Molly had no idea that she was the subject of such intense conversation. Her feelings over Gaf's disappearance, buried for so long, gushed out of her at Rowan's prodding. Molly felt emotionally drained, it had been a very long day. That evening after dinner was over and Theresa asleep in her bed upstairs, the adult's discussion of the day's events was slow to begin, words that normally came so easily were somewhat stilted. After introductions, it became obvious that Molly's friend, Rowan was not very talkative, and what she did say seemed to make little sense according to their reality. Molly knew quite well that she was no match for Cassandra and although curious about Rowan's sudden appearance, she kept her questions to herself. The sudden burst of chatter from the younger women was nearly deafening. In an attempt to satisfy their bombastic need for metaphysical explanations, Tyler said, "The Devil claimed what was his" then added with a grin, "Rowan just helped him along a bit."
" That's it?" squeaked Juniper. "I watched as three people got sucked into a pit from hell and . . . sorry, your explanation just doesn't cut it."
Molly then added, "Of course, there was more to what you saw than was visible. The only way for you to understand everything that happened completely is to walk on Rowan's path. The road to becoming a Shaman is a long dark and dangerous journey. If you sincerely want to know more, then you must first step on that life path. I don't think any of you want to attempt that, at this time, anyway. For now, why not be satisfied with what has been shown to you."
" Yea, I could have said that. Thanks, Molly." Rowan said. The room was quiet for a few moments. Then Tyler began to speak in a slow melodic voice. It was necessary for them to know more. It appeared that he had a wealth of information regarding Gaf's disappearance at area 51, their miraculous escape to the desert of Arizona, and incidents in the Kaibab forest. Tyler spoke to them of the Illuminati plot, the extraterrestrials and their 'infinity vortex'. Now, because of Cassandra, the general location of the cavern was known, and also the fact that Molly was living near Monticello. It was only a matter of time before the Illuminati would be extracting the exact location of the 'infinity vortex' from her mind. The experiment that Gaf was attempting was in jeopardy; and also, the evolution of, not only the soul of humanity, but of the entire Universal Collective. Tyler's discourse was completed without interruption. Shadows from the lantern played on the kitchen wall as everyone attempted to process the total meaning of Tyler's words.
Molly was the first to speak, "But, I don't know exactly where Gaf is." she began, tentatively. "
Tyler interrupted her and said, "Oh, but you do, you just aren't aware of what you know. Sal also knows. Fortunately, the Illuminati is not aware of Sal."
Sal, who had been becoming impatient with the whole concept, erupted, "Jesus Christ! You assholes have really lost it!" On his way outside, his hand stopped on the door knob at Tyler's next sentence. " Just reflect for a moment on the dreams you experienced while you were ill. Also, on what has happened to you since you placed Juniper's crystal around your neck. Actually, as I think you know, Juniper, it was your crystal that started this entire business. Remember the morning you found it?"
" Oh, My God!" Juniper screamed and, unable to contain her agitation, literally began jumping up and down. " I thought it was her damn purse." Sandy mumbled, nudging Hank in the ribs.
"The crystal?" Jacob and Sal said in unison as all eyes turned in Juniper's direction. Still trying to sort her jumbled memories of that day in her own mind, Juniper stammered out a story of finding the crystal, her 13th birthday, a crazy old man in a diner; which made absolutely no sense to any of them. Juniper's loud exclamation brought Ben running into the kitchen, bored with the conversation, he had spent the last hour napping on the living room couch. Concluding that nothing was happening, other than their usual crazy talk, he grumbled "goodnight" and went outside and into the security of his motor home. After another half hour of somewhat confused questions and answers, everyone agreed that they needed to sleep on it.
Joan did not feel in the least sleepy, but she also retired in order to categorize what she had seen and heard. As she wrote down the 'facts' on a sheet of paper, she became more and more excited. Almost immediately, she made the connection between what Tyler had said about the Illuminati and the miniature computer chips she had worked on at the N.E.R.D. Joan's brain had been starved for analytical thought. Throughout the next few days, she plotted several possibilities and kept her conclusions to herself. It was a relief to most of them that Joan preferred her own company. Her brief appearance at mealtime, usually generated a subtle aura of disruption. On the other hand, Billy Jo was glad to be here. Although he didn't always understand what these people were talking about, he felt a comfortable sense of belonging that he had not felt for a very long time. Quietly, he participated in the chores, mostly those involving guns or game, and enjoyed the comradery of the other males.
