Chapter 3

The old man regained consciousness slowly. Opening his eyes and expecting to see Joshua trees, he shouted to no one in particular," Damn, I'm blind!" However, within seconds he began to realize that he wasn't blind, just in a cave of some sort. " How the hell did I wind up here?"

Gaf sat up and tried to understand what had happened to him. The last thing he could remember was Molly waving to him and then a strange feeling of falling. The cave was not totally dark, shafts of light from somewhere high above gave enough illumination for the old man to see. Thinking that he may have fallen into a cavern he began a quick self examination, looking for broken bones. The most startling result was not that he did not find any broken bones, but that he couldn't feel any soreness at all. This was unusual because Gaf suffered from arthritis in his legs. This was probably the first time in years that he did not feel the dull ache in his joints. Locating his hat a few feet away, he picked it up and put in on without dusting it off. He began searching for his staff. His hat and staff were the only two things he claimed as personal possessions.

Neither item had any great metaphysical attribute, however he often took great delight in explaining them as meaningful Shaman tools. The mystical appeal of the staff was useful in helping others focus their attention on their own source of personal power. In the most ancient of Shaman traditions, Gaf always explained the metaphysical in terms of what people were ready to handle. Yet, it seemed strange to him that most 'New Age' types always needed the most structure. They made the Spanish Inquisitors look like pikers when it came to preaching dogma. He knew the ancient mystery of the Universe was at his finger tips, but always just out of reach. In all the books he had read, and all the weary lectures he attended, there was only one concept that made any sense to him. The first time he read it, was in a small new age magazine, in Utah. The words on the page jumped out at him with a burning intensity. 'All beliefs are valid, even when they contradict each other,' the author proclaimed.

What stunned him was not the simplicity of the message, but it's inclusiveness. The assumption was unlimited. That is, it could pertain to beliefs within or between individuals alive or dead. If the belief of the atheist is as valid as that of the Christian, then it would be logical to suggest that both are creating their own existence; literally as they go. A belief that this process stops at death is simply another creation, as is the belief that it does not stop at death. And both are valid. It would also be valid that our existence is dependent on a benevolent god, as is the concept that we are God. If our thoughts as beliefs fuel the fires of creation then even the thoughts of Angels are contributing to the magnificent illusion of structure, even the structure that is posited by the awareness of those not in a physical form.

The gurus proclaimed the Earth a school, but were they being short sighted? Was it possible that existence in the non-manifest as well as the manifest was nothing more than a grand illusion? If there were absolutely no structure at any point in existence, then what was the lesson? Gaf had pondered these questions until his head literally ached from the circularity of the reasoning. Although there were no solutions, he accepted a path from the ancient traditions of the Far East. That is, it is pointless to ask the question until you know who it is that is asking the question. Can we know the personal 'I' without using an external object? Who am I without the concept of the role we play.

But now Gaf was not pondering any great mystery of the Universe. What he thought about most was getting out of this cavern and back to Molly. Not finding the staff, he decided to explore his surroundings further. Off to the right there was a blackness that looked like it might be a fissure or tunnel. Turning slowly he counted six other tunnels of various sizes. The only apparent way out was either climbing up to the opening where the light was coming in or selecting one of the seven tunnels. He knew he could never manage the climb upwards. He had no recourse but to pick a tunnel, as his grandfather used to say, "Ya pays yer money, and takes yer chances".

He walked over to each one, carefully examining the slant of the floor, any special smell, a breeze, and any vibrations or feelings he could sense. Each tunnel had definite individual characteristics. Walking back to the center of the cavern, he assessed each tunnel in terms of the balance it offered him. Staring at each opening it suddenly dawned on him that the openings were equidistant from each other. In all the caves he had ever been in, tunnels were always randomly placed. There was nothing random about the distribution of these tunnels. Thinking it might simply be a trick of perception, because of the dim light, he paced the distance between each tunnel opening. His eyes had not fooled him, they were not randomly distributed. Therefore, he determined they were not natural, but intelligently placed. And yet, there was no way that modern technology could have produced these openings. All the openings were self supporting, unlike man made tunnels, which required support beams. These were not mines which usually had a dirt floor. These tunnels were formed through solid rock. The concept was fascinating.

