Friday, May 31, 2013

Time Wars - Story 2

""So, what if we're doing a time jump, and we jump back to Ancient Greece, how old am I— really?"  Rick asked Omega, who was skipping rocks across the small pond.  "Am  I minus 2500 years old, and  fifteen years to the good?"

"Time could turn cartwheels all the way around you, and you still would be you.  Time could blend ever so carefully with space, spread out over a hundred million millennia, and you would still be you.  Time could stop entirely, not unheard of, and start off in another direction entirely, sort of a surprise,  and you still would be you,"  Omega said.

"So," Tim said.  "I wanna be a kid forever.  Will I get to be 80 years old and still be a goofy kid?"

"Actually, Alpha made your brain elastic and expansive, which means that as you learn new, interesting stuff, your brain cells grow and expand."  Omega explained.  "There are even little bitty parts, incredibly powerful parts, that can sense the sacred.  You know when something wonderful is happening. You are wired for Alpha.

 "Outside of that, your brain just learns naturally.  It can't help itself.  And unless something happens to your brain like Alzheimers, it will learn effectively until you die. And, I'm guessing here, because I haven't died yet, I think you continue to learn and continue to work, play, and feel, continue to be you.  You'll still be you, only smarter.  Way smarter actually.  Alpha is like that.  You won't believe how unbelievable smart he is and what odd stuff he knows."

"How do you know that stuff?" Larry was dubious.

"A lot of it is just plain old learning," Omega said.  "I read a lot of science.  Some of it is putting two and two together, and getting four."

"Or eight and a half?" Larry joked.

"I just know you are always just gonna be you,"  Omega said.  "There's a lot of stuff I don't know, might not ever know.  And some stuff I'm just figuring out.  And a few things I'm very, very sure of."

"So, are you sure of me?"  Larry asked.

"And me?"  John-John said.

"Me?"  Petey said.

"You're still  the mystery, Larry; of course, John-John; and  maybe, Petey is still work in progress."  Omega smiled.  "We're find out a lot just living here on earth, in this time and in this place."

"What about being in another time and another place?"  Larry asked, the teentiest bit impudent.

"We could do that. Wanna go?"  Omega had a sly grin, and it looked as if he had the confidence and the where-with-all to pull it off."


Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Cloud That Ate The Night

The sky was inky black, no light from the stars to light their way.  Omega, the kids, Petey and John-John were traveling by Braille, feeling their way along.  Once in a while a lightning strike would light the night enough to see a few shallow steps.  But the lightning was getting closer, the blows were more powerful by the moment and those rattled the mountain.  They were nearing the top of peak, and there were boulders, drop offs, and whacked-out trees, oddly-shaped by the unrelenting winds.  The trees were smaller and bent over toward the West.   The electricity in the air smelt of burning wires and left a strong taste on the tongue.  It felt like the storm was fixin'  to kill them.

BAM!  The next hit was close to their feet, and the hair on their arms felt singed.

Then there was another.

And another.

Everything was burned  Their eyebrows that were half gone.  The small plants that could survive at the arctic levels were no good with heat and electricity.  They were fried.  The ground beneath them vibrated.

The massive black cloud was gathering power and mass, eating the slivers of light alive.  The lightning strikes were closer together, the immense thunder rattles left them shaking.  A last massive blast knocked Larry over and burned the toes off of his tennies.  The resulting  thunder clapper threatened to topple boulders.

Omega stood up, honestly, he looked more like he was eight, maybe ten feet tall, rather than the easy- going 5 foot ten. The cloud billowed around him and kicked up the winds, already fierce.  He held his hands up and caught the next strike, leaned as far back as he could hurled the lightning bolt back into the cloud. Petey and John-John stood behind him.  "Hee-bee, jee-bees." Petey said. "I got 'em bad."

Cheryl is having none-of-it.   "That stuff is crap," she yells.  "It's not getting at my friends and my guy.  Nothing is gonna happen to them."  She shrieks, "Go where the sun never shines."

Omega grabs the huge lightning bolts, one after the next, after the next.  He's so fast the kids can barely follow the action.  He sends the bolts back at the cloud, faster and faster, until he grabs the last massive one, streaking across the night sky faster and faster,  lighting up three states, and he hurls it back into the dark.

Omega stands square in the face of danger, and in a voice so big and so brave that the ground quivers.  He proclaims this, "Burn What Must Be Burned, Preserve That Which Must Be Preserved."

