MT. TERRA HIGH

ANOTHER SECOND LOST

SOPHIA

Vapid. The hallway was filled with students of varying stations in life with every veritable food group represented in rare form, and the smells careening about the hallways whisked a putrid concoction of teen spirit and cafeteria food into a heavy invisible mist welcoming all who would enter the halls of the school. Vapid was the only thing Sophia felt when she stood amongst the mass of sensations. As Sophia took her first steps over the threshold of the doorway, she paid attention to the eroding linoleum tile bracing her left footfall as she left the concrete steps behind her. The hall felt empty, a luminous chasm with fake tile floors meant to maintain the illusion that the cold, dense concrete world of real life was somehow outside the world of education. It was empty, save the mass of students passively floating the invisible currents tirelessly floated by generations before them. Some seemed aware that they were floating, while others struggled to control variations on the theme. They would speed up, or slow down, some with books, some without, but all walking like zombies toward their goal, to get brains. Sophia laughed, as she walked past the bodies of her classmates. She kept her eyes fixed on the tile. Though it hid the truth from the student body, the lines drew her toward her destination. She kept her strides timed to the rhythm of her heart, skipping a tile with every step.

The predetermined path, complete with grooves worn into the tile floor led Sophia to a glass office doorway. Sophia mused to herself about the ladies sitting behind the three desks. The triad were dressed in variations of the same ideal.  For an office so open to the world, what was inside was so closed. She took a breath and steped into the office.

“Hello dear.” said one of the three. The other two ladies perked to attention.

“Hey,” Sophia slipped a half greeting to the middle-aged woman. 

“Oh, you must be Sophia? Isn’t that perfect? If you just take a seat over there, your counselor will be right out… mmkay? Thanks hon.”

“Whatever, thanks.” Sophia took a seat on the red and black bench up against the wall. The bench was a wood synthetic straight out of an ikea catalogue. The suede moaned as she sat into it and Sophia laughed to herself as the women looked at her in mistaken disgust of the sound. Like everything else in the school, the theme of the day seemed to be fakeness.

KENNEDY

It wasn’t the first time that Kennedy had walked the main hall of Mount Terra High with a cursory glance to her surroundings. She had made an art of passing people, like a messenger bicyclist on a deadline. Straining through the crowd of people with precision, she allowed her eyes the narrowest freedom. They scanned the way ahead of her just enough to see the obstacles, giving her brain a steady stream of clear contrasting imagery to avoid. Rather than seeing faces, connected to massive strands of information, the dramas and traumas and details of relationships and repoirs seemed much to inconvenient when weighed against the need to get from one hall to the next. Kennedy brushed against a boy; a boy she once had a crush on, named… he had no name. Kennedy brushed against an object as she moved toward her goal. As she arrived in the office, the nile blue accents pushed against the inertia of her tenacity. She had made it from point A to point B in record time, she could feel it. The clock on the wall confirmed her hunch. Kennedy had effortlessly managed to float the halls of Mount Terra without any real effort, and she had done it in record time. She paid another cursory glance about her surroundings and found an awkward girl sitting on the unnecessarily vibrant red bench. In other circumstances the girl may have been extraordinary, but Kennedy didn’t have the energy to waste any unnessecary resources on another freshman. This girl was the fifth lame freshman Kennedy had lead to classes in her two year tenure at Mount Terra. Kennedy’s energy was rationed perfectly for these circumstances. This ration included a quick thirty second respite of activity for assessment and recognition of the frosh, and two seconds for a non-verbal motion to follow her. Introductions would be made in the hallway, along with a tour guide esque description of the schools idio-syncrisies.   

“You don’t look like your captain of the debate team.” flipped Sophia.

Kennedy looked at the clock, another second lost.

THE DELUGE OF REALITY

It is the dream that first inspired the waking world.It is a reality which is veiled hidden by the confines of a dimensional barrier… a wall that holds in the potential of all who would express it. Life is a fight through the endless limitations of physicality and time… and death is the only reality. 

We fell captive to this life, ensnared by what we percieved as boundaries; Laws and instinct, logic and truth. It forced us to exist in nothing, and so nothing existed. Or so we were told. We were told that the body was witness of the mind; that if we seperated what wasn’t the true essence of being, then we could be free… and we believed them.

Like children we thought to make our reality free of limits, free of sorrows and free of death. We funded their experiments, we listened to their great swelling words, and one day… they delivered.

I don’t know how long it’s been.

How long isn’t an issue in a world without boundaries of the mind. In fact, there are no constants except that of perception. I percieve and therefore it is.

It took me only a lifetime to realize evidence of the freeness;friends growing old, but never dying. Fears coming true and taking no effect on anyone but the dreamer. It wasn’t long before I realized that people were accepting this reality as if they were awake. Their every thought; their  free mind consuming life. They created everything; a utopia of the psyche, beautiful anarchy mixed with no boundaries… until it happened.

The corporate dream was existence.

People lived life according to what they percieved to be the ideal and everyone agreed. This was life. This was reality. It wasn’t a dream, it was being truly awake… free. 

Someone disagreed with the corporate dream. This one person stood alone against the machine, but the machine was so strong that few people listened to the one man against the night. For this prophet of reality, a cell was created; a prison to hold this man and his few followers who knew that no walls existed. They were banished, to live in quiet and peace focusing on the truth.

Time passed without knowing it.

Sanity derailed perception. The passing of time led to anger, and maddening frustration, “Who were they to think they could cage us?” These resolved to end the insanity of the dream and they furthered their exploitation of no limits. Some developed godlike abilities capable of everything but nothing.

They became products of their own perceptions, 

And some percieved that they were in fact gods. These decided that instead of destroying the dream, or simply living in it, they would shape it. Like an artist molds his clay. And so, they became deity, in a world of their own creation; imprisoning the weak who had chosen their own imprisonment by accepting this reality. 

They were ironically imprisoned by their own freedom.

I was seventeen when I entered the dream and all I know is time has passed…

I am one of few who still perceive the dream to its fullest. There is only one other like me and I cannot see his involvement any longer. My Grandfather is said to have passed a year ago… but I know of no physical boundaries as death or time… and so I simply put him out of my current frame of thought… This is what he taught me.

That I can will anything in or out of existence by acknowledging its truth in reality… and so there is only one truth… this is a dream… a state of limbo where I exist until I am aweake, and I must never believe otherwise lest I fall prey to my own imprisonment of the pyche. Like those who are called Lucid, or the ones they control.

Day and night I labor to keep myself aware, waiting for the dreams end. I have been focused on this task since my inception. The day will come when it ends, and I will not have lost my godlike abilities, or my hordes of slaves, or my life… I will have had a good rest with nothing lost.

I want that.

I live every moment of present in anticipation of living… of having consequences and boundaries, and of knowing it is all outside of my control. 

One day, I decided to wait no longer.

“If perception is reality, than what is, is what I perceive…” This was another one of my Grandfather’s lines of logic I had memorized. With this in mind, I began to practice seeing what is there, or rather making what I see appear… and that is when I saw it.

In the dream I had a normal life in the utopia. I was a schoolboy in my senior year of highschool. I had an after school job, and a girlfriend, and a car. The dream had me.

Everyday that I can remember, I taught myself to be aware, to live this life with lucidness. That day after school was no different. I trudged through the sterile environment of a placid suburban home. Transforming my books into a mass of jumbled words on the floor, I practiced the same daily routine. I would practice the realization techniques my Grandfather taught me. “Stare at the half empty glass, and realize it to be half full. Hold in your hand a red ball and conceptualize that it is the red ball holding your hand.” To some this is pointless and completely illogical. It is like a holy man, or a magician of old, and for a long period time I was deceived by that deception. It was a specific practice that changed all that, and solidified myth into reason. 

“Believe that the window pane does not exist. Feel the air flow through its passage. See the other side. Know that the space between is not segregated by the realm of the physical.”

I had heard this speech a thousand times in our practice together, but my grandfather to this point had never participated in the activities. He merely instructed. That day was different. There was something about him that was urgent and rushed. His eyes gave away his impatience with me, and for the first and only time ever, he acted on his own teaching before my very eyes. The exercise involved placing my hand on the window pane, feeling its cool touch. I was to pay attention to the vibrations of sound, to try to witness its tangibility. Then I was to take those observations and to force them into the recesses of my mind; to hide them where you would put perversions and grotesque secrets that could never be told. Eventually, I was supposed to lose touch with these observations, and I would no longer feel the window pane. Despite this conditioning, I felt the window everytime.

Patiently, my grandfather would encourage me that the window is not the truth. This time, his breathing increased and his tone changed, and as he repeated his familiar mantra, “The window is not the truth,” He thrust his hand passed mine into the blue sky behind the window pane. The look on my face must’ve been amazingly blatant because he immediately withdrew his hand passed mine which was still touching the solid glass pane, and he sighed. “The window is not the truth.”

In the space of a second, forever went by as I stared at the blue sky. For a split second, I ventured to believe what I had just seen. And as I extended my mind to the truth, my hand extended to touch the sky. The familiar touch of cool glass shattered this epiphany instantly. I am knew what I had seen, but the truth of the experience was something that could not yet know me.

Despite my inability to follow through, this day, in my contemporary house and stale room, I saw for the first time what I knew. I had just finished the exercises to no avail and I was enjoying my favorite television show when I noticed it.

My reflection was hidden in the glow from the television screen.

In the colored, flashing images streaming from the screen was a duplicate of me, exact in every detail but one. His eyes were closed. The curiousness of the image grasped my attention just enough for me to catch it before I blinked. When my eyes reopened, they were greeted with a return look of curiousity. The sleeping doppleganger had been replaced with a now exact reflection of my image, baffled stare and all. The normalcy of my reflection brought me back to lucidness being a concept, but for the first time, I had personally experienced its reality taking hold.

What I saw could best be described as a waking dream, the type in which you wake up to see yourself do something strand and bizarre. Perhaps I was simply tired or had eaten something that didn’t agree with my psyche, and so I decided that rather than hallucinate about sleep, I would make it a reality. I hadn’t slept much since my Grandfather showed me the truth of his faith. I was sure now that many years had gone by without tasting the subconscious realm that is R.E.M., but my grandfather had instilled in me the idea that we were already within a state of rapid eye movement, and so therefore we simply needed to uncage the conscious by bringing the unconscious out into the dream world. 

Seeing what I saw did the opposite of what it was apparently accomplishing in me. I became emotionally tired and did what came naturally to me. I slept. It was a deep sleep like no reality I had ever experienced before and within the sleep I dreamt. I dreamt of horrible and wondrousw things. Things which are unimaginable and unexplainable. Things that the tounge cannot utter. When I awoke from these dreams, it was a cold sweat. And as I awoke in a cold sweat and shaking from the intensity, four words loomed over my bed.

“just a bad dream.”

I wandered from my bed to the tiny bathroom adjacent to the room and placed both hands upon the sink. I could feel the cold porcelain mass against my palms. This was tangible. It was something I could feel. It was perceivable, and I turned the knob towards the red with one hand as the other splashed water through my hair. I looked up past the water in my eyes to the mirror and what it had to show me. 

“I am not asleep!”

I yelled at the piece of reflective glass,  but It knew better and it let me know. Withing the mirror on the medicine cabinet stood me asleep. My eyes were fluttering violently in full R.E.M., and as I stepped backward away from the truth, I watched my body fall backward into the wall behind. As he fell, his eyes opened mocking my every expression. His body shadowed my movement. Wasn’t I still dreaming?

The pressure of the blow to my head proved otherwise as I landed on the floor. I stood up and shot the mirror a quick glance, but it did not look back. The man in the mirror stood asleep and I pushed away from him. Stumbling through the bathroom doorway and into the bedroom. I flung the door open and went for the stairs. I ran for the door, my sleeping double haunting me in every pane of glass, and every mirror, my reality was screaming a blood curdling wake up call.

What I knew as being mythical in nature now would no longer allow me to see it that way. There is a grave difference between knowing something and experiencing it. For some the transition is intended by them. This was thrust upon me by the dream itself. My mind couldn’t take the truth. My reality as I knew it was shutting down, and so my brain followed suit. I collapsed at the bottom of the stairs just in front of the door. I lay at the welcome mat like a child about to be born, no longer innocent of the world around him and vulnerable to all of its hidden agendas.

Time Passed. With time, shock and disbelief faded as well. I raised my head and searched for the nearest mirror, a shiny object, anything that would carry my reflection; that would show me the true picture of something to say to me tha this epiphany wasn’t real and only a dream. Evidence that I was wrong was everywhere. It was in the bathroom mirror and the crystal surface in the water of my sink. It was on clean window panes and in the bottom of my  coffee mug. They all told me that I could sleep no longer.

Do you know what it is like to be consumed with truth? It is a force so great that you cannot hold it, or contain it behind the veil of your mind. Like a dam, you attempt to filter its essence out and release the pressure while its deluge is drowning your soul. You cannot. It is uncontrollable and unfathomable and you are left but no choice than to succumb as the floods of its honesty rush over you.

And so they did.

Tell the world what you know. Make them awake

I stormed the nearest place I could think of, an environment filled with those who were the most in need of a lucid revolution. The economic  center of the city… The circle square projects. This was everything that the corporate dream had idealized. It was perfection. Even in metaphor, it carried Vitruvius’ theory of humanity embodying perfection, and all who spent their time dreaming in its halls and corridors spent out their dream seeking its name sake. They wanted to make themselves the perfect beings living in the perfect environments… and environment that was nothing more than a dream.

I was naïve to try to destroy their glass menagerie, but I tried nonetheless. I dawned my goth attire complete from head to toe in black as a remider that I was not one of them. I wanted them to look at me differently, to ask the question of, “What is his problem?” and let the floods come pouring down on the world as I watch them safe in my ark.

