Why I am an Agnostic

agnostic-cemetaryIt is my experience that most people in the U.S. are born and raised to some degree already walking on some religious path.  My parents raised me completely without religion in my life.  There, therefore, is no path that has been laid down as a suggestion for me to follow.

Instead, when I became curious about religion, I was faced with hundreds of different paths to choose from.  How could I possible choose?  I could only measure the merits of each against the only accurate map that I knew of: science.  Under this criteria, all of them failed.  I’ve been forced to make my own way through the woods ever since.

I call myself a militant agnostic not because I’m willing to go out and kill for my lack of beliefs.  Many people consider agnostics to be kinda wishy-washy about their beliefs.  I am not.  I am a firmly committed agnostic, and I strongly believe that being agnostic is exactly where where I belong on the theistic spectrum.  Science cannot disprove God’s existence.  God Himself could very easily prove His existence beyond virtually all possible doubt.  As He hasn’t done this, I can only assume that it’s either because He doesn’t exist, or that He has good reasons for wanting us to believe He doesn’t exist.

Unlike many agnostics, I am not just uncertain about the God of Abraham, I am also uncertain about just about any other God you could name.  To be quite honest, in fact, I’m quite atheistic as far as the God of Abraham is concerned.  Not only is the bible quite flawed, the God in that Bible does not behave even remotely like how I’d expect a non-insane God to behave.

No, the God I’m uncertain of would be a far more sane and reasonable God.  My God would have control over the entire universe and be far less obsessed with this little rock we live on.  My God could kick the God of Abraham’s ass through several unlikely dimensions.

The God I don’t know if exists is a God of my own deduction and thoughts.  I will talk about Him as a concept, but I will in no way try to push him down anyone else’s throat.

At times, I will talk like an Atheist.  I fully understand and sympathize with the atheist point of view.  I just can’t quite make that final step.

First of all, I spent so much time playing with the concept of God, and running through various plausible Gods that fit in with our current knowledge of the universe that for me to choose atheism would entail my acceptance of a “belief” that there is no god.  Most atheists profess that belief is not necessary from their point of view as they see no evidence for God’s existence.  This is fine, and absolutely true.  There IS absolutely no evidence for God’s existence.  It still would not feel intellectually honest for me to choose this path.

What’s more, I enjoy thinking about God.  He’s fun.  I kinda enjoy imagining the limitations that an omniscient, all powerful MUST have, despite the fundamentalist viewpoint that there are no limitations.  I enjoy putting God through God simulations in my brain and try to guess how He would come out as a result.

I will admit to some predjudices.  I’ve grown up in western culture, and I’ve got a western bent.  I call this being “God” for example, instead of Allah.  I refer to God as He even though God would almost certainly be genderless if God exists at all.  I do this because the original translations of the Bible had God as a male, and English has a profound lack of non-gender specific third person pronouns.  I have more respect for God than to call Him an It.  It just lacks class, you know?  So if there are any women who have a problem with this, then I leave it to you to come up with a proper non-gender specific third person pronoun for me to use.  Otherwise, I’ll stick with tradition, thank you very much.

I also capitalize the word God and the He, His, Him pronouns because it’s in the rules of proper English, and plus again it just feels more respectful when dealing with the possible creator of the entire f’ing universe.  The concept of a God who has managed to create something this big and complex deserves a capital letter, whether He exists or not.

There are times when I will talk as if I don’t believe God exists.  There are times when I will preach quite vehimently as if He DOES exist.  I am not being disingenuous.  It’s just that I am capable of holding both thoughts in my mind.  Call it doublethink.  It’s my brain, and I can maintain two contradictory thoughts in it at the same time if I want to.  😛

Others may ask me, “What if I’m wrong, and God will send me to Hell for doubting?”  Well, my answer to them would be that then either we would ALL be screwed, or we have nothing at all to worry about.  There are, by last count, an infinite number of potential mutually exclusive jealous Gods out there.  Even if I follow just the God of Abraham, then there are at least three major paths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) that could get me flaming if I choose the wrong one.  Within Christianity, the are literally hundred’s of sub-variations of God that promise damnation unless I follow their particular set of beliefs.  There is certainly no safety in belief.

And, if the unproven God is NOT jealous, then I think He will forgive me for doubting.  I’ve lived a reasonable good life.  I’ve helped a lot of people.  I’ve given to charities and gave large tips to my waitresses.  The degree to which I am mentally unsound is not my fault.  I was born that way, and I am doing my darnedest to get past it all.  I am as I was created.  I am very hopeful that any reasonable God would see that.