He wished he felt strong enough to explore the upper regions. There appeared to be different levels, how many he couldn't tell from here. Cocking his head he thought he heard a sound from above, a buzzing, like a million bees, and then silence. "Just what have I fallen into this time?" he said loudly, and noticed that there was no echo. "Hello!!!" He shouted, there were no other sounds but the ones he made. Reaching inside his left shirt pocket for a cigarette in order to aid in pondering his situation, his hand came out empty. His eyes became glazed as he realized the pack must have fallen out somewhere on the way down here. Fishing in his pockets he did find a pack of matches. For Gaf, matches without a cigarette were pointless. Wishing for a flashlight, he got down on all fours and began feeling his way along the rough surface with his hands. "If I start from the middle and examine each spot around, I should find at least one!" To his dismay, after his third time around not even one cigarette had made the journey. "Well, now I guess I know where I am," he swore "This is definitely Hell."

Gaf knew that he would not survive very long without water. One of the tunnels had given him the impression of dampness. He chose this one to bet his life on. "Who knows? Maybe there'll be a cigarette in there," he laughed, and entered the tunnel.

It didn't take the old man long to realize he would be truly blind in these tunnels. There was no light and he had to feel his way along the walls. After struggling with his own fear, he decided to just barge along with an attitude of "damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead".

Gaf was well aware that he could step into open space at any time and fall to his death. There were loose stones on the floor of the tunnel, he picked these up and threw them ahead of him. The reassuring sound of the rock hitting the stone floor gave him the confidence to keep moving forward. At one particularly rough spot, Gaf sat down and was wishing desperately for just one last cigarette. He had been in the tunnel now for almost an hour. He needed the rest and decided to sit until he felt assured of his physical stamina. Casually, reaching along the sides he could feel gravel on the cave floor. To his surprise, he felt something very soft and recognized the object immediately. "But this is impossible," he said in a frenzied state of excitement. Not caring how that cigarette managed to get into the tunnel, he lit it and inhaled deeply. "This can't be real, but it sure as hell tastes good." After smoking the cigarette down to the very last and putting the filter in his pocket he continued on his journey with renewed vigor and self confidence. However, quite suddenly the passage began to descend. He began to loose his confidence and now wondered if he had made the right choice. It seemed to him that the way out of the cavern should be up, and not down. In an attempt to reassess his decision, he sat on the tunnel floor and tried to estimate how long he had been walking. He struggled with indecision about returning back to the cavern and selecting a different tunnel. He stood up and decided that he would commit himself to this passage for no more than another hour.

Holding his hand now along the hard, cold surface of the tunnel wall he blindly inched forward. When he first recognized a shift in the darkness he thought it was his eyes playing tricks on him. Walking a little farther, the light intensified. With gladdened spirit, he now moved quickly forward towards the light. He entered the opening and found himself in an open space similar to the cavern he had left hours ago. He turned around and looked back at the tunnel he just left. A feeling of absolute horror overcame him as he realized the truth. It was the same tunnel he had entered hours before.

Totally baffled, he slumped to the floor exhausted and confused. A feeling of nausea began to well up in the pit of his stomach and he wondered briefly when he had last eaten. Throwing an arm over his eyes he escaped into the soft embrace of sleep.  Suddenly he could feel someone shaking him. It was Molly trying to wake him up from his nap. With total abandon he laughed out loud proclaiming this the best day of his life.

"Hey, sleepyhead, isn't it time you started waking up? Can you smell the coffee? It's a beautiful afternoon, the sun is shining and it feels nice and warm. Let's sit outside for awhile."

Stretching, and yawning he said, "I had the strangest dream, it was so real. I'll tell you about it over the coffee you promised." Then laughing he said, "And while you're up, would you change the tire on the truck?"

" I guess you want me to put the cream and sugar in the coffee for you, too." she chided. "Shall I drink it for you?"

" Naw, I can take care of that,' he laughed again. "After we're through with coffee maybe I'll do some more work on the computer program, if you don't mind."

" I really don't mind at all, but I don't think you'll have time for that today, dear. You have to go back into the tunnels."

Stunned at what she had just said he looked around and the gaping maws of those barren tunnels loomed into his consciousness.

.........................