A huge cracking sounded like Heaven snapped shut, or maybe Hell did.  The clouds roiled and writhed.  Then the sound of the wind screamed into an eardrum-exploding crescendo. An immense mushroom cloud formed at the top of the mountain, and stuck as close as a secret smile, while a giant glowing corona formed around the clouds, looking like a cosmic explosion that could not be contained.

Then silence,  And a dispersal and a weakening of the clouds.   The kids stood up and watched the stars appear, one by one, and  the clouds disappear.  A lovely sweet peace covered the top of the mountain; and the sound of the meadowlark welcomed the first tendrils of dawn.

Two men, both Native Americans, slumped against the boulders, although they looked different from the ragtag men the kids had seen earlier in the evening.   "You guys, the same guys?"  John-John asked.

"Yeah,"  they said, rousing themselves.  The older man was younger, with the long silky hair of a healthy, young brave and said, "Our dads got caught up in shape-shifter stuff a generation ago.  It got ahold of us too."

"We just just got caught up in smoething evil, and were trapped," the younger man said.  He was a stunningly beautiful young man.  

"Once you understand the inner workings of evil,"  Julie explained.  "You never want to stay there.  You ache to leave."

"We'll get you home.  Seems like we're always getting somebody home who has been lost for awhile."  Omega said.  They begin to limp down the mountain.

"But why did they take out after me?"  Larry is still scared, realizing what  power was out to get him.

"For I am tender and plump, and good with ketsup?"  Larry had read that someplace.

 Omega nodded, rubbing the palms of his hands, checking for burns. "Because you were the genuinely good guy, you haven't had enough time in your young life to do anything really bad.  You don't even do naughty things."

"My dad would kill me," Larry said.

"My dad won't.  But after he gets through talking to you. . .    Those were looking for innocent blood of the human heart.  It's the thing that is of utmost worth in our wild world.  The thing worth dying for."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What The Dark Sees

The trail got . . .  weird.  The kids and the kingpins crawled hand over fist along uneven and irregular patches of treacherous rocks that littered over a half mile of the trail.  Sometimes the trail disappeared into swirling waters and wandering creeks, only to emerge a mile later.  They took a lot of the trek on faith, faith that they would make it, faith that they would get where they needed to go, faith that they would not  pitch themselves off a cliff in the dark.

Turned out there were plenty of cliffs,  plenty of thousand-foot drop offs, plenty of twisty turns and walking through shadows.  Just when they thought they were safe, they weren't.

Scarlet mountain was a mountain of granite and you wouldn't think it was be a magnet for thunder and lightning storms.  But storms haunted the peaks and slipped down the sides of the mountain, reenergized somehow and popped back up, even more powerful, even more devastating than before.  It was very loud, loud, enough to hurt their ears, and the closer to the top they got, the more continuous the thunder became, the closer the lightning strikes occurred.  It was a bad place, where bad things gathered to do their worst.

A horrendous black cloud, that spiked lightning every other second, filled the night sky and blocked the light of the stars.  Then the black cloud began to  form shapes, massive, thick shapes that begrudged light and life.  They looked like snapping turtles, wild wolves, black bears, a dense, dark cloud with the processes of thought.

Then the sky exploded into a hundred thousand pieces of light; a lightning strike hit a immense, barren, pine tree a hundred feet high, shattering it into splinters and shards of wood.  It was hot enough to set the resins inside the wood afire,  sparks fluttering skyward.

"Fear not," Omega said.

"Why not?"  Petey shouted.

"Cause that was me,"  Omega muttered.  "Something got away from me.  I'm not sure what, but
I'm thinking that power was mine."

"Couldn't ya be a little more careful?  That coulda been me!"  Tim was having a fit, turning in circles, and sputtering.  "Calm down, Tim," Julie said.  And he did.

But the cloud had stopped roiling, frozen in place.  It was waiting.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Scarlet Mountain Is Fire

Slow going.  Omega, Petey, and John-John, and the six kids were headed up Scarlet Mountain, in the dark, in a storm, following a slim-to-nothing path.

"Stay on the path," Petey chided.  "I think Scarlet Mountain is volcanic, and the reason we can't see very well is all the steam in the dark.  The trail is safe enough, but the minute you get off track, you are in peril."

Even the rocks seem on fire.  There are vents in the rocks and the outcroppings, where steam is escaping.  In places, it looks like the mountain itself is on fire, with bright, hot magna just out of reach.  Scary.  Steamy.  Difficult.

It's not going to get any easier any time soon.

They stop for a minute, perch on boulders.  "Got any more commandments?"  John-John asks.

"Well, I like the old ones," Larry said.  "And my folks are great.  I  love them.  So. . .  honor your mom and pop."

