05:41:33 pm on
Saturday 16 Dec 2017

His Journey 3
AJ Robinson

His Maker -- part three of a three part series

“Stephen, relax and drink your tea,” She said, and took a sip of Hers.

He did so. It was Earl Grey, his favourite.

“You’re confusing the physical with the spiritual. How long does a physical body live typically?”

“Um… seventy, eighty years.”

She nodded. “Exactly, and even a good body eventually weakens and becomes feeble. You know this from personal experience, yes?”

“Yeah, I remember having trouble just getting up a few steps of my front porch.”

“True. However, the soul, which I give freely to each of My children, is immortal and indestructible. So, yes, the body can wither, can be broken and bleed, but the soul goes on, and ask yourself this: how long is a single lifetime when compared against the eternal?”

Stephen hung his head. “A billionth of a second?”

“Not even. So, physical pain is gone in a twinkling, but the soul continues on its journey.”

“Bu… but, wait a second,” he snapped, lifting his head to look at Her. “What about all those tortured souls over on the-the ‘Island of Misfit Toys’? They’re all suffering horribly!”

She sighed and shook Her head. “Oh, Stephen, how can you be so blind? Those aren’t tortured souls; those are the souls of people who tortured. Well, most of them, there are other types of sinners; greedy people make up the second largest group.”

“Greedy? Torturers?”

She nodded. “Yes. Do you remember what Marley’s ghost said to Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ concerning his chains?”

“Yeah, he put them on of his own free will.”

“Exactly. Actually, the truth is, greedy souls aren’t in chains, they’re empty.”

“Empty?”

“Yes, they spend their lives finding fulfillment in possessions and money, but that leaves them empty because when they die, what do they take with them?”

“Ah, well, nothing.”

“You go into the world with nothing, you leave with nothing, and if things are all you care about, your soul is left wanting. So, those souls sit on that island and try to amass things to make them feel better, but everything of a material possession leaves them still empty.”

“Wow. So, what happens to them?”

She sighed. “Well, until they let go of their love of mere objects, I can’t help them. Fortunately, most of them eventually do so, but it can take years, even centuries.”

“Poor souls,” Stephen said with a small shake of his head. “And the others?”

“The Givers of Pain? With those, there’s not much I can do for them. Every blow they struck, they did to themselves. Every broken bone, every murder, every drop of innocent blood that cried out to me from the mortal world comes back to them.”

“So, they’re condemned to stay like that forever?” he said, his voice betraying his concern.

“Ah, Stephen, always merciful, even with the wicked. No, redemption is possible, but only if they come to terms with what they’ve done. They must seek the pardon of those they have wronged and in the case of someone like Hitler or Stalin, that’s millions of people. I’m afraid they may suffer in unending agony for millennia, even eons.”

“I wish I could feel even a drop of sympathy for people like that, but I’m not that good a person.”

“It’s not your place to do so, it’s Mine,” God said. “I feel love for all My children, even when I despise their actions. I can share in the joy and love of people like Jesus, Gandhi, Mohammad, Shakespeare and Einstein, and then feel pain and sadness at what Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin and others do.”

“Then why don’t You stop them? Change their minds, give them a heart attack or stroke. Heck, a nice lightning bolt would do wonders for some of the worst scum!”

“Stephen, that’s not how I work, that’s not how the universe works. You’re an engineer; you understand the need for a good solid foundation. When I laid the base for the universe, I gave it one all-encompassing force to control everything from subatomic particles to the motion of galaxies.”

“One? Don’t you mean four?”

God grinned. “To you it’s four; I see only one, My grand unifying law of creation.”

“Wow.”

“Anyway, the universe is like a flowering tree. I ‘watered’ it and tended it, but it’s not like I hovered over it and told this root to grow that way or helped the branches to rise a certain direction. I gave my creation a set of rules and then let it use them. Now, on some worlds that led to three hundred million years of trilobites, on others hyper-intelligent multi-dimensional beings, but the point is that the universe was allowed to grow and evolve on its own.”

