Upon the Island, the Lady before the forest called out to the red, crab-like Beast and his ilk that encircled the souls of the dead, “We have a balance! Purple is no more.”
“We have a balance,” repeated the Beast. And the cry was repeated in turn by each of the colored beasts that corralled the writhing, twisting wraith’s of the dead. And as each cry came each beast looked in fear to that curled form of Lincoln snoring quietly away, fast asleep, at the Lady’s feet.
And how do I know this? Adam Kadmon showed it to me…
I was falling, down or up, I wasn’t sure which, but eventually I came to the bridge in the lake and stopped.
I lay inert upon an altar of stone erected there. There was a man there with me, a woman too. I recognized them both, but I did not know them. The man was infinitely kind and infinitely gentle. With a sponge, he gently cleansed my head and chest of blood. The woman too, sponge in hand, mopped at my feet and legs.
Lilith was there too. She stood to one side of my stone bed and pleaded with the man, “Please.”
“You should not have brought him to me like this, Lilith. This body is entwined; another’s soul occupies this shape. Who is it you would have me heal? for both are broken, in their own ways. Why have you done this?”
“Within his head is the map to my Mirror-heart… I, I…”
The man put down the sponge and rested his hand upon my forehead. His hand was cool, and under it, I felt complete.
The woman at my feet, without looking up said, “Lilith, you must let it go—-the great advance is well under way, and this Wormwood may not catch it. Let it go. Your Mirror-heart will change nothing. Things are as they must be. There is nothing any of us can do but trust in Crystalson.” Her voice was strong and sure, and like her touch upon my feet, delicious.
Lilith replied stiffly, “You know nothing, woman! Why do you prattle on so? We speak of a time before your coming; this is not your business.”
“Oh, Lilith,” the woman laughed, “all my children are my business. This one may have your heart, but he belongs to me in the end. Here,” the woman stopped sponging my feet and held the sponge out to Lilith to take, “will you not clean your man?”
“You know I cannot!” Lilith spun away and walked the width of the bridge, and coming back, she said softly to the woman, “why do you tempt me, Eve?”
“Love and temptation are very different things, Lilith. If you love this one then you must submit to him. Here, take the sponge, clean him, submit.” She handed the sponge to Lilith. Lilith held it and stared at the sponge as if it were a diseased rat. Clumsily, she brought it to my feet. The sponge, in her hands, felt as if it were a saw and I a wooden plank, and it felt like she was sawing me into two halves. Thankfully, the sponge slipped from her hand and onto the bridge. Eve picked it up and handed it back to her. “Perhaps, because of this body’s entanglement,” Eve said kindly.
“Don’t pity me, woman. You do not understand the Mirror-heart as I do.”
“Why should I care? I know who I am, and I am happy to serve God and my husband and our children. I need no mirror to know thy own self.”
Lilith bit her lip, and said nothing. And after a moment of silence the man said, “You show restraint, Lilith. I am impressed.”
“You mock me, Adam?”
“Not at all, it is just that you seem changed somehow, almost sincere. I wonder–is keeping this man’s soul entwined with the other’s twisting your own nature in some unexpected way?”
Adam put the sponge carefully upon the stone beside me. He reached out to Lilith and took her hands.
“Let me see.” He said it gently, turning Lilith’s face to his.
And looking into her eyes, he said, “Lilith, for you to continue with these two souls, something must break. You know the company you keep. To interfere would only set you into some other dreadful slavery. You are mostly free now, but if you continue…”
He paused, and letting Lilith’s hands drop he reached for the sponge once again. “It is a dangerous path you tread, Lilith. Why not come and be with Eve and me, work on your obedience and work on your love.
“Take the sponge, and try again.”
Lilith snatched the sponge from his hand. It was an infinitely wet sponge and perfectly soaped. Within it were stars and atoms. They swirled and bubbled in an infinite circle of tenderness.
Lilith pushed it roughly on my face and neck. I choked at her vigor, but then Adam’s hand touched my head and the choking feeling went away.
