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Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5

chapter 1

chapter 1 title


As I lay on the dead, dry lake, my mind withered and body decayed until all was just a foggy blur. For a couple days, I lay, still and morbid in my death-like state, until finally a couple vultures started pecking at my clothes and then found flesh and took a couple chunks from off my arms. In my mind’s fog, I thought perhaps I felt something—and wondered why I allowed it all to come to this.

My name is Tiz (yes, my first). To think I endured that dry lake’s agony voluntarily, and almost died intentionally, I know must make my saneness appear unclear. But please don’t judge me too harshly for my insanity—for the course I chose was challenging, and the same might have happened to you! And just because others heard me talking to people they couldn’t see, or had to listen to me talk about my “other world,” it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m crazy. You need to know the story.

Anyway, I thank you ladies and gentlemen for asking me to speak to you this beautiful spring morning at this prestigious institution and filling every seat in this great auditorium. When I was walking in, a person outside yelled, “We want to know if you made it past the Gate!” And I wondered how she knew to ask, for I haven’t told anyone about the Gate. So all the throngs of people outside, and the confusion, and the television cameras filming me and asking for an interview have me mystified. What is going on? Why my sudden world-renowned celebrity? There are newscasters from all around the world! I also asked this to the crowd outside when I was walking in, and someone shouted, “Because you are us, Tiz!” And the whole crowd yelled, “YEAH!”

My exit from the mental hospital was a few hours ago, to give this speech, so I’ll tell my story, and in it you’ll find out why I was admitted. And then I’m told I must return.

[Standing at the side of the auditorium, Tiz saw the mental hospital director and the school superintendent from the school district where he taught, and he knew why they were there. Tiz had been told his sanity wasn’t proven yet to be released, and his teaching job would be permanently revoked if he was deemed psychologically impaired. But teaching, and his students, were his greatest loves, so he couldn’t let that happen. So his extended release from the mental hospital was based on this speech. He had to make them believe. This was his trial—and he the only witness. He looked at the director and superintendent, then at all the others and continued. “It will be up to each of you, at the end, to decide for yourself if my story is true—or if I’m still deranged—telling fantastical stories. But I have a prayer: that I can describe my ordeal in such a way to convince you I am not crazy!” (But Tiz hid the fact that he had to convince himself as well!)

Then some teen agers in the audience yelled over to the director, “Let him out! He’s fine! We want to hear him play his songs! FlyTheBlue has concerts to play this summer—a world tour is scheduled.” And many agreed, starting to shout.

But others countered, “Get real. He’s deranged. Listen to his story.”

Tiz held up his hand to calm the audience, but the shouting heightened. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” some yelled at others.

“Let him out! You have no right.” others yelled to the director.

Tiz spoke to calm them, “It’s okay, let it be.” But it didn’t help. Many kept yelling at others. Some now were standing—the confrontation louder. “Please,” Tiz said, but the yelling kept growing—more now standing yelling back. Then music was heard over the speakers—music to calm the soul. Tiz was holding his smart phone to the microphone. The confrontation broke, and Tiz spoke over the music, “This is the last song we recorded before I was admitted. I wrote it for a friend who lost someone dear:”] (Called Heaven, track 1)

Listen to the whole CALLED HEAVEN song on Youtube.


Like a seed, that's in the Spring
fell to earth, grew, then, started blooming
and changed our lives, for all of time


Pedals bright, and fragrance nice
reaching towards, that Heaven, we all, knew before
towards open arms, and softer nights


Chorus:
Towards a world, we all knew before, called Heaven
Towards a kinder, gentler place of peace, we lived in
da da da da da da da, where all is right, and love does thrive
Towards a world, there's so many we've known, to embrace us
Towards the place, where we'll meet again, called Heaven


Verse:
Like the light, from fireflies
brightened our world, then fluttered, away, to another place
to brighten theirs, and soothe their cares


Specs of white, up in the night
twinkle and shine, so we'll know, they're fine, living up with him
where they went up to, the world we knew


Chorus Repeated


Smooth sun rays, on cloudy days
shining right through, a hole, to our world, so we will know
they're thinkin of us, and the love we shared


Sprinkling down, to wash away our frowns
every rainy day, is just a time, when they do play
in the sprinklers there, on those beautiful days


Chorus Repeated


Now, let me continue my story. I’m a regular guy, blond hair, six-feet-three, American of German and Danish descent, love my sports, my fishing, my hiking. I was only twenty-three when it all began, but I sort of felt like something was missing—some grand adventure I yearned for, and felt that might be out there. Or maybe it was a girl to meet who would turn out to be “the special one” for me, or maybe enlightenment and seeing the grand purpose of the universe unfold for me. Which of these, I did not know, or maybe all of them, or something different, but this I knew: I had a strange feeling … something very different was coming.

It was while contemplating this at a park at the end of spring, sitting in a lounge chair, amongst some trees, and overlooking a lake, that I was distracted by someone preaching or instructing. I looked down by the lake, and there by a tree, a man spoke out loud to the world. He looked old and weak—maybe in his eighties. He spoke in a low, hoarse voice, and was perhaps of South American origin, with shoulder-length white-gray hair and goatee. He wore brown, pointy leather shoes with buckles, and his clothes were worn and tattered, but fancy: corduroy pants of royal blue, a yellow shirt with thin vertical black lines, and puffy, long sleeves, and a vest of green with large, gold buttons. While speaking, he waved his arms around wildly, and sometimes broke into singing. Everyone ignored him, and steered wide of him when walking by.