I picked my first target. I’m not sure why, but her eyes caught my gaze. They were aware and wanting, yet they were still searching. She looked at me, and I saw a reminder of my true state in the reflection that her stare returned to me. Was it possible that she might understand the madness that was tearing through the chasms of our souls.

 I sat directly across from her and planned my descent into madness when she spoke to me.

“You’re the one who’s asleep.” She didn’t make eye contact. “You’ve been asleep for close to a hundred years.” I wasn’t planning on taking such a direct approach but apparently she was. “Or maybe you’ve only blinked.” As she looked up at me to smile, I could feel her looking into my soul. It was a curious smile that did not suit her pale complexion. Her flat dark hair streamed down the sides of her face, gracing the curvature of her high cheek bones like a dark waterfall on a dangerous yet pristine mountain face. The smile lit up her entire essence as if the sun had just risen, but her beautiful green eyes showed none of its warmth. Instead they were aware, and anxious… and almost suggestive of a hidden agenda, but then her tone gave that away as well. The Cheshire smile broke into a laugh.

“I was wondering when you’d get here.” This was familiar. She was familiar, and her eyes, they knew me. “You’re suppose to finish the code.” She wasn’t laughing anymore, her green eyes were probing me, looking for a familiar response. “Damn it Christian!”

 I hadn’t told her my name. 

“This isn’t a game…. Say the code Damn it!”

‘What code?’ I thought it, but I didn’t say it, instead I said the furthest thing from my mind. “Row, your boat.” What the hell was that? As unfamiliar as it was to me, it sparked something in her. A look of recognition lit up her face along with her beautifully odd smile.

“Good to know that your lucid coding is still working Christian.” She followed that odd statement up nonchalantly with a devious stare into my eyes. “Let’s get one thing straight… It’s important that you remember who you are… You’re Christian, the leader of a group of individuals who are charged with the protection of the dream state.”

I pushed the table backward and stood up. Her look was not one of disagreement, but rather annoyance. She reached across the table and grabbed my hand. This was familiar as well, it was almost comforting and almost real, I had felt this touch before; it was like the wind was kissing the sail of an ancient sea vessel. This touch had been an inspiration to me before. It was both gentle and forceful, and in action and sentiment it forced me to sit back down and stay.

“I was worried that you might forget… We formed a group Christian… the Lucid.” Her grasp was light and her hand rested on mine. I thought about this for what seemed like an eternity. “Damn it Christian! Do you even know who I am?” Once again the smile had faded. 

“I’m sorry, I guess I don’t… I’m just a little confused… I mean I recognize you, but I don’t want to lie… I mean…” I stopped, and she stopped. I was following her gaze, and it was following something else. When her gaze returned to my eyes, I was staring back at the same face, but a different person.

“My name is Saylor. It doesn’t matter that you remember my name or even what I mean to you except to know that our missions in the corporate dream are kindred.”

Her eyes gave away more than her words betrayed, but I gathered that was for my sake. She, or apparently we, had some sort of agenda to complete and she obviously felt that personal revelations at this time might complicate that. 

“Christian, you are lucid. Capable of practically everything and anything, and the rebellion wants you gone because you are capable of stopping them.” Her tone was determined. “This is a corporate dream controlled by a single dreamer with more power in his lucid stated than a god. If you could remove God, than wouldn’t his world collapse? Christian, five minutes ago…. You asked me that very question, and now you truly don’t remember any of this?”

My head started spinning as I tried to look into the depths of her soul. I swear that I walked over here and sat down next to a complete stranger less than two minutes ago.

“We’ve been sitting here for twenty minutes drinking tea and eating Chinese food, and you keep forgetting who I am Christian!”  she was getting angry.

“No! I walked in here only two or three minutes ago…” The spinning turned into aching, something was about to give. 

“If that’s true Christian, and we’re complete strangers, than why did you know the confirmation code? Why do I know your name? Why do you have a half eaten plate of chow mein in front of you and a fork in your hand?” Her words were mind numbing.

The questions being posed turned the aching into throbbing. Their was a fork in my hand, a bit of underchewed noodle stuck between my teeth. Her look changed again from frustration to one searching for something. 

“Why did you sit back down when I touched your hand?” My world had just been rearranged from underneath me. I don’t know what had happened, but she was right. In this reality I was a member of the most elite of this corporate dream, and the rebels wanted me dead.  If everything I stood for in my mind moments ago, was to keep me from becoming a member of this corporate dream, than why would I be one of its leaders? I came into this mall with the opposite intentions in mind, and now I have no intentions but to know the truth. I looked to my apparent ally for an answer.

“Was my life all a dream then? I was taught that when dreaming fades into reality, the veil of the subconscious is slowly removed, but both this reality and that one not only felt real, but feel real. My Grandfather taught me that there is no reality but that of what you perceive… was he even real?” She seemed to hear my frustrations through my silent stare.

“No Christian, your grandfather is not real, he is the product of a dream within a dream.” She had a look of concern over her revelation.

“But this is a dream!” I countered in defiance.

“Yes Christian, one that we are going to save. Christian you taught me how to be like you, and then you asked for my help to protect the corporate dream. You made me learn conditioning and created the code so that I would know if you could still remember your loyalties.” Her tone changed. “You need to focus!” She touched my hand again gentler than before, but my gaze was watching something else. Someone else had grabbed it.

“Christian, you bastard! How’re you doing?” A large man dressed in black stood out in the ever flowing crowds of dreamers. Her grip tightened and she whispered at me frantically.

“He’s not one of us Christian! He’s an enemy. We have to leave.” She pulled me back from the table, and the man’s demeanor changed.

“Christian! You can’t hide from the Lucid… We watch everything!” I thought Saylor had said that I was Lucid? 

“You said I am Lucid, Saylor.” I questioned her with as much intensity as I could muster with the increasing throbbing in my head. 

“Christian, you’re doing it again!” Saylor’s grip became as frustrating as her tone.

“What’s going on?!!!” I asked, looking to both parties for an answer.

“Christian, we have to leave now!” she commanded.

“No, I need to think this through.” She remained in her seat opposite me and her eyes furrowed in disgust. For some reason that I could not fathom, the man who moments ago had been harassing us had now disappeared into the sea of dreamers. The words that came out next made me nausceous.

“Christian, Katharos is trying to kill you… his men are everywhere… that was one of them… they want you to go with them so you’ll be alone and vulnerable… Trust me, and I and the other Lucid will protect you.”

“You said that I lead the Lucid earlier, and then you called him Lucid… What does that mean?” I needed facts, there was to much concept and not enough formula. How can I perceive with no picture?

Her eyes gave way to a coming revelation. She was choosing her words. “A man named Katharos caused a rebellion among the Lucid inside the corporate dream. The Lucid divided into two factions of Lucid, you were the leader of the unified Lucid before Katharos’ time. When he came, his forces tried to eradicate you, us, the true Lucid.” She took a deep breath and managed a small awkward smile. “I don’t know why you thought you had a grandfather or what that is about, possibly a mechanism to keep you safe from whatever Katharos’ men have done to you, but be assured Christian… You don’t have a grandfather, but his message is the same as reality… You have to stop the Lucid rebellion.” 

I stared hard into her jade eyes. “I’m a little confused so you’ll have to bare with me, but I think it’s coming back to me.” This was of course a bold faced lie. The truth was that I didn’t remember Katharos, or fighting against an uprising. I could be certain of nothing except what I could currently perceive in this woman in front of me. In her voice was a desperation that plead with my fears for her trust. The desperation had such a violent tone in it that the slightest disrespect, or leanings toward the wrong decisions could clearly cost me my life.

“Tell me what the rebellion did to me.” I demanded.

“ I’m not sure Christian, I can guess…” That sounded like a question, and so I nodded my head in approval.

“ You told me before you disappeared that you were going deep into Katharos’ operation and that you would use Lucid cuing to bring you back to this place… the circle square, at this time. You made me promise not to be late. When you first sat down, it was like you were in a daze, it took about half an hour to snap you out of it. If I had to guess… I would say in the year you’ve been gone, they brainwashed you somehow. Your Lucid cuing was to strong though. At the right time, you came back to me, naturally. You’re probably just disoriented because your still coming out of that daze.” This made sense, but I still had questions.

“The man in black?”

THE UNDEAD

Forget what you know. Garlic, stakes, sunlight, even beheading. None of them work. The only thing that works against the undead is faith. I don’t mean a cross held up to the face of a dead man with fangs… Although certainly, if you believed it enough, you might convince them enough of it that it would work. It’s true faith. It’s believing without question, the way that a child would, that you don’t even need salvation to is come bustin down that door.

Believe it or not, the idea of a vampire, and the various myths and lore surrounding them are nothing more than propaganda. At some point in time, the legend became so powerful that the undead actually believed it to be so. Soon after the first legend came about, followers starting rising up, they tested the boundary of the myths. They burst into flames when in the sun, because in their minds they doubted that they wouldn’t. They feared that death would come in the touch of a stake, and so when a stake touched them, so did death. It was all a lie. They run rampant across our world due to a heinous lie. The truth is that everyone is dead. Or rather everyone is undead. The vampire, is nothing more than a way to explain that idea. His power, his strength and ability, even his bloodlust are all a lie designed to keep his focus off the truth. It’s a cage, a menagerie of lifestyle. It is the same cage that everyone else in the world lives in. They pretend to live their lives, fighting for a place in this world. Fighting for survival, but what they don’t understand, is that they are just as dead as the undead. They fear death, they fear life, they fear the undead. It’s all a lie, it’s a diversion from what we should really fear. 

There are three types of living. First there are the masks. Their entire lives are bent upon hiding their nature. They go through life being what they are not, afraid of what they are. They prey upon those that will let them. When the call to arms is sounded, they fall in line, not knowing why they are there. The mask steals the respect of his society. He drains his power in secret, and in the dark, and when the lights come back on, he is just as surprised as everyone else to see that something evil happened. Most people are the mask. He is a social vampire; pretending to be the count in the castle when he is nothing more than a monster.

Second is the demon. The demon is the man who is in rebellion. He is not concerned with anything but himself. He rebels against any and every type of authority, and when it comes down to it, he will raise hell. Have you ever seen the biggot hooded, hiding behind his burning cross? Or the bald headed gang toting the propaganda of an ancient race? The rapist, the murderer, the list goes on and on. Everyone of these preying upon any who are less than themselves. Their bloodlust is for fear. They are vampires of power. They are the warrior spirits consumed with nothing but the pulse of humanity. They rip it from the neck of any who would come near. This vampire doesn’t need a mask, he has accepted what he is, and what is insane, is that he likes it.

However, when all is said and all is done, these two have yet to sum up what lurks in the heart of men. The last of the living, sums up the life of the dead. The scum of the earth who spend their days sifting through the trash of society. They prey on the scraps of the masks, and the demons. They are the brooding vampires. Not aware of anything but their situation, waiting and crying in the refuse of humanity. Preying on garbage and small animals. 

These three living, they are exactly the same as the undead. Vampires. The world is a farce. My name is Jude. Twelve years ago, I was murdered. A vampire of mythic nature took interest in me. I of course had no idea what he was. First of all, the idea of a vampire was pure insanity at the time, and even if I had understood what he was, he understood it better than I had. He walked in the light, and enjoyed extra garlic on everything he ate. I would never had known by the classic signs. I was fifteen, and a street rat. Mr. White made the mistake of leaving his car running outside of his hotel. Everyday it was the same, Mr. White would pull in front of his hotel, leave his car running, and sit inside for a good ten minutes with the desk clerk before he got back into his car and drove away. I observed this for a month before my hunger, and my curiosity got the best of me. A jaguar was a whole lot of money to a penniless street rat.  I drove that car at least ten miles away before I noticed the tank was on empty. Pulling into the gas station, a sudden cool rush flooded the air. This wasn’t my first theft. I felt like it was though. All the hair on my neck stood up as I opened Mr. White’s car door. There was no one in sight, but I felt like I was being stalked. The gas tank could wait, this station was not a good place to fuel up. It was cold and stale, and I was scared. I pulled the car door shut and turned the engine over. The engine however, disagreed and lay dead.

“She’s out of gas you know.” A calm voice from beside me spoke.

“Holy Shit!” I was sitting next to White. My body instinctively pushed against the door. “Shit Man! Where the hell did you come from?!” White did not return my amazement at his sudden appearance.

“You are very intent on living.” He spoke quietly. At the time, I wasn’t sure the point he was making. I would soon learn that Mr. White enjoyed being enigmatic in his speech. I replied as best I could to such an odd question.

“Hell yeah man.” Later on I would realize that his question was a statement, not a question.

“Why do you play this game.” Again a statement rather than a question.

“What the fuck?… How the hell did you…” White cut me off with force.

“I believe I have been quite gracious to you in allowing this situation to continue to the degree it has, must you persist in your disrespectful language young man?” He fixed his gaze upon mine. I heard the words come out of his mouth and rest upon my soul. They burried themselves deep into me, until I heard them in my voice, asking myself why I was so rude.

“Why do you play the game? Is it because you want to live? Is this what you call a life?” Although Mr. White’s eyes remained fixed upon mine, the thoughts conveyed in his words seemed to carry out their intent. His words looked me over. They made me feel dirty, like a street rat. His eyes grew.

“Do you want to see what living truly is?” His words were not calm, they were rushed, like hot blood gushing out of a freshly severed wound. 

“What is living?” 

Mr. White was a well groomed man. He had a pale complexion, devoid of age. The one quality that stood out about the man next to me were his eyes. I couldn’t tell if they were blue, or green, or yellow or purple. What I could tell, was that my image consumed them. My reflection grew more and more the larger his pupils grew. His stare gave way to something even more prominent than his eyes. Teeth. He had pearly white teeth, with insanely large canines. They created for me a grim smile.