"That's a keeper," Omega said.  "My mom and dad are. . .  Well, they are my mom and dad, and I'd best pay attention."

"Here's one that works for me,"  Cheryl said.  "Do the best you can with what you've got when you've got it.  I don't always have a lot of money or even a lot of time.  I like to do a good job, so I'm careful which means I'm a little slower."

"I know what you mean,"  Petey said.  "I always get into trouble because of my sassy self.  If I just slowed down and took a little care, I'd get a lot more right, a lot more of the time.  I wanna keep that one too."

"I don't think you oughta be cheatin' in school,"  Rick said.

"Is there something that's opposite that's something you should do, rather than something you shouldn't do?"  John-John asked.

"Yeah," Rick said.  "Learn like mad.  Work like mad.  Then good stuff like better grades come our way."

The mountain shook and fierce winds started to whip around their heads.  They hunkered down and tried to stay close to the rocks, which were warmer and had patches where the wind couldn't reach them.

"I got another commandment," Petey said.  "You need to be following Omega around.  Things turn out to be really, really interesting.  And you feel like your life is important.  Not every kid gets that."

"How do you make that happen?"  Tim asked.

"Yeah,"  Omega asked.  "How do you?"

"You make friends with Omega.  Trust a little bit.  Explore a little bit.  Find other kids who know the drill.  But basically, you just make friends."  John-John said.

"Yeah, but how do you do that?" Larry asked.  "I mean, I'm just sitting here asking."

"You talk to him,"  Tim explained.  "You either just talk to him, here while you see him.  And talk to him in your mind when you don't."

Omega laughed.  "I've got several extra sets of sensory neuroloies, just so I can pick up on it.  You can trust it."

"Yeah, but what if I'm sad or mad, or cranky or miserable, or puzzled or pretty sure I'm right?"  Larry asked.  "I am right.  Most of the time, anyway"

"Best be your own most honest self.  You can be all of those things, you can be all of those things at once, you can be a blank slate.  Just be who you are,"  John-John explained.

"Well, I guess I can do that,"  Larry breathed out the words.

"I don't think you should be killing anybody,"  Julie said.  "Yeah," Tim agreed.  He was thinking  that Julie was one smart cookie and that he should hang around a little more.

"I know, I know, but what about people like Bin Laden or that guy Duncan,  in Idaho who killed a family and tortured the kids, for months, or that kid in Newtown, who shot all those first graders,"  Larry said.  "I hate those guys.  Shouldn't be killing no little kids, or running planes into buildings where people work, or torturing a family.  Just shouldn't be doing that."

"Well, they got Bin Laden, and everybody was relieved that he couldn't kill anybody else, but nobody felt great about it,"  Omega said.  "A trial would have been a mess.  Prison. . .  Not safe, at any level, at any time.  Sometimes, because earth can be so dang hard, with so many really puzzling questions, there's not a good answer to be had.  Alpha, my dad, has the answers, but he doesn't always tell.

"You just have to keep  climbing the mountain, even when it's dark, even when it's hard, even when it's scary, and even when you can't see your way."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Up One Side of Scarlet Mountain

The kids had trekked across the vast desert all day, found an abandoned orchard and ate sour apples until they couldn't move.  The fruit was so wild and untended that it made for really unsettled tummies, and they kept sneaking off behind the brushes.

They were not a merry band of teens.  Larry complained every thirty seconds, Rick just got really grim and pushed ahead regardless.  Suzie followed him.   She trusted him to get the two of them through this, but she wasn't sure it was going to work or how.

Cheryl and Julie chatted the whole time, oblivious to hunger or pain.  And Tim brought up the rear with Omega and Petey and John-John.

Tim was saying, "Why are we headed to Scarlet Mountain?"

Omega explained, "Mountains are sacred places.  Lots of mysterious things happen there.  Besides, that's where we're going to find out why they are after Larry.  If we don't solve it,  Larry will have very bad things on his tail the whole rest of his miserable life.  The Native American people know this about mountains—and what lives up there—better than most.  They don't have churches to worship in or an Arc, like our great, great, grand grandfathers, so they head to the high, windy, remote places and listen to the Great Spirit."   

"Is that God?"  Petey asked.   

"It is,  God in a form that makes sense to them." Omega said.

They turned to the red mountain range, glowing in the dusk.  The wind cooled off and they kept moving.

"I think there oughta be a 10  commandments for kids," Tim said.  "We can get into all kinds of trouble.  Excuse me, we get into all kinds of trouble."

"What do you think they should be?"  Omega asked.

"I think that kids should be nice to each other," Larry said.  "I don't like anybody picking on me.  Or anybody else, no matter how weird they are."