His animation, though, interested—and amused me, so I watched. Then … even though I was twenty yards away and sitting mostly concealed in my shaded grove of trees, the man stopped … pointed directly at me with a straight arm, and spoke for a few moments in a garbled voice—or perhaps some foreign language. His hand remained there pointing for several seconds after he finished, then it fell to his side and his shoulders slouched, and he slumped to the ground sitting and leaning back against the tree.

I was a little aghast and looked to either side of myself, beyond the trees, to see if anyone had seen. There was no one. I didn’t know what he had said. Garbled nonsense? Or profound prophecy? Ninety percent to ten. But what if? I am a curious sort, so I found myself getting up and walking there.

I sat in front of him (This should be interesting, I thought), and when he looked up and saw it was me, excitement filled his eyes. He again pointed at me and he spoke in that low, hoarse voice: “It was you who brought me here. For what you search, there are many paths—both here, and in the other world. For everyone, the paths are different—but they all intersect at the Gates. Follow the paths, here, and on a distant journey—beginning in a dream—but expanding for those who journey outside of it. Pick up all the Pebbles you find along the way. With those, you’ll find the Rules that you desire—the secrets of life. There’s no one here that you can follow. Your destiny is Elgobon, but that should never be your goal! Get the Guidance from the Elder. Find the Mountain. Find the Grotto. Find the Island. But remember that looking is far more important than finding; and finding is not easy, for the Rules are hidden in living.

“Keep a little book and write down what you lack, and what you learn … and note the Pebbles, the ten Rules, the Secret, the Truth, and what opens up Gate One—for these are what will cure you from your demons, but also perfect you. When you have found them all, success for you is assured. Put them together and the puzzles are complete. They make up the Maps of Ages that lead to a treasure of ultimate success: gold and riches if you like, or fancy cars and mansions, or island retreats in faraway places—or perhaps the ultimate for you is peace of mind. The Maps are secret and cherished, written over thousands of years by those who took the journeys before you, and very few do see them. But they’re only found upon the Mountaintop. And when you’ve opened up Gate One, something you could never imagine, you will see—and you’ll be changed forever!

“… A word of caution though. It will not be easy, and forces of evil will conspire against you. So don’t take the journey unless you are sure you want to! And when at the Mountain’s base of which you seek, concentrate with focused mind—for if you don’t, the pain you will endure will kill you even before the lack of blood from being torn apart.” (And I will tell you, that advice from the old man was true—my whole left side a bloody mess.)

He stopped and just looked at me—like he was done.

“What mountain?” I asked. “Where is it?”

“For everyone, it is somewhere different.”

“How do I get there?”

“It depends what path you choose. Many lead there.”

“What is Elgobon?”

“I can’t explain it. Like salt, you would have to taste it.”

I looked at him and him at me—for quite a while. I almost laughed and sarcastically thought, Not much to go on. Not many clues to find a treasure hidden somewhere in a whole world!

“Two last things,” he said, “Come back every so often, for if you stay too long in the other world you’ll never get out. And … practice how to breathe and see.”

Then I really did laugh out loud. “I think I know how to breathe and see.”

“Maybe that’s why you really fully don’t,” he responded.

I studied him, and finally asked, “Anything else?”

“Nothing else can be said. But return here for the final Pebble. And until that time, summon me when you will.”

I stood and turned around and raised my eyebrows and mouthed the words, “Craaazy” to myself while walking with slow methodic footsteps back to my chair. Although I didn’t see, the man’s mouth forged a wry and sly smile as if to say, “He’s fallen in my trap.” Then he suddenly didn’t look so crazy! While I walked, I squinted and thought, That was strange, and yet intriguing, but mostly bizarre, and I had to chuckle. “I’m the one that brought him here?” I mumbled to myself. “What does that mean? But how did he know about my demons? And I already have my own ‘other world,’ and am already looking for Rules, so how did he know?”

When back in my chair, I looked at him again. When I did, I saw a finch fly down and land on his hand. She had one discolored feather in her right wing—white, not brown. He lifted her up near his face and pet the bird with his other hand and seemed to be talking to her. Then the man looked around before holding the finch to his ear. He listened for quite some time as the finch seemed to be communicating … something! Then tears began to flow—and roll, off the old man’s cheeks. I watched for a while and then looked down at the ground pondering for a minute. When I looked up, he was gone! … And I found no trace left of him, and no one at the park who saw him.

I never saw him at the park again, and part of me wondered if I really ever had—or if my imagination had created him. Had I been talking to a ghost from my mind? Had I drifted off to sleep and dreamed it all? I decided yes—the most realistic dream I’ve ever had … so realistic it scared me, and I tried to put the incident behind me and forget about it. Weeks went by … but his memory wouldn’t leave me. Then one day while sitting at the park, that finch with the discolored feather, flew down and landed on my knee—and stared at me, not blinking. Then she started chirping, and continued for ten seconds before finally flying off.

That shook me. Was it a sign? Maybe the old man was real. Was there a message the bird was conveying? That night, while dressed in my pajamas I thought of the bird, and the old man’s words. I contemplated in my bed, What have I become? What could I be? Then in my dreams, in vivid detail, I saw myself walking in a distant land in search of something. But it was like I was really there, for in most dreams you can’t hear, but I could in this one—and I also felt and saw and smelled.