So, that’s about it.  The atheist really shouldn’t care what I think so long as I don’t try to force my beliefs onto anyone else…no worries there.  The theist, well, they will think what they will think.  I am automatically condemned to eternal torture according to some of their beliefs.  Well, I really don’t like the sound of that, and I’m fully willing to jump into the arms of Jesus if He is waiting there after the truck squishes me.  I’ll just cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Of Cabbages and Kings: Chapter 1 – Statue

This chapter was a very difficult one for me.  It’s undergone several dozen revisions.  So much happens here that the rest of the book rests upon, and yet the reader can know almost none of it at this point. The reader, however, must be drawn into the story.  So, I had to know the entire story, including many of the more minor parts, before I could put this chapter together.

This opening is far, far different from the one in my first version of the book.

Some of you may note that the opening paragraph here is similar to the one used in the Dawn of Manhood.  This opening was written first.  I didn’t want to work TOO hard on the dawn of manhood, so I borrowed some of the imagery.  I plagiarized myself, so to speak.  No lawsuits are pending.  😉


Chapter 1 – Statue

The man was just a silhouette, kneeling in the parking lot, face skyward, his figure backlit by distant street lamps and the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles and the glow of the building burning behind him.

The air was thick with a mixture of mist and smoke, the smell being the smell of burning plastics and sulfuric chemicals.  The man was well away from the fire, and the police and military units had not yet even begun to search in his direction.  They had far more important things to worry about.

There were others in the lot though; non-police, non-military others.  They shouted back and forth at each other through the mist, their voices somewhat frantic and confused.

A beam of light fell briefly on the silhouetted man and darted away.  After a moment it snapped back.  The light did almost nothing to illuminate that man, as the man’s clothing reflected less than the damp parking lot around him.  He seemed to absorb the light like a void, as if he were an absence of being–a non-entity, rather than a presence.

More shouts…more confusion…a brief discussion, and then the sound of clicking heals could be heard…at first barely discernible above the more distant din, but gradually overpowering it with their hypnotic rhythm.

Three figures appeared through the mist.  Two were clearly very large men; the other was a much smaller, slighter, and more feminine shape.

The three argued for a bit.  The men seemed to be of one mind, the woman saying something different all together.  A compromise was reached.  The woman began to walk and unexpectedly a loud metallic clanking sound could be heard.  Three flashlights immediately turned in surprise to the woman’s feet.  There on the pavement lay a large, shiny, silver metal sword.  There were shocked and awed exclamations.  The woman paused a moment, and then continued on her path toward the silhouetted man.  The other two followed behind her, carefully stepping over the sword.

Finally, the woman stopped moving, standing perhaps five feet away, directly in front of her objective.  She was neatly dressed in a dark raincoat, her hair, clearly usually permed, was wild and flattened to her head.  She stood there for perhaps a minute, both composing herself and allowing the figure time to note her presence.  She finally knelt down herself, facing him, her hands clasped as if in prayer.  Her eyes, however, bore directly into the kneeling man, as if she were seeking to find the soul within.

The man remained apparently oblivious.  His eyes stared unseeing into the sky, not even blinking as the raindrops fell into them and trickled down his face.


The woman’s voice sounded muffled and dead in the rain and fog.  The man did not respond.

“Alex?  It’s me, Sandra.  Can you hear me?”

The man made no movement, no twitch, no hint of awareness.  A steam seemed to rise from his body.  Sandra looked at him more closely in the dim light.  His shirt bore a peculiar mark across the front.  It took a few moments for her to realize what it was.

“Alex?  Have you been hurt?  Is that a cut across your chest?  Please help me Alex.  What happened?  Where is Alphonsus?”

The mark was clearly a cut in his shirt, split from his upper left shoulder down to his lower right waist.  In the chest area, she could see a darkness that had spread.  Blood?  What else could it be?  How deeply did the cut penetrate?

Alex still showed no sign of awareness.  Sandra could see his chest moving slightly, indicating breath and therefore life.  But no other sign of life was in anyway apparent.

Uncharacteristically, Sandra felt a surge of panic.  She looked through the darkness for her companions.  She could not see them, but her search was enough.  They immediately moved in to help.

Past the point of no return, as they flanked him on either side and reached to take his arms, she realized that she just had made a major mistake.


The man stared upward, his eyes not blinking even as the drops of rain fell into his eyeballs.  He felt the pain across his chest, but it was distant.  The pain in his soul was far greater, but he kept it even more remote.  So intense was this pain that he could allow no feelings to enter, no thoughts to process.  His mind was frozen, containing his emotions with such furious determination that the mind had neither room nor time to do anything else.  Sound meant nothing, nor cold, nor wet, nor physical pain.