Thanksgiving Day was clear and cold. The sounds and smells of joyous celebration that greeted Dr. Sherman as he approached the house were as old as mankind. Theresa ran to meet him and pulled him inside. The living room was artfully arranged so all, including Colleen, could witness the exchange of wedding vows. After Hank kissed his bride, the wine flowed and the feast began. Even Joan was momentarily touched by the sincerity exhibited by the happy couple as she filled her plate and retreated to a corner of the room. After eating, Theresa, tired from all the excitement went up to her bedroom to nap. The fact that she was a sound sleeper along with the hearing loss she suffered, saved her from the terrifying events that were about to take place in her home. No one heard or saw the large black helicopter as it landed silently in the yard. Twenty men in full riot gear, complete with black helmets and opaque face plates, surrounded the perimeter, then quickly and efficiently secured the occupants of the house. Hand cuffed and terrified, their eyes focused on the man who walked briskly into the room and stopped in front of Molly. Before speaking to any of the household members, Jerome asked the team leader for a report. He was told that a child slept in an upstairs bedroom and a woman apparently ill, occupied the bedroom on the main floor. As he began speaking to Molly, the members of the troupe recognized Jerome as the mysterious stranger who had been so generous with his money during their last performance. His words brusque and concise, he told Molly that regretfully, the Illuminati knew her location and offered her a choice. "Either I kill you painlessly, or give you over to a tortuous death at the hands of demons. Which do you prefer?" Before Molly could answer, Rowan suddenly appeared out of thin air. Jerome smiled his recognition and with a subtle signal to his men, indicated that he did not wish her restrained. She had been present when the doors of the home burst open, but disappeared. taking the barking dog with her, before the first man stormed into the house. Startled by Rowan's sudden re-appearance, Molly asked, "Neat trick, where's my dog?"
" Sleeping comfortably in the barn. She will be out for quite awhile."
Turning to Jerome, Molly asked, "Uh, can I offer you some pie or coffee?"
"I'm discussing your death, and you're trying to feed me?"
"Umm, frankly, there's nothing I can add to this conversation. It appears that regardless of my choice, I will soon die. Therefore, there's no reason for me to be uncivil. Now, which will it be, pie, coffee, or both?" With a wry smile, Jerome pulled up a chair and said, "You're not going to make this easy, are you?"
" Am I supposed to?"
" Probably not, but I really have no alternative left. I must either produce you alive, meaning a horrible death, or your dead body."
" I can arrange that." Said Rowan, taking up a position at Molly's side.
"Arrange what?" asked Molly.
" Your dead body." Rowan said, cheerfully.
" You're welcome, dear. But, I think you misunderstand my intention. Apparently, if you don't show up dead, torture awaits you. But, it is possible to provide the people this man speaks of with your dead body and still keep your life force intact. In other words, the silver thread that connects your spiritual self to your physical self can be attached to another person."
Perplexed, Molly asked, "You mean like a zombie?"
"No, not a zombie, but you would literally leave your own body and enter someone else's. However, the host would have to be someone who is not totally involved in their physical life, such as Colleen." Jerome, well educated in the metaphysical, followed Rowan's words intently. "Yes, if you can pull it off, that would certainly solve my problem."
"That sounds great, but can you put Humpty Dumpty back together again?" Molly asked.
Rowan replied, "Sometimes, but that's the risk you'd have to take, m'dear."
Jerome then said, "I need to have your life force separated from your body for two years. By that time, those that want your death, will be convinced that you no longer walk on this planet." What Jerome did not say was that he knew Katrina was suspicious of his intentions. He believed this ruse would work, but time was needed for Katrina to move her focus away from Molly. As long as Molly's life force was not contained by her body, Katrina would not know that she was still attached to the earth plane. Over time, her suspicions of Jerome would dissolve into a belief that he was loyal to the cause of the Illuminati.
"Then we have a problem", said Rowan. "This will only work if she can be returned to her body within 48 hours. During which, her body should be kept in cold storage of some sort. Any longer, and the body will begin to decompose. We can't just freeze her, because of the tissue damage that would occur."