In the morning when I awoke, I was in the same clothes as in my dream and my shoes were on—with mud upon! But no mud was tracked in on the floor around me. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. And on my windowsill outside I saw that finch looking in at me—staring. That scared me … and I knew I couldn’t wait and must investigate, and started the process post-haste to prepare to leave to the “other world.”

chapter 2

chapter 2 title


The old man’s message was not what first sent me to the other world—it was what others called my growing insanity, that showed up periodically for a couple years prior to meeting him! But the perilous journey to open the Gate heightened that insanity—which some years later earned me a private bed at the local mental hospital (and a fresh new set of clean white clothes). Or maybe insanity is too harsh a word—it’s what others used. I just called it mental anguish from life’s normal daily routine that many of us encounter—that many call headaches, stress, or anxiety.

My journey was amazing, but I don’t wish it on any of you in this auditorium or to those that might someday read my journal—for there are difficult clues that you must find, immense landscapes you must traverse, deathly drapes that you must open, Beasts you must defeat, and incapacitating confusion! But if you also choose to go, my description of it might help you make it back—with your sanity intact.

Let me explain how my great journey began and my steps to this insinuated insanity. It is said if you put a toad in cold water and then in tiny increments, over time, increase the heat to boiling, he won’t jump out …. I’m a toad, for the demons snuck up on me slowly (like jaguars hidden in shadows stalking their prey), so I didn’t notice they were there—and by the time I did, it was too late. They sprung and took me down.

I had just graduated from college a year before and was starting my second year of teaching ninth grade history and music in high school in a small town in the United States. I have to laugh, for although my teachers taught me very thoroughly, nothing could have prepared me for my students and their shenanigans.

Mr. Tiz, they called me, and they would comment on everything about me, saying things like, “Mr. Tiz, your snoring last night set off our car alarm three houses down—how ’bout you put a sock in it?” And, “Mr. Tiz, I like your hair today—its wave is big enough to surf on!” And, “Mr. Tiz, there’s an odor coming from your way. It’s either your smelly socks or … something else you’ve done. So please keep it to yourself—I can’t concentrate!”

This was my plight each day, so I laughed and dished it back when possible. But it was thirty against one, so it was hard to get the upper hand.

They were great, though—and enlivened me. I respected them, and our bantering was epic! They were my extended family. They were full of love for life, and life was still full of possibilities. If my lessons were interesting, they were filled with wonder at what they had not heard before, and what I taught them were their endless capabilities. I ate my lunch with them and coached their sports and watched their plays, and in a few short months, we were very close and many confided in me of their life’s difficulties. One boy’s sister had almost passed away, and mine had almost too. I felt what they were going through, and at these times I tried to listen more than speak. I loved my job, for I knew it made a difference in this world.

Life was busy, for besides my work, my friends and I enjoyed sports, barbeques, computer games, band gigs, and fixing the problems of the world. We discovered how to end all poverty, and how to live in peace in a pollution-free environment, and we patted ourselves on the backs for doing it.

We tried to beat each other at everything we did, but we were pretty evenly matched, which made it good, for we traded winning with each other. But we always consoled each other when we lost: “Oh, I’m so sorry I beat you! I’ll let you win next time.”

Watching sports, one told me, “My team is going to crush yours.”

I laughed. “After my team wins, let’s get some dessert. I’ll get cake, and you can have some humble pie!”

My friends and I were all musicians and formed a band that played on the weekends wherever someone would let us play—bars, parties, grand-opening events. I wrote songs, played guitar, and sang. We called ourselves, FlyTheBlue, for it’s what we wanted to, up in the sky, not in a plane, just arms as wings that took us there, up in the air—gliding through clouds of white—sky of blue.

Before we sang, I started asking our audience some questions which I called The Anthem of the People, and people who heard us before would answer back:


I yelled:

Who are you?

I held out my arms for them to answer:

Who are we?

And we’d all yell together:

We are the children of the world—we sing!


Then we would start our songs.

Besides my family, my friends were my support group, and I theirs, and we helped each other with our fears.

I had other hobbies as well—had just finished a model of the Santa Maria ship that my hero Columbus sailed, and I always made time to go out fishing. I would tie the artificial flies during the week and test them out on Saturdays. Often my dad accompanied me, and we ate sack lunches under pine trees with views of slow, winding rivers in meadows and the distant mountains beyond. When leisurely casting a fly like this in the cool of early mornings on water with a slight mist rising, you can’t help but contemplate what life is really all about.

My mom was a great one to talk to on this subject, and after finishing college and becoming a teacher, I would always make a point of driving through the pine trees to the next town over, where they lived, for Sunday dinners. Their house was beautiful—old, but well kept up. Been in the family more than a century. Sitting on the porch, we would look at the park across the street, watch the setting sun, and talk about my students and their antics, our life concerns, and what the future held. From these times, I began to try to look beyond what I could see—and this prepared me for my future journey.

Those were the great times that slowed the water’s rising temperature, and they should have been enough, and for most they are, but other things occurred that started the water boiling, and summoned up the demons. Like many people, I let things get to me too much.

I had this new boss (a principal just transferred to my school), who loved authority and to feel his power rumble and strengthen through ever-increasing temper tantrums. And me being the newest teacher made me the dartboard, and the humbler I was, the more darts were thrown. He would yell, “Your students should score a perfect grade on the state exam. What’s wrong with you? You’re making me look bad! I thought your degree was in teaching!” He was a sour one for sure, and he didn’t like my music, and hammered me about my band, “And quit that silly band. You’re a teacher now. Your music is annoying! On weekends you should be at school, grading papers, preparing for the next week, not playing at the local pub.” But I wouldn’t quit. My friends and I had too much fun at it, and this enraged my principal even more—that I would defy him!