He would stay in this state indefinitely, but the balance was delicate, and with the slightest disturbance, he would lose it.

When he felt a touch against his arms, white-hot rage blasted apart the frozen barrier containing his soul, and, suddenly, the world screamed in.

He sensed the two bodies on either side of him, and another presence in the distance.  Fear.  Both of his hands jerked with incredible speed, grabbing the arms near him at the elbows.  He thrust his legs downward with all of their strength, using the arms to help propel him upward while pulling them inward.  The movement felt like it took forever for him, but in reality it all happened in less than a tenth of second.  As he stood and pulled the arms attached to the now unbalanced bodies inward, his shoulders eventually met the jaws of the two men.  He didn’t hit them squarely, as he would have preferred.  He instead met each jaw halfway.  The momentum at which he hit them was, however, considerable.  He could hear the bones break as he made contact.

He reached the standing position, and, having spent all of his energy on his upward thrust, he realized he had none left to take care of the third figure before him.  Angrily, he pushed his arms against the now unconscious bodies of the people standing next to him.  Based only on his arm strength against their collapsing mass, he could not gain great momentum that way, but at least it would be enough to reach the other figure.  He twisted his feet at the last moment as he left the ground, so that as a spinning target he might be slightly harder to hit with a bullet.

The figure before him was smaller, the eyes seemed wide.  He subconsciously checked for any weapons.  Nothing he could detect, nothing pointing at him anyway.  That meant very little, however.  The only safe thing to do would be to end the figure’s life as quickly as possible.

A small part of him registered that something was going wrong here.  The other figure wasn’t reacting properly.  Exactly why, he couldn’t figure out.

He fell onto the other person.  Had he been able to carry sufficient momentum with him, this would have been enough to finish him.  He would have used his momentum to drive the other person’s cranium into the pavement.  As it was, he would have to do it by hand, and that would waste several moments, and give the other person a chance to stab.

His hand grabbed the face as he fell on the body (female).  Awkward position…he pistonned his feet forward another foot … more wasted time.  Now the angle was right.  He just had to push the head into the pavement.

He could see the terrified eyes between his fingers.  They looked familiar.

He paused.

“Sandra?” he grunted in question.

He didn’t need to wait for a response, not that the young woman would have been capable of one.  He pushed himself off her and felt himself falling backward.

“No no no no no no no no no…” he chanted emptily.

The woman recovered herself and stood up.


“Char is dead Char is dead Char is dead…” he intoned.

“Alex.  Charlene is NOT dead.  She’s in the car.   She’s going to be ok.  Where is Dr. Luke?”

The man started crying.

“The goat must be sacrificed that all may live.  I am the angel of death.  I delivered him no mercy for I delivered him.”

“Alex, what do you mean?  Where is Dr. Luke?”

“Sacrificial goat.  Eternal hellfire.  No mercy for any of us.”

“Alex!  Please!  Help us!”

“Eternal hellfire so that all may live,” he started sobbing again.


The man sobbed inconsolably now, laying sprawled on the ground, his arms flayed outward at right angles.  The barrier of ice was broken, the explosion of rage had been uselessly wasted against innocents, and thus there was nothing left to stop the flood of remorse from overwhelming his mind and drowning all else that he was.

“I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

And so he repeated, sobbing, at first loudly, and then diminishing to a mumble.  He could hear voices yelling far away…

i’m okay…ambulance…he’s not going…another body…jesus

But the remorse was too intense to be allowed.  The barrier of ice slowly rebuilt itself.  Time passed.  His words faded to nothing.  His sobbing stopped.  He vaguely felt himself being lain back and bound, a poke, and he felt his eyes being closed.  Then the wall of ice was complete, and he felt nothing else.


I’m cheating on this one.

Wren requested that I write a story about a seed.  It just so happens that I had one sitting in my great library of unpublished works.  It is not, I am quite sure, at all what she expected.  Yes, it deals with seeds and gardens, but only as analogies.

This story, as might be guessed from the title, deals with religious issues.  Most particularly, it was an attempt to answer the question of why God would let so much evil occur in the world.  It also comes up with viable reasons behind God’s behaviors in the Bible without pulling out the “mysterious ways” doctrine.  It is one of the few stories that I tried to get published, alas unsuccessfully.

All this in about 2000 words.  Sounds like a good deal to me.  🙂



Before the time of the Creation, there was God.

And God was the All.  And God was the Only.