Jerome stood on the balcony watching the sun rise over the desert hills. He had already accomplished what would be a days work for most people. He awoke feeling refreshed at 3:30 as he had every morning since he could remember. The others would arrive within the next few hours and they would begin their semi-annual meeting. Strange, he thought, the task he had begun more than two decades ago with such a feeling of enthusiasm and power, now seemed like no more than a child's game.

Jerome Thorton had begun life with a silver spoon in his mouth, attending the best schools, graduating with honors. Many considered him a genius in business. After the death of his young wife and son during childbirth, he withdrew from society in general and became obsessed with the accumulation of wealth and power. When that began to bore him, Katrina, an old and dear friend of the family introduced him to the raw power that was available in the metaphysical world.

At the age of twelve Jerome's father had made quite a ceremony out of bringing him to this beautiful, unpopulated desert land for the first time. In a very solemn manner, he told Jerome of the grand legacy that was now his. The power and responsibility for protecting mankind from making costly errors that would effect the entire world. There was an unseen evil that had descended upon the planet, not far from this desert retreat. The unsuspecting simple residents of Roswell had to bear the burden of this knowledge.

"It is up to us, and a few others like us to make sure that the common person is spared from this knowledge." he told his young son.

Dead now for the past 15 years, the spirit of the senior Thorton still maintained a superior attitude of royal responsibility for making sure the play on the stage of life continued according to the right script - according to our specifications, not theirs.

In fact, his father became more intensely manipulative of the planet after his death. He used mediums and channels to continue writing his own script. Jerome would not be surprised if his father made his presence known at the meeting this morning.

As senseless, violent acts accelerated around the globe, many spirits were searching for their own answers. They were stepping aside and seeing momentary glimpses of the screen that had been created aeons ago - A giant Virtual Reality Machine. The truth was there. Even in the afterlife, personal identity was still contingent on external roles, whether they be devils or angels. And now God was beginning to question his own identity.

Recently, Jerome began to question his own role.

The introspection lead to long periods of restlessness and at times he would leave his home without telling anyone of his whereabouts. Gradually, Jerome attempted to build a cognitive framework of his own identity. But the end result was always the same. His actions were a reflection of his father's intentions, and rarely his own.

Jerome sensed the plane a few moments before it crossed his field of vision. A woman landed the small craft in the field expertly, jumped lightly to the ground and walked briskly toward the main house.

Katrina was also a member of one of the world's wealthiest families. Only a select few knew of the brilliant mind and powerful spirit that resided in that trim 60 year old body. As Jerome went down the stairs to greet her, he wondered if she too was becoming tired of creating strategy in the war between Good and Evil.

.........................

Gaf's dream had been so real that he could not believe he was back in the cavern. His mind reeled from the jousting between illusions.

Was this the dream or that illusive encounter with Molly? How could he tell which was real? Was he in the trailer, asleep in his bed and waiting for Molly to wake him up as she usually did when he was having a bad dream? Or was he condemned to a slow death by thirst and starvation trapped within these hellish walls of rock?

Gaf stood up with renewed determination and walked toward the next tunnel. He still couldn't understand why his joints were not aching and throbbing, but he wasn't complaining, no sir, he would enjoy this while it lasted. In fact, it occurred to him that this pain free body could be an indication that he was only dreaming.

Feeling his way slowly and tossing the pebbles ahead, as he had done before, he was aware that this tunnel was narrower and had sharper turns. "Sharper rocks, too," he exclaimed, rubbing his big toe gingerly. Gaf's attachment to his sandals had become somewhat hazardous in these dark tunnels.

Confident that he would find water in one of these tunnels, Gaf began moving forward again and after a short time stopped to rest. No longer hearing the sound of his own feet on the tunnel floor, he thought he could hear the movement of water along rocks. Listening intently for a moment, he determined that it sounded like a very small stream trickling just ahead. He was encouraged by the dampness he felt on his behind as he stood. He walked a few yards toward the sound and felt something drop on his hat, another few steps and he found himself standing under a small waterfall. The cool water smelled fresh. Savoring the feeling of the moisture on his face, he allowed a few drops to trickle onto his tongue, then collected more of the precious liquid in his cupped hands and drank copiously.