And I was a magnet for each newly invented government tax, or fee, or fine, or mandatory-voluntary donation. So when the wolves were gone, there was just barely enough meat left on my bones to feed my vulture landlady (okay, that’s mean; I actually liked her, but she also had to pay her wolves). Anyway, you know how it goes—then BAM the big one hits: “That’s $400 to fix your radiator.” I was counting every penny and wondering each month if I would be able to pay my bills. And I worried about a friend I had with an illness, and meeting Ms. Right.

And it’s all the little things that stuck inside my head: the friends that moved away, the ticket for a rolling stop, the little sister I worried about, the sorrow for others on the nightly news. I’d contemplate my weaknesses, my nothingness, my lowly, worthless state—or so the demons taught. And although I had a great support group, which I tapped, I tried not to trouble them with my problems, and kept many of these things inside. (But later on, more than these concerns determined my fate—the worst of all in the other world.)

Anyway, I started calling these different stresses my “demons,” for they started taking hold of me—squeezing me inside my head, pulling me toward a cliff. For it was like a tug of war between the good and bad—myself the rope! And soon the bad would pull me over the edge.

chapter 3

chapter 3 title


So I started going to a park on Saturdays when the demons were circling me. Grand Park was its official name.

I got the idea from a television program I had recently seen about a man named Nikita Volkov in an insane asylum in Russia. He was perhaps in his late-twenties, and claimed he was taking trips to a different world. He said he got there by sitting in a park, relaxing his mind, and envisioning he was there. I laughed at first, but then felt sorry for him. They showed him in a straitjacket being interviewed and he looked so nice and so sincere—believed his statement fully. He seemed intelligent, yet down to earth and very humble. “Come with me,” he even said. “I’ll tell you how to get there. Where I’ve been is incredible. There is a village there, by a jungle. It appears and disappears! I know there’s many who struggle, but I can help with what I’ve learned.” He would not relinquish his belief in other worlds and so they kept him there.

Poor guy, I thought, and my heart went out to him. But even though he was insane, I liked his idea of mentally relaxing at a park. That would prevent me from becoming like him.

I sat in my lounge chair in the shade amongst a little grove of eucalyptus trees overlooking a lake, enjoying the fresh, clean scents, breathing the crisp, pure air, eating my lunch, and watching the many people enjoy their various activities. It was my escape whenever life was just too much, and caving in. It was beautiful, and sitting there, I ingested peace!

It was so nice that after a while I wanted more … and most would say that was my mistake! I started drifting away, and the people I saw, and voices heard, started becoming blurred—for I was envisioning myself at a different place—my perfect world with no one else at all around: no mean boss berating me, no tax man following, no police officer ticketing, no dumb wars, evil dictators, or political disagreements to read about. It was just me and peace—eyes closed imagining. I envisioned myself sitting under pine trees overlooking a quiet, green meadow, with a stream, and birds, and squirrels, and beautiful, clear sky—to get away entirely. For there, no demons existed. (Or so I thought back then—for as I found out later, there was a type of evil spirit even worse! But by that time, I was well into my journey in the other world and I wouldn’t quit, for I was getting closer to the treasure, and it was something I would risk my life for.)

Then when it was time to return to my park, I found it was getting harder. My imagination was becoming my other world—where I was living a second life. Then one day, I refused to go back—the peace and beauty was too much. But I was conflicted—for part of me wanted to stay, and part wanted to go back. “Let’s go,” I was told by myself. “This other world is insanity.” But I then surprised MYSELF, by yelling back, “I WON’T!” My adventurous side and cautious side were at odds. I loved that new place, and wanted to explore it. So there I stayed, for all that night, sleeping in my chair in the world from where I started—“World One”—but awake in my new world that I began referring to as “World Two.” (Maybe I should have accepted the advice of MYSELF, for later on, in my journey in World Two, I became aware of someone following me—tracking me, and trying to kill me. Three times it happened, and three times I narrowly escaped. But each trap was becoming more elaborate, and I worried the fourth might be my last.)

[The audience groaned at his admission of having a split-personality, and the director and superintendent looked at each other and raised their eyebrows. Tiz continued.]

I know what you’re thinking, but let me explain.

Had I gone crazy, arguing with myself and refusing to return to World One, and insisting I stay in World Two—experiencing the wonder of what I saw there? Was I lost to the “real” world from where I came—a victim of insanity? I forced my hazy mind to try and think. My breathing quickened, wondering. Was it a dream as MYSELF insisted? Maybe so, for he was the grounded side of me. He looked at things calmly—I saw them impatiently.

He was the one always saying, “It’s okay.” “Don’t worry about it.” Like when I broke my arm, I thought they would amputate, but MYSELF laughed, “No! You’re going overboard. Relax. It’s not so bad.”

I loved that side of myself—he always had a smile on his face. I went to him when I was stressed. He cared about everyone—always had something good to say, “Have you lost weight?”

But I was not the same—overreacted often—always in a race. “Let’s get out and do!” I was the adventurer, the fisherman—the energetic one that started the band. MYSELF enjoyed the conversations with my mom. I was always on the go, “How bout that mountain peak today?” He would suggest we contemplate, “Here’s some lyrics to that song.” I thought nights were a burden—going to sleep. But for MYSELF, night was a wonderful, relaxing, carefree time—a time to dream! We were so different.

So was World Two a dream? Or had I found a portal to somewhere others hadn’t gone, aided by this place in the park I sat, or the way I thought. For in my dream, beyond the meadow, the world looked so real—so detailed, all the sounds I heard, the coolness of the air, the smell of the trees. Dreams aren’t that realistic—right? That is what I hoped and felt. Maybe it was somewhere like eternity. I knew that others would tell me it’s just inside my mind—but others are often wrong I’ve found. Others told Columbus off the edge he’d fall—and we all know how that turned out (like me, he also found a New World … mine was just bigger). (But later I prayed World Two really was a real world, for there was someone there that I had met, when my head lay upon her lap and I looked into her eyes, and I had to find her once again. For I wondered if she had touched my soul—unlike any others had before … and I would only know if we met again.)