"I don't have a problem with that,"  Omega said.

"We think you should love God,"  Cheryl said and Julie nodded.  "Pretty easy to get lost if you don't have somebody good to think about and to follow around,"  Cheryl explained.  "And you feel plum ugly if you are so darn lost you can't find a leg to stand on.  Good to know you belong somewhere, to somebody bigger than yourself,"  Julie said.  "I hate being by myself."

"That's a good one,"  John-John said.

"I don't think you should lie to girls to have sex,"  John-John said.  "I don't want anybody lying to Suzie or Cheryl or Julie and pretending to like them just to have some touchie-feelies."

"Boys lie to girls?"  Petey was smirking. 

"I don't like it; girls shouldn't be lying to boys either."  Suzie said.  "You gals?"  

Cheryl and Julie nodded, "Lots of bad things can happen.  You can stop smirking, Petey.  Being lied to is dismal, makes you feel like you don't even have enough worth to get the straight truth."

"It's those things that sets off the neon lights of the heart."  Omega said.  "The things that make me really, really mad is when you intentionally, knowingly set out to hurt people.  Girls. Boys.   Old folks.  Gay kids.  Your parents.  Your teachers.  Your coaches.  Bad, bad, bad."

"Stay out of other people's stuff.  Leave it alone," Larry said.  "Get your own stuff.  Best if you work, that's what my dad says, anyways.  Don't even want other people's gear."

"And I think you gotta take care of your body and your brain,"  Rick said.  "Stay off drugs,  weed, and booze, 'cause you can really mess up bad.  Knock off too much sugar and too much fat.   Eat your veggies and run some miles.  Dance when the music moves you."

"Those are smart, brilliant, actually."Omega said as he shaded his eyes against the setting sun.  "Be the love; do the work.  You're gonna need it when we head up Scarlet Mountain.  It gets tricky up there."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Neon Lights of the Heart

Larry was sweating and shaky.  He kept trying to ask why they were after him, but all he could get out of his mouth was "Wha?"  "Why?"  "Who?"  It was just too close a call—with a whole big bunch of unexplainables.

Petey said, "Slow down, buddy.  Take a deep breath."

John-John said, "It's over, little brother."

"Easy for you.  They weren't swoopin' you,"  Larry was still breathing hard.

"What you ever thought bad thoughts about other kids?"  Omega asked.

"You mean like the time Larry wished that Graham would fall off his bike and break his leg . . . and he did?"  Cheryl asked, giving Larry a threatening look that suggested Larry ought to be tellin' the truth.

"Yep, did that."  Larry fessed up fast.

"You mean like the time I saved the last piece of coconut cream pie, and you said you gave it away to poor people,"  Tim said.

Larry said.  "Took it home and ate it at half time of a football game.  Real good, too."

"Or the time you skipped church on Wednesday to go to the horse races and you lost a lot of money.  And had to lie to Cheryl about it,"  Rick said.

"Remember that one all too well."

"Well, that's not enough to make me mad.  You are still in the forgivable and lovable range,"  Omega said.

"What do I have to do to be outside of the forgivable and lovable range?"  Tim asked.

"You're not there yet,"  said Omega.  "I'll let you know,  in neon lights of the heart."

"But it is enough for bad things to find you and make your life miserable,"  Petey said.  "Maybe that's happened already.

"How do I get away from that?"  Larry whispered and tried to stand up on legs that had lost all their feeling, except for those tingles that come from poor circulation.  He was wobbly and headed every direction at once,  like he was dizzy and had crazy legs.

"Gotta tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Best not to lie to God.  Ever,"  Omega said.  "People get into big trouble lying to themselves and even bigger trouble when they lie to God.  You can only be sane and healthy, strong and happy, if you get a grip.  You change big, bad stuff when you admit it up front and tell yourself the truth about how much it hurts you and hurts other people. Then you gotta tell me and God too."

"There's some really bad stuff out there, Larry," Petey said.  "And apparently, it's following you, chasing you."

"Tell me about it,"  Larry said.

Monday, May 6, 2013

In the Poof Of A Moment

The screaming came in from the north, like the scream of  a jet plane at take-off or the sound of an animal caught in fear.  The kids ducked down behind the boards, and Omega leaped over a pile of rubble to protect Larry, who was staring at the sound, gaping in unbelief.

Riding in on the long light of  lightning in black clouds were the black wolf and the snapping turtle.  They are different again though, enlarged to the size of black wishes and naughty thoughts that can take over a very good brain.  The wolf and the turtle were sniffing, peering, listening, the kids figured, after them.  They froze in place.  Omega put his hand over Larry's mouth, because Larry was  wanting to call the play-by-play, really loud and really fast.  He had to be quiet, and that was the thing he could not do.  He was just too scared.