Now that his thirst was quenched, he felt bloated and realized the error of drinking that much water so quickly. 'Damn that was stupid, I should have known better,' he thought, 'no fool, like an old fool.' The gurgling sounds coming from his stomach was a nagging reminder of his foolishness. He sat, leaning his head back against the wall as he waited for the feeling of fullness to subside.

The dock was lined with people fishing. He was standing by the water feeling very sorry for the suffering that this caused the fish. A giant fish with a hook in his bleeding mouth began speaking with him as he was being reeled in towards the dock. Gaf told the fish that he was sorry he was unable to stop what was happening, "but I do have the power to kill you very quickly and end your suffering," he explained. "Ah, but you do have the power to stop what is happening," the fish told him. "You must go back to the tunnel, the answer lies there."

" Aw shit," the tired old man groaned as he opened his eyes to shattering darkness. He stood up, went over to the water, just to moisten the inside of his mouth, and then proceeded on his way. As he crept along, he began to think that it might have been wiser to stay in the main cavern in case someone was searching for him. 'Maybe I should go back,' he thought, 'I can always return here now that I know where the water is.' "If I don't find an exit in the next hour, I'll go back to the center and start yelling my head off for help." He said to the rocks. It wasn't long before he could see something ahead, "light!," he yelled, and ran blindly through his own hopes and fears. The sight of the same central cavern from which he started was more than his mind could accept. Now the deafening blows of the caverns silence, roared in all around him.

Gaf had often made the statement that without people around him he was unable to verify the fact of his existence. He did not like to be alone. Now he was not only alone, but sensory input was almost non-existent. Even the pain he had been living with for years was now gone. The discomfort, though often excruciating, at least had given him the knowledge that he was alive. At this moment he didn't know or feel anything - his thought processes had shorted-out, like a bad fuse.

Gaf was quickly losing not only his motivation, but his sanity as well. Despair began to set in like a bad cold. He knew he must shake off these feelings and concentrate on the practical aspects of staying alive. Peering into the darkness, he started to once again focus on the light coming from the upper levels. The light was fading, the sun would set in a few hours. He had been in this cavern much longer than he had first thought. He decided to wait until morning. And then collapsed into a deep sleep. He slept fitfully, dreams drifted in and out like fog.

He awoke with a start, disoriented at first. Then the events of the previous day came flooding back. His stomach was grumbling painfully.

"I should have taken Molly up on her offer to make pancakes." He began to laugh, hysterically. He doubled over and began to cough, retching as his stomach contracted in painful spasms.

The light from above become brighter. He began to feel stronger and looked up toward the source, "There's no way I can climb that. But if I sit here any longer I'll go nuts."

He walked cautiously towards the cavern wall and started the ascent. The walls of the cavern were covered with some sort of fungus. He thought he had sat on something similar to this in the tunnel. The climb was exhausting, but he somehow managed to maintain his balance. He would search for a foot hold and then very carefully run his hand along the rock wall looking for a hand hold. Gradually, he worked his way up. Pressing himself against the rocks he would rest and attempt to relax the muscles that were beginning to knot up in his arms and legs. With slow and deliberate movements he continued at his task, knowing that at any time he might fall to his death.

Also, he knew it was probably impossible to get back down without injury. After an agonizing hour, his back muscles began to cramp. But he had made it about halfway and was sure that with some rest he could make it to the top. His fingers located a small wedge in the wall. Expertly, and painfully he loosened his belt, using all of his remaining strength, he jammed the buckle into the crack and tied the other end around his right arm.

Briefly testing it for strength, he then put his weight on the right leg allowing the belt to maintain his balance. This took the pressure off his left side and although his right arm was becoming numb, the cramps were relieved on the left side. He used this procedure each time he found a wedge that felt solid enough to maintain his weight.

Looking up for the next wedge, he saw that the wall was beginning to curve over the top of his head. He had managed to climb directly under an impossible overhang! There was no way that he could continue. It was, he knew, the end of his journey. Stuck, like a fly on a wall, the old man began to accept the inevitable. His choices now amounted to falling, or leaping to his death. Totally demoralized, he accepted his fate.

Pleasant memories from the past drifted into his consciousness. A vision of working on a roof with Molly when they were in Colorado appeared. He remembered that he gently brushed her aside in order to descend the ladder first. The ladder suddenly slipped away underneath him and he was left dangling in midair.