In the morning, I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard the words, “Sir, you can’t sleep here overnight. The park closes at nine.” It was a police officer.

“Oh yes, yes. Sorry. I fell asleep. From now on, by nine,” I said.

Then I wondered, Should I cancel my meditative trips to World Two? For it was becoming too hard to make it back, and MYSELF, was cautiously insisting we not go. But I didn’t like my cautious side, and it really upset me that he often lectured my adventurous side on what he should do. And my distaste for his fearful spirit started growing like mildew in my heart, until I started hating MYSELF and felt him becoming my enemy for all our differences. So both sides of me were tearing apart.

I thought for quite some time amidst a heartbeat steadily quickening, and breaths shorter and more often than before … and then I made a fateful decision: I would not cancel my trips to my new world—I would live in both! I would split my personality—the cautious, MYSELF, would stay, and continue living his normal life in World One, and while he did, the adventurous, I, would go … to World Two—in the back of MYSELF’s mind. So at the same time, we would both be living separate lives—him, our normal life teaching school—and me, the great adventurer, exploring. One of us here. One there.

[As Tiz said this there was another loud disappointed groan from the audience as they knew how much this hurt his chance to prove his sanity. The director sighed and looked at his feet. But Tiz rebutted, “As I said earlier, wait for the whole story to judge.”]

MYSELF hated this decision, “It’s just a fantasy!”

“No, it’s not fantasy,” I countered. “I don’t care what you want. I want it!” (For I had a selfish streak.)

I said out loud, “I will chronicle the furthest reaches of my mind and what I encounter in its dreamy depths—nightmare, fantasy, or something else (But I didn’t really think it was in my mind)! Oh my gosh!” I realized. “I’m just like Nikita Volkov … but … I’m not truly crazy—I’m not in an insane asylum!”

Then I fantasized with pride: Maybe events in this new world fulfill a mission in my life not tapped. Perhaps there are great and powerful insights to be learned—mystical truths that rule the world—or just ourselves: “Rules,” I called them, not fully understood before—that will make me great and help me change the world … and I will be known as “Tiz, the Great Discoverer,” the one who first discovered them! I smiled and stood up straighter—chest out a bit, thinking of my newfound fame and inspiration I would be to others (for I had a proud streak).

That was the fateful day when I first saw the old man by the lake, and MYSELF advised, “The old man wasn’t real! He’s just part of your insanity—your own mental creation.”

“No!” I countered. “I spoke directly to him. I saw the wrinkles on his face.”

MYSELF added, “If real, how do you know you can trust him? He was just a stranger—perhaps the evil one! Maybe what he really wants is our demise—us pulled apart—all the way to insanity. He saw the seed of insanity you planted and now is watering it. There is no treasure—it’s really a mental dungeon he’s going to lock you in.”

“Well you’re the cautious side of me, so of course you would think that,” and I refused to listen. “No, he’s not evil—he’s no demon.” I liked the old guy.

Then I met the bird and had the dream—mud upon my shoes, and that convinced me, No, this is not just in my mind. That is when I knew, without a doubt, my journey in World Two was about to begin. The old man’s explanation was lacking, but I thought that maybe Pebbles were the little lessons you learn that lead to bigger, major insights called Rules which lead a person to the cherished Maps of Ages, and to the treasure, and to see what’s beyond the Gate. For how does a baby learn to talk? One sound, one word at a time. A child rides a bike, but first he crawls, then walks. But ooh, I thought. That treasure does sound good and I want it! (For I had a greedy streak).

Now, after years on my life-changing journey I stand before you. What I learned, I’ll share. There are many struggling just like I was, so like Nikita, I am standing tall—admitting what I’ve done, so I can help. So this is the truth and the story. This experience will be told in the voice and perspective of I, for it comes from his adventure, and from his journal, and from experiences conveyed to MYSELF. But he’s still there, and I don’t even know if he’s still alive.

I traveled through landscapes never seen and years of time—beginning at my peaceful meadow in my mind. For I thought of what the old man said, and pondered what he meant, and then I practiced it: how to breathe and see. I’d breathe in deep through my nose, then exhale in a long, slow stream through pursed lips, trying to relax. And as I totally relaxed, I focused my thoughts to see beyond that peaceful meadow—every tree, bird, grass, and leaf. And because of that, I was able to venture into the world beyond.

And I met the Elder, and lady with the spear, and I prayed to evade the Beasts. I met the Scholar, and the Disciple, and felt the travesties in the abandoned villages and then I cried. I met the sun and the river running free through the grassy meadow, then in the cave, the ancient family long since dead, and after that, the Prophet. Sometime later, I opened my arms and I breathed deep—with fear … for the agony I knew was soon to come!

chapter 4

chapter 4 title


[Tiz paused—and breathed deep, thinking of what he was about to tell the audience, knowing the perception of absurdity of everything he was about to say. Then he smiled and continued.]

I left my mind’s peaceful meadow with my backpack of essentials and journeyed into that other world of mine, World Two, my goal to find, as the old man said, the Rules and treasure map, and to open up Gate One. And I prayed the old man and his advice had not just been my mind’s creation.