"I have a solution." Jerome answered. "A number of years ago I built a small retreat on the top of Mount Wilson in Colorado. It includes a small facility for suspended animation, a kind of frozen stasis for humans. However, someone would have to monitor the controls. Although they are automatic, someone should be in attendance, in case of failure. A simple matter of pushing a few 'reset' buttons."
Both Ben and Tyler volunteered, but Jerome thought it best if only one person went. It would be less noticeable. Also, since Tyler was the most competent in wilderness survival, he was the practical choice. Ben reluctantly recognized the logic. The plan was to take Tyler to the retreat before bringing Molly's body to Katrina. The inspection of her remains by the Illuminati would only take a few hours, then he would bring the body to Mount Wilson. Jerome went on to advise Tyler that the operations manual for the retreat was well documented on the facility computers. Since, it was entirely voice activated, Tyler need only turn on one switch, then simply ask what ever he needed to know. Jerome gave them the location, but warned all that if it should be revealed to anyone else the retreat would become useless. He would have no choice but to destroy everything there and all that was connected. The implication that he would have everyone killed did not go unnoticed. Rowan agreed to go to Mt Wilson, but preferred to go in the spring. Jerome agreed to a date of June 1st of the following year.
When Rowan stated that it would be necessary for Colleen to be there, Don and Billy Jo accepted the responsibility. They knew it might be a tough climb, because of the snow. The top ridges of Mount Wilson were often snow covered year-round. "One more item and we can get on with this", said Jerome. "The manner of death must leave no question. I suggest a single shot through the heart after Molly's life has left. The wound can be easily repaired before the body is brought to the retreat."
"Yes, that will work nicely." Rowan responded, with a touch too much anticipation in her voice for Molly's liking. She was slightly uncomfortable being discussed as though she were already dead.
"Well, maybe while you're at it, Jerome, you can have the surgeon give me a face lift and a tummy tuck."
"Great idea, Molly!" Rowan joked, fully aware of her friend's discomfort.
"We're agreed then. Let's get on with it." Jerome said.
"And what about Colleen, how do we get her permission?" asked Molly.
"We can't", answered Don. "But I know if she could speak she would agree."
Always the Shaman, Rowan said, "There's always a risk, but the karmic rebound for this can't be all that bad.", Then laughing she said to her old friend, "Maybe you've got to come back as a toad in another life and Colleen will get to use you for fish bait."
"Go for it, then." said Molly. "I'll accept the karmic risk." The others could no longer watch and keep silent. Ben tried to stand, but was immediately shoved back into his chair by one of Jerome's troopers. "There's no other choice, Ben." Molly said, looking over her shoulder, as she walked with Rowan and Jerome to the privacy of Colleen's bedroom.
The ritual took no more than a few minutes. All were surprised at the speed with which they returned. Dr. Sherman, unconvinced that Molly was dead asked if he could check her vital signs. Ben too, was allowed to check and was finally convinced that there was no life in Molly's body. Everyone thought that Molly would be able to communicate through Colleen's mouth. However, Rowan told them that Molly was simply a guest in Colleen's body and could not use it to speak. They would simply have to take it on faith that she truly resided alongside Colleen's life force. "Besides," she reminded them, "Jerome left us little choice." Molly's lifeless body was placed on a stretcher and carried outside. It didn't take long for her body to cool in the bitter cold. With deft, one of Jerome's men, on order, fired a single bullet into Molly's heart. The sound of the shot felt like a physical blow to Ben's chest, tears rolled down his face. Everyone held their breath for a moment, stunned by the echo of death. With honesty, Jerome explained the consequences they would suffer if the Illuminati ever discovered what they had witnessed.
While his men unbound them, he assured them that Cassandra had given Katrina no other information than Molly's statement that Gaf was in Peru and where Molly planned to go next. Currently, the Illuminati had no business with any of them. However, he warned them to trust no one in the months to come. Pausing in the doorway, as an after thought, he told them that it might be wise for all of them to consider going to Mount Wilson. They appreciated the offer, but thought they would be safer in an area they were familiar with.
