The Force Within
by John W. Steele
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
A broad wooden door hanging by a single hinge stood before him. Reggie braced it with his shoulder and nudged it open. The barn stank of molding hay, old leather, and stale manure. But a more odious scent hung in the air: the stench of death. Unlike the fleeting anxiety of his eventual demise that he knew on the earth plane, the one that grows in meaning as the years drain away, this was a noxious stench that permeated every molecule of this godforsaken mindfuck. Only now did it dawn on him that he was locked in a reality from which no exit could be found, not even the mercy of death. And in this place he would spend eternity.
The barn had no windows he could see, but a subtle radiance glowed above in the sagging loft. The gambrel tilted beneath the rafters like a leaking barge half submerged in the sea. Reggie climbed the creaking ladder and entered the garret. It held a pair of shutters, and many of the slats were missing. Beyond the louvers, a greyscale valley sank deep into the earth. He pushed open the closure, and an icy gust of wind slammed into his body. The frigid air gave him goose bumps, and he raised the hood of his sweatshirt. An old trunk stood at the side of the portal. Reggie pulled it over and sat down.
For a long time, he gazed into the distance and measured his life. It seemed that his sojourn in the temporal world had unfolded naturally, as if the circumstances he was born to had left him no alternative but to follow the rut that seemed to have been forged for him. It didn’t appear that he had any choice in most of it. Eat, sleep, work, and die, and somewhere between the misery, dope made it all seem worthwhile. It never occurred to him that one day the shit would own him and lead him to where he was now. Or maybe it did occur to him, and he didn’t care?
He remembered Nora and the way his mind crumbled when he found her dead in his arms. Looking back, he wished he had had the balls to kill himself before he murdered her. In retrospect, he would’ve done so if given another chance. But there are no second chances and, once the die is cast, the deed is forever sealed. All that remains is the cursed memory that follows to the grave... and beyond.
Even now, in this hellish nightmare, the urge for booze and drugs still tormented him like a vampire’s lust for blood. He wished he could escape it. He wished he could escape everything. It seemed conscious awareness was little more than the curse of those damned by a moment’s pleasure in a long forgotten past, those destined for the place he was in now. He stared at the dying stars and wept bitterly, but tears brought him no catharsis. They never did. Tears are the living soul of anger and betrayal, and there is no closure in them. Forgiving requires virtue, but acceptance asks for nothing in return. For Reggie, closure was that place beyond forgiving, where one loses everything and finally dies to the insanity of the world.
He thought about Samael, and hated him. He hated what Samael did to Nora. Reggie blamed it all on the power of the god hand.
There was a pressure, and the python emerged from his chest. “Why do you revile me, Reggie Suggins? Who was there for you when the ones you loved cast you to the dogs? Who gave you courage when the robots in school attacked you, and we taught them that silence is not weakness? I was with you when no one else cared if you lived or if you died. Who destroyed Mel? I gave you the will to survive and the backbone to go on. No one endures in the world of men without my loyal fortitude. Without me, you would devolve to the level of those you despise, the hollow ones that have nothing but numbers, and kin, and privilege, their only courage found in the hive mind. It’s not my fault that you took advantage of me.”
“You killed Nora! And now we’re lost in hell!” Reggie cried.
“And still I am the only ally at your side in this realm of sorrows, aren’t I? I didn’t want to kill her, Reggie. You made me do it!”
“How could I make you do it, Samael?”
“You wouldn’t let her go, Reggie. It was time.”
“That still doesn’t make you God. You murdered the only one I ever loved. I’ll never let her go.”
* * *
The Aeon Belthaeous
There was a sound like a sonic boom, and a blinding flash exploded in the firmament. The curse of time dissolved, and the veil of matter collapsed into the Akashik Mainframe like just another cosmic video game.
Reggie froze like one trapped in a seizure. Outside his mind, nothing existed. His Matrix grid was little more than an empty hologram, its illusions drained away like the contents of an egg. He couldn’t determine if he created the game, or if it created him, but he knew awareness created them both. The entire cosmos flowed into his DNA like a primal wave of energy smaller than the head of pin, and he floated in the white noise of infinity.
From somewhere outside the grid, in the free universe, a majestic ship appeared. It shimmered like gold. Round black portals surrounded its upper decks. It looked no larger than a baseball, but as it approached, the ship expanded until it loomed as massive as the sun. Organic radiance like living energy encompassed its hull. Beams of blue, green, and gold danced on the little man’s face, and a plasma double helix drew him into its vortex.
Before him there appeared a waterfall composed of vibrating diamond particles, crystal clear and shimmering. Behind the fountain stood a creature the likes of which he could never have imagined.
