You will never see your daughter in that reality again. It is time for you to move on to a new state.”
“No!” cried Tormot. “You have to send me back to my daughter and cure her! I came all this way to get your help.”
“I know how strongly you desire that.” The woman remained calm despite Tormot’s obvious agitation. “You managed to fight through many different lives to get here. The phenomena you think of as a barrier is a glimpse into each new reality as it is created. Each briefly pauses here, free from the constraints of time, before moving on to its own universe. Very few visitors have ever had the drive to make it through.”
“Then reward me by sending me home.”
“I am sorry, I cannot.”
“Can’t you send me to the God of my reality? That’s where I was trying to go. Please, I beg you.” Tormot wanted to grab the woman and shake her, but he knew better.
A door appeared beside Tormot. The woman pointed to it. “As I said, I wish I could fix things in your previous reality. I wish I could save your wife and daughter. But, in that version, your wife has died and your child is going to. I cannot send you back; you left of your own accord. The best I can do is offer you a new existence in a different reality.”
“I don’t want a different reality.” Tormot knew he sounded childlike; he didn’t care.
The woman stood up. She was much taller than she had appeared behind the desk. She towered above Tormot. “I said earlier that there are infinite realities. I am certain I could find a version that is very close to the one you left, maybe even better. I could even find a time in that different reality that you will find desirable. Just pass through that door and you will have your life back.”
Tormot wasn’t listening. He was too overcome by anger, frustration, and grief. “No, I refuse to go until you help me.” Tormot jumped up from his chair and took a step towards the desk.
The desk was gone. In front of Tormot was a large grotesque dragon. The dragon rose to tower over the human’s head. When it spoke, flames shot from its mouth. “I have done the best for you that I can. You will like the reality I created. Now go.” Menacingly, the creature began to advance towards Tormot. Fire shot from the dragon’s mouth driving the human towards the doorway.
Tormot wanted to stay. He wanted to continue to fight for his daughter’s life. He could not. The heat of the dragon’s breath forced him to the door. With no other alternative, Tormot opened it and stepped inside.
* * *
Tormot walked into his living room. His head swam with memories, some of which were familiar, others seemed changed. He was slightly surprised to still be himself though he didn’t understand why he felt that way.
The bedroom door opened and Sophie entered the room. She headed to the sofa and sat down. “Come on, Tormot. Let’s sit and relax a little. I decided to cancel my business trip so we could spend more time together. We have the night to ourselves. My mother is watching Amalia.”
“Amalia” doesn’t sound right, thought Tormot for a fleeting moment. “A relaxing night together is a wonderful idea,” he said and sat down next to his lovely wife. “We can just talk for a while before going out for a romantic supper.”
“I like that,” she replied, giving him a loving peck on the cheek. “Did you hear the news? A doctor claims to have found a cure for Pulmian’s Disease.”
Tormot smiled. That news made him incredibly happy, though he wasn’t quite sure why.
Copyright © 2020 by James Rumpel