"Suit yourselves", Jerome said, "But the offer stands." Jerome, now with Tyler, left as quietly and suddenly as he had arrived. Jezebel, who had been placed in a state of calm by Rowan to insure the dog's safety, began to whimper a little when she first entered the house. Rowan followed the dog to Colleen's bedroom and watched as Jez licked Colleen's hand, wagged her tail for a moment and when there was no response, she curled up on the rug and fell asleep. By this time, Theresa rubbing her eyes entered the kitchen and asked for Molly. Still groggy from her nap, Don explained to her that Molly had to leave, but would eventually return. Theresa had become used to people coming and going in her home and accepted Don's explanation. For the remainder of Thanksgiving Day and the day following, discussion of the spiritual aspects of life dominated the conversation more than before. After absorbing Tyler's words of warning and recent events, Hank and Sandy became even more determined to create a life of peace and order for themselves and the children they hoped to have, regardless of the chaos that might surround them. During a light supper of leftovers from the previous day, Rowan told them that she had been traveling to Hovenweep to winter with friends when the Universe had directed her toward her friend Molly. She had enjoyed their company, but now it was time for her to be on her way.
Jacob felt intense disappointment when Rowan told them she intended to leave the following morning. Since their meeting he had pestered her with questions regarding Shamanism. He found her replies exiting and thought provoking, her confident delivery attractive. In fact, he fully realized at that moment, he admired everything about this woman. "I'd like to travel with you." He said. Rowan, unsurprised, calmly asked, "Why?"
"I intend to become a shaman and I'd like you to help me." Amiably, he added, "If you refuse, I'll seek another teacher." Approving of his answer, she said, "We'll leave at dawn."
Hank and Sandy also felt dismay over Rowan's leaving. Excusing themselves, they discussed the possibility that they too, might travel with her. Their decision made, they returned and expressed their desire to travel with her and Jacob to Hovenweep and build their spiritual strength. Rowan was unable to refuse their sincere request. Surprisingly, Dr. Sherman encouraged their leaving, saying that there was safety in numbers, but too large a group could be as much of a risk as too small. Juniper, although she was aware of the changes in her friend's outlook on life, was surprised. Never before had Sandy made a major life decision without first discussing it with Juniper, 'except her marriage', she remembered. She wished them well and tearfully extracted a promise that they would try to keep in touch. Sandy promised, and told Juniper that they would return with Rowan. Early that morning as Jacob and Hank were tying Rowan's travois on the roof of the van, Bert and Mort asked if they could tag along. Sal too, was bored with staying in one spot after so many years of living on the road, but declined to travel with his old friends. He was determined to stay with Juniper and build a relationship. Hank, Sandy, and Rowan rode in the van, the three Harleys followed behind.
Sal, Juniper, Don and Megan watched them leave with a sense of foreboding. Over the winter months the economic and political chaos continued to take its toll around the globe. Harsh reality set in when, without the support of the United States, every country around the world suffered. Nations that were dependent on her foreign aid collapsed like dominos, and those that believed themselves independent from her, finally realized the truth. Without the U.S. there were no communications, supply lines of technology at first interrupted, finally disintegrated. Nationally, through martial law, the armed forces maintained a semblance of order in the giant metropolitan areas of the east and west coast only. Under the direction of ARGUS, gasoline, food, and medical supplies were rerouted and then rationed throughout the larger cities. ARGUS did not have the manpower, nor the resources to engage in guerrilla warfare with militia. Militia troops that were captured were immediately executed. However, this did not stop the constant barrage of sniper attacks and bombing on military personnel and equipment. The Midwest and western states were without any kind of government support. Large cities between the coasts were left to fend for themselves, all supplies were cut off. For isolated areas like southern Utah this was a death sentence.