“Gently, Lilith; gently, my dear,” he said. His voice was neither patronizing nor admonishing; his was the voice of the kindly father; its very sound had a healing effect on my body—or rather, executionerofthewill’s body. Its sonorous tone contained a kind of sensuality unlike any I had ever felt. It washed over me and filled me: body and soul. But there was more still. There seemed to be an embedded core in me I had never known before now. Adam’s touch, his index finger lightly touching my forehead, smoothing away Lilith’s rough, inept hands; His voice, schooling Lilith in this art that she had never once before attempted. These two, voice and touch, filled me and drove me to an existence, a core–an elemental base if you will, of something I know not what, that went far beyond that mere duality of body and soul. And of those two, body and soul, I felt them to be commonplace in light of this new experience, for here, here on this bridge, in the presence of these three strange elemental beings, I sensed another thing in me, and that thing was greater than all of them together.
Was it God? For that thing inside me felt like a stitching of sorts: my body, my soul, executionerofthewill’s body, his soul, the universe and all the dust and all the other things it contained, all of those things together, entwined and twisted me like a slow moving tornado. They moved me, shifted me, altered me—-I was changed in the sight of Its cumulative presence. It was a work of art I saw, a rotated clay work of splendid proportions. It was perfect, but for a few lost diamonds that twinkled faintly within its grey thickness, and if it was God I was seeing, then He evaporated just as suddenly as He had come, for Lilith dropped the sponge again, and her loud complainant drove the glorious vision from me.
“This is ridiculous. I did not bring him here for this. Please, Adam, I need him fixed.”
Adam shook his head, and smiling at Eve, said, “Lilith, I never could resist you. I will see what I can do.
“This man may be useful to me, so perhaps, Lilith dear; maybe we can strike a bargain?”
And then I slept and then I walked.
And walking I found myself upon the bridge with Adam Kadmon beside me. Together we walked the length of the bridge. Upon either side of us, stood stone altars: thousands, no, millions and millions of them. The bridge stretched into infinity, its brickwork but one marvel of the mason who had laid it. And so I’d have to guess that it was many more than just millions and millions, for the bridge was built to house all of humanity; for upon each altar there was a body, naked but for a light, cream-colored cloth that covered it from its chest to its feet.
Adam Kadmon spoke, “exnzpat. Walk with me awhile.”
I held his hand as if I was a small child, and as we walked, he said, “Look at these bodies, exnzpat.”
I did as he asked, hoping he was taking me to my wife and children, but instead I saw faces of people I’d never seen before. Their faces, waxen and white, were quite dead, not a one had a spark in it, for the bridge upon which we walked was a morgue of flesh. Of the people I saw there, I recognized none. There were children here but I saw no elderly, and this, I thought, was strange, also, I saw it was difficult to tell the sexes apart without closer inspection.
“These are the dead,” said Adam matter-of-factly. “They are the constitutional parts and pieces that they were in life. They are not representative of what they were in life, but rather of what they are in actuality. They are an average, a simile of their existence, regardless of length of life; they are an allegory of self, and this is why you see no elderly ones here.”
I looked about me, trying to understand. We walked along in silence for some time before I understood what it was I was really seeing; and thinking about Adam’s explanation, I realized that I probably wouldn’t recognize someone I had known in life with this celestial average applied to them. I asked Adam this and he answered quietly, “Perhaps. It would depend upon the closeness of your relationship, I think.”
I started suddenly, stopping and gripped Adam’s hand tightly. I had only just realized that these whitened, waxed bodies bore terrible testimony to the very worst of the twentieth century’s eugenic rampages. “Adam, where are the black people, the Asians…, the Eskimos?”
Bemused, Adam looked at me. A small smile touched at his beautiful face. “Lilith said you were dense, and until now I did not realize how dense.” He swept a hand in the direction of the nearest bodies. “These are they! All of them! All of you together. Remember, I said average. White is an average under any sun’s light. Surely, exnzpat? Color, race…? My children are all my children–I will leave none untended!” And he said this last proudly, and walking to the nearest altar lifted the hand of the dead man lying there and gently stroked the back of his hand.
As I stood, a witness to his infinite kindness, I realized what a fool I had been to think such a thing. I changed the subject and asked, “And so… this is your punishment, then?”
“You know, for the apple thing; eating the forbidden fruit and all that.”