As Molly watched in horror, the ladder somehow became stable and silently, they reached for each other. There was no reasonable explanation, it just happened that way. Incidents such as this had occurred to Gaf throughout his life when his life was threatened. Could it happen again? His aunt Rose had always told him "you could fall in a bucket of shit, and come out smelling like wild flowers." Since he wasn't in any particular mood for leaping, he decided to risk the descent.

Inches at a time his hand carefully searched for suitable crevices to place the buckle of his belt, all the while trying to maintain the necessary balance. Beads of sweat rolled over his forehead and into his eyes as each movement became a dizzying, gut-wrenching stretch into possible oblivion. "And if I survive, then what?," he yelled to the rocks below. "Do I wander in these damned tunnels 'till I starve to death?" The sharp pang of hunger was no less intense than the pain inflicted on his toes as they scraped along the rock wall. Just as he was about to take another step down, the old man's hand slipped from the sharp edge of the small crevice he was using to keep his balance. With frightening speed, both feet slipped from their narrow perch. His breath rushed from his lungs as his body slammed into the cavern wall and hung, suspended in space from the belt he had wrapped around his arm. The brutal crushing of the leather into his skin was acknowledged by his screams of agony. Knowing that one unplanned move might dislodge the buckle, he brought his entire being to a closed state of observation. Slowly, he turned to face the wall and reached into the darkness for a hand hold. His attempts to gain firm footing were constantly thwarted by the slippery fungus lining the cavern walls. His hand would slip away from the rocks with only clumps of spores in his grip. Again, and again he would reach, but his only reward was the cold gray fungus. His fingers, now swollen and bleeding, were quickly loosing their ability to clasp around the rocks. In a gesture to relieve some pain, he brought his fingers to his mouth. To his surprise, the fungus that had stuck to his fingers was not distasteful. With quickening excitement, he now purposely reached for the fungus and savagely shoved it into his mouth. Renewed strength enabled him to take a desperate one-last-chance lunge. He found his footing.

Gaf closed his eyes and began to gulp deep breaths.

His stomach contracted, slightly queasy - uncertain about the sudden gift of food. It gurgled for a moment and then rapidly digested the fungus, sending a new form of strength to the rest of the body.

The old man laughed out loud. He had not experienced this exalted feeling of cheating death since his youth. It always came as a result of pushing past the self-imposed limits of mind and body. He hadn't felt this good in a very long time. The throbbing in his muscles had stopped and his fingers and toes were no longer bleeding. He could hear his blood surging and pulsing throughout his entire being. His senses became acute. He felt more alive than he had ever felt in his whole life. The outline of the rocks became clearer and sharper, the crevices darker and more defined. The effect on his vision was similar to putting on '3-D' glasses after watching more than half of the movie without them. He felt giddy from the increased feeling of well-being and strength. The beauty of his surroundings descended on him with increased clarity. He tilted his head to one side as he listened to a new sound - was it possible?

It sounded like the small waterfall he had drank from earlier.

At an unconscious level, Gaf had quickly processed all of this information and arrived at the conclusion that the fungus was responsible for his miraculous recovery and heighten sensory awareness. He was now totally awestruck. As these conclusions surfaced into his consciousness, they were loudly acknowledged as inspirational. "Ah Ha!," he testified, "Of course, the fungus." And in agreement, the cavern echoed his conclusion; three times. The old man looked down as if searching for his own echo and could hardly believe his eyes; there were step like ridges carved in the wall like an elegant, but primitive staircase. With the agility of a 20 year old athlete, he skipped down the staircase to the center of the cavern.