He existed.  Not much else could be said.  Before the Creation, there was no firmament.  There was no Garden.  There was no Seed.  There was God.  And God was the All, and God was the Only.

And God looked about Him, and saw Himself, and nothing else.

And yet, while God did not know expectation, He felt a sense lack of satisfaction and fulfillment.

And God saw the lack, and said that it was not good.

And, verily, God was the Bored.

Yet God did not know it as boredom.  And yet it could only be described as boredom.  Boredom implies expectation–a suggestion that perhaps things could be different.  This was a concept did not–could not–exist.  God was the All.  God was the Only.  So God expected nothing.

Yet, verily, it was a boredom that existed on an unimaginable scale.  It existed on a scale beyond that which could be understood by humanity.

And God was All-Powerful.  But God was the Only.  There was nothing around to be all-powerful with.  So, being All-Powerful was kind of pointless.

And God was All-Knowing.  But God was the All, and there existed nothing else.  So God was All-Knowing only about God.  And God knew only Himself, and to Himself, He was obvious.  So, being All-Knowing was kind of useless.

And God had existed forever, in a time before time had been invented.

And God was immortal, and would thus exist forevermore in the same state of dissatisfaction.

And, lo, the Boredom became Great.  And, verily, the Great Boredom pressed upon His holy presence.  And, not knowing expectation, it appeared certain that the Great Boredom, too, would exist forevermore.

And God felt that this was not good.

And, thus, it came to pass that God became discouraged.  Pressed by the Great Boredom, just for the ducks of it, He briefly caused His own nonexistence.  This failed to satisfy Him much either, so He brought Himself back shortly thereafter.

And God pressed on through His nonexistent time.  He waited as though He were waiting for something Great to pass.  God, however, knew that, because of being the All and the Only, that, if anything Great were going to happen, He would have to be the One to do it.

And, lo, it came to pass that He had an Idea!

God contemplated creating Something Else.  He contemplated creating something largish, and perhaps something that He would find esthetically pleasing.

Alas, He eventually dismissed this idea as pointless.  Since He would know His Creation perfectly, He would know its every action.  He would know its complete history even before He created it.  Why, then, bother?  What difference would it make, philosophically speaking, in the long run?

And, for God, all He really had was the long run.

And thus the Great Boredom pressed even more upon His holy presence.

And, lo, it came to pass that God had a Much Better Idea!

What God needed, He decided, was a Challenge.  He needed something He would not know the outcome of in advance.

Being All-Knowing, He knew that to do this would involve creating a paradox, but, being, as He felt, All-Wise as well, He decided that He could live with this without any deep emotional traumas.

And for this Challenge, He decided that He would create companionship for Himself.

To achieve true companionship, He would need to create something just as, if not more, unpredictable than Himself.  Better yet, it would have His level of omniscience and omnipotence.  An exact duplicate of Himself would never do, of course.  That would just result in two of Him being just as bored as one.  He could see no point in talking to Someone when You already knew everything that Someone would ever have to say.

To not be bored with these new beings made after His kind, God decided that they would have to evolve independently of Himself, without His guidance.

He would have to be unable to predict exactly how this evolution would take place.

Tricky to do, being All-Knowing and all, but, also because of being All-Knowing, He thought of a way to do it.

He would create and extremely large thing.  It would be so complicated that the tiniest change in any portion of it could affect the actions of the whole.  Being All-Knowing, He could of course foresee all the changes that would occur from the initial change.  But because this new thing would be so large and so complex, it would take Him just as long to figure it out as it would take to happen in the reality of time.

And thus did God create the Great Seed.

And the Great Seed was Perfection.  For from this Seed would grow another All-Powerful Being.  He Knew it to be so.  The Great Seed contained so much energy, and would grow so large so quickly, that He would not be able to see how this new Being would come to be.  He could not foresee what events would take place to create the Being.  He could not foresee the shape the Seed would need to form to create the Being.

And the Great Seed would need no tending.  It was Perfection.  It would grow completely independently of God Himself.  All He Knew was that from the Seed another All-Powerful Being would eventually emerge.

And God saw the Great Seed, and said it was good.

And, so as God willed it, it was so.

And the Seed burst forth with all its Tremendous Energies.  And the Seed grew to its Tremendous Size.

And God waited for the new Being to emerge.

And the Seed grew to an even more Tremendous Size.

And God waited for the new Being to emerge.

And the Seed grew to an even more Tremendous size yet.

And God waited for the new Being to emerge.

And the Seed was taking a very, very, very long time to grow.

And the Seed was taking a far longer time to grow than He expected.