“Is that why You created the universe, to… watch things… grow?”

“I created it because I wanted to share the greatest gift of life: life. Eons ago, I came into existence as a single particle, a virtual particle that came out of nowhere into the here, and then I wandered for a while trying to figure Myself out.”

“Oh, like the whale in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’,” Stephen said without think, and then immediately regretted it. “I’m sorry, I’m being silly.”

She smiled. “Quite all right, and actually a very good comparison, because yes, I did feel a lot like that whale. I was trying to sort out who and what I was, and then I felt something that gave My existence purpose. I felt love, the love of life, and when I did, I felt something else: the surge of creation. That’s when I knew what I had to do. I had to create life, and thus the universe was born.”

“So, what’s it all for? I mean, why am I here, why are any of us here?”

“You mean, what’s the meaning of life? Well, it’s not forty-two. One word, Stephen: love. I so loved life that I wanted to share it. I wanted others to love, My children, and I wanted them to know the tremendous joy that comes from loving another person.”

“And love You too, right?”

“Well, I do like that, but it’s not a requirement. After all, if it were, what would that do to free will?”

“I understand,” Stephen said, taking another sip of tea. “So, what happens to me now? What do I do?”

“You have three options,” She replied. “You can stay here in town, and when I say town, I mean ‘town’, as it encompasses all that there is.”

“All?” he squeaked.

“Yes, you could journey across the universe; see worlds beyond your imagination, beings and civilizations unimaginable.”

“Wow,” he gasped.

“That’s what Carl Sagan said. He’s visited bill-yuns and bill-yuns of worlds.”

“Really?” Stephen said, his jaw dropping in shock.

She grinned. “Naw, just kidding with you, I know his fans always get a chuckle out of that one.”

“I should have seen it coming. So, what are my other choices?”

“You can move on, which means going back to earth at a point in time after your death, and leading another life.”

“Reincarnation?”

“Yes. As I said, the purpose of life is to love, and how can you love if you don’t live?”

“I understand. Wait, so what is the third?”

“Ah, now that’s an option I reserve for a select few. You can go back and live your life over.”

His eyebrows shot up. “Go back?!”

“You always said you had many regrets, there were decisions you wish you’d made differently, that you’d ‘turned left’ when you should have gone ‘right’. Well, this is your chance.”

“Really, I can live the same life?”

“Well, not the same, that’s the whole point.”

“If I go back, will I remember my old life?”

“No, not in any detail, only a few fragments as dreams. When people speak of having déjà vu, it’s often because of a past life. Some develop what is known as gifted insight. Remember Jules Verne and his ‘From Earth to the Moon’? How could he be so accurate?”

“Well, but if I don’t remember things, what’s to prevent me making the same bad decisions again?”

“There are no guarantees, Stephen, but it is a chance. Besides, remember the infinite universe theory. There’s nothing to say your life will unfold in exactly the same way the second time. In this life, Kennedy might not be assassinated, the Red Sox could win the '67 World Series, Nixon might decide to burn the tapes, and ‘La La Land’ could really win the Best Picture Oscar.”

“I understand,” he said, nodding.

“But, My child, consider this before choosing: those mistakes that trouble you, are much ado about nothing. Killing the butterfly, knocking your niece down, the schoolyard pranks, and so on, these are minor issues, and none of the people you wronged hold any sort of grudge.”

“That may be, but they trouble me!”

“I know, which is why I make the offer.”

Stephen sat back, took another sip, and bit his knuckle so hard he almost drew blood. He scanned the people gathered before him, and then turned to God.

“Before I decide, will You answer me one question? Where are my parents?”

God smiled. “They went back.”

“What, but why would they do that? My dad had a good life, and my mom had such a tough one: growing up during the war, her health issues. Why, why go through all that again?”

“The gem cannot shine without abrasion nor the kite soar high without a strong opposing wind. Your mother’s adversities are what gave her the strength she needed to endure the hard times and relish the good, but there is yet another reason she went back.”

“What was it?”