Gaf felt confident. "Now, maybe I can get the hell out of here, I've got food and water." he exclaimed. The combination of a full stomach and the intense physical exertion lulled him into a drowsy state. Laying down, his eyelids fluttered as he watched the staircase shimmer before him. He closed his eyes and waited for sleep. He waited and waited, but sleep would not come. - his eyelids opened, the scene surrounding him began to blur. 'Yes,' he thought, 'I'm definitely drifting off, I've just been so wound up that it's taking me longer to settle down.' His nose tickled and as he reached up to rub it, his eyes opened again, the staircase no longer visible. Slightly irritated, he turned over on his side. The harder he tried to sleep, the more alert he felt. He sat up, no longer tired, accepting the thought that had pushed its way into his awareness. "Hold it! Now wait just a minute!," he shouted, his voice sounding hollow and thin. "Where the hell are the stairs?" He rose to his feet as he understood that he hadn't been drifting off to sleep after all. The clarity of his surroundings had been literally fading before his eyes. The recognition that all of his previous perceptions were felonious illusions rammed into his consciousness. Once again, Gaf was faced with the circularity of his predicament. He seemed to be making a career out of slumping to the floor in awe and confusion.

Unlike the previous surprises this one was not accompanied by the threat of starvation. Having access to food and water allowed Gaf the opportunity to evaluate this phenomena without fear. His mind raced across possibilities.

"Am I just hallucinating? Am I asleep and dreaming? Is Molly about to wake me up?" Then with slight hesitation he whispered the ultimate conclusion, "Or am I dead?" The possibility that he was dead flooded his consciousness. He had heard many stories of departed spirits refusing to accept their physical death and as a consequence, remained in the realm of the living. In literature they were personified as ghosts or poltergeists. Staring blankly into the darkness, he began to question, "Am I dead?

Maybe I am dead and I'm just too stupid to lie down, but if I am dead, shouldn't there be a body? Didn't I leave a body behind? Where is it?"

With the splendid ease of a Nordic sailing vessel slicing through cresting waves, he floated up through shimmering diamond dust shaken from glowing ribbons of light. Gazing down, the sight of his body lie bent and twisted like a rag doll. No longer confused, he traveled toward the light. A feeling of regret at leaving Molly behind was quickly overcome by the total peace and joy that filled his entire being.

Quickly pulled through a tunnel made of gold and silver threads, he saw a bright, almost blinding, mist forming at the end. The figure walking towards Gaf was brandishing a sword.

Gaf's survival instincts jumped into play, but there was no place to hide. The area around him was nothing but barren ground. He knew he could not run; he prepared for the onslaught.

Seeing Gaf's determination, Saint Michael grinned and in an attempt to allay Gaf's fears he discarded the sword. "Gaf, don't you recognize an old friend when you see one?"

" My friends don't usually greet me with a sword."

" If it's the sword that bothers you, forget it, it's gone, but we have much to talk about."

" If I'm not dreaming, then I'm dead."

" You're neither," said Saint Michael," but it would take too long to explain right now and I suspect we won't have much time."

" My friends have a name, you seem to know mine, what's yours?"

" Well, you always called me Mike."

It was obvious to Saint Michael that Gaf was dubious. He moved slowly towards Gaf and held out his hand. Not wanting to appear unfriendly in possible hostile surroundings, Gaf shook Mike's hand vigorously and said," I don't know where the hell I am, but maybe you've got some answers. Am I still in the cavern?"

" That's not an easy one to answer because what you think of as a solid structure separate from yourself is actually a combined thought form of many beings."

" If that's supposed to make sense, it just went over the top of my head. What are you talking about?"

" Where you are depends on who is asking the question. If it's You here, then you

are here, but if it's the You that is not here, then you are in a cavern located near the headwaters of the Amazon. However, these are only aspects of recent memory. There is also a 'You' that is standing outside of your home waving to your wife. "

"WHAT?" he yelled. Now totally baffled and befuddled, Gaf's left eye began to twitch rapidly.

Just then another figure came walking towards them.

Recognizing his friends, Rendell ran quickly towards Mike and Gaf. "Greetings! Take me to your leader," laughed Rendell.

The only reason Gaf was not frightened was because Rendell was no more than 3 feet tall. Although, never having had the privilege of meeting an alien, this individual certainly fit descriptions he had read. The sight of Rendell seemed so comical that Gaf could not contain a severe bout of laughter. His mirth was contagious and

all three laughed so hard that tears rolled over their cheeks.

Getting his composure back, Mike said, "It's always like this when we meet, but it will have to wait, we've got to take care of business first."

" He's been like this every since you left, Gaf. I've tried to get him to lighten up, but it's no use."

With feigned seriousness, Saint Michael said," If you would take things a little more seriously maybe I could relax. And that crack about lightening up didn't get by me."