And God saw the Seed grow, and said it was Good…

…He supposed.

As He Knew that He had to expect the unexpected from the Seed, which was no longer a Seed.

And He called the entity that burst from the Great Seed the Garden.

And the Garden continued to grow, and God decided that it was Good.

And it came to pass that God watched the growing Garden with interest.  He saw patterns emerge.  He saw the Great Energies cool and take on solid forms.  It was a thing of Great Beauty.  And for God it was a thing of Great Interest, for it was the only entity other than God that existed.

And God studied the Garden, and He saw how each part affected the whole, and He saw how on the tiniest levels the energies performed randomly, and yet within patterns.

And time continued to pass.  And God continued to watch.

And it came to pass that within one small place within the Garden, the patterns of energies became more complex.

And it came to pass that the complex patterns of energies would begin to copy themselves.

And God saw these patterns, and God said it was great!

And time continued to pass.  And the patterns of energies made a lot of copies of themselves.  And nothing else seemed to be happening.

So God decided to Tend the Garden.  He caused some of the patterns of energies to take on even greater complexities.

And the greater patterns grew fruitful and multiplied.

But the Great Balance of the Garden had been disturbed, and the greater patterns did not yet fit into the balance.

And it came to pass that all of the greater patterns stopped copying themselves.  And it came to pass that even the smaller patterns stopped reproducing.  And then all of the complex patterns disappeared.

And God was Disappointed.

And time continued.

And it came to pass that in another place within the Garden, the patterns of energies did become complex, and that the complex patterns of energies did again copy themselves.

And this time, God remained patient, and did not Tend the Garden.

And time continued to pass that the patterns again grew fruitful and multiplied.

And time continued to pass.

And then, when the Balance was right, the smaller patterns formed more complex patterns.  And the more complex patterns formed even more complex patterns.

And God saw that soon there were plants within the seas, and soon the plants began to survive upon the dry earth.

And God saw that soon there were fishes within the seas, and soon there were great fishes, and soon the fishes crawled out from the sea onto the dry earth and began to consume the plants.

And God continued to watch.  And the fishes became animals and no longer need to survive in the sea.  And the animals became larger and more complex.

And it came to pass that one of the animals began evolved a sense of self.  And it began to study the world around it with interest.

And God became Excited.  He decided to Tend the Garden, but He decided to be subtle, and He gave these animals greater challenges.

And, verily, the animals became even more intelligent.

But, again, the Great Balance had been disturbed.  And each part of the Garden affected each other part.  And with the Garden out of Balance it came to pass that a great stone fell from the sky, and all of the greatest of the animals died, including the more intelligent ones.

And God was again Disappointed.

But not all of life died this time, and God continued to watch.

The spirit of God moved upon the face of the seas and the earth, but it only watched.

And again it came to pass that one of the animals began to form a sense of self.  And this animal began to study the world around it with interest.

And this time, God did not Tend the Garden.

And soon the animals sense of self became more complete.  And He called them Human, and He said that they were Good.

And the Humans began to wonder about the world around them, and they imagined gods who created it all, and they did worship these gods.

And it came to pass that when other Humans did not worship the same gods, that they would fight amongst each other.  And many would die.

And God saw that this was not good.

So God chose some of the Humans, and said unto them, “I am the Lord Thy God.  There shall be no other gods before me.”  He did this so that this one group would know the Truth, and thus the Truth would spread, and soon all the world would stop fighting and killing each other.

But, again, the Great Balance was disturbed, and the fighting did not stop, but became more intense.  And His chosen people became a center of the disturbance, and they both persecuted others and were persecuted themselves.

And God decided that He really didn’t have a clue as to what these Humans were doing.

And so God decided to learn, and God became one of them and walked among them.

And God felt their pain.

And God felt their love.

And God felt their suffering.

And God felt that He finally understood, and He preached peace, and He preached tolerance, and He preached love.

And He preached it with such intensity, and He felt it so deeply, that He let Himself be killed, to let the people know how strongly He felt about peace and tolerance and love.

But, alas, again the Great Balance was disturbed.

And His Chosen People became more persecuted than ever.  And then His people came into power themselves, and most did not preach peace and tolerance and love.  They persecuted and tortured and killed all that did not believe as they believed.  And then, even His chosen people divided, and began to persecute and torture and kill themselves for the smallest differences in their beliefs.

And God, having learned to love, also learned to feel sadness.

And God wept, for He had truly learned to loved the people.

And God watched with great distress all the pain in the world.  But God had learned the Great Lesson.  God had learned that when He created the Garden to operate independent of Himself, that God Himself could never be part of the Garden.