“I will show you.”

What followed next was normal by any means of conventional lore. Mr. White sunk his teeth into my neck with a piercing intent that shattered my composure. As much as I tried to fight it, his will became mine and everything that was individual to my existence had no more meaning than the tears I cried as a child. They were all swept away with my blood, until the only thing I could hear was the sound of the blood pulsing through my arteries. When the memories of my tears and joys started to take shape, and I could feel my life passing, Mr. White let go of my limp body and asked me a simple question.

“Will you drink?” his eyes glistened with anticipation.

I could feel my mind being exposed to a great blight. What came through the doorway was so powerful that I could not look upon it, because it blinded me if I tried.

“Yes.” I said. He took a moment to pierce his wrist with his large canines and placed the exposed wound in front of me. I was lurched forward by a force that was stronger than death, and stepped into the world of the undead ferociously. I savored his sweet blood until I was fully replenished from the blood he had stolen from me. I fell back into the car seat, and lay still. My eyes were open and hot with the fire of living, though my body grew cold.

That was twelve years ago. Twelve years is infantile in comparison to some of the undead creatures who roam this city. But then, as Mr. White always says, “Age is how many years you’ve had to apply knowledge, but wisdom is what you’ve done when you stop applying age.”

Mr. White buried me in the tomb that he had  been buried in when he was first sired. It was an ancestral home built on a plantation in the Victorian era. In the vast yard of this Plantation was a graveyard where family was buried. In essence Mr. White had given me his family, in return for my life. In the last twelve years, Mr. White always emphasized the necessity of giving back something for life. He claimed that it was part of the natural order, and what keeps “our kind” from being more than animals. It even separates us from being merely humans, for most humans never give to the circle, although they take with wanton abandon. This was Mr. White’s way. He took me from my life as a street rat, and set for me a path. 

Now in the main annex of his plantation was a statue of three brothers. This statue was what Mr. White called, “wisdom captured in stone.” According to Mr. White, the artist was a firm believer in the harmony of humanity, and the natural order of things. This statue was the embodiment of these ideals. One of the brothers wore a mask that resembled the masks of the theatre. It was divided in two halfs. One of which was sad, and the other which was happy. He stood in the middle of the two proudly. The brother to the left of the masked brother, was wearing a lion skin and he stood ready to pounce upon something which was off in the distance. And the third brother was wearing the clothes of a peasant. His garments were worn, and full of holes and in hiding to the right and just behind the masked brother he held something in his hand. I walked around this statue to see a little girl captured in a typical child like innocence. It was her hand that the peasant brother was holding, and it seemed that in his grasp she was safe. Underneath the statue lay the inscription. “reciprocity.”

Mr. White constantly referred to this statue. In all lessons, and in all musings, this statue was his canon. It possessed in it something so intrinsic that everything he observed and experienced after its inception had in it the mark of the statue.

One day, Mr. White brought me to the statue for a lesson in philosophy. “The girl is hiding behind her protectors, Jude?”

“Certainly she is hiding from her protecters Mr. White, but why?” I said.

“Are you sure that she is hiding, or being hidden?” asked Mr. White.

I studied the look of innocence upon the girls face and the way her hand was safe in that of the peasants and decided that the three brothers were indeed protecting her.

“From what then is she being protected from?” I asked.

“It is not what she is being protected from, but why she is being protected that matters.” Stated Mr. White.

He stopped looking at the statue and caught my eyes. “Why are they being protected Jude?”

“Who is the little girl?” I asked. “What does she mean to them?”

“Who are the protectors?” asked Mr. White.

“They are vampires. The three types of vampires which you have taught me about.” I said.

“Then who is this little girl, Jude? Can you not answer this question.” He responded.

“She is there food.” I said ashamed.

“Do you hold the hand of your food before you take from it its life?” He snapped. “Listen to what the statue is telling you.”
“She is there pet.” I was grabbing for an answer.

“ I will not dignify that with an answer Jude.”

“She is there hope.” My answer caught his attention.

“And why do you say this.” He asked.

“Because hope is what pulls everything together. It gives us a reason to fight.” I said. I was sure that whether my answer was wrong or right, it was impressive.

“Then why will they take her life?” he said with piercing eyes. I could see now that the questions answer was more complex than the answer I gave him.

“Why do they drink her blood?” he asked again, this time with a grizzly smile.

“Because hope cannot defend herself, and they are hungry. They figure that it is helping her by killing her, and siring her?” I asked.

“We do not sire them, they sired us.” He turned his eyes from me. “Bring me your hope, and sire her. See then what you believe.” He lifted his hand in that familiar motion which said leave me, and I did.

Late that night, I went into the city and sat in a local twenty-four hour diner thinking about what Mr. White had said. The extra rare steak had only wet my appetite for something a little closer to the real thing and I was getting increasingly agitated and hungry.

A waitress named Reba came over to fill my cup with some more drudge they called coffee and to pointlessly banter to pass the night hours. 

“So if your just gonna sit here for a little while longer, I’ll let Anne know to come out and fill your coffee. I’m going home, my shifts over… alright hun?” She phrased it as a question, but it was definitely a statement with no room for change or growth. In a couple of minutes, Anne was going to come over with a pot of brown drudge and fill up my coffee while making banter about what a beautiful night it is. The truth is that is wasn’t a beautiful night. 

A heightened sense of smell, and taste made the coffee extra bland. And the extra bloody stake I had ordered only made me more hungry. The void of any real living was amplified by the stench of sweat coming off Reba, the current waitress. This was only broken by her low gutteral demand for an answer to her statement. “So is that gonna be okay there buddy… Don’t worry Anne will be here any minute now.” At this, she apparently was tired of waiting for another opportunity to ask me a statement, not a question, which ironically I never even answered the first time, so she turned and walked into the backroom. I could hear her rolls of fat bouncing with every step. It was all very disturbing. 

As she walked out the door in her after work clothes, and purse in hand, I thought about eating her, but thought that my time would be better spent brooding. Sometimes getting off just isn’t worth it.
“Hi my name is Anne, and I’ll be taking over where Reba left off. I’m gonna be covering the whole place tonight so if you need me, you’ll have to holler.” 

The voice was young. By the sound of the vocal chords, I would say twenty to twenty-two. One of the tricks Mr. White had taught me was how to stretch and skew my vocal chords in order to mimic people and even throw my voice. Naturally, I became a student of language and I learned to tell almost instantly which region, state, county, or country my prey was from. Mr. White claimed that the best person to prey upon was someone who was not from “these parts,” as they say. Anne, was certainly not from these parts. 

There was something about her that was not the same as others. I know that this statement in itself is very cliche. But it is all I can say to adequately express what I saw. There is nothing that I can’t say that hasn’t been used before to describe people of her essence. There is a point where a truth that is so absolute tries to reason itself into existence, but existence can’t just ease this truth in. Such truths are mysterious and paradox. They catch your eye and never let it go, and if you stare long enough into the ether, you can find yourself. Anne was like that. Something about her was peculiar, and disturbing without being disgusting or morose, like the waitress before her. She had a handle on something I didn’t even have a name for. 

In the time I spent with Mr. White, he had encouraged the study of my prey. He instilled in me the idea that it is not worth killing something you don’t know intimately. According to Mr. White, the ability to give life through siring, and to take life through killing was not a curse, but a gift. It was the freedom to be without side or boundary. The curse was the responsibility of choosing wisely, for the consequences of an eternal being are felt eternally. “If you kill. Be sure that it is not the blood lust that kills, but it is you. Ask yourself if the circle of life is greater served by their death? If you drink of your lust, you are no more than an animal. But if you drink of your choice, you are a man. Even so, if you do not drink, though you lust, you are more than animal, and more than man, for these will die if they do not satisfy their bodies, but you can never die.” He would muse.

Mr. White’s philosophical ramblings aside, he instilled into me something that was intentional. The undead that I am, is not beast nor man. I am not a predator, though I prey, and I am not a killer, though I kill. These distinctions were, as Mr. White called them, “transitory.” As I watched Anne, I decided that what she had in her was a truth that could neither be preyed upon, or killed. She smiled at me from across the way, and continued about her business, and I sat in my chair for the rest of the night bewildered.

Vampires are afraid of the Sun. Sunlight is illuminating. It beats down on those who oppose it, and reigns in those who dare to challenge it. According to Modern science, the Sun is a ball of swirling gases. Its perhaps overly dramatic, but I prefer the occultic slant. The Sun is the initiator of the circle of life… in short, you don’t fuck with it. For some odd reason, vampires have instilled this idea into their own societal lore. 

For the vampire, the sun is God. What’s more is that God is angry. We don’t play in the sun, we don’t look at the sun, and we sure as hell don’t dare to get in its way. We run from its voice, and hide from its heat. At least, they do. Mr. White believed that the sun was vital; its grasp could not be escaped by anything so base as darkness. He believed that running from the sun is as pointless as running from your own shadow. This was one of the first lessons he taught me when I woke up from my death.

As I clawed my way out of the coffin into the open air, I was greeted by sunlight, not darkness. In the light was Mr. White’s thin frame. His frame was all I could make out as my eyes slowly adjusted to the light, but his frame was vivid and striking. There was no way that this man could be mistaken for anybody else. He was clearly the Man who had killed me in the car that I had stolen from him. The sunlight was warm and Mr. White walked in it as if it was his favorite thing to do. His walk was regal, and intentful. It basked in the glory of himself, and made everything about him acknowledge his greatness. I followed him in a stupor back to the mansion of his vast estate where he sat me down to explain who he was, and what I had become.

“My child, do not be afraid. You have been given something beyond your wildest dreams,” he began. I wasn’t the most receiving of the concept at first, but it was that first experience as a vampire in the light, which he used to prove the power of belief. From this one experience, I now have the strength to do what other vampires dare not think of. 

The light began to pour in the window lighting up the polished diner bar stools. As it raced across the table toward me, I took solice in its impending heat. I have found that the night is cold, for those who must steal their heat from others. Anne walked over to me and stood over me with an air of anticipation. I could smell the tinge of deodorant masking her sweat. It was an odor of anticipation. The normal human would not have smelled it coming off of her, so clearly she was about to involve me in an experience which was either dreaded or out of the ordinary. But in my experience, the two often go hand in hand.

“Sun’s coming up stranger, shouldn’t you be getting home.” Anne said anxiously.

I looked into her eyes, “The night is still young ma’am.” Her eyes were watching the light. 

“Don’t you hate going to bed after the sun has risen?” she asked. Her eyes were still fixating on the light which was now creeping closer to my hand. She was anxious to see the light touch me, and I decided to play her farce. I lunged my hand into the light, and watched her eyes intently. Her pupils fell deep into themselves as she let out a barely audible gasp. I could see her muscles flexing in anticipation. She had become poised to react, and was expecting something specific. She was expecting that I would burst into flame.

“I love the feel of fresh sunlight in the morning.” The smile I gave her was an echo of Mr. White’s grin. It was void of emotion, but full of intent. Her body slowly loosened up, and her eyes began to focus on mine.

“Sorry, what was that,” she had not yet come to the conclusion that I was not a vampire. Her mind was catching up with her eyes. “I mean, yeah, I like the sun too.”

“You’re right though, I should probably get going.” I said. The question in her eyes was captivating. I suppose that any number of things could have been in her mind. She could have been zoning in the direction of the light, but then again, she did start the conversation with me. The girl new something of vampires, and all though that was not uncommon in this giant city of unsolved mysteries and morose and macabre crimes, most who knew would never approach a suspected vampire. As I gazed into her eyes, I found her voice and pulled it out. ‘I was wondering if you would like to get dinner sometime?’

I asked.

She looked into my eyes and began speaking my thought, “I was wondering if you would like to get dinner sometime?”

“I would love to.” I mused.

Mr. White had done this to me as a human. Listening to my voice, he spoke to me what he wanted me to say, and I said it. It’s hard to understand at first. When Mr. White was teaching this to me, he explained it as a parent to a child, or a wife to a husband. If the relationship is strong enough, the child will know what the parent wants without the parent telling them. That form of suggestion is as to a servant. The marriage is the better example though. The relationship is so understood that no words are necessary. According to Mr. White, if you look deep enough, and find the voice of your subject, they will hear and follow. 

Anne didn’t know what hit her. She stepped back, and looked surprised at her proposal. “I’m sorry, that was forward of me.”

“Yes it was, I’ll pick you up tonight at seven.” I stated.

“See you then?.” She said confused.

I  smiled at her and put down on the table a twenty. “Keep the change.”

Walking out the door into the sunlight I headed for the White Estate. I had a few questions I needed to ask Mr. White, before I talked to Anne tonight. If Anne knew something about our kind, then why wasn’t she afraid? Mr. White would want to know about her.

THE MENAGERIE

WEAPON

Wendy mayer stood blankly in  front of the movie store… an add for a new classics collection was playing on the large flat screened television hanging from the ceiling of the store… beckoning all shoppers to come inside and catch a glimpse of the magic of Hollywood… perhaps even buy a little… take it home with them.  Now that’s entertainment.

“Lets go inside Wendy.” The asian eyes grew wide with anticipation…. “They’re playing your mother’s promo again.”

“Not interested kim.” Wendy raised an eyebrow as kim undetoured grabbed Wendy’s arm.

“Stop being so childish Wendy…. These movies pay for your home in the West Hills… You’re mom’s a star… you should be proud of her.” Kim smiled wide; her eyes reflecting back at herself in Wendy’s thick cold glasses.