“Do you remember that old riddle children would torment adults with? If God can do anything, can He make a stone so big He can’t move it?”

Stephen chuckled. “Oh yeah, I do.”

“Well, there is an answer to it,” God replied. “There are two forces too powerful for even I to break them. One is the bond between mother and child.”

“Just mother and child?”

“Yes. Oh, to be sure, fathers have deep love and connection with their children, but mothers are something special. We are, after all, the givers of life, the crucible within which the child gestates, and there is nothing in all the universe to compare with that. Your mother’s love for you and your brothers was too strong a bond to break, and so she elected to return and know that feeling again.”

“Then I want to go back too!” Stephen said with great firmness.

“That’s it; you’ve decided that quickly, that easily?”

He nodded, blinking back the tears. “Yes, I will never shy away from following my mother wherever she goes. When I was a little boy, I was afraid of the dark. Now, there’s nothing unusual about that; lots of kids have that fear. I swear, some nights, my parents would come home from visiting friends or going to some social event and find just about every light in the house blazing. I tend to think they started hiring the local high school girls to sit with me just because paying them was cheaper than paying that higher electric bill.”

“Yes, quite true,” God said.

“Then, over time, that fear faded, which is also perfectly normal; most kids outgrow it. It was replaced by another fear, fear of ‘The Dark’, oblivion, the darkness that comes when we, as Shakespeare said: ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’.”

“That’s quite the norm; people have been debating, discussing and fearing what comes after your existence since… well, since the first people sat around the first campfire and gazed into the heavens.”

“Right. Well, there was a song that my family and I were rather fond of; it was called: ‘I’ll Follow You into the Dark.’ In it, a man sings to his love, I assume his wife; although, these days, who knows, right? Anyway, he sings that it doesn’t matter if, when she’s gone, Heaven and Hell illuminate the ‘No’ next to their vacancy signs; when it comes his time, he’ll follow her into the dark. That was when I no longer feared ‘The Dark.’ Because, so long as my mother and I are together, there’s nothing for me to fear. It doesn’t matter to me if Heaven and Hell are booked solid, if they’re SRO.”

“SRO?”

“Forgive me; remember, I’m a lifelong theatre person. No, as the song said, I’ll follow her into the dark. I will never fear to tread anyplace my mother goes. Because, you see, anyplace she dwells, there is no darkness. No, the light of her love could illuminate a world!”

God smiled. “Yes, your mother’s love is quite strong.”

“And I would go to any lengths to be with her again, even endure Dante’s Inferno!” Stephen said with great strength.

“You sound very determined, and I can assure you that won’t be necessary.”

“Sorry,” he said sheepishly, then cleared his throat. “It’s just that… well, a man never stops being his mother’s son, and nothing can reduce him to a heartbroken sobbing child like the loss of his mother.”

God slowly nodded. “Yes, so very true. On a million worlds, in a billion different cultures, I’ve seen many rituals that celebrate a boy becoming a man and a girl becoming a woman. However, to each man and woman’s life comes a day when the process is reversed, and he or she is once more a child.”

Stephen blinked very fast. “The day they lose their mother. I thought I would die that day, never in my life had I known such agony.”

“I remember; you prayed to die, you begged for an end to your life.”

“And that prayer went unanswered,” he said.

God shook Her head. “No, Stephen, I did answer it. The answer was no.”

“Guess I should have seen that one coming. Hey, wait a minute; you said there were two things you couldn’t break. What’s the second?”

“You can come in now,” God called out.

A soft jingle filled the air. There was movement behind God, and Stephen felt his heart erupt from his chest. Now he could not hold back the tears. Falling to his knees, he threw open his arms, and wept.

“Figaro,” he wailed.

His faithful old dog, what his dad had described as a sort of compact St. Bernard, bounded into his arms, and covered his face in warm wet kisses. Stephen sobbed, the tears trickling down his cheeks to drip from his chin, and his lungs burned as he howled like a banshee.

“Yes, My child, there is something truly unique about the connection that can take place between a boy and his dog. Or, perhaps I should say a dog and his boy? Figaro has waited patiently for you. Once every eon or two, I create something truly unique, and this time it was that special bond between a boy and a dog.”