And God learned that He must never Tend the Garden, for to do so would only disturb the Great Balance He Himself had created.  For, whatever He did, no matter how small, no matter how well intentioned, would end in far greater pain and disharmony and death.

And God was All-Powerful.  And God was All-Knowing.

But only then did God realize that He was not, nor had He ever been, All-Wise.

For wisdom can only be grown from experience.

And God had never before experienced being God.

And God passed the Great Judgment on Himself, and vowed that He would never–COULD never–again Tend the Garden.

And so God watched, with folded hands, and prayed to Himself that He had not caused too much disharmony, and that the people would not destroy themselves as the result of His disturbance of the Great Balance.

And this is how it is.

And this is how it ever shall be.


Of Cabbages and Kings – Prologue

Thrace, north of Tarpodizus, 421 B.C.

Samael slept because he was bored.

For three years, he had tended to his friend.  The first several weeks had not been boring, for his friend screamed and cried and flailed wildly almost constantly as he carried him the miles across the countryside from Athens, away from civilization.  But his friend had been peacefully catatonic since his arrival, at least most of the time, and being alone in a wood far away from any human encampments, he occasionally found the experience tedious.

Samael was endlessly patient, however.  He found ways to pass the time, and he chose to sleep simply because, while unpleasant, it was something to do.

He rarely slept because he didn’t need to sleep.  But when he did sleep, he stilled dreamed.

He rarely slept because when he dreamed, his dreams always overwhelmed him and disturbed him.


And, as always, Samael dreamed.

The dream did not start out well.  They rarely did.   He dreamt that someone cleaved his head open and stuck it under a great waterfall: and the water flowed into his mind far stronger, and far, far faster then any he had ever before seen or even imagined.

At first, there was nothing to do but suffer under the wet, brain-flooding onslaught.  But soon he noted that there were things apparent in the water, shiny things that drew his eyes and beckoned to him.

And he reached into the flow and pulled out one of the shiny things.  It turned out to be a vision.

It was a vision of a place he did not recognized, and he did not know how he knew, but it was a place he knew to be important.

The vision was of a place that was filled with…fish.  And the fish were not swimming the in the waterfall.  Rather, the fish flew through the air, and the air was thicker and heavier than the water.

When he looked closer at the fish, he realized that he could see the fish from both the outside and the inside.  He could see as the air flowed into the fish to give it strength.  He saw the heart beat.  He saw how the smaller fishes were broken down after they were ingested by the larger ones.

And then he looked closer still, and he could see the air convert some of the tiny particles of the fish into different kinds of particles.  And when he looked closer still, he could see the tiny particles within the tiny particles.  And still closer, and he could see particles of light and things like round balls of loadstone, and the particles of light circled the loadstones like a ball on a string.  Except that the light didn’t spin in a smooth circle–it spun and bounced in random and unpredictable ways.

And then he pulled back from the vision until he saw all of the fishes again, and back further and he left the waterfall and he could see the giant ball where the fishes lived, and back and back and back and he could see many, many, many suns spinning like a whirlpool in a great sea of darkness.

There were numbers everywhere; he knew them exactly but he did not know their names.  Not even Socrates had conceived of such numbers: numbers so large that he doubted that they would ever even have names.

And then back further still and he saw dark sea filled suns beyond measure but exactly counted.  He knew them all.  He saw the suns within the emptiness and within each sun he could looker closely and see tiny particles of light and tiny round balls of loadstone floating freely of each other.  And he saw that some of the loadstones crashed into each other and made more particles of light.  Particles beyond counting yet counted with a great number without a name.

And this–with all its unnamed number of suns each with the far greater unnamed number of tiny particles of light and loadstones–was but still the tiniest part of the great sea of darkness.

And he was very deep under the surface of the sea, this tiny part was so, so, so very far away from the surface that was his home.

He panicked and he forced himself awake.  He rose like a great fish–streaking up from the great depth in an instant–and his eyes opened.  He was breathing hard and he was sweating.

He didn’t scream anymore.  He hadn’t screamed because of the dreams for thousands of years.


Light filtered dimly through the gray clouds; light from one of the suns, like in his dream.

“Our sun,” he thought.

He shut his eyes again and waited for the screaming in his brain to quiet.  Even with his eyes closed, the images that clouded his mind were overpowering — unbearable.  He was, however, quite used to bearing the unbearable.  He ground his teeth and swallowed back his scream again.

And as his mind slowly quieted, he realized that he had learned something new with this dream; this…memory.  He couldn’t quite understand it yet, but it was something profound.