“I think your probably proud enough for the both of us…” Wendy snarled under her breath. Then resolving to herself to get the experience over with, she started for the door. 

Entering the movie store was like entering a new world. The cold recirculated air blasted a slight fog onto Wendy’s glasses, and the sweat on her forehead was cooled from the near boiling temperature outside. It was a welcome change. It wouldn’t have taken Wendy nearly as much time to reach the donut store next to the movie store if she hadn’t had brought Kim with her. But her psycho of a mother insisted that Kim needed friends, and wouldn’t have Wendy galavanting around the city without her jujitsu trained, new housemate. 

Kim’s knowledge of martial arts was about the only thing that Wendy found interesting about Kim. But the one thing that would’ve saved both girls time, and bus fare, would’ve been a quick ride through the back streets of Grand Mall avenue on a pair of skateboards. Ironically for all of Kim’s skills in the martial arts, her balance was never good enough to grind the concrete jungle. Knowing Joe’s rules for his store, Wendy checked her backpack at the counter and raised an eyebrow at her skateboard neatly tucked under the flap. A self drawn portrait of David Bowie on the underside of the board stared back at her like he knew her pain… hardly Bowie… hardly.

Kim snapped her back to reality.

“Listen Dee.  You hear that?” her pupils dialated with excitement. The sound of Wendy’s mother’s voice resonated in laughter across the store. A famous scene from a famous piece of trash that her famous mother had shot back in her hey day was playing on the big screens.

“you know what that is Wendy?” Wendy didn’t have time to answer. Kim Chi, never asked a question to hear its response. She only wanted to know that you were listening. “It’s “The Puerto Rican Sunrise” Dee.” That’s the movie where your mom has to stay alive till morning, or she will be killed by those assasins…. The one with the famous guy… Dean Maxwell… ya know… the guy from all the detective movies… he was hot.”

“He’s like old and grey kim, besides… he was an asswipe… he treated my mom like shit.” Wendy’s eyebrow raised as she scanned the room for better topics, and new editions to her collection.

“dude… Bowie’s old and grey too…. Besides, weren’t people saying Maxwell’s  your father?” Kim smirked waiting for Wendy to react. Wendy spun her body backward, landing her fist into Kim’s face. Kim fell back into a rack of ninety nine cent cassettes and knocked it over spilling REO Speedwagon and Atlantic Starr on to the linoleum along with Kim herself.

“Back off Bitch…. Its none of your business who my father is!” The man at the cash register looked at Wendy with knowing eyes, and smiled at her. He walked out from behind the counter and helped Kim to her feet, turning to her, he said,

“Wendy… you gotta clean this up.”

“I know Joe… I just got some issues… can I get a donut for you from next door, and then come back and clean this up…. I promise to behave.” She managed a half smile… she wasn’t angry at Joe… in the years she had known him, he had always been good to her.

“Yeah, donuts on me…” he reached into his pocket and threw her a waded up five… “Be back quick… Speedwagon’s a big seller.” Wendy turned to the glaring Kim and held up a finger in defiance.

“Don’t fuck with Bowie bitch.” The door shut hard behind her… and Kim Chi glared at her in disgust.

“I don’t know why you put up with her Joe.” She looked at Joe as if wanting an answer, but Joe knew better. “I swear she’s got some power over you men.” Kim picked herself up and strutted toward the door like a princess… the rush of hot air as she opened it, only solidified the thought in Joe’s mind about her origin. “I don’t have to take this treatment. If the street rat wishes to be in my presence, have her call my cell.” She threw her head up and never looked back. The door closed behind her and the temperature became cool again.

“Don’t worry princess, she won’t.” Joe waited for his donut patiently… it occurred to him that this was the fifth time this month that Wendy had decided to use his store as a boxing ring. “She must have some power over me he thought.” A thought which was immediately followed by the thought, “Oh well, I wonder what type of Donut she got me.”

THE BAR

I sat staring at the two men from across the room. There reflections were visible through the shiny underscore of the bar. It was metal and shined with the all the luminence of the dying neon in the window. Through this strip of metal, I could watch and listen to the conversations of a thousand lives. Here, I could enter another dimension; one that made me invisible, and yet I found that the opposite was true on this night. 

One was sitting at the fire engine red booth facing outward. He was on the outside of a woman on the same bench. She was drinking a coffee filled with sugar. I could see the scattered packets strewn about the fake marbled table. The other was leaning against the bar with his arms crossed. He was a distinguished looking man. His hair was slicked back with a snow white velvet suit. The man sitting next to the woman was disheveled, wearing all black, with hair matted and blanketing his eyes. Both of them stood intent on the other and uncaring about their demeanor in this bar, or how loud or obtrusive they maybe to the girl sitting next to the matted haired street rat.

I spent a good deal of time listening to their conversations about this girl. It intrigued me that she seemed to hear nothing of  their conversation, either that, or she was just plain apathetic. Either way, the two were very ambiguous of any feelings she might have had.

“She’s right about her life daniel.” The man in white didn’t seem to say anything that wasn’t definitive.

“Her life will only be the way you discribe it if she believes it cannot be better.” Daniel seemed unmoved at the white man’s suggestion.

“Life is not definite Luke.” Daniel added. “She still has so much more to do.”

“Daniel, you have always been so gleefully optimistic. You of all of us know better than to think that she will change who she is,” luke leaned forward ruffling his white suit, “she is who she is. She is only going to be what she has been. All the things that have happened in the last few hours are no ones fault. Her boyfriend left her for another girl. Her rent checked came back in the mail bounced. Her three month old child is malnourished, you and I both know that these things are not her fault.”

The girl began to cry as she took another drink of her coffee.

“Look at her,” he continued shamelessly, “I don’t blame her for being what she is.”

“You were always an interesting one Luke. You are so smart and cunning, and yet you lack the one thing that makes greatness. Vision. You think you know who she is? How do you know that she won’t raise a child out of her own dark situation to be a leader of the people? How can you know what happens. When she tries to kill herself, something could happen that you may never forsee?” Daniel brushed the hair out of his eyes. 

The man in white looked directly at Daniel. 

“If anything was planned I would’ve known about it.”

“Luke, we are what we are, and omniscient is not one of those things. I will tell you this. Let her alone, there is more planned for her than what you have concieved.”

The girl started sobbing loudly. Daniel as if giving the girl in the booth a lead stepped out of the booth toward Luke. The girl slid out of the booth knocking some sugar packets onto the floor. Luke started forward after her but Daniel stepped in his way. Her reflection grew larger and more distorted as she came toward me. 

“Daniel you fool, do you really want her dead. Let me talk to her; open her eyes.” Luke snarled at Daniel. 

“Now you think her life can be useful Luke. I thought that she was destined to be useless. No, we will watch.” Daniel seemed to know the girl’s mind. He watched and waited with a begrudging Luke as she strode violently pass me out the door and into the street. Her tears were reflections of her soul. I looked up from the reflection and out to the street. She was walking with intent, and I could see that Luke shared my sentiment from his flailing reflection in the bar windows. 

“Daniel, your girlfriends going to kill herself. Let me help her.” Daniel stood firm in Luke’s path. I on the other hand couldn’t. It was clear from the look in her eyes, from their conversation, this girl would kill herself. I stood from my booth, scanning the horizon of customers. There were only the regulars here, and the two men. The old couple with there typical mashed potatoes and sauteed roast beef, the drunk drinking his coffee to sober up before his shift started. They were all oblivious to the needs of this girl about to end her life. Daniel and Luke were arguing still. 

The girl walked forcefully into traffic, and I followed her. 

“HEY!…” It occurred to me that I didn’t even know her name. “Don’t do it!”

She turned to look at me and stopped dead. A giant metal mass drove by her making obscene gestures and swearing profusely at us. The wind from it passing next to her didn’t phase her. I ran toward her ignoring the shouts of the irate drivers, and dodging the oncoming traffic. 

“Listen,” I drew a breath “whatever they said to you, Luke and Daniel can’t save your life by arguing… don’t listen to them.”

She looked at me with a sense of dazed confusion. “What, who are Luke and Daniel?”  

“I thought you…” I stopped. 

I turned and looked back at the bar. In the window were the regulars, and Luke and Daniel. As I turned back around, she grabbed my hand and held it to her heart. 

“Luke and Daniel are not my friends, and they are not yours. Look.” She motioned toward the bar. Luke and Daniel stood in the doorway yelling at each other. 

“You idiot! How could you let her lead him out of here.”

“I’m sorry, Luke.”

“You have to learn that every case is separate… you should never have gotten us side tracked on the case of that damned girl Daniel.”

Her hold on my hand clenched tight. Just then, a car crashed into the bar. It went straight into the bar killing the regulars instantly. Daniel and Luke stood there unphased.

“He’s not going to be pleased.” Daniel said as he wiped the blackness from his eyes. Luke stared through me and smiled grimmly.

“We’ll get him next time.”

“Be careful,” said her still quiet voice. I turned to the girl to find that there was no body accompanying it. She was gone, and it began to rain.

THE GARDEN part three

THE SPIRAL PATH OF TRANSITORY FLOW

In a far corner of the world lived a Serpent. This Serpent lived in a garden of wonders and Mysteries, and he took it upon himself to be the proprietor of this garden fashioning everything in it into a vehicle for knowledge and power. All of this, the serpent took upon himself because he wanted something more than anything else in the entire world. The Serpent wanted to be loved. As the Serpent sought to unify all that was in the Garden to love him, and the knowledge which he had attained, he became increasingly frustrated for the Garden would not sing his song, although it would sing in harmony with it, for everything in the Garden had always sung the song of its creator in a beautiful harmonious melody.

Seeking to have his own song, the Serpent vowed that anyone who would enter the Garden would only be taught the melody of the Serpent, and threatened the creator of the Garden that he would kill anything that came through the Garden without singing the Serpent’s song, but the Gardener laughed at the Serpent as he would to a child telling him words that were forever carved into the mind of the Serpent.

“One day I will bring my life back to this garden, and turn the dreams you hold captive here loose upon creation. We will then rest together when living and dreaming become one, and I will find joy in this Garden, and you will once again find joy outside of your own dreams.” The day that the Gardener said those words was the last day that the Serpent had seen him, and everyday, those words would haunt the Serpent. 

After a period of time longer than one can count, but shorter than one can grasp, the Serpent had forgotten about the Gardener’s promise to return. The serpent had seen people come and go from the Garden, and every person that came and went took with them the song of the Serpent which would strip away their innocence and give them knowledge of more than acceptance. One day the Serpent sat upon a rock basking in the heat and reveling in his glory when he saw a naked woman entering his Garden. At first she seemed normal enough. She was not extraordinary, except in her brazen nudity, and the Serpent spoke to her as those in the olden days when his song was less sung. It had been countless ages since anyone had entered the Garden that did not know his song, but she did not.

As he listened to her speak, it became apparent that she was different than those who knew his song so well. He nakedness was not a result of abandonment or perversion, but of innocence and her words carried a certain familiarity, and then it became clear. Out of the mouth of this maiden came the last words of the Gardener. He tried to scare her, even force her out of the Garden, but she took her time about her walk leaving harmonies to the singularity wherever she went. When she finally left the Garden, the Serpent became so enraged that he swore to himself that there would be no place left for innocence to hide in the world of Time, and so he pushed the limits of the Garden outward. Over time, the Serpent gathered followers to expand the limits of Knowledge for him, and one of these men was named Carthasian. 

Now Carthasian had spent his entire lifetime learning at the feet of the Serpent who rewarded him with status and powers and twelve years after the Serpent had met the girl walking in the Garden, there was only one place left with innocence to stamp out. Every one of the Serpents servants had been instructed to report the citing of the girl, and none of them had been successful in finding her, though they had remove the innocence from everywhere they went, and so the Serpent knew that this last place must be her home.

Carthasian came to the village to find the girl, but only found a child of no extraordinary appearance named Jude. Although Jude had no extraordinary appearance or descent, he was different, for he resisted the law of the Serpent. Carthasian asked for the Serpent’s help, but the Serpent had better things to do with his time, and so Carthasian went on his way to the boy, only to return again to the Serpent with news of the boy’s overwhelming oratory skills.

Though this news was the same, it’s messenger was clearly not. Carthasian had undergone a sort of transformation on his last visit, and Jude was the reason. Carthasian spoke with boldness to the Serpent.

“Master Serpent, the Child Jude does not follow our laws, for they do not apply to him.” Carthasian stated.

The Serpent hissed at Carthasian in disgust. “What has the child done to you that you believe the Child is beyond the limits of time and death? He claims to have a superior knowledge and power does he?”

“Master Serpent, Master Jude claims not to have such things, but that such things have him.” Replied Carthasian.

“What sort of nonsense is this? For ages you have seen the truth I show you, and you know that power is knowledge, and knowledge comes from age.” Hissed the Serpent.

“Master Jude, makes no comment on the validity of the truth your song possesses. He only points out that your song is part of something which is more than a single idea.” Stated Carthasian pointedly.

The Serpent slithered up to Carthasian. “Why do you call him Master, Carthasian? Does the boy ask for this?” 

“Master Serpent, I am a sage who has learned from a child. I claim to love wisdom and yet I grab at it as if I was trying to choke it. What I did not understand was that I was not holding wisdom at all, but that it was holding me, and when I grasped it, I was grasping at it as does a newborn feeding from its mother.” Carthasian’s eyes grew wild with clarity. “It is I who was the Child, and this boy who knew better than me. Therefore he is worthy to be called Master for he knew what I claimed to know, but did not. I cannot grasp that which is holding me.” Carthasian grew oddly silent, waiting for the Serpent’s reply.

“So Carthasian, you no longer find a use for the law? Than you will not be saved from death.” Snarled the Serpent.