The entity had a massive triangular head that hung beneath a scaffold of eight golden legs like a spider. The frontal lobe of its skull ballooned into what looked like a beehive wrapped with a red turban that held an enormous black gem in the center. Seven compound eyes shaped like stars pulsing with life energy dotted its brow. A wild, snow-white beard grew below its maw, and more green eyes peered from within it. The corners of its skull held two mandibles larger than the tusks of a bull elephant, and they shone with gruesome splendor.
A wave of nausea churned in Reggie’s guts, and he trembled. The creature retracted its claws, and a soothing sensation like warm oil washed over him.
A smaller alien emerged from behind the curtain. It spun on a single point like a roulette wheel standing on end. At its circumference were many eyes, all of them gleaming with crystalline brilliance. The sphere rotated at great velocity, but the eyes remained fixed. The center of the wheel held a black abyss, and in it, stellar lights clustered like galaxies on a spiral vortex.
The creature remained still and then spoke in a voice like a babbling brook. “I am Crest. I serve as interpreter for the Aeon Belthaeous. You cannot communicate with him directly. In the ninth density of awareness, all concepts reduce to equations and, without my comprehension, you could not understand him. The Aeon has the authority to balance polarities. Without polarities, matter cannot exist. At one time your dimensions held no polarization, but the Shadow of the Abyss superimposed its will over the One, and it became Two.
A gentle blue aura bloomed from the wheel, and Reggie felt secure in its presence.
“Why am I here?”
“Belthaeous needs to calculate you magnetic signature. The frequencies of all involved in your soul group must correlate precisely if he is to establish a perfect timeline in another sector of the universe.
“You are now outside your Matrix illusion, but you are not released from it. Your frequency cage still exists. It is dangerous for those in the higher densities to enter this dimension and its distorted frequencies. Many a mighty Angel has become ensnared in this density. The Matrix is a black hole. Without galactic intelligence, one can become imprisoned here for immensities. Belthaeous is a Supreme entity that holds hypercosmic intelligence. The Shadow and its minions cannot destroy him.”
The alien stilled, and what looked like comets soared in its abyssal eye. “Belthaeous states that for him, you appear as little more than a character in a movie, an illusion without purpose. But that does not mean he can’t feel your pain or understand your script. Belthaeous asks, have you not wept, or laughed, or felt anger for the imaginary characters in a movie or on your telescreens? He affirms that an Aeon views the 3-D hologram in the same manner. He wants you to know that he’s watched your performance for a long time and finds your character promising.”
“How about when I murdered my wife, did your master find that amusing as well?”
The wheel slowed, and its eyes contracted. “Belthaeous asks, did you murder your wife with intent? Do you remember committing this heinous act?”
Reggie drew a deep breath. “No. I woke up, and she lay broken in my arms. I don’t remember any of it. I loved her more than anything. I would never harm her.”
The alien whirled in all directions at once. “Belthaeous says that you are not guilty of her death. Your alter ego, Samael, murdered the Nora. But you are still guilty.”
“How can I be guilty of something I had no control over?”
“Belthaeous states you had control, and you lost it. You fed the beast. Samael is a quality of awareness in all sentient beings. His purpose is to serve as a guardian and an ally, not a brutal thug that inflicts punishment at your bidding. Had your judgment not been impaired by your cravings, Samael would have served you well. You distorted him with stimulants, the equivalent of psychic plutonium. He no longer supported you; he owned you.”
“What difference does it make now, Crest? The die is cast.”
A long silence ensued. “Belthaeous states that in the realm of polarities, nothing occurs without mutual consent. If the Nora had chosen not to dwell in a certain location at a certain time, she would not have met the fate written in her script. He states she is partially to blame.
“Belthaeous states that free will can override any clause in any contract. But at the same time, fate can override free will. Belthaeous states that the art of survival in the Matrix is to expect the unexpected.”
“Why did the Aeon choose to rescue me, Crest? I’ve made a mess of my life. I dove headlong into the illusion.”
Concentric circles formed in the abyss, and its eye looked like a scrying mirror. “When one begins to awaken, their frequency changes, and they attract the awareness of their Overself. This is no simple thing.”
“Will I ever be forgiven?”
“Belthaeous asks; how can a character in a movie be forgiven? The fate of the illusory awareness is to return to the illusory dimensions. The script is determined.”
“What about Mel? He had it all, and still he took what belonged to me.”
In the abyss, an icy wind howled, and it started to snow. “Belthaeous says Mel is a scripted character in the Matrix program. He has no supernatural origin. He can trace his ancestry to a protoplasmic globule that formed in the ocean at the beginning of time. He and clones like him are part of the Matrix, and in the Matrix his soul energy will remain. The Mel program chose to end his purpose when he strayed into your domain.
“The Aeon states that Mel would’ve killed you or injured you severely. He asserts that the robot would’ve been cleared of this crime. Mel had a witness and powerful Matrix connections in high places. Mel is not gone. His energy will be combined with other Matrix programs, and a new robot will emerge. Mel is a permanent character in the Matrix hologram.