Rendell's pun on light and Saint Michael brought on another round of raucous laughter. The laughter seemed to help Gaf's memory. But it wasn't clear enough to give him any understanding. It was similar to remembering that you had a dream, but without any details. Rendell suggested they find a private place to talk. They started walking and soon found a stone path that lead to a quiet pool in a small grove of trees. "Looks quite comfortable," said Rendell. "This should do for awhile."

It was the first opportunity Gaf had to look around, but the looking stopped short when he realized that he had no feet. He began screaming in absolute terror. "My feet, what the hell happened to my feet?," he screamed.

Startled by Gaf's outburst, Rendell said," There's nothing wrong with your feet, why are you screaming?"

" Are you nuts," Gaf challenged, "I don't have any feet, that's what's wrong."

Seeing the hysteria in Gaf's eyes, Mike set his friend down on a rock by small pool. "Just sit for awhile, Gaf, believe me, you have feet."

Within moments Gaf could see his sandals then his feet taking shape. The shock of not having any feet was a little more than the old man could handle. He kept leaning over rubbing his toes to assure himself they were still attached.

Seeing his concern, Rendell said, "They're still there but you have to maintain focus over the entire continuum of the existence you've created for yourself. If you don't you'll fade back to the cavern"

The view from the path was spectacular. Even though it was probably just a dream, Gaf thought he might at least enjoy what it had to offer.

After a few moments of silence he smiled and said, "Nice view, what's this gong to cost me? Another swing on my belt?"

"Sorry about that,' Rendell said, "but we were having a tough time getting your attention."

" Uh, I don't suppose you would have a," but before Gaf could finish his request, Rendell said rather abruptly," No, we do not have any cigarettes!"

" Damn, I just thought I ask. You don't have to yell." Speaking to himself he added, "It would have been fun to try, I can't ever remember having smoked a cigarette in a dream?"

Seeing them both relax Mike took the opportunity to re-acquaint Gaf with the problem. " If you two are ready to settle down, maybe we can get started." Looking at Gaf, he continued, " I know you're not going to immediately understand everything we tell you but we've got to start somewhere. Just listen for awhile, and we'll do our best to explain. Feel free to jump in with any questions. In summary, we believe we're stuck in the realities that get created as we think. The more we think the more illusion is created. Even as we speak about the problem, it expands into further creation of belief of being stuck. It's seems that own personal awareness is doing the creating without knowing that it's doing it."

The conversation was giving Gaf a headache.

"My head is starting to hurt," Gaf muttered. "Am I supposed to have headaches even after I'm dead? You know none of this makes any sense. If I'm not dead then I'm dreaming."

Exasperated, Rendell stood up and said to Mike," There he goes again!"

" Give him a chance, Rendell. He just got here.

Besides, I told him to jump in anytime he had a question. Don't jump to any conclusions Gaf, you are neither dead, nor dreaming. You are here to help resolve the problem of personal awareness."

" Right now my personal awareness tells me I might be completely batshit!"

Moving over to sit next to his friend, Mike ignored the snide comment and continued, "I'll try to explain as easily as I can. If we could manage to locate our own personal awareness we might stand a chance of breaking out of this endless loop. The problem is that we don't seem to be able to identify our self without making a reference to something we created. Which of course adds to more of the creation."

Unable to contain his enthusiasm, Rendell interjected, "Can you define your personal self without an external object such as a role you play or using your name? With Mike, his role is an avenging angel. And the problem gets even more intense when everyone else projects their creation of what they believe is your identity."

With a complete look of blankness Gaf said," If I could just have a drink of water, maybe from this pool, I could get on my way or wake up or something." Cupping his hand Gaf reached into the pool and could feel the cool sensation of the sparkling water. Staring into the pool gave him a slight heady feeling.

Exhaustion and confusion won over and he retired into the comforting arms of sleep.

.........................

"Katrina, welcome. How was the trip?," Jerome asked as they walked arm in arm towards the back veranda.

" I found it invigorating as usual. Everyone tells me that it's too dangerous for a woman to fly alone, but it's really the only time I get any real privacy. Besides," she said as she relaxed gracefully into a lounge chair, "Those people don't know the real me, do they?"