“Really?” Stephen choked out.

“Yes. Oh sure, girls and dogs, boys and cats, kids and pets in general share a powerful love, but boy and dog has that little something extra that sets it apart. You know what I mean, Stephen, you spoke about it often enough in those writing classes you gave. When all the right pieces come together in a story, you get not merely a great book, you get a true classic. Call it passion, call it chemistry, the point is that you have something that transcends the normal, and no force in the universe can mar such perfection.”

“Normal,” Stephen whispered, wiping his face. “That reminds me, could I be normal this time?”

God heaved a sigh. “Really, Stephen, normal? What is that?”

“You know what I mean. Is it so much to ask?”

“You were, you are different, that’s all. You dare complain about a little Asperger’s when others overcome so much worse?”

“Is it asking so much to be normal?”

“Stephen, don’t let the opinions of others define you and your life. Remember what Vincent van Gogh said: ‘Normality is a paved road. It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.’ Don’t you want your life to be more than that?”

“Really, he said that?”

God gestured at a nearby table. “He’s sitting right there if you want to ask.”

He looked where She was pointing. Vincent was sharing tea with Carl Sagan and Charlie Chaplin. It seemed the guest list was well chosen to his interests.

He smiled and turned back to Her. “So, when do I leave?”

“There’s no rush,” She said, getting to Her feet. “You have many people here to visit with.”

Everyone rose, including Stephen.

“Please, please sit, everyone,” She added quickly, then turned and held out Her hands to him. “My child, come to me.”

He took Her hands and, although She didn’t say it or even gesture, he knelt. It seemed appropriate.

She smiled. “Our time here is over, I have many others to tend to, but know that I shall always be with you.”

“That is one thing I always knew. Um… how do I… leave?”

“When you’re ready, go down to the harbor, a boat will be waiting for you, the ‘Silvana’. I thought it appropriate.”

He nodded and blinked away fresh tears. “Yes,” was all he could choke out.

“Sail east, toward the new sun, your mother’s voice will guide you. When you hear her heartbeat, your time in this world will be nearly done.”

“Thank you, for everything,” he said softly.

“Good journey, and let Me leave you with these words, they’re an old Apache blessing: ‘May the sun bring you new energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being, may you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.’ Now go, go live a life of love.”

With that, She was gone. Stephen sat there for what seemed like several minutes, Figaro staying right by his side, and then he got to his feet. As time was not an issue, he chatted with everyone from Archimedes to Zero Mostel, and got to pal around with the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers. They played Mexican train dominoes, and he drank some tequila and grapefruit juice, his favorite cocktail. It seemed the bar was well stocked. Much later, after indulging in a good bit of fun in the town, he made his way to the harbor, escorted by Scarlett and her friends.

A little single masted sailboat was waiting.

He tried to leave Figaro there on the dock, but he whined and complained, and would not take ‘no’ for an answer. They sailed out together, Stephen reclining in the cockpit, and Figaro at his side. It wasn’t long before he heard her, and then he truly wept. She was singing one of her old lullabies. It had been so very long since he’d heard her voice. Well, other than home videos and those were flat and lifeless. This was her living voice and Stephen couldn’t contain himself, he did more than merely cry, he wailed as a small child with a minor boo-boo would for its mother. Figaro moved closer to comfort him.

Stephen hugged him. “It’s nothing, Figaro, these are tears of joy.”

A moment later, he heard it, her heartbeat, and a curious calm settled over him. The wind was strong, the sea gentle, and the sunlight soft on his face. The light grew stronger and brighter, and yet didn’t hurt. He felt himself drifting away and knew he was approaching the transition. What did his new life hold? Would he live a better one this time? Right now, he didn’t care. He was going home to be with those who loved him, and love was the only important thing in life.

What more could any man ask for?

Click here to read  The City of Mystery -- part one of this three part series.
Click here to read The Island & Tea Party -- part two of a three part series

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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