“You are not like Mel. You’re not a scripted being. You contain a spark of the Unborn, and It wants your spark back! There are many like you lost in the Matrix games and blinded by the programs.”
“What about Samael? I don’t want to abandon him.”
The alien drew a violet lid over its abyssal eye. “Belthaeous has ended this transmission. We must soon depart from this dimension or risk damage to our ship. I will speak to you now as I would an ally.
“My given name is Ariel. I am what you would interpret as a female, although in our world, there is sex, but there are no sexes. I am a seventh-density being. My level of awareness is five times greater than yours. You would not have survived in the predatory illusion without the Samael. It is part of you, and you could not abandon him even if you tried.
“Though I am from another galaxy, in my journeys with the venerable Belthaeous, I have learned that the same rules apply throughout the material universe. I offer you this humble observation. The secret of a free man is that he must learn to control his dark side. Wherever we travel in this vast and impermanent creation, the prisons and the graveyards are filled with beings that have not understood this wisdom. Many of those condemned throughout the galaxy are of the Light, but one slip is all it takes. The Matrix is designed to ensnare permanent atom beings. That is why it was created.”
Ariel began to emit heat energy, and her revolutions increased. “Our ship is altering frequencies. I must bid you farewell, Reggie Suggins. We have established a time line, and we will meet again someday. You have been granted a rare and precious opportunity. You will be allowed to leave the Bardo and return to the 3-D hologram. Use this gift wisely, and you may escape rebirth in another cycle of woe.” Ariel blinked, and her eye flashed with a hand of lightning.
“Can I go with you?”
The abyssal iris grew opaque, and Ariel’s eyes twinkled with compassion. “No one can rescue you from the Matrix, honey. You have to do it yourself.” She blinked one more time, and the ship began to vibrate. A burst of radiance illuminated the Bardo, and they were gone.
From the deepest recesses of the subconscious, the Matrix spilled into the grid with the speed of thought. For a single moment, the virtual reality shined with its counterfeit glory, and then the grayscale realm of the Bardo arose from the ashes. Only a vague memory of the Aeon, and its alien surrogate remained.
Another dour grey morning broke on the endless Bardo plain. The demons of the night remained hidden in their gory hells, but Reggie knew they would return. He felt pity for the tortured beings that could never die. He stood up and left the barn.
Reggie walked past the hobo camp. A headless demon in camo vestments stood at the trailhead and motioned him in. Reggie nodded and kept walking. In the distance he saw the girders of the railroad bridge: stout, strong, and formidable in the dull grey mist. He crept along the ties until he reached the other shore.
When he turned to look back, the portal to the Bardo dissolved like some kind like of vision gone wonky in a madman’s skull. From deep in the hell worlds, a voice crossed the great divide: “You have lived your life, Reggie Suggins. Now learn to live it well.”
* * *
Reggie’s greyscale perceptions transformed to a world of living color. Birds sang in trees resplendent with their verdant summer hue. His filthy ragged clothes were gone. A jumpsuit made of a silver fabric that felt like a second skin lay loose on his body and moved like it was part of him. The tattered brogans had withered away replaced by footwear fit for a king. He strode down the rails like he was walking on air.
In the distance, Nashville brimmed with skyscrapers made of mirrors that towered inside a domed metropolis, its portals open to the sky. Auto craft of advanced technical perfection soared overhead. They rose through the gateways and headed for parts unknown. Above the hemisphere, massive interplanetary cruise vessels floated in a turquoise sky. The air smelled light and clean, like ether scented with the fragrance of dogwood. The future emerged like a fantasy kingdom where no toxic substance remained.
Reggie eased down the embankment. Kings Highway no longer existed, replaced by a majestic forest of vast magnitude. He walked into the woods and followed a hard packed trail that crossed a verdant rolling meadow. Wooden spans traversed boulder-strewn streams, their white waters effervescent. Eagles soared in the sky, and Reggie marveled at their wonder. He felt like he did when he was young, when the Matrix had not yet revealed its true nature. In the distance, a picnic pavilion could be seen.
The little man walked quietly on the trail; his heart thumped, and a feeling of confidence surged through his body. As he neared the gazebo, he saw a baseball game out on a field. There was shouting and laughter. But his eyes were drawn to a young girl sitting on a bench. She held a book in her hands and appeared to be reading. She looked plain with straight dark hair and a mild natural tan. For reasons he didn’t understand, he felt attracted to her.
He approached her and said, “Hi, I’m Reggie. Nice day, wouldn’t you agree?”
The girl laid the book on the table and pushed the glasses up on her nose. She looked at him; her eyes were grey. She hesitated a moment and then smiled. “Hi, I’m Nora.”
Copyright © 2020 by John W. Steele