I was amazed by all the differences in this world—many dangerous … to the degree of death, that would soon come down upon me! There were no countries or cities or fences, but occasionally I passed ancient ruins. Mainly, though, I walked through open land and forests, and only a few people here and there I spied, with whom I talked. This world seemed older maybe, for it had all the same vegetation but also more and varied, like it had more time to evolve over many more years. Animals I saw that weren’t in ours, like a camel once with a slender trunk to get her water with; bird tracks bigger than I’d ever seen, and tracks I found of giant reptiles thought to be extinct. Dinosaurs? I wondered. I shivered, but also filled with curiosity. Most of the trees were towering sequoias and redwoods, so I felt so small walking underneath, but also different types of trees and flowers I saw that I had never seen before: some trees with only one huge leaf on top, some not straight but growing curved, and others with canopy halfway up and then another on its top; some flowers popped or spit when touched, some were taller than a tree, or larger than my head. Game trails I walked upon, over the land and through the brush, to make the going easier. The skies weren’t blue—but a light green, and the night was black and as I camped, a fire warmed me. When full, three moons shone of different sizes and lit my way—one mainly during the daytime, though. And those skies were of a pristine clarity not seen in World One—so clear in fact that besides the moons, large asteroids were seen as well, many close, as well as far away, so some looked like little moons at different distances. Many birds this world enjoyed, but the most I saw were ravens; thousands were often in the sky—flying by in giant flocks in elevated altitudes. They were keeping their eyes on me … and it convinced my eyes to widen and my throat to swallow extra times! But at that time they did not attack, so why mainly above me? For the rest of the sky was largely vacant.

Mile after mile I traversed, and I listened to the songs of the forests’ different birds and their rivers’ rocks chatting to each other with the water running over. My mind in its weary, delirious state imagined the water over rocks was whispering something to me. How long I walked, I cannot say; all I know is many months I went, as my beard was evidence (and I wished my better walking shoes I’d brought—and would the next time there)!

Elevation decreased till I reached a tropical environment—monkeys in the trees throwing banana peels and figs at me—until scared away by a gorilla swinging in, screeching at them, and accompanying me—then many of his friends also joining us, so a little army then I had. I experienced many things, and although I recognized them not as such, they were the Pebbles that I sought; like when the sun arose in all its majesty and I took its light, and warmth, and beauty with me. It made me want to also share what I could give. Or like the squirrel-house in a hole in a tree I saw, versus the bird nest on a limb. It taught the importance of lasting versus temporary things.

As I walked, I reflected on MYSELF’s opinion, and had to wonder if this was all a dream, and I decided on another question to ask my audience and add to The Anthem of the People:


How do our minds create the things we dream?


Then one day on top of a mountain, looking out over a rainforest valley, in the far-away distance to the east I saw a beam of light shining intensely to the sky. I wanted to go, for it seemed some sort of magnificent beacon. I hadn’t even found a Rule so doubted it was the treasure—but something great—something needed, I was sure.

But I also saw a vast lake below me—an island in the middle. The lake was inviting, living, glistening—something special. Its blue pulled me to it, for I could practically taste what looked to be enchanted waters. I couldn’t resist. I wanted it—and down I went.

When I got to the lake’s edge, I found that death I referenced awaiting me, for the lake was pretending. It had fooled me, for it was dead—dry—as a bone—was mud, now dried and cracked! Its living water was a mirage. I was amazed! And I couldn’t believe it, given the rainforest it was within—it rained there almost every day! I had been in the jungle’s heat and humidity walking so long and was so tired, with not enough to eat, in delirium, I hopefully thought, Maybe, instead, its dryness is truly the mirage—a disguise of sorts! So I slowly knelt in weariness and scooped some with my hands. I was so fatigued, so hot, and wished it was water so much, I looked at the substance in my hands and saw its liquefied enjoyment … so I drank a mouthful … but no, it was not water—it was dirt (or the driest, dirtiest water in the world, my mouth informed before I spit it out)!

I stood at the edge of the rainforest and the dry lake—clear skies, angry sun, and I searched the bareness of the dry lake’s baked and arid surface. See-through heat waves stealthily escaped. I considered walking across to make the other side, for the jungle I was in was thick—hard to walk through, but the dry lake was so large—seemed miles across, and I was so tired, the sun looking even hotter out on the dirt, so I feared I would perish on the way; and if I didn’t make it across, those ravens would have their dinner for the night.

I could see the island far away at the lake’s center. Light seemed brighter there. Maybe I can get there and rest. A bird flew by, and although I couldn’t feel any, it must have hit some wind, for it carried the bird, against its will, as it fought against the wind, until the bird landed on the island.

I walked ten feet out to test the dirt, but decided against and turned around to walk back to the jungle. But while upon the dry lake, I felt an energy from its inner core like it was a magnet pulling me to its center, and I was a helpless paper clip. My feet were suddenly heavy, like my shoes were made of lead and each step away from the center was heavier—till I couldn’t walk. I turned back around toward the center, and my steps were light—shoes now made of feathers—like I was being pulled. After considering my options, I felt I had no choice—and with humble obedience I started to follow my feet across the dry lake’s arid flatness.

From behind some trees I was secretly being watched and I heard something step on a dry branch that snapped. I spun around in a flash and looked, sensing a foreign presence observing me, but nothing was seen, as whatever it was had hid in time. But my breathing had stopped, the hairs on my arms on end, as it left me with the chilling feeling I was being followed—or maybe stalked.

I turned back around to the dry lake and decided then for sure I’d go that way. But I dreaded what I then would do. I took a breath and let the power take me. I walked and walked to get across—was very large—my tiring feet! My steps became so labored, small, and slow—a snail’s pace. After hours in the heat, red and sweating, I approached the center island—under a glaring sun that increased its rays and warmth—didn’t want me to succeed—didn’t want me to make it across! Wobbling, staggering, finally I fell on my knees at the dry lake’s core when I was just too tired.