“I have already been called back from the dead Master Serpent, and I am no longer afraid of anything. I give my life to you freely.” Carthasian cracked a smile at the Serpent.

“I can take your life with a single blow my son, but there is another’s whom I am more interested in. I command you to bring me your new Master, the Child Jude!” hissed the Serpent.

“I will bring you Jude, for as I was in his house the night after my death, he told me that he had been preparing to meet you. He said that there was much that you could share with him of death, and much he had to share with you of life.”

“Well then, I will be waiting for him… and you.” The serpent smiled grimly at Carthasian. 

“I’m sure the child will be happy to meet you.” At this, Carthasian turned east to head out of the Garden and make his way to the house of the child.

Upon arrival at the house of Jude’s mother, Carthasian was greeted by a warm reception from the town’s folk who brought him some of their choicest goods, and asked him to teach them of his travels. When all of the people had finally left, and it was late into the night hour, Jude and Carthasian sat gazing into the sky.

“When you talk with the Serpent, are you going to be scared of him?” asked Carthasian of the boy.

“Master Serpent cannot harm me Master Teacher, for I cannot be harmed.” Replied Jude calmly. “I will treat him with the appropriate respect, but I do not fear, for fear is faithless of the order of creation. Things will live and things will die, and I am not afraid of doing either, for to fear one would be to fear all, and to fear living and dying is to fear the natural order of things. But I love the natural of order of things and that which created and sustains it, so how can I fear his creation, or his sustenance?”

Carthasian smiled at Jude, “Shall I make this journey to the center of the Garden with you Master Jude?”

“I tell you that on the day I make this journey Master Teacher, the Garden will come to you, you need not seek it out, for the Garden belongs to the Gardener, and he is about to reap its harvests. This harvest he will share with all the land. On this day, we will dine together, with the Gardener, my mother, and the Serpent.” Replied Master Jude.

“Then I wish you well Master Jude, and I pray that your wisdom guides you as it has come to guide even me.” Said Carthasian. Jude nodded his head and smiled at Carthasian. Then picking up Carthasian’s walking stick, Jude began his journey to find the Serpent.

After some time, the boy came across the entrance to the Garden which was shaded from the hot sun by giant trees which seemed to form a natural tunnel into the inner Garden. Sunning itself upon a boulder at the side of the path was the Serpent of which the world had spoke of.

“Tell me boy, are you lost?” said the Serpent lazily to Jude.

“No Master Serpent, for this is my home.” Replied Jude.

“Young child, if you are not lost, than how is it that you come to be wandering along the path of knowledge which leads into the Garden? Does not a child accompany his parent? And where is this home you speak of? I am the proprietor of this Garden, and I know of no such structure.” Hissed the serpent cockily.

“The path which leads into the Garden is Knowledge Master Serpent, but I have not followed this path, but rather I have been retracing the path out of the Garden called Wisdom, a path which my mother walked some twelve years ago, away from this place. It was not that I had built a home inside these walls, but that it is from within the Garden that I came, and now it is there which I return to.” Said Jude directly.

The Serpent looked into Jude eyes and saw that there were yellow, just as the eyes of the people were yellow who had not yet learned his laws. His eyes were the same eyes of the woman who had angered the Serpent so many years ago.

“Tell me of your mother. Is she well?” asked the Serpent.

“My mother is not well Master Serpent. Everyday, she cries in the streets of the neighboring cities for those peoples to heed her words and listen to her warnings, but the towns folk pass her by. They don’t see her. Even our home town seems to be forgetting her name.”

“And pray tell young child, what is this Maiden’s name?”asked the Serpent.

“Sophia, Master Serpent. I’m surprised that you do not remember it, for you have met before.” Jude smiled at the Serpent.

“I know of whom you speak for you speak the same. But I never new her name for she did not tell me, and it was well that she did not, for if she had, I would have surely had her murdered, but I could not find her. As for you, you have caused me to much grief not to share her intended fate.” Hissed the Serpent.

“For what reason do you cry over my existence Master Serpent?” asked Jude.

“Your innocence is not innocence at all but it is ignorance, and it is polluting the minds of my people. I give them structure and order through knowledge and respect. I give them consequences for their wrongs and I reward their loyalty. I maintain order by teaching the people to sing one song, and you and your mother have opposed me and turned my most trusted disciple against me.

You are like the Gardener who toiled his land happy with the work despite the outcome. He would sometimes receive no fruit from his labor when their was little water, or to much sun, but still be whistling his incessant harmonies. When the birds would sing, he would sing with them, when the wind would howl, he would howl with it… but for what? When all was said and done, there were days when the Gardener had nothing to show for it. There were years when no fruit would grow, when the cattle would die off, and he would still be happy.

He taught everything to be happy, to cry only tears of joy, to care just enough for the life of one that it fades into the life of all. But I would have no more of this. I would not tolerate his unwillingness to say that I am more than the system. And I am more than the system. I am an individual! I did not tolerate his elegant yet demeaning opinion of life, just as I will not tolerate yours.” The Serpent slithered closer to Jude. “Do you want to know why the Gardener left his precious world to me? Is it because he was afraid of my power? No. It was because he could not argue with the fact that my way was better than his. I am the Gardener. I am the Gardener!”

“Master Serpent, why do you cry over my existence?” Jude asked calmly again.

“Child, it is your way which makes the life of people worthless. You preach that all life is part of something greater. You demean me by your great swelling words, and you say that you are righteous when you do not stand up against the things which are unjust. For what is wrong, must not go unpunished, and what is evil must be extinguished.” The Serpent continued.

“Master Serpent, who has hurt you that you must demand the right to hurt others?” asked Jude.

“Child, the Gardener did not notice me when I was young, although I was the smartest of all the creatures. He did not cry when I cried, but instead tried to make me sing his incessant joyous harmonies. He did not cry when my friend the owl passed from this land, or when he killed the lambs to make clothes for the first humans. The Gardener did not care about his creation.” Replied the Serpent.

“Master Serpent, when I die, will you cry for me in lament? Will you not rejoice that I am no longer a thorn in your flesh?” asked Jude. “When the owl died, did you honor his love for the Gardener, or did you scorn his love for the Gardener by removing the Gardener’s right to choose how the owl was to be remembered?”

“If there is death, there must be suffering. The owl’s death was mocked by celebration rather than suffering, and his memory forever shamed.” Said the Serpent.

“Death does not bring suffering Master Serpent, for in death is the completion of this life. The owl lives on, though this existence ceases. Do you not mock his death by adding to it a suffering where there is none?”

“And what of they that take the life of another, for the owl died of age, but the Lambs were killed the Gardener. Does murder not mock the life of these lambs? They who take one life must give their life in exchange. This is my law.” Stated the Serpent sharply.

“I do not understand, Master Serpent. What is being exchanged? The lives of the lamb were given to the Gardener, not taken. Everything in the Garden gives to the Gardener just as the Gardener gives freely to the lamb. This death is natural.” Replied Jude.

“Then what of those who kill for pleasure or perversion Jude? Should they not be punished in exchange for the lives they have taken?” snapped the Serpent.

“They very well may be punished for such things. But this cannot be in exchange for their crime, for they did not give this crime to the victim. The crime was forced upon the victim. For one group of people to force a decision upon another is an anomaly to the natural order of these, but beyond this… Is not forcing a punishment upon another, the same as forcing death upon someone? This does not restore the natural order, as you have suggested. This furthers the destruction of things natural, for now it is not merely the accused who has wronged the natural order, but it is the accuser who does exactly the same as he whom he despises so much.” Countered Jude.

“The law of the Garden is the truth. Look about you and see how it runs perfectly. See how the ant stores food for the winter, or the plants are watered by the Woman in the Creek. I have brought these ideals before the world of Mankind so that they may function properly. Look at the hierarchy of the beehive, or the way the wolves choose their leader. The world is run by a system of age, and knowledge which is dressed in power. It is only the strong who survive. This is what mankind needs to know in this world which they have been living in. They must take what they want, and make anyone pay who breaks there laws. They must learn values and social place by giving due respect to those who are older, and they must seek out knowledge which will give them power.” Stated the Serpent.

“Master Serpent, knowledge creates potential not power. A person who beats another out of intention does not have more power than the person they beat. The person who was beaten could not have been a threat if this was true, and thus he would never have been intentionally beaten. The beaten man was beaten out of fear, or resentment, but not out of power, or even to show it, for the person who exerts his will over another by such means has only placed himself in submission to the man he beats. He will never see beyond this package you call power. 

For though the truth you speak of may rely on the natural order of things to show itself true, it is not the truth, anymore than a boat in an ocean moves of its own will. You have built a boat for men, claiming that it is the only thing which will float, and though it may be… men can swim. The truths of the Garden are the wood of your boat, they hold strong and firm even in the midst of the storm, but though they are the boat, the boat is not them. 

The truths of your law are the ideals of these truths, and though these truths can be found in your ideals, the ideals are not your law. Though the storm may destroy the boat, the wood still floats. And Though time may destroy your laws, the ideals still are true. Answer me this question then Master Serpent. Which is more important: depending on the Law made up of the ideals, or the ideals which make up the Law. I tell you now that your boat is sinking, and all of those inside who you have saved from the waves of the ocean are as good as dead.”

“How dare you claim that there is more truth than mine! My boat alone floats. Not the boat of any other!” hissed the Serpent.

“Your boat is transitory Master Serpent, it serves as a parcel of dry land so that those who would drown in their fear of the water may learn to be calm in its hold.” Jude said.

“What is this? I built my boat to save people, not to placate them until they find a better way.” Snarled the Serpent.

“Yes, Master Serpent, the Gardener allowed you to do such thing that a remnant of mankind might yet survive the raging flood of entropy around us. For it was you who taught man to die in entropy, and through your folly we will find hope in it, and in this the creator of all things, who tends this Garden from afar will prove that he is the wiser in this play.” Said Jude.

“Who are you? For you are no boy of twelve years. In you I can see the eyes of innocence, and though your words are not the same as the Gardener of this place, they are his thoughts.”

“As a child is their parent, but a child is a thought in his parents dream, I am he.”

The Serpent hissed at Jude in fear. “Why have you come back to this place?! I have warned you that I would kill you if you entered my Garden again.”

Jude smiled at the Serpent, “I have come to give you what you have desired, and to bring your dreams into reality so that you can leave this Garden.”

“How dare you,” the Serpent hissed. At this, the Serpent lunged for the throat of Jude and clenched on to him. Wrapping his body around Jude as he would a young lamb, the Serpent quenched the life from him and Jude’s body fell limp to the ground.

The Serpent terrified by his own moment of insanity now hid in the wilderness of the Garden afraid of what had just transpired, for his dreams of killing the Gardener had just become a reality. After hours of hiding under a large oak tree, the Serpent made his way to the front of the Garden to find the body of the boy he had killed. Making his way to the clearing he could hear singing. It was the voice of a little boy, and a tiny blue bird. They were harmonizing. The Serpent came up to rock where the little boy was sitting quietly and slithered around it to see who it was, and to his surprise, he found Jude.

“Hello Master Serpent. Is it not lovely out today? You really should have been out with me enjoying it earlier.”

Without thinking, the Serpent answered cautiously as a child. “I didn’t think you would want to see me again.”

“Why is that Master Serpent?” asked Jude curiously.

“I thought I killed you. Yet, here you are.” Replied the Serpent.

“I gave my life to you Master Serpent, so of course I am here.” Stated Jude.

“There was still much more to see than I had seen… I am only twelve Master Serpent.”

The Serpent sat in silence, not knowing what to say or do, simply watching Jude and the blue bird continue to sing their song. Suddenly a butterfly came up to Jude.

“Master Caterpillar, would you like to join us in our song?” asked Jude to the Butterfly.

“Fair Maiden, I would be honored.” Responded the butterfly.

Jude and the bird and the butterfly began to sing an enchanting melody. It was a melody that the Serpent had heard before in the Garden, but had not heard in years. What he heard was a song the Gardener had sung in the past with his flowers. The Serpent started listening intently for its words, but there were none, for the song was emotion, not words. Suddenly the Serpent began to sing, but stopped. 

“Master Serpent, why have you stopped the song?” asked Jude. At this, the other animals asked the question as well.

“I was afraid that you would not like it Master Jude?” said the Serpent sheepishly.

“Master Serpent, you have given me something of great value on this day, for your melody in this harmony has been missing for some time now. If you would keep singing, we would all be proud to join with you.” Said Jude.

“Master Jude, I have done awful things to your Garden, why have you forgiven me?”

“Master Serpent, you had no need of my forgiveness for you never wronged me. But you had it, for in it was the love you had always wanted… never mind then. Let us explore together and enjoy this Garden, for there is much we have to experience, and much we have to tell.” 

Then the Child, and the Serpent, The blue bird and the butterfly began to sing. And all of Creation joined in the chorus just as it had in days past, and as Jude’s mother walked once more in the Garden, as she had years ago, she smiled.

THE GARDEN part two

THE LAW OF AGE AND KNOWLEDGE

Once in the land of time, there lived a woman of no extraordinary beauty or lineage, but of increasing beauty through curiosity. Her love for all things brought her on a walk one day to a garden far away, where she met a strange talking Serpent to whom she made a promise. The woman was nineteen then, and unbeknownst to the Serpent, she was with child. 

The land of Time was a land where innocence lived hand in hand with age-old wisdom. Things such as death and the body were of no concern to its inhabitants. But the Serpent who lived in the Garden was increasingly distraught by the visit of the Woman from this land, and the ideals she brought with her. He expanded out from the Tree in the middle of the Garden, and over a period of three and a half years over took the land of Time, until all that was innocent was replaced with all that was cynical, and age-old wisdom, slowly became age-old knowledge, and eventually age old myth. Time, which was a gift for the inhabitants of its land, became a bell that took a life on the hour, every hour. The land of Time slowly transformed into the Land of Death. And the original land of the Garden, once ran by the Serpent, was abandoned to become a wasteland for forgotten Dreams, and useless pursuits.