Jerome pulled the long velvet cord in the corner, then joined her on the couch. Smiling, he took hold of her hand, "It's good to see you in such good spirits, my dear. Juanita is bringing us a tray and you can give me an update of your family gossip over coffee and juice while we wait for the others."

Katrina patted his hand with her own and said," No gossip this morning. But I do have some things I want to discuss with you."

" Sounds ominous," said Jerome. "How can I help?"

" Not ominous, but it could be a problem. Over the past few months, we have all noticed your restlessness. No one questions your intentions, but it is of concern. Some, including myself, wonder if you are having doubts about our goals."

" Its not the goal that has me concerned.

Sometimes I wonder about my own personal goals. But it really should not be of concern to anyone. If my instincts are right, my father's plans should reach fruition before the end of this century."

" The important issue, Jerome, is preventing Transmutation of the planet. And your instincts are quite correct. My channel informs me that dissension has reached its maximum and he is ready to challenge those who would drag us all into oblivion. There is no doubt that the Morning Star will overcome the Flaming Sword."

"It sounds like your guests have arrived, I will want to speak with you again, after the meeting. I do expect some clear answers."

Katrina's dissatisfaction did not go unnoticed.

Jerome was well aware of her power, and knew that he was no match for her. In answer to her demonstration of authority he said, " As, always you are quite perceptive. Rest assured that by the end of this meeting I will have some answers, but now let's meet the guests."

Juanita set the tray on a nearby table then slipped quietly away as nine distinguished looking gentlemen joined Jerome and Katrina. Greetings were exchanged and they made 'small talk' as they waited for the arrival of the remaining two members of the group. " Nikos and Claude must be running a little late," Karl said, looking at his watch. "I think we can begin without them, they already have a thumbnail sketch of the recent happenings." " I'd really rather we wait," Jerome announced with a slight edge to his voice. The years of the secret meetings and manipulations of world events were beginning to take their toll on him. As Jerome spoke, the two gentlemen arrived and the meeting began in earnest. Major conflicts between nations had erupted just as they had predicted. The economic situation was proceeding smoothly, even Mother Nature had aided their efforts when a large earthquake struck a heavily populated area twice in the last year. The only fly in the ointment appeared to be further meddling by alien life forms that had now, according to the information provided by Jerome's father, kidnapped some old duffer from Nevada's famous 'area 51'. Right now, although no one knew his exact whereabouts, they assumed he was still on Earth. Jerome removed a typed sheet from his case," My father has advised me that there are a few that are coming very close to the secret of transmutation." "Father's group is now doing all it can to bring sanity to the issue of Transmutation. However, it is certain that this will now go beyond discussion. Direct confrontation is imminent. All he wishes from us at this point is to eliminate a few players from the manifest level." Jerome distributed the sheet around the table while he said the names aloud: "Gaf Rockwood, somewhere on the planet; Molly Rockwood, his wife, who is currently searching for her husband in Rachel Nevada and Don Gilleto, a close friend of the couple, currently in custody at area 51. We are also targeting 3 people that are associated with Mr. Gilleto and are currently in transit somewhere outside of Rachel. All are accounted for as we speak, except, of course, Mr. Rockwood. As usual, the SSQ branch of the United States Government believes this is a matter regarding the maintenance of world economic stability and will cooperate fully." Over the next 8 hours as they planned 'current events' for the next six months they also set in motion the solution to the Rockwood problem. Katrina, waited until everyone had left before confronting Jerome. Jerome avoided any further questions from Katrina by immediately talking about his personal goals. In debate the questioner had the advantage. However, this did not fool Katrina, a long time participant in the art of sociopathy. "Most of my restlessness simply stems from to many hours at planning and not enough doing. I'm confident that once we have the final confrontation I can release some of this energy in useful ways. Our discussion helped me clarify my personal responsibility to assist in achieving the goals of our families. " I'm glad to hear that Jerome," Katrina said, as she stood and gave him a peck on the cheek, "I'll show myself out, and Dear," she said, reminding him, "stay in close touch". Standing on the balcony that night, Jerome did indeed clarify his personal responsibilities. He would not rise with the Morning Star but rather, ride into possible oblivion, with the Flaming Sword as his guide.