Bewilderment spread across his face. “Punishment?” he asked again, and then said, “Surely, Lilith is wrong. Dense does not even begin to do you justice.” Adam set the dead hand gently back to the surface of its stone altar and asked me, “Who is the greater man, exnzpat. The willing servant or the man he serves?”
This sounded like a trick question to me, but no, the answer is a simple one, and so I said, “The man who is served. He is master, the other is servant.”
“You are very sure, are you not?”
“I am. Your riddle has a simple logic to it. Without the master who will pay the servant? If the servant is not appropriately or fairly compensated a master will have a hard time finding someone willing to serve him to begin with. Therefore, the greater man must be the master; for the master is the payer.”
Adam smiled at that and said, “And it is true, but what if the master chooses to serve his servant instead, and pay him in kind, also.”
“I shrugged, and said carelessly, “Call the union, I guess. Who on Earth would do something like that?”
Adam snorted and laughed, “Oh, exnzpat, not only are you dense, you are tiresome, too; one can only hope that your career as a comedian will be as short lived as your career as a home renovator.”
I reddened at the jibe, but not from anger, but from shame, because standing there with this strange man upon this great bridge of the dead, I realized that the reality of the universe was far beyond what I had imagined it to be, and my scant ecclesiastical knowledge paled before this man and his wonderful smile.
Adam, as if reading my mind pursed his lips, took my hand once more, and said kindly. “But the Master loves his servant, exnzpat; that is all you need to know, come, look.”
He turned back to the body before us and said, “The organic and inorganic are only separate because they seem visibly incompatible with each other, but in reality, all things are made of the same stuff. All things are inseparable from the fabric of space-time they inhabit and so organic and inorganic things are actually the same things, but unlike the inorganic, organics can alter their shapes. Flesh is merely a pocket of the universe into which fits the soul, and a soul can fit into many things, exnzpat. And the flesh? it can be many things, too.” He paused here, no doubt giving time for my dense skull to absorb his words. He looked at me hoping they had, and then, without waiting for confirmation, began again.
“Sometimes an organic thing must change if it is to remain a viable structure. The universe allows such change, demands it even. The form you see before you is the human form that Eve and I created—-and that is something that will never change; this is how you will come to me after death–as a representative of our creation.
“Eve and I are gardeners here. In this place, we tend to the organic structures we have borne, smoothing them, cleaning them, preparing them for the great day when…”
“Wait? And our souls? Where are they?”
Startled by my interruption, he said, “Well…, you’ve been there. You’ve seen them.”
“The island with the forest?” I asked, and Adam hesitated and said, “Yes, if that is how you saw it, then that is the place.”
I was quiet, thinking about the island, and asked him, “Why do they suffer there?”
“For the body to enact its changes the change must first begin inside–within the soul. Mindset or attitude must change first; slowly the soul evolves in confirmation to that new message and after that, the body follows its lead. In your time, exnzpat, the world strives toward efficiency. Austerity is a dirty word in all languages, and the soul sours under such rigorous ideology, and in time, it will seek out methods and schemes to substantiate that same sourness within the body it keeps. It is a justification of sorts, but it is the way of the universe and it is not my place to judge how things work.”
“What will happen?”
“Happen? when and where. Earth has a billion years of life left yet.”
“Oh, ahh… well in my own time, Scudamour, and me, I mean.”
“Sourness begins slowly, exnzpat, it’s hard to pinpoint the germination of ideas, but in your era, give or take one hundred years or so, a notion of efficiency is seen as a kind of perfection and something that mankind should strive for.”
I nodded, “Like capitalism?”
Adam laughed, “Merely a political moniker, exnzpat. Worldly terms and expressions disguise the insidious creeping of the soul. Capitalism, communism, collectivism, totalitarianism, and the rest of the isms simply encourage and camouflage self-justification, but in the end, none of them means anything to the soul; they are mechanism-dynamic! They are simply useful tools to work the body’s changes.
“But no, exnzpat, I don’t speak of an admiration of social, economic perfection; I speak of a desire for the efficiency of insects. Have you, in your life, heard of such a thing?”
“Well no, never, but I’ve been out of touch with popular media for a year, so…”
“It does not matter, exnzpat,” he said waving away my ignorance with his hand. “Do you know that one of the most efficient creatures on Earth is the Praying Mantis?” He did not wait for me to answer, instead he said, “After mating, the female Mantis devours its mate, and in turn, after the female gives birth, her own children devour her.