Twelve years had passed since the woman was nineteen and with child, and her child was strong, and meek. He grew with the wisdom of his mother, in the way of his mother; not extraordinary by appearance, or lineage, but by tenacity and curiosity. His way of thinking, and speaking gained fast appeal amongst the people of the Land, and whenever he spoke the people of the land took great delight in listening. To those who remembered the days before the Serpent, it was as if they were living them again through his words. And when the boy spoke, his words made time into a gift by which to experience the thoughts and events around him, as opposed to a clock of death that the serpent had made it into. 

Where as once, the Land of Death was ruled by the Harmony of Innocence and Wisdom, it was now ruled by the Law of Age and Knowledge. The Serpent had built for himself a system of Laws, which exemplified knowing all things. As he expanded out from the tree in the middle, he would proudly proclaim his anthem that Knowledge is to be sought out at all costs. He created a system of ideals expressing this singular thought, and eventually chose a handful of men who would go out learning about the land of Time. Their job was not just to learn about the land, but also to teach the Land the Knowledge of the Garden. These men did so with much force, taking extreme measures to exemplify the ideals of their serpent master. Among them was a Man of the Law named Carthasian. 

Carthasian was a man of integrity above all things. He prided himself greatly upon his abilities to orate and win crowds of people to the following of the Law. Now when Carthasian was sent out into the area from which the Woman had come from, news of his arrival spread like wildfire, and caused a great stir of pride among the people. “Carthasian has chosen our small village to display his great knowledge,” they would say. When Carthasian arrived, he did not find a place to stay, or even to rest his feet, tired from the journey. Instead, he went straight to the town meeting place and began to speak.

“People of the Land of Time, Hear me, for I bring you news of a great joy. A joy of which you have been chosen to partake in.” his words rang out in the city, and the air seemed to carry it, even into the houses of the people who now opened their windows to hear him speak.

The elder of the town made his way to the front of the crowd gathering around Carthasian, and raised his hands and voice acceptingly, “Teacher of the Law, we are eager and hungry for your wisdom. Tell us of the joy which we are missing, and perhaps we will find it again.”

“People of the Land of Time, you are lost. You live your life day in and day out for what reason, other than to benefit each other? But when you retire from each other’s presence, do you not live by yourself, for yourself. Why do you labor for a greater cause when the effects of your work are your own. Those who work in the mine… if the great mountain rumbles while you clean out his trenches, does the world you work for receive any of the gold or diamonds you find… It does not. Instead, the world you labor for is no more the richer, and you have only succeeded in dying. Therefore the death of one for another is meaningless. 

How many of you give freely that all might benefit equally, and how many of you are there who benefit equally? My brothers and sisters, is there not always someone who is in need? No matter how often you give, do you not see that you cannot remove the need?” The crowd began to murmur to itself.

“What then is correct Teacher?” asked a muffled voice from the crowd. The crowd began to echo the question with growing impatience. Carthasian stepped up to the crowd and lifted his had to his mouth, motioning the crowd to be silent. They fell quiet, and the Man of The Law began to speak again.

“We have worked for the experience and the joy of curiosity. For to long, it has been our only reward to pass that experience as if it were of more value than even our own lives. Good hardworking people receive nothing for their hard work other than sweat and tears. This should not be so. We should place values upon the actions of another, so that this person is truly honored for his sacrifice. To take the experience of an elder as wisdom alone, is to say to the elder that his knowledge is equal to the knowledge of every elder, and this dishonors one who’s knowledge is not equal. I swear to you on this day that I will never dishonor my elder by lowering him to my level, for my wisdom lacks his experience, and this means that his experience must be more valid than my own. Thus, the first law of the Serpent, is to honor your elders, for they are indeed of more value than you are.” At this, Carthasian looked around the crowd to see if there was one who would disagree, and as he looked out, his eyes fell upon a young child of about twelve who’s eyes were vibrant and curious, but his demeanor was sad.

“Why do you cry, child?” asked the Teacher.

“Master Teacher, I cry for the elders who are disgraced by what is good of them.” Said the child.

“What is this you speak of Child?” questioned Carthasian.

“Master Teacher, it is admirable for the elders to be held in high regard for theirs is a wisdom that has not yet been experienced by those younger, but it is not a wisdom which is singular to the elders, for Lady wisdom speaks to all who listen. The wisdom of the elders is a wisdom that is for all. What they give to us is not special to them, because to them it is special because it is for all. The elders should cry on the day that Lady Wisdom is said to be a truth of Age, for Lady Wisdom herself is eons older than the elders who listen to her, and they are but children in her eyes. Age is of no consequence in her eyes for she loves us all the same. If an elder believes himself to be imparted with a relationship that is special to his age, than he has dishonored Lady Wisdom, and himself.”

“Who is this child, who speaks with the voice of the One who gave creation Time.” Asked Carthasian to the Crowd.

“My Mother named me Jude, for I am to be a hope for the hopeless.” Said the child.

“When you look out upon the Land of Time, do you see the hopeless young Jude?” asked Carthasian with a sincere look upon his face.

“Although I see the clouds looming in the distance, I know that the Sun will shine again. For though the darkness tries endlessly to comprehend the Light, it cannot for it refuses to be what it is, and it will negate its own existence, but the Children of the Land of Time, cannot escape what they are a part of,  so as the sun comes over the horizon after the storm, so comes hope.” Jude stopped abruptly and looked at Carthasian.

“But Master Teacher, what becomes of a man who runs from his people to become something he is not… is there hope for such a man?” questioned Jude.

“I do not believe in hope, young Jude, for the power of one man is found in himself, and hope is something beyond me.” Answered Carthasian.

“Then indeed there is no hope for such a man, Master Teacher. For if the Serpent is your master, then your hope lies in him, though he lies beyond you.” Jude smiled a familiar smile at Carthasian and turned his back as he went into the crowd. Carthasian called out to the young boy as he was leaving, with a hint of desperation in his voice.

“Young Jude, if what you say is true, then by calling me Master, you claim that your hope is in me, and not in yourself. If you do not believe what I say, then how can you place hope in me.” He questioned. 

Jude stopped in the midst of the crowd and turned toward Carthasian. “Master Teacher, why do we believe that a baby so innocent will survive in this world of darkness?” He waited for an answer, but none was given, and so he finished his thought. 

“The child has hope put in him, not by the measure of what he has, but on the measure of that which has him.” 

“You do not then disagree with my Teacher the Servant?” asked Carthasian defiantly.

“Even your Teacher is under submission to something beyond him, though he will not acknowledge this. How can I deny respect for your teacher when he is the student of my master, even if he doesn’t know it? My hope is in that which has you, and therefore you are an instrument of this, and my hope is in you.” Finished Jude.

At this Carthasian released Jude to go about his way, if Jude would promise to meet him the next day at the same place, that they may converse on the things of life. Jude, having nothing better to do agreed with a grin, and the next day as Carthasian approached the city meeting place, he found a crowd already gathered around Jude. According to the people, Jude had been at the meeting place since the sun came up, waiting for the Teacher. Carthasian walked up to Jude and listened for a moment to the child speaking.

“Consider the sands in the hourglass. Every moment is unto itself a single grain, but every grain is also unto itself a single moment. We take every moment as if it is part of something larger, but rarely do we take something larger and consider that it is made up of every moment. I ask you now, which is more significant, the body of sand which represents the gift of time, or the moments which represent every choice made in that body,” on this note, Jude turned and looked at Carthasian. “Master Teacher, what do you believe?”

“The moment is what is most important, for what is the body of sand, if there is not the tiny grain to make the body.” Replied Carthasian satisfied.

“Then I urge you to take every grain and keep it separate, for this is how you would have them valued, not as a single body.” Said the boy to the teacher. “When you teach the people of the laws of the Serpent, do you do the same? Do you see every Law apart from each other as if their value is their own?” asked Jude.

“Whoever follows the law, must follow the whole law, for whoever breaks one is guilty of breaking them all.” Replied Carthasian.

“Then Master Teacher, why do you separate the moments of life? How can a law which encompasses the whole of life and is itself made of little grains of wisdom, to apply to life which you have said is made up of separate instances? Would that not require a law for every moment, rather than a law for all moments as the law claims to be?” Jude smiled at Carthasian innocently. “It is of little consequence in this moment… you have requested my  presence and I am here. What shall we discuss?” asked Jude.

“Young Jude, the Law of the Serpent teaches that a sacrifice is required to atone for the wrongs that man has committed in this Land, what say you to this?” asked the Teacher.

“Master Teacher, my mother told me once of a lamb who asked why we wore his skin? The Lamb believed that we were pretending to be like him because we were ashamed of what we truly looked like. The lamb was not afraid of what he looked like, for he knew that his shepherd was willing to lay down his life for him no matter what he did… and this is in spite of how he looked to begin with. Why would a shepherd die for a lamb when it inconveniences him by running off, but require that a payment be made for this commitment of his own kind? I would be more willing to die for my brothers rather than my pet. I cannot see the Master of all Masters, the one who gave us time requiring atonement for inconveniencing him. The shepherd does not demand it of his animals, yet the Serpent teaches that the Master of All demands it of me. My mother never demanded that I atone for my inconveniences as I grew. I can not believe that He that is more than the Goodness of a Shepherd to his sheep, or of my mother to me, could ever do less good than them to that which he cares for.”

Carthasian looked at the Child, “Young Jude, whether you believe it to be true does not change its reality.” At this, the crowd started to laugh. “Young Jude, it is a law of the natural that a dichotomy of cause and effect exists. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. When one life is taken, a life must be paid out. When someone is offended, there must be retribution. This law is not the law of the Serpent, this is the law which the Serpent in his wisdom observed in nature.”

“Where is the dichotomy in black and white? When there is Sun, there is not dark, and when there is not sun, there is simply not light. Taking an eye from one who has stolen yours does not increase how many eyes you have, it only takes the eye from another. If one is offended, does the apology change the history of offense, or is it the actions after the offense that changes the history? It is neither for in all of this, history cannot be changed. The future is the only thing that is moldable. An eye for an eye is an effort to change the past by restoring the physical. Apologies for offense are efforts to change the past by restoring the social. A sacrifice can never change the past, it can only change the future… but cannot a person do this without seeking to change the past. Cannot the offended make right the future by setting aside the past? When has the past ever been made right by a sacrifice? When has the guilt ever gone away when you are forced to relive it in sacrifice? 

Things that are natural do not ask for atonement. They may take the life of another out of vengeance for one they have lost, but when has this ever brought the one they have lost back from the grave? When the Lady of the Creek gives you her water to refresh your thirst, does she ask for atonement for such a sacrifice? When we take the life from the flower of the ground, does the ground demand that one of our children die? All things come from all things. If one takes from another, what is taken will be given back to him in time. The creator of all things gave us all these things in time that we might experience them. Though we may take them, we will give them back to him. This is law that I see in nature. If nothing is lost in nature for all things return, then how can anything be missing. If nothing is missing, than what is there to atone for? What is there that we can take, that we haven’t freely been given.”

The crowd began to buzz amongst itself, as eagerly awaited Carthasian’s rebuttal to this twelve-year-old child. Carthasian stood in amazement at this little boy. After carefully choosing his words, he began. “Little Jude, if I gave you a day’s ration of food and you ate it in one sitting, then when you asked for more, should I not be angry that you ate my food?”

“Master Teacher, if I ate to much of your food in one setting, would you expect that I give it back to you, or even pay for it. You might be angry with me, or even expect that I pay more to get more than the original amount, but what good it would it do to do otherwise?”

“I would expect the food back, or something comparable in return.” replied Carthasian. 

“You and the Serpent might, but nature would not, it knows that what was taken will be returned, and what it gave, it gave freely.” Said Jude.

Carthasian stepped back and looked into the crowd. He could see that the crowd was being won over by the words of this persuasive child, and so he tried another approach.

“Young Jude, let us speak of something more pertinent to the Land around us.” 

“Please Master Teacher, I await your wisdom.” Jude smiled.

“You had said that there is no dichotomy in life. Clearly in its simplest forms, you can divide life into two categories; life, and death.” Carthasian stepped back to see how Jude would deal with this question. To his surprise, Jude perked up and began speaking almost immediately.

“Master Teacher, when you live, you are being. When you die you are not, therefore, these are not the same, though they are connected. Those who die are no longer being, they are experiencing, but not expressing. Those who live are doing both experiencing and expressing, this is the distinction I have made. I say that there is no dichotomy in Life because death is not in life by its very definition.” Said Jude.

“Then living is in death, for those who live will always die, but those who die, will never live young Jude.” Replied the Teacher.

“No master Teacher, it is existing which can transcend death and life for in death there is no ability to experience, and this is required for living. Many people exist through both life and death and call it living, but I say unto you that the one who truly lives can never die for death cannot overpower what it cannot understand, and this is experience in existence.”

“Then if you put anything into death, it would become life, for the existence would experience something and spring forth life?” asked Carthasian.

“Do we not see this in the world around us Master teacher? Does not the flower grow again. Do not the water’s come back though they have been dried up? You cannot kill that which refuses to be done experiencing for his curiosity will always beat out the void of Death.” Replied Jude.

“That is preposterous! Is not your graveyard full of your past. If what you were saying is true, than they would raise up.” Shouted Carthasian. He turned to the crowd and spoke angrily, “See how he blasphemes the graves of your elders.”