I gasped, though, for the island wasn’t made of dirt … it was made of skeletons—animal, bird, and people’s bones! Hundreds stacked on top of each other. “Oh my! Where have I come? What have I done?”

I was going to rest and then get up, but after sitting, and drinking, and eating some, at this place, I was even more fatigued. Even after sleeping, I was worse and couldn’t get up. I looked up at the sun—the dry lake’s only friend. I neared to death after days lying in its heat—all moisture sweated out of me—my consciousness and mind delirious, until I couldn’t tell if I was among the living or the dead. My stomach ached. The earth was still. I saw vultures approach and circle overhead, underneath the ravens. When they did, many ravens flew down and landed all around me. I figured, to protect their claim to the ample meat. But neither they nor the vultures made a sound. All was perfectly quiet, as if afraid of death, and my heart’s beating was twice as slow as usual. Then a great jolt—the earth shook mightily. But I was too far gone to notice much. I knew I had not much time left, and I closed my eyes to die. My body tingled slightly—an out of body feeling. With my last thought I realized, The old man sent me to a place where all I did was die. Had I been duped? MYSELF correct—the old man wanting my demise?

In that state of death that I endured (if indeed I really was), the more I felt. Suddenly the water of the lake I started feeling on my skin, seeping up from somewhere underneath that baked and broken mud, and my cells I felt replenishing—sucking up moisture like a dried-up sponge. As they did, my eyes opened in the slightest slits to see the water on the dirt. Then far away on the dry lake’s edge—people I saw, and huts of dead woven plants. The water, more—as the lake kept quickly filling until covering me, then deeper and deeper still. I Treaded water then, but with weakened body, I struggled to keep my head above. Finally, not able, I slowly sank beneath with only my hand raised out. Then a shadow, and the bottom of a canoe I saw and someone grabbed my hand and pulled me in. I was groggy and questions asked of me, and busy conversation in a different tongue I heard between two fishermen. They gave me some green juice from a plant I had never tasted, and the haze vanished and I was new (although I might have also liked a little sandwich offered).

I talked in mine, and they in theirs, but the hands talked alike. The fisherman in front of me looked young and strong—maybe in his mid-thirties. He spoke in a low, hoarse voice, and was perhaps of South American origin, with medium-length black hair and goatee. We paddled toward the distant shore and I was lost to all of this. The lake had been dry, I’m sure—and now was filled, sparkling, and beautiful! We paddled toward a village on the shore that I had not seen before while lying on the dry lake’s dirt. I was confused. Where was I? Was I just dreaming this—like maybe I was doing while sitting by the lake in World One? Was I inside a dream, inside another dream? But like World Two, this felt so real. I reached down and felt the water with my hand. I could feel its coolness—wetness.

The village was under palm trees, and banana plants, and carved out of green jungle foliage. When arriving there, the village people stared—like they were amazed to see me. I wondered who these people were. They looked of every nationality—women, men, and children. I looked around at the place and felt a sense of Déjà vu somewhere deep inside.

The people came and greeted me, and I noticed the man with the black goatee some ways off talking to an older man. As they spoke, they were both studying me with serious faces and I felt uneasy. Then the older man, perhaps in his seventies, came, and the people backed away. He gave me another type of juice to drink—this one red, and I felt a surge of energy inside my head. My mind was suddenly awake like never before, like when sniffing smelling salts. Then in the spoken words around me, I could suddenly hear common repeated vowels and syllables, and the words themselves, and how they were arranged in sentences—how each word interacted with the others. Then I could decipher the meaning of the words and I could understand the people talking near me, and I was so amazed! I looked at them then back again. The older man smiled and he moved his hand a certain way like a fish swimming, then stopping it, and with his palm lifted toward me, suddenly my throat went dry as desert sand—and working its way up through my whole head. I started coughing—my head hurt, and I looked into his eyes. His smile stayed as he also stared at me, seemingly okay with my predicament and studying its effects. I couldn’t get a breath, I choked and gasped but he just watched. Was he the cause of my misery—myself his lab experiment? If so, I guess he wished a slow and painful death. Finally when I was near my end, he reached to a nearby table and gave me a cup of another type of juice to drink—this one yellow. I drank, coughing some more, and a warmth enveloped my throat and rose to my head—and mind—my mind now even more alert than before with the drink. I told him, “Loggi oh,” and I was surprised at the foreign words—for I knew they meant, “Thank you.” Then as I listened more to others, all the words I spoke were of that other tongue!

The people told me they were travelers, like me, just in a different sense—going somewhere different. And when I questioned them, they said I’d find out what they meant—but time and experience would have to be the teacher. They were simply clothed, with sandals made of dried-up, woven plants, and shirts and shorts or skirts, all made from coarse cotton fabric—but comfortable looking. All the adults wore exquisite necklaces of braided vines with medal medallions hanging from them, and everything around was natural—their houses, food, and tools. There was a sense of total, utter peace there, and the people seemed content—to an extent I couldn’t measure, beyond my understanding, and I thought that maybe I would end my journey there. They told me, though, that if I stayed, it would be like Hell to me. “So wait,” they said, “and come back later.” I enjoyed seeing them at their work of grinding corn, repairing tents, and sewing clothes by hand with needles made of chiseled bones; and as they did, I talked to them, and their kind and gentle spirits were contagious.

The children were delightful, and they wanted me to join in all their games. They tried to tickle me, so I also them, and I threw them in the air, and chased and tried to find them, for they hid expertly. Kick the coconut was my favorite game—but they would always kick it before I tagged them. So I played, and kept the coconut as a souvenir.