“The Praying Mantis, exnzpat, and insects like it are but one of the universe’s most brilliant pieces of architecture. For its output exactly equals its input.
“There are no old-age homes for the Praying Mantis: no hospitals, no invalids, no cripples; the Praying Mantis does not concern itself with student loans, job availability, mortgages, social security benefits, credit card debt, career, or any of the host of the other problems facing modern man and his modern woman in your times, exnzpat.
“The Mantis is a testament to efficiency, and the soul sees it as such; its greatness is a penultimate unspoken goal, but its emulation, exnzpat, is another thing, altogether.”
He stopped speaking here; no doubt, the horror of what he had just said was visible in my face. I may be dense, but I’m not so dense as to abhor such a future for mankind.
“Are we to become cannibals, then? Is that what becomes of us in Scudamour’s time?”
Adam smiled at that, “No, exnzpat. It’s much worse than that. And if you make it all the way across Wormwood and find Scudamour, then you will see for yourself.
“But know this of your own era; it will become a common place thing to see the elderly and the crippled starving by your roadsides. My children, your brothers and sisters, will walk upon their rotting flesh and sun-dried bones impervious to their sufferings; you will be as if deaf and dumb to the true horror of it–and that true horror is not the flesh and bone of it, but your soul’s pursuit of your own individualism and its neglect for the Word of God.
“But fear not, exnzpat, the flesh will always come to me, and the soul will always find the New Mother and Her Eidola on your island, so in the end all will be well, but for the life that could have been, that that was lost…,” Adam stopped speaking here and tears rolled slowly down his cheeks. He turned away from me, wiping at his eyes, looking down the long bridge of the dead in contemplation of our terrible future. And almost in a whisper, he added, “…it doesn’t have to be that way.”
I did not know what to say, for his sadness had a profound effect on me. His future, I realized, was our own future. The flesh of He and Eve were the intrinsic root of all of us. Our changes (our failures), were his failures, too.
I broke the silence between us with a question.
“Eidola? I don’t know that word.”
Adam looked back at me in surprise, as if he had forgotten I was there.
“Ahh…, Celestial Universals. They are those creatures created within the primordial gasses that formed during the very beginnings of space and time; known in your era as either angels or devils, they are mostly harmless, unless given direction. It was one that put you in my care.
“The purple tree?”
Again, Adam hesitated, and he said, “Yes, if that was how you saw it, then that is how it was. Eidola are adept at stealing shapes.”
“And these Eidola live on that island I saw in my dream?”
“Not all of them; only those necessary to confine the magnitude.”
“But why?” I asked, “Why confine anybody?”
“Because the soul is a free thing; it thinks it knows best. The island, the place you see, exnzpat, is a place set aside to leach away that sourness of spirit that brings about the metamorphoses of the body.
“God wants you whole and he cannot abide by such littleness as the universe makes you. And no matter how many emissaries He may send to advise you, you never listen, and so, your island, exnzpat, waits to repair your soul; and Eve and I wait here to repair your flesh.
I said nothing for a long time, thinking through what he had just said; I was about to clarify a point when he stopped suddenly. Before us, between the altars of the dead, was an empty altar.
I hesitated, and felt a dread of fear in me that made me tremble. “Is…, is that for me?” I asked weakly.
Adam looked at me and seeing my terror reached for me and put his arm about me. “I am sorry, exnzpat. I did not mean to frighten you. But no, this belongs to a man whom I’ve sought for a very long time. He is out step with his death. He should be here and yet he remains alive within the universe, far beyond his time.”
“No, Scudamour is there.” Adam lifted his arm and pointed, and suddenly a massive shift in light and shadow drove us from the spot in which we stood to a place a million years hence along the bridge. Adam brought his arm down to point at a dead figure before us, “Here is Scudamour.”
I was dizzy from our apparent shift across distance and time. I closed my eyes for a few moments to get my bearings. When I opened them again, I saw a body before me that looked somewhat different from the way the others had, though the dead about Scudamour were much like him.
I said to Adam, “He looks different, his average, as you had said, it is a different average to where we just were.”