In Monticello winter set in hard during the month of December. Gradually, through trial and error, a daily routine was created. Although the major household repairs and food storage had been completed, there was still work to be done on a daily basis. Electrical power was no longer available. Since the well pump was electric, they had been without water until Ben devised a manual pump similar to one he had used as a boy. Fortunately for them all, Ben's father had been a 'pump man'. Their pioneer lifestyle had also been made easier by the country common sense of Billy Jo along with his gunsmith and hunting skills, he was amazingly good with Colleen's physical therapy. Of course, the washing machine was also electric, meaning clothes had to be washed by hand. The wood stove needed constant feeding for warmth and cooking. Sal helped Ben carry his batteries and radio equipment into the house. Their only connection to the outside world was used sparingly, for lack of sunshine, Ben's solar panels were ineffective. With Theresa's help Juniper and Megan tried their hand at quilt making and between them they helped the child with her schooling. They tried to include Joan in their activities, but Joan resisted their friendship and kept to herself. She had become obsessed with Jerome and what he had said of the Illuminati. Dr. Sherman moved what little was left of his clinic into the Carpino home, and became a close friend to everyone. He often enjoyed Joan's intellectual conversation, but not her occasional words of bigotry. Don, on the other hand, could barely stand being in the same room with the woman. Sal worked off his frustration daily with a snow shovel, by Christmas, the snow had reached the window sills. Don and Megan spent many late hours in front of the fireplace getting to know each other. Over the past couple of months they formed a mutually nourishing relationship. Although the words had not been spoken, both realized that they were in love.
Sal worked hard on the art of polite conversation and Juniper, knowing much of this was for her benefit, was grateful. Although convinced that Molly was dead, Ben eased his grief by entering Colleen's room and speaking to Molly when he thought no one was looking. He wasn't sure why he had stayed, but somehow over time he had acquired the position of grandfather to this odd collection of souls. It had been he who had saved their lives late one night when he woke to a house filled with smoke from a chimney fire. Late in January the weather warmed, causing minor flooding. Theresa did not give up her hope that her mother would return and prayed daily for Colleen's recovery. Dr. Sherman used the slow winter months to record in his journal. By the light of a flickering candle, he recorded the chaos and in anguish predicted the havoc yet to come. For generations man feared annihilation from nuclear war, but that was only a devilish diversion from the truth. The cities, having become banks of human carnage, would soon fester and vomit nature's revenge.
The darkness was absolute. Molly could see or hear nothing, but even more distressing, she felt nothing. There was no sensory input whatsoever, no warmth, no cold, nothing. 'Well, Rowan, where have you put me? If I'm with Colleen's life force, where is she? How will I recognize her if she's not in her body?' Molly's head was beginning to fill with questions and as it filled, the answers began to form. A thin stream of light in the distance began to move as if waving in a breeze. Molly traced its path as it swayed and widened toward the source . . . her. She knew that this was the silver cord Rowan had spoken of, 'my silver cord'. No sooner had she claimed the cord as her own, then she spotted a second beam of light. This cord seemed near her own, but was of a slightly different shade and texture. Molly thought 'near' but realized that she actually had no idea of how close or how far the distance was, there was nothing to judge size or proximity, nothing with which to compare. Laughing to herself her thoughts were distracted by a very old joke that answered the question of why women had such trouble measuring size and distance. Spontaneous remembrance of the joke had lightened her mood. She felt determined to explore the darkness further and as she decided this, she saw a gray area off to the right. As she focused on the shape it disappeared, then returned as she looked away. Molly stared at the blackness directly ahead of her and watched the figure approach from the side. The instant she recognized her, Colleen also perceived Molly's awareness. Fear flooded the atmosphere like noxious fumes. Molly felt like she had been sucked through a vacuum cleaner as she landed abruptly in the body of Colleen Carpino. Feeling Colleen's fear subside, she also felt tremendous pressure and restriction.
'This body isn't big enough for the both of us.' Molly thought. 'Well, get out, then', was Colleen's response. Molly felt confused, this was not at all what she had expected. She had imagined Colleen would be in some kind of unconscious state, or maybe drifting around the universe. 'What? My whole life has fallen apart and you thought I'd be off sightseeing?' Colleen responded, acidly. Molly knew then that as they shared the body, they also shared their thoughts. 'Emotions too'. she added, remembering the fear she sensed just before plummeting into Colleen's body. 'Happens every time.' Colleen explained to Molly that any intense emotion always brought her back to her body. Although the fear belonged to Colleen, Molly was now connected. Molly's curiosity was peaked. As soon as Molly thought of the question, it was promptly answered by Colleen, who was also becoming fascinated with the exchange process. This method of communication left no room for misunderstanding. Very quickly, Colleen understood and approved of Molly's occupancy and Molly was fully aware of Colleen's dilemma. It seemed that after escaping her body from inability to cope with intense grief and guilt, Colleen was having difficulty returning permanently. 'You see,' she said, 'I have to find a way of entering my body without feeling the emotion. I won't be able to live here until I can resolve my extreme emotional response.' Neither woman knew how long they would be existing in this manner. Both were aware of Theresa entering the room and brushing their hair. In her little girl fashion she chattered on excitedly about what she wanted for Christmas and then switched to her most adult voice speaking of people coming into her life and then leaving without even saying goodbye. Very softly, with her left hand she brushed some stray hair away from her mother's cheek. The caress of the child's fingertips telegraphed the depth of Theresa's love for her mother. In response, Colleen attempted to communicate with her daughter. However, as she focused her attention on the concept of 'her child' she was overwhelmed once again with thunderous guilt.