Then the shape-shifters shape-shifted once again.  There was a horrendous, walloping bang, as the lightning hit the dirt beside the kids, and the thunder was instantaneously booming.  Their ears hurt.
Their eyes were burning.  Their throats were dry and they couldn't speak.

The wolf and the turtle grew larger by the milli-second and took over the entire sky; then, then, they enlarged themselves again, and became a thrashing, raving bear who with cool intent, threatened to eat them alive.  The turtle became a shark, a ravenous, eager eater of living things.

Then they vanished, in the poof of a moment.  It was quiet as a tomb.

"They'll be back,"  John-John said.

"They were smaller at the bon fire," said Larry.  "That's what chased me away.  I was scared in six directions at once."

"For good reason," Omega said.  "Your instincts were right, and profoundly right.  We need to find a way to release the good guys that got caught by bad things, and send the bad things packing."

"Somewhere they can do no harm," Petey said.  "And we can get home safe."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Where Heaven Might Be

They left the abandoned saloon, slipping out the side doors, sticking quietly to the shadows as the day got hot and tracking Larry turned cold.  It wasn't that they could find boot tracks; there were thousands, some of them looked a hundred years old.  And if the wind picked up, the tracks vanished entirely.

The kids had eaten through the candy bars, the energy bars, the donuts, the peanuts, the ham sandwiches, apples and the bananas, and the little cherry hand pies.   In fact, they were down to the crumbs and losing steam fast.  Their moods were as dismal as their stomachs were hungry.  They stopped to rest against an old shed, in a backyard.  People said down in the shade, Omega sat down on a stack of lumber.

"So if God  provides for everything, why am I so hungry?   Why is anybody hungry?"  Tim the not-so-very-shy kid asked.

"I think . . ." Petey explained.  "That it's about taking care of everybody.  Everybody is supposed to take care of everybody.  We're all supposed to be a family, maybe a community."

"Does that extend to chocolate-covered peanut butter munchies? 'Cause you know,  I could use one right now,"  Cheryl said.

"I want an caramel and pecan energy bar,"  Rick said.  "And a soda. Then I might need another one. Where do I put in my order?"

"I'm gonna pray to heaven, high, high, high up into heaven for some carmeled apples and then some  ham sandiwiches,"  Julie said.  "See how that works."

"You don't have to go that far,"  Omega said.

"How far do I have to go, for my prayers to work?"

"As close as your heart beat; as close as your breath." Omega said.  "People used to think that heaven was far, far away, and invisible for lots of people, hopelessly impossible to reach.  But God made heaven and earth at the same time. In  heaven, everybody loves God 'cause they can see Him and feel Him and it is wonderful.  He's really, really close."

John-John said, "And on earth, people got the gift of free will.  They could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.  They didn't have to love God.  So lots of people don't.  It's not so much like heaven, although it's got it's beautiful moments."

"I can tell you what hell is to me,"  Petey was very loud and very boisterous at that moment.

"What is it?" Tim asked.

"It's people with bad intentions left to their own devices, their own thoughts, their own actions.  It's awful.  It's hell.  Lots of bad feelings, lots of bad, sad outcomes. Never any happiness.  Never any understanding, never any love.  Nobody is a friend, can be a friend, 'cause all they can think about is themselves, maybe a little bit of sex, maybe a whole lotta money."  Petey was quieter now,  more thoughtful.

"So God is very close, actually he's here now."  Omega stood up.  "You can't see him because he's in another dimension.  The physicists think there are many, many dimensions.  Some of the dimensions are no bigger than a quark; some of them can have multiple universes, bigger than the one you are in now, one of the biggest ones is heaven.  That's the one God is in, and sometimes he slips over into our dimensions. Especially when people do great things, do loving things.   You can actually feel him.  It feels sacred.  It feels generous.  It feels beautiful.  And it feels like love."

"I feel like that around new babies and little kids,"  said Cheryl

"I feel like that when I'm on a long, run, and suddenly the adrenaline kicks in and I feel like I could run forever,"  Rick said.

"I feel like that when I'm outside at night and all the stars seem huge and very, very close,"  Tim said.

"I feel like that when my mom makes a banana cream pie,"  Julie said,  "and that makes Tim very, very happy."

"Makes me happy too, Julie.  It feels like a mama's love." Omega said.

"Makes me happy too,"  Larry said, popping up behind some old boards, leaning against the shed.  "Thought you guys would never get here,"