He opened his eyes again and looked around him.

He judged it late morning, but he had no idea how long he had been asleep.  Hours or days, either was possible.

The shadows were so dark and the clouds so deep that he had trouble seeing the thick forest where the two of them lay hidden.  There was enough light, however, to see that his friend had not moved.  He stared up at the blank slate of gray, at the small area that was just slightly brighter than the rest of the sky.

Our sun, he thought again.  There are others.

With all the countless of times he had relived his nightmare, with all of the times he had seen these images, he had never realized this before.

This was important, somehow.

He stood slowly, unsteadily, and took a deep breath.  The clean, cool smell of the forest after a rain helped to clear his head.


It must have rained while he slept.  The fur-lined skins he wore about his body were damp, and he reached up and felt the dampness in his beard and hair.  He glanced over again at his friend, and he could make out his rain-darkened tunic and could see water dripping from his nose.  He sighed.

Nearby he had built a shelter against the weather, should he desire further comfort.  He didn’t need it, but he did prefer to remain dry when it rained, and warm when the air chilled.  And whenever such events occurred he always took the trouble to carry his friend Mika’il (no, not Mika’il.  He wants to be called Michael now) into the shelter with him.  He felt bad that he had not been awake to do this.

He stood and looked over at Michael.  He was still catatonic, and this was good.  He was so much easier to deal with him in this state than when he flailed around aimlessly.  Michael was propped sitting against a tree.  He had sat in that position for several weeks now.  Samael noticed that Michael’s damp tunic was starting to show some signs of wear.  Samael would have to replace it soon.

He could see that Michael’s eyes were open now.  They did that on occasion, and it had never meant anything.  The eyes no doubt could see, he judged, but the mind on the other end could not be bothered with the insignificant images that the eyes transmitted.

Michael, too, had been allowed to see the Great Vision.  What possible image could his eyes transmit that could compare with that?

He greeted him, as he did each dawn.  “Good morning, Michael.  How do you fair today?”

Michael’s eyes jerked upward at the sound of the voice.

Awareness!  Excited, Samael immediately knelt before him.

“Michael, can you hear me?”

Michael did not answer, but stared at Samael for a long, long time.  Then his head turned, slowly studying his surroundings for the first time since his return.

Samael explained, “We are in a forest along the Harpessus River.  I carried you on horseback north from Tarpodizus.  We are safe here.”

Michael’s eyes suddenly glanced sharply up again at Samael.  His mouth moved, as if he were trying to say something but couldn’t remember how.

Finally, he grunted, cleared his throat, and rasped a question.

“I live?”

Samael laughed.  “As if you could die.  Yes, my friend, you live.  You have survived.”

Michael did not laugh.  He frowned and shut his eyes.


“Yes, it is I.”

He grimaced.  “How long have I been here?”

“Almost three years, Michael.  It is good to have you back.  The waiting was becoming quite tedious.”

“My head.  The vision.  I saw the wholeness, and yet this forest overwhelms me.  What is with us here?”

Samael laughed again.  “There is no one else here but me, my friend.  Who else would stay to watch you drool for three years?”

He opened his eyes again and they darted around.

“I see shadows–shadows everywhere.”

Michael shut his eyes tightly.  “Illusions.  Nothing but illusions.”  He turned to look at Samael.  “Thank you for watching over me, my friend.”

“You are welcome.  I could not leave you alone after you returned.  You were…” Samael hesitated.  “…not well.”

Michael shook his head.  “I can’t remember.  I remember nothing.   Three years, you say?”

“Thirty-nine moons.  I was out for much longer.”

Michael sighed, and reopened his eyes. He took in a sharp intake of breath, and shut them tightly again.

“Illusions.  I can’t think, Samael.  Yet I saw the wholeness.  I know so much more now.”

“You know more, but what of it do you understand”

Michael snorted a laugh.  “Very little.  The illusions; I can see them through my eyes even when they are closed.

Samael put his hand on his friend’s shoulder.  “You are still not well.  Perhaps you should try to sleep.”

Michael smiled.  “I have slept for three years.  I should think that enough.”

“Just rest quietly for a while then.  Breathe.  Touch the earth.  Let yourself become part of the world again.  Would you like to have some water, or perhaps even some fish?”

Michael didn’t answer.  His hands slowly clawed at the earth.  His eyes flashed open again.

“Are you sure we’re alone?”

“Quite sure.  What do you see?”

Michael paused.  “Stars.  Clouds.  Whirlpools.  Darting lights.  Shadows.  The illusions are too strong, Samael.  They are taking me.  I’m not sure I can stop them.”