Molly found herself tumbling head over heels down a grassy slope. She came to a sudden stop and lay still for a moment, not daring to get up. There was a loud buzzing in her head, she was dizzy and felt slightly nauseous. A cool hand touched her forehead, she looked up and saw Jennie's face. Struggling to maintain her equilibrium, Molly rose to a sitting position and surveyed her surroundings. She saw more than a dozen people milling around what appeared to be a beautiful park. A sparkling fountain sprinkled joyous drops of water, each creating a different musical tone as they landed into the nearby pool.
"Where's Colleen?" Molly asked Jennie.
"She hides in her cave when she's distraught. But, she's been making very good progress. How are you adjusting to life here?"
" Where's here?"
" I guess you could call it living in your imagination. It's anything you want it to be. Your only limit is yourself." Jennie answered. Molly watched the other people. They seemed to be in various states of awareness. Most of them were interacting with others, but a few seemed isolated, they sat very still and stared at something she was unable to see. Curious about the strangers, Molly asked, "Why are they here? I didn't imagine them."
" Oh, but you did, because you are aware of the limbo that you, yourself entered. Think about it, don't you believe that what you can do, others can do also?"
"Of course." Molly replied.
"Well then, it follows that since you believe others are capable of doing the same thing, you assume that they already have; therefore, others must be here. This place was always part of the original script that you wrote along with the rest of the collective unconscious. So, in that sense, you joined with their self awareness, or in your understanding, are able to see them. Some of them are not aware because they were not part of that original script, therefore, they are unable to see you." Jennie explained. "
You said earlier that my only limit to my experience here is myself. I really miss Gaf, I'd like to see him."
"That's possible." answered Jennie," But you might be disappointed at the results. The Gaf you would see is not the one who is now lost to you. He would seem in every detail to be the Gaf you know, however, he would have no knowledge of events that took place after you lost sight of him in the desert. The Gaf that was lost in the desert, has no awareness of the Molly that exists in this form, therefore he is unable to hear or respond to your questions concerning what happened to him."
Molly remained silent, trying to digest the information, then said, "What you are saying is that the Gaf that could be here with me is the personality that cooperated with me up to the point of his falling into a hole in the desert. The one that fell into the hole took one direction, and the potential Gaf personality that did not fall into the hole would be the one I would see."
" Exactly." Jennie said.
"Then it would follow, that I also have a potential Molly personality that did not undergo the bizarre events I am currently experiencing. Since Gaf and I are both unaware of our respective situations, those particular Gaf and Molly personalities are unable to 'see' each other. In fact, as old as I am with all the decisions I've made, over the years, there must be a million Molly personalities running around the universe."
"That's true, plus the 'Big Molly Awareness' that knows of all the 'splintered Molly's'. Think of the universe as a giant tree, bark, and pulp, sap, limbs, branches, twigs reaching out from one end and an identical system with roots of varying size on the other, only without beginning or end You can only experience a minute fraction of the tree at one time, but the entire tree is always there, will always exist and has always been."
" Oh, stop." Molly pleaded. "My spiritual cortex is getting a headache."
Jennie laughed, "Don't think about it any longer. This can be a pretty fun place. Why don't you just enjoy it while you're here?" She couldn't help adding, "Just remember that scripts requiring different degrees of awareness must be written and agreed upon by all the players."
"Sounds like Jennie's been handing you some heavy stuff." Colleen said as she joined them. "Sorry I disappeared on you."
"Don't apologize." Molly said. "We have much to offer each other. Maybe together we can find our way out of this astral maze."