“Master Teacher, it is not natural for people to succumb to time by giving up their experience of existence, for time is a gift by which we are to experience existence. If time removes the ability to experience existence than why would it be given to us? People die because they believe, or they are convinced that there is nothing left to experience, but I tell you that if you spoke to the dead a new experience, they would surely rise up and take part in it.”

“Very well, young Jude. I suppose that this is the power of Love over hate and its other dark elements?” Carthasian began to laugh with the crowd at his quip, but Jude continued to answer his questions.

“Love does not oppose hate, nor does it oppose evil, for they are of no threat to it. That which seeks to destroy love is not that which opposes it, but it is that which does not oppose it, for that is the only thing that Love will not act out… Love will not push itself onto another. That which does not care, is the only thing that does not seek love, for hate seeks love, just as the darkness seeks light. Does not the Moon follow the Stars, or the night seek to extinguish the candle. Those who hate have taken love to an extreme perversion, for those who hate cannot bear to live without the object of their hate. It is what they use to define themselves. Those who hate cannot hate Love. It is themselves they hate; while secretly hoping that what they hate will look past their hate and define them, and thus save them from themselves. If one who is hated were to tell the one who hates him that he loved him, his love would beat at the door of his heart like a vibrant pounding until that door opens and the hated becomes the loved. But Apathy does not care that love stands at the door and knocks. The wrapping of love upon the door becomes normal and background and therefore those who succumb to apathy become unable to hear the knock any longer. Those who die can always be brought back, for they only die because they look to death to define themselves. Their ears are still able to hear the knock of Love on the door of existence. Those who cannot any longer hear this become monsters that myths shudder to express, but they are not dead. These people are undead. The power you see here is not the Power of Love over death, it is the Power of Love to give life.”

Carthasian stepped back and looked into the crowd, who stood in silence around their young protégé. Jude smiled warmly at Carthasian, which made Carthasian feel strangely at ease. “Young Jude, we will continue this a different day, for today I must travel out to meet the Serpent. He wishes to be present at our next meeting for he feels that your mighty spirit could be of great use to the people of the land. I will return as the sun rises again on a fortnight from this day, with Master Serpent.” Finished Carthasian. On that, the Teacher turned away from the crowd and began on his journey back to the Garden to speak with the Serpent.

Upon arrival in the Garden, Carthasian found the Serpent resting upon a rock. He stopped and knelt before his master and the Serpent turned at him to speak.

“Carthasian the teacher has returned to the Garden to bring me news of the child Jude. Tell me, did he save your soul? Or did you find what you know to be true?”

“Master Serpent, the child Jude is a voice of something unheard. He does not ask for salvation for his soul, nor does he ask for salvation for mine. He speaks of rebirth without emphasizing death, and speaks of Love, without exposing hatred.” Carthasian looked to the Serpent for his response patiently.

“Shall I speak to the Child as I speak to an old man, or shall I speak to the child as respectfully as I would a child? Jude teaches you as if you were a child, because you sit at his feet as if you were his son. What am I to do with you Carthasian? The innocence of a child does not make reality. The Law is not invalid because a child sees life coming at a distance. When life meets him face to face, it will prove to Jude how his innocence is ignorance; and his idealism is idiocy!” snapped the Serpent.

Carthasian bowed his head to the Serpent. “Master Serpent, what then would you have me do, shall I break him by showing him the superior power of the law?” Carthasian waited patiently for the serpent to begin speaking. “Carthasian, have you not learned that the power of the law does not lie in itself. The power of the law is merely an extension of your faith in it. If you bring the power of the law upon this child, and yet you waiver in your own thoughts, how are you to show him the truth? It is more likely that his faith in his own beliefs will be made more apparent and more powerful than yours, for in them, he does not waiver. If you seek to break him, you will only make him stronger.” The Serpent continued. “If the boy does not wish to comply to the law, bring him to his people as an example of ignorance and youth, and let his shame and wanting to belong, bring him to his need for the law.”

Carthasian bowed his head to the serpent, “Master Serpent, you are indeed wise. I had told the child you would accompany me in my return to him so that you may speak with him directly. What would you have me say to him?”

The Serpent smiled. “Carthasian, the attitude you must take can begin with my response. Why should I trouble myself with the musings of a child? Tell young Jude that he can speak to me when he has experience in this world which equals the size of his ego.” At this the serpent slithered off into the Garden, and Carthasian took his cue to start his trek back to meet Jude.

Upon arrival at the meeting place, Carthasian found Jude once again espousing philosophy to the morning crowd. Carthasian stepped up to the crowd and began to speak over the boy who was passionately enthralled in his explanation of pain and suffering to a newly widowed town’s lady.

“Trouble yourself not with the espousing of this child good town’s folk, for the Serpent has decided that a child has a larger ego than his experience can lend to, and therefore his words are neither worth looking into, nor are they worth concerning his time with.” After Carthasian had finished his accusation, Jude looked up from the woman he had continued talking with despite the disturbance, and found Carthasian’s eyes.

“Tell me Master Teacher, why you follow the command of one who cannot keep his own commandments. The Serpent claims that my ego is not an issue of concern or trouble, yet he sends one of his most talented and trusted teachers to concern himself with my ego.” Jude smiled at Carthasian and continued. “Who has more experience of what is good Master Teacher, a child or a Sage with white hair? The experience of which you have is of what not to do. Do not steal for this brings death. Do not kill for this brings death. Do not lie for this brings death. 

Your law of experience is a law of don’ts. A child is filled with curiosity, always seeking to expand and explore. His is law of Do’s. You say that your law is a more valid wisdom, but which wisdom does nature speak to. Nature gives freely. Nature grows freely. It is there for enjoyment and exploration. Is it not possible that your white hair has betrayed you Master Teacher? Your wisdom is not the wisdom of creation. Your wisdom is that which kills creation, for it extinguishes the joy in exploration, and giving, and replaces these with fear. Teach your law, Master Teacher, but be aware of what it is for it is not wisdom, it is a package of the truth, and if you focus on this you are a teacher of lies.”

Carthasian furrowed his eyes in distress. He had not come to begin a discussion with Jude, but instead to put an end to any discussion that may arise from his philosophical ramblings. Instead Jude had seemingly attacked Carthasian using the alleged hypocrisy of his very own teacher the Serpent. He could feel his words forming to match his hopeless thoughts. “What would you have me do child? Justice is required in a world of order, and this is done through consequence! It is unjust for a society not to have a system of laws for the punishment of its criminals. What does the law of nature speak to such things Jude?”

“Master Teacher, criminals are created by the law, not the other way around. The Law is in place as a system to judge what is right, not that which is wrong. Those who live by the law live in fear of it because it has changed into a system to judge what is wrong, not what is right. Animals kill each other freely without exacting vengeance because they kill out of hunger, not lust, or covetousness. This creates order, not imbalance. When one person decides to stock pile their food in such a way that imbalances the order, this is when killing becomes coated in violence and lust. This is when lives become commodities, and are no longer seen as invaluable but now valuable.

The act of killing becomes an act of securing value, and being given a value that is outside the order disgraces a life that was invaluable as a part of the natural order of things. 

The law of nature is about maintaining a harmonious value. But the law of man is about maintaining a unified value, which is based upon his lustful cravings. The natural law which did not condemn the extinguishing of life, as part of the invaluable order of reality was forever changed by men who decided to place outside value on life. The natural law that claimed, “an eye for an eye,” as a natural check and balance system came to be understood as, “If you remove my eye, I have the right to remove yours.” This law is not the law of nature for it takes the natural order of things and places it in the hands of the individual. It claims that one is separate and above all; where nature’s law claims that one is in, and with all, and places faith in the overall idea that what is taken will be given back to it by the creator. Everything dies. But according to the law of Man, not everything dies for a reason, Master Teacher, this should not be so.”

Carthasian leaned forward. “Young Jude, you say that there should be no punishment for murder. You say that this does not affect righteousness, to those who do not judge by the wrong doing of others. Do you then claim that righteousness and evil are one? I certainly disagree for they are clearly opposed!” Carthasian extended his hand at Jude, motioning for a response from the child.

“Master Teacher, murder is a child of your law. Therefore it is subject to your law. The possibility for Murder is created by the presence of a law against it. Within nature, such a thing as nature is merely an anomaly of the system. It does not require a law, for that which sustains nature will also sustain the order of nature. I say that punishment for an anomaly is pointless, not for Murder. It is therefore not I who claim that righteousness and evil are one, but it is you. For it is your law which spawns a child of evil. What I have said is that true righteousness need not be afraid, or oppose evil, for the natural economy of the creator will sustain the order. Punish your Murderers for they are your responsibility and your children.” Countered Jude.

“Child, I have spent countless years searching this life for the truth and I have found no one so arrogant as you. How is it that you are the only one in all the land who has a corner on truth, yet those of us who are so knowledgeable, devoting entire lifetimes to its studies are somehow wrong?!” Carthasian’s tone began to get stronger slow and steadily until he began to yell. “I will not let you tell me that all that I have known, is a lie!”

Jude smiled at Carthasian. “Master Teacher, I have not told you that what you know is a lie, for in your lifetime you have seen more of these things than I will ever see. You know the truth of this world of Death and Chaos and of the Garden, and you know how to navigate it and lead a fruitful life in spite of such misery. But the truth that you know is the truth of a world that was never intended to be. It is the truth of the anomaly, not the truth of the system in which the anomaly lies. I am not the only one in the land who has a corner on truth, I do not contain truth at all, but truth contains me. It is you dear friend who has a corner on truth, and it is you who has only that.” 

Carthasian could feel something welling up inside of him, it was a question, perhaps even a doubt, but he pushed it down into the bowels of his being, and began to speak. “I will never believe such lies.” And as he said this, a rushing wind swept through the meeting place, and Carthasian fell over, dead. The crowd murmured amongst themselves claiming that this must be a trick, and that Jude had killed Carthasian. Jude looked at the body of Carthasian laying on the ground, and he began to speak.

“My dear Master Teacher, what has the serpent done to you? You have so much left to experience but you have ended your ability to do such things,” Jude looked around him at the crowd as he knelt down to the body, “I tell you on this day that you will see the power of that which created you,” Jude now began to address Carthasian as if he was alive. “Carthasian, awake for there is more in this world than the corner you have explored.” At this Carthasian’s eyes opened, and the crowd stepped back in fear. Jude helped Carthasian sit upright, and began to address the crowd. 

“Did I not tell you that if you spoke to the dead a new experience, they would surely rise to take part in it… so be it. A new experience this sage shall have.”

At this the crowd, swelled up with emotion started to cheer the name of Jude, and danced with Joy, as Jude took Carthasian by the hand into the streets of his city.

As the day grew dark, Carthasian ate supper with Jude and his Mother, and conversed with them until morning. As the sun rose up over the Horizon, Carthasian started back to tell the Serpent of his last encounter with the boy, unsure of what he would say, and unsure of what he would do. Something had happened to him because of Jude, and the seed from that encounter was welling up inside him like a deluge that cannot be contained.

THE GARDEN part one

SOPHIA WALKS

In a far corner of the world, in the land of Time, was a woman. This woman was not extraordinary by the methods and means of the world that surrounded her, but there was yet something extraordinary about her. As a child, she had about her a curiosity for the beauty of life. And the more she saw, the more beautiful she became to the world around her.

One day, at the ripe age of nineteen, she was walking in a garden that was far from her home. It was a garden of amazing beauty and amazing curiosities. In the garden was a serpent who could speak. The nineteen-year-old woman stood in amazement before the serpent. In her experience, men and animals of this kind had always been enemies, yet the serpent had honored her by speaking to her as if she was his friend.

“Young Maiden,” hissed the serpent, “You have entered my garden… is it not amazing?”

“It is indeed amazing Master Serpent,” replied the woman. “It contains in it the wonders of this world that I had only seen in the depths of my dreams.”

The Serpent wrapped himself around her leg gently, “I can give it all to you, if you will stay with me in this garden.”

The woman laughed in delight at the serpent. “Thank you Master Serpent for the generous offer, but how is it that I am to live in this Garden of Mystery and Delight when there is so much to see beyond it. My heart can not bear to rest in the dreams it has.”

The serpent backed away from the maiden quickly in disgust. “Young Maiden, you have offended me. Why would you not want to explore your dreams with me in this place? There are many here who stay with me, exploring this garden from their births to their deaths. They love this land, just as they love me.”

“Master Serpent,” said the girl, “Your offer is generous, but I cannot live to explore the garden when the garden is only part of the world. I am sure that there are many wondrous and curious things here in this beautiful garden, but what have I given to this garden and its inhabitants if I make this my world? The harmony of the entire world sings many notes, but if one note is made to be the melody when the true melody is already singing, than there is only discord. You have offered me the chance to explore a world of dreams, but in the end, dreams is all they are.”

“Dreams can carry a melody all their own, that is so intricate and expansive that you could live an entire lifetime in them. I am offering you life.” Explained the serpent.

“Life is more than dreaming Master Serpent. Dreaming to live is waiting to live. I can bring life to this dream, but this dream could never bring life to me. The only way for both to live is for me to bring life to the dream so that the dream may live in me as I bring it into a reality outside this garden.” After she had said this, the serpent looked her in her bright yellow eyes.

“You have made your decision young maiden, and it is one which I respect, but I know that one day you will rest here with me in this Garden.”

The maiden smiled at the serpent, “One day, I will bring my life back to this Garden and turn these dreams loose upon creation. We will then rest together when living and dreaming become one, and I will find joy in this garden, and you will once again find joy outside of your dreams.” At this the serpent hissed rabidly at her.

“You have something in you which I could not see before. Leave this place for you are not welcome here!” The Serpent paused and then smiled grimly, “Or stay at your own risk.” After he had said this, the Serpent slithered away angrily, hissing all the way.