“Breathe Michael.  You are safe here.  You have returned from a great voyage, and you saw many things beyond which you can comprehend.  There is a stream a short distance away.  I will bring you water.  Relax and breathe.  I will return shortly.”

Samael lay his hand upon Michael’s shoulder, and Samael reached out and did the same.  Samael turned and walked briskly to the stream.  He tried to remember his own return from the journey, oh so many centuries ago.  His memories were vague, be he remember the strength of the vision–a vision so strong that it still plagued his dreams–and his inability to sort it from the reality of the world around him.  He had no one to nurse him back to health after his return.  He had remained without conscious thought for at least several decades afterward.  Michael had returned after a brief three years.  Surely that meant that he would recover from the experience more quickly.

Or, he supposed, it could also mean that he was brought back too quickly.

Samael quickly filled his lamb’s bladder with the cold, fresh water, and returned to the camp.

Michael was now standing, holding a large stick, looking about himself with wild eyes.

“Why do I suffer?  What is tormenting me?”

“There is nothing here, Michael,” said Samael cautiously.

“These…demons, where have they come from?”

“There are no demons, Michael.  They are nothing but illusions.”

“…illusions…” said Michael, gritting his teeth and closing his eyes.

Suddenly he started, and jerked as if poked.  He swung his stick behind him and turned.  He looked about himself wild eyed, again.

“Can illusions stab at you, Samael?” he asked accusingly.

Before Samael could answer, Michael turned and swung at the empty air.

“Michael, you were not ready for the journey.  It has damaged you, somehow.”

“He has shown me His truth!  He has shown me His glory!  God can do no wrong!  He is perfection!  To suggest otherwise is blasphemy!”

“God was wrong to do what He did to you, Michael.”

Michael turned and glared at Samael.  “And now you dare to curse his name?”

Samael did not reply.  He felt powerless.  He was losing his friend, and he did not know what to do next.

Michael swung a third time, this time with such force that Samael could see the air burn as the stick moved through the air.  The stick burst into flames from the heat, and Michael threw it away.  He returned to his glaring.

“It has been you all along, hasn’t it?  I have seen the wholeness, and now I see the truth of you.  You have lied to me all this time.  I trusted you, and you have lied.”

“I have never lied to you, Michael,” responded Samael.

“They do not torment you, Samael.  Why not?”

“Who is tormenting you, Michael?”

“THE DEMONS!  Do not try to tell me you don’t see them!”

“You are seeing illusions my friend.  You have had a bad experience.  Try to be calm.”

“You lie!” shouted Michael.  “You call me friend, and yet you do this to me.”

“I am doing nothing to you.”

“Lies.  You are the prince of lies.  There are demons all around and yet they do not torment you.  You are the king of the demons.  Nothing you have ever told me has been truth.”

“Please calm yourself…”


“You are not well, my friend.  I have never lied to you.  I have been looking after you for the last three years.  You are seeing illusions.  The trip was too much for you.  You suffer from God’s vision…”


Michael stood up straighter.  He backed away from Samael.

“You are a blasphemer.  God has shown me His truth.  He is all-powerful.  He can do no wrong.  And yet, you accuse Him of making me suffer.”

“He has just shown you too much, Michael.”

“He has shown me the truth.  You did not want me to see the truth, did you?”


Samael stood silently and watched his friend.  Michael’s eyes continued darting about.  He lifted a fist and swung through the empty air.  Tears began to stream down his face.

“Prince of lies.  King of demons.  I am not strong now, but I will be again.  I will spread the word against you.  I will not let you walk this earth in peace.”

“I have not done this to you.  I am still your friend.  That which torments you are but illusions.”

“Illusions?”  Michael laughed.  “You cause the little demons to swarm me and stab me and you expect me to continue to believe them to be illusions?”

Samael said it again.  “Yes, Michael, they are illusions.  Your mind suffers from your vision.  I have ministered to you for the last three years after you returned from the vision…”

“You have blasphemed.  You have accused Him and tried to turn me against Him.  He is your enemy, and therefore you are mine.”

“Michael, I urge you to rest.  Your mind is playing tricks with you.  Drink something.  Take in some food…”

Michael was staggering backwards.

“I will not break bread with the king of the demons and the accuser of God.  I will destroy you, when I am strong enough.  You may rely on it, Demon.”

Michael turned and ran unsteadily into the woods, disappearing into the darkness.

Samael laughed an ironic laugh.  He looked about him at camp he had set up–at the place where he had tended to Michael for the last three years.

“Welcome back, my friend,” he sighed.  He began to gather his things.