“You are correct, exnzpat. He and those others of his time are human, but contain many traits of the insect race. As man evolves into this era, he has genetically incorporated those things he loved best about the efficiency he once sought back in your era. It is only just and it is only right, for as I have explained, as the universe changes so must man, if he is to remain a viable shape.
I looked at Scudamour, unimpressed. He did not seem to be the villain I had imagined him. He and those about him were larger in body than that of our earlier selves, sort of Andre the Giant big, but other than size, I saw nothing insect-like about them. Then I noticed a slightly raised hump upon Scudamour’s forehead and said, “So, the horn, is that the insect part…,” I stopped speaking and looked at the others round Scudamour. None of the others had a hump. “I…, I don’t understand…” I finished.
Adam said, “No. The hump you see on Scudamour’s forehead is the Third-Eye. It has nothing to do with the nature of his flesh. The hump is the mark of a Magus.”
Adam raised his hand once more and we shot, seemingly at light-speed, back to the empty stone altar of my own era. I staggered lightly and caught Adam by the arm.
Adam looked at me kindly, and said, “exnzpat, you are in a unique position, and as much as I hate to bargain with Lilith, I have done so on account of this man.” Adam pointed to the empty slab. “–on account of my poor son, who, stitched to the universe beyond his time, is held there against his will and knowledge, I have made a bargain with Lilith. I will heal executionerofthewill’s body and give you back to Lilith, but in doing so you must promise to bring me this man.”
I swallowed hard, “How?”
“The Magus that holds this man must be persuaded to release him. If not, then murder will be sufficient.”
* * *
“What! What if I refuse?”
Adam opened his arms wide and said in an almost pleading tone, “The human body is not capable of such lengthy stretches in time and space. His atomic presence there will eventually become unstable; body and soul will atrophy together into nothingness. I…, I cannot allow that to happen. Death is the sleep we must all sleep; it is a rejuvenation of our most precious essences. Death is a date we must all keep, exnzpat, even you.
“The Magus who holds this man does not fully understand these things. Love is a powerful bond, and for all her power, this Magus is weak because of love. She does not understand that she will lose him forever if she cannot relinquish her grip on the present. Exnzpat, make her let go of him, or you must take him from her.
“If murder be the only way, then take it, exnzpat, take it!”
“Who is he? this man?” I asked, staring at the empty slab of stone.
“He is your friend. The man you call, Ben. And beware the Magus, exnzpat, she is one of the greatest, and so, like your nemesis Scudamour, very very dangerous.”
“But what of the sin of murder?” I asked, unable to believe the fantastic conversation I was having.
Adam said, “Like you, exnzpat, I am already a sinner, and I am the Father of all mankind. What use is a Father if he does not understand the sins of his all sons and daughters? I love you all, and no sin will ever strip away my responsibility to any of you.”
I hung my head, ashamed at what I had become and of what Adam expected from me. I was now a celestial hit man; surely, I could sink no lower. His empathic words washed over me as if I were a thing coated in oil. They did not touch me.
And seeing my distress, Adam reached up and couched my chin within his hand. Instantly I saw something akin to sin culminating and escalating exponentially; and I saw that it was a greater sin to let Ben live, because upon Adam’s bridge, death is not real death, but if Ben faded and became erased entirely then it was the greatest of all sins, for he would truly be dead.
And then I saw Crystalson, but as a light in the distance, and very very far away.
I began to swim toward His light and suddenly I was breathing real water. I was gasping and spluttering for breath. I felt myself drowning.
I reached wildly for the light and a hand above me grabbed at mine and pulled me from the water. It was Becky.
“What are you doing?” she asked, “Swimming with your clothes on? Are you mad?”
Becky half dragged me, and I half crawled from out of the lake and as I lay there spitting water and gasping for air, I managed to smile up at her.
“What?” she asked, returning my smile. Her dark hair and bright eyes shone down on me as I looked up at her face in awe.
“Nothing,” I answered, gripping her hand tightly, for beauty, for beauty’s sake, needs no explanation.
Lincoln, healthy and uninjured, came over to us and sniffed at me and then plopped himself down. His mouth was open and he appeared to be laughing a dog’s laugh. And seeing him like that, we two, Becky and I, joined in; our laughter was bright, delicious and good, and Wormwood trembled at its sound.