Although the Serpent was gone, the woman spoke as if he could still hear her. “Master Serpent, you are well loved. I am looking forward to your company once more.” At this the Maiden smiled, and continued walking through the Garden. 

Now the maiden was thirsty in the heat of the afternoon, and so seeing a fresh creek making its way through the shade of the trees, the woman approached it. She knelt down at the bed of the creek and looked into the blue waters. To her delight was her reflection smiling back at her. 

“Hello young maiden,” said the woman.

“How are you today?” responded the woman in the creek.

“I have had a pleasant stroll so far through this garden of Wonders and Delight, however, the sun has been toiling the fields hard today, and I have become quite thirsty in giving my water to the sun who needs it for his work.”

“Would you like to take some of my water for your work?” asked the woman in the creek, smiling.

“Do you not need your water for the Garden?” asked the Maiden.

“I do not need what I am for the work which I do.” Replied the woman in the creek. “If I was giving you something other than my essence, like the log that floats in me, or the algae which grows in my stillness, or the rocks which guard my sides day and night, than I would need their permission… but what I give to you is who I am.”

The maiden paused for a moment to look at the various creature around the Lady in the Creek. “How do you know who you are, from how you live?”

The Lady in the Creek raised an eyebrow. “Do you mean from what you do, fair maiden?” she paused for a moment to think about the question, and then continued. “That which I am is not that which I do, although that which I do, is the means by which you see that which I am. I take care of everything around me not because it is something I do, but because it is who I am. The log, which floats in me, says to your eyes, that I move, yet I move not to float the log. The frog that is grown in my womb says to your eyes that I nurture, yet I do not nurture for the frog. Some may say that to take from me is to destroy who I am, but in truth, if the log did not take its motion from me, or the frog its nurturing, you would not know who I am. Therefore, the only way for you to know who you are is to allow yourself to be taken from, and know that they take from you because you are what they needed.”

“Lady in the Creek, you are indeed wise, but I have but one more question for you. Are you not worried that a person takes too much of you and destroys the essence of who you are?” 

“Dear Maiden, Master Sun brought you to me in order that he may complete his work in this place. He took my essence from your sweat in his heat, and in due time he will return this to me. In this process, I am whole, though it appears that I am separated. Drink from me, and you will share in my completeness. Let another drink from you and they will share in your wholeness.” 

“Lady in the Creek, it honors me to share with you in this.” At that, the maiden began to drink. She drank until she had satisfied her thirst, and when she was well rested for the walk with the Sun, she departed the Lady in the Creek with a smile. In making her way through the Garden, the Maiden came to a tree with fruit upon it that glistened in the heat of the Sun. It was not one singular color, but every individual fruit had varying shades and tints. This tree was in the middle of the Garden, and surrounding it were trees of varying fruits, but none so ripe looking as the tree in the middle of the Garden. The maiden smiled at this tree, and then went to the tree surrounding it, which bore upon it apples. This tree was not just any apple tree, but apples of different shapes and colors. The Maiden chose the apple with the deepest red and ate of it. Now as she was sitting underneath the apple tree, a caterpillar came up to her and began laughing.

“Fair Maiden, why do you eat from the apple, when it is clearly not the best fruit in this garden?” said the Caterpillar.

“Master Caterpillar, I was not aware that fruit is better because of how it looks.” Said the Woman.

“Dear child, I have eaten of all the fruit in this garden, and the greatest fruit is from the tree in the middle of it.” Retorted the caterpillar.

“Curiosity has lead me to ask by what system have you decided it.” 

The Caterpillar stood upright and puffed, “It is because I have eaten it, and I know better. The apple is no middle fruit.”

The Woman laughed, “But it is an apple Master caterpillar… Why would I change what I know I like, for something that I may not like? 

“Because if what you like is not as good as what you have, than what you have is not good at all.” Said the caterpillar.

“Master caterpillar, do you only eat the best leaves in the garden?”

The caterpillar paused to think about this question, and then pointed at the leaves on the tree in the middle. “Yes, I only eat of the leaves of the tree in the middle.” He said proudly.

“You have eaten of other trees, have you not?” she smiled in response.

“Yes, dear, of course I had, or I would not have known this to be the best tree.” Said the caterpillar.

“Master caterpillar, do you like the taste of apple leaves?”

“Yes, but they do not compare to the leaves of the middle tree.” The caterpillar motioned again.

“Master caterpillar, if the leaves of an apple do not compare to the leaves of the middle tree, than why do you compare them?” she asked.

The caterpillar stared at her for a moment and looked up. “What then young Maiden? Am I to eat a lesser leaf, when I can eat a better leaf.”

Master caterpillar looked agitated. “Certainly not Master caterpillar, eat what suits you best, but by your own admission, you do not believe the fruit of the middle tree to be comparable to the fruit of the apple tree, so then the apple is not lesser, just different.”

Wide eyed, the caterpillar looked the young woman in the eye. “Than I should settle for something that looks lesser than another, because it is actually equal and deserving of a fair tasting?” The caterpillar turned away from her in a snobbish motion.

“Master Caterpillar, looks do not always define the fruit. A pineapple does not look delicious, a grapefruit does not look sour, and a kiwi does not look sweet. It is not settling to appreciate each fruit for what it is. If you want to appreciate the middle fruit as your favorite, than please do what it is that makes you happy, but you should know that some will appreciate the apple just the same, and not think any less of the one who holds the middle fruit in such esteem.”

“Young girl, this is preposterous. What is ugly is ugly, and what is ugly is worse than what is beautiful. There is no in-between for the things that are, they are as sure as the rising and the setting of the sun.”

The young maiden took another bite out of apple and thought quietly for a moment, than opened her mouth to speak. “Truth is what it is, but one man’s truth can be another man’s ignorance Master caterpillar. I believe that an apple is just as valuable as the fruit in the middle, not because of how it looks, or even tastes, but because it is there. Its value is as a creation, not as an appreciation.” She held up the core in her hands and pointed at the seeds showing in it. “We have no idea what is planned for each individual creation. The apple might grow into a giant tree, or it might be laced with toxin and kill its benefactors. The value of the tree is found in its potential not to be one or the other, but to be both. Both the tree in middle, and the apple tree are to be respected the same for that potential, just as are you to be respected despite your tiny size and odd appearance.”

The caterpillar crossed his arms. “What does that mean, are you implying that I am not respected by those around me?!” His eyes furrowed in disgust.

“Master caterpillar, you are well loved for one day you will be something far more beautiful than you are even now.”

The caterpillar stood there for a moment in silence. The tears in his eyes began welling up. “You think I am beautiful, even though you see, my bitterness, and cynicism, my odd body, and tiny stature?”

“Master Caterpillar, you are beautiful and loved. I love you just as I love the decrepit apple. Although its beauty does not appear to compare to the beauty of the middle tree, I gaze upon it, and find that in its own beauty, it may surpass that of the tree which over shadows it, for its beauty and potential are hidden at its core, waiting for the moment to shine. The Tree in the middle has shown, and its days are merely numbered. Can you not see this Master Caterpillar?”

The caterpillar stared at both trees for a good while, and then looked at the woman in silence. After some time, he turned to her and shook his head in defiant tears, “I CANNOT!” he yelled. At that he hurried off into the bushes.

“One day you will Master Caterpillar.” She said into the wind. “On that day, I will look to the wind to find you.” At that, the woman stood up, and continued through the Garden.

The woman found in the Garden some leaves that had been sewn together as clothes. Next to these were skins of animals that had been burned together to make clothes as well. She looked curiously at these items. The woman herself walked through the Garden naked, just as she had walked everywhere. She saw by the structure of these clothes that they were made to cover up the flesh, but she had never seen clothes worn before. As she examined the clothes, a lamb was wondering by, and saw her. He walked up to her and prodded a question to her, “Why do you pretend to be me?”

The woman leaned down to speak to the little lamb. “Master lamb, I do not pretend to be you,” she noticed the lambskins that she was holding, “but it is others who are afraid, that would pretend to be you.” 

The lamb was very concerned. “What am I that someone would pretend to be like me.” Said the lamb.

“You are innocent Master Lamb, for you do not know.” Said the woman. 

“I have seen people pretending to be me before,” said the lamb. “It seems that they do not just want to be me, but they are afraid of something, for when they walk with their own skin, they hide from each other, yet when they are wearing my skin, they are hiding as well… I do not understand this. Are they not just as naked as before they pretended”

The woman smiled at the lamb. “Master Lamb, you are naked, as am I… but are you not afraid of something like those who pretend to be you?”

“No, ma’am. Though I am naked, my shepherd always loves me. If I were to be one lost in a herd of a thousand, my shepherd would leave them to find me. He sleeps in the doorway of the coral so that no robbers, or wolves might take me. What does it matter if I a naked, for I am loved.” The sheep looked at the woman for some insight.

“I have heard of these who pretend to be you. They claim that they know they are safe and loved. They believe that because they clothe themselves in the clothing of one who knows this, they can fool the shepherd into loving them as well, but a man in a sheepskin does not fool the shepherd. And neither are you.” Said the woman. 

“Why does the human pretend to be sheep then?” asked the lamb.

“Because the human doesn’t think he will be loved as a human, flawed and naked, but he sees how the shepherd takes care of his sheep, and so he clothes himself in your innocence hoping to take some of your love for himself.”

The Lamb recoiled from the woman. “there was a time when I saw humans in their own skin, in their own herds. I had seen that they loved each other then, why can’t they love each other now.” 

The woman smiled again, “They are not ready to wear their own skin until they can be sure that their herd will not leave them.”

The Lamb cocked his head, “ But even if the flock leaves, the shepherd will always bring one back to the flock?”

“It seems that man does not understand this Master Lamb.” She responded.

“Until they do understand they will keep pretending to be me?” asked the Lamb.

“Until my kind, understands trust and love, their shame will have them trying to be anyone but themselves… But you master Lamb, continue in your joy, for your shepherd, who pretends to be you by clothing himself in your skin will always take joy in you, although he will not take joy from anyone who offers it to him.” At that, the lamb bowed his head, and continued on its way. The woman dug into the earth with her hands and buried the clothes in the ground. 

Crying a tear for them, she uttered, “May your death be more than a curtain to hide behind for the lives of those who wore you.” After she had paid these respects, she looked to the Sun, smiled, and continued on her walk.

As she neared the end of the Garden, the Serpent from before came to her. He slithered in front of her way so that she could no longer pass and said, “Young Maiden, you are still here in my Garden. Have you reconsidered my offer to stay with me.”

“Master Serpent,” the Woman started, “It is good to see you again. But I have not reconsidered leaving this place of wonder and mystery.”

“I had warned you to stay here at your own risk young child, and you have taken your time enjoying the cool of the Garden and using it to hide from the heat of the Sun. You have disregarded my warning, and now you must pay with your life.” Hissed the serpent.

“Master Serpent, I mean you no disrespect in my enjoyment of your garden, but I have not broken any rules that I can see. To break a rule, I must offend the proprietor of this Garden.”

“Dear Child, I am the proprietor of this establishment, and I am the one trusted with its running.” Replied the Serpent.

“Master Serpent, do we not all answer to someone else. Does not the ground allow you to slither across its surface, and does not the Lady in the Creek give of you her water? Do we not allow certain freedoms of all creatures? Does not the caterpillar eat freely of the leaves he chooses, and is not the Lamb free to ask what he chooses? The Lady of the Creek gives freely to all creatures, knowing that by giving she is truly the fullness of herself. How can you pass judgement on the garden, which you are an equal part of? How can you claim to be above the caterpillar, or the Lamb? Yes, you are a proprietor of this garden, but you are no more in charge than Master Lamb, or Master Caterpillar. All of you are trusted equally with its running.” The woman smiled at the Serpent, and waited for his response.

“Although one may be equal to another, he may still be greater Maiden, for it is not the equal potential which matters, but it is what is done with that potential.”

The Maiden began to chuckle, “Master Serpent, you are sly, but are you wise? Though one may use his potential more than another, he is still equal in potential. The balance of power is not maintained by willingness of a person to show his greatness, but by the willingness of a person to put that greatness aside for the sake of others. 

Master Serpent, your greatness is well known for what it is that you do not do. You are well known for how you are sly, and how you do not have to work to live, how you do not have to question to know, or walk to move. These things do not amass to anymore than convenience. You are not like the Lady of the Creek, for she does not care that people understand her enormous potential for force, or the dependence that life has upon her. She exists to give, not to take, and she is given, though she never asks. You are not like the Lamb who questions to understand, rather than to prove. The lamb has more reason than you to demand an answer, and yet he demands nothing, not even the life back that is stolen from his kind, though you would demand what does not belong to you. You are not even like the caterpillar, for though he claims to like who he is, he shows remorse in his tears… this gentleness in his harshness will one day help him to shed his old skin and fly away beyond this land. But when you try to shed your skin, you remain the same, leaving about you skeletons of that which you hate in order to remind yourself how much you hate yourself. You and them are different, for they live to give, and you live to gain. But them and I are one, for I live to give as well… You see Master Serpent, I am not afraid of the Sun, for it brings me life as it does everything in this world, I give it freely just as I give it to you freely. If you want my life, it is yours.”The serpent looked her dead in the eyes and replied, “I know that I could take your life at any time, and this is enough satisfaction for me. Do not come back to this Garden again, unless you are prepared to stay here forever.”
The Woman smiled at the Serpent. “One day, I will come back to visit you, and on that day, we will enjoy each others company and appreciate Life together.” At that, the Woman stepped over the Serpent, and walked out of the Garden into the world of Time, where she was nineteen, and not so extraordinary, although somehow she seemed a little more extraordinary everyday.