That night, sun gone from sight, we sat at long, planked, wooden tables in a large semi-circle by the shore, under torches burning and drums that pounded. Songs were sung and children danced to music played by all the others, with hollowed gourds blown in, or crafted limbs with tightened strings they plucked, or beads they shook in pottery.

The man with the black goatee sat at my table’s other end and I noticed him observing me. The eldest man that almost killed me sat next to me, and after dinner, the women spoke to tell me of their history. They told great stories of times from long ago, and the bravery, and the sadness, and the miracles … and calamities that befell. They spoke to me of Pebbles—but I didn’t know it at the time—nor to what Rule they flowed.

“Those memories are sacred,” they said, “for they last forever.”

“This stick,” the one said, “will decay as mother sky spits, and the sun then shines, and all that again and again. But the night that brother Emgo said he slayed the Beast—and told us how—will never die. He is a true friend and we revere him.”

All the children came in turn and grasped my arm and stared into my eyes with concentrated thoughts—seemingly to learn something I was giving … but I did not know what. It seemed to me the more that looked, the weaker I got, until the last one looked and I was out of breath—left hoarse and gasping.

After that, all went to bed except the eldest man and me, and in the dark, the torches showed his mouth talking. He was perhaps of African descent. His hair was gray, but plenty to his shoulders. Like the others, contentment radiated from him and also complete peace and pleasant confidence. He wore similar clothing as the others, and a necklace with four of the medallions, each a different color of medal. But I was uneasy as it was only him and I—and before, with him, I almost died.

“This skin and teeth,” he told me, and he pointed at an old wrinkled face and open mouth, “will rot away, but the teachings of my father and my mother will never leave here,” and he pointed at his head and then his heart.

The man looked at the immensity of stars and slowed his speech—seemingly in reverence. We were specs in the universe. He pointed at a cloud, obscuring the stars, and it dried, clearing our view—and I wondered if I had seen correctly. “These stars,” he said, “I confide in every night and their response I hear in my own thoughts. For more is there than suns and planets and space and dust. They scold me, and they praise me, and I change a little each time they leave. I wonder, am I a man of peace? Do I act with charity? The stars answer.”

Then he looked at the lake and pointed, and its dancing ripples from the breeze, turned into watery glass reflecting the moons’ light. “Generations past, this lake was dead. Then a quake in the earth diverted rivers so they filled it. One day again the quake may come. Then, like my teeth, this lake is dead. So the people must desert it, for its water was only fleeting—not lasting. Not like the stars’ enduring wisdom helping me. And since time also is a fleeting thing—most must be spent on the lasting things we can take with us.”

Then he added what was a riddle to me, and I tried to ponder what he meant: “Take some Guidance: Birth is birth, and death is death—both conclusive in their happenings. From the start and to the end, time lives with untold possibilities—but only to those that use a brush! We all start with canvas clean—but some use the living thing to create their personal masterpiece … and some do not. Use it wisely!”

He paused, and with long, gentle, flowing movements of his hand, back and forth, he fanned the air around us, and the torches, burning low, increased their flames again. Then he looked deep into my eyes. “When you see Emgo, respect him, and thank him for his example in killing the Beast—for soon one will also come for you!”

He looked at the lake, and in more of a hushed tone, he mentioned, “The lesson from the lake is only a step on the path to the Mountain.” He looked at me. “The journey you’re upon is grand, but comes with great difficulty and much time. You can’t do it alone, and you’ll require humility to receive the help you need. The most and greatest advice you will receive will come from the Prophet, so listen with humble and attentive ears. The combined ten Rules and Maps of Ages that you seek will make you great, and give you a power only few achieve. Judge wisely what you do with it. Set your compass going east, then get the Secret from the Scholar as your first chore—it provides a second life. Keep it in your bag of tools for you will need it.”

A second life? I thought. I’m going to die? But then I can come back from it?

He continued, “You will need it to save yourself. But even before then, in the next few days, you’ll fight for your life from the unexpected.”

I asked, “Do you know of the light-beam I saw in the east?”

“I do.”

“What’s there?”

“Ah yes! One of my favorite places! Some would say a magical place. But it’s indescribable, because for some it is incredible—something never seen before—a fabulous reward for making it that far. But surprisingly, for others nothing special waits. It depends on how you look at it. Take advantage of the journey there, and then it will be as I have seen. But for all that persevere and make it there, words you’ve never heard before that say incredible things—and you will never be the same.”

I added, “And who is Emgo? Where will I see him? And why respect him? I don’t even know him?”

He didn’t answer, but looked intently at me for quite some time—seemingly to discern something—to judge me for my questions. He then looked up at the stars whom he started addressing—sometimes happily, sometimes in tears—and I left him.

In the morning, the air seemed heavy and I felt sick—a slight headache, coarseness of breath, my energy depleted, my cells aging. I was pale. I staggered to the main gathering area, but the villagers didn’t hail me, no breakfast was offered, and although I could tell the children wanted to play with me, they did not. The two fishermen then told me I would be going fishing with them.

Why fish? I thought. I know they can tell I’m sick. So why aren’t they taking me to the healer’s hut? Or give me more of that juice? Is it something I said? I tried to remember when I last spoke.

As we paddled away from the village, I looked back at the village and the small pillars of smoke escaping to Heaven, and though not told, I knew that I would not be going back, and the sadness almost broke my soul. Did I do something wrong? Are the fishermen here to drown me? Off shore a ways, the fishermen stopped but did not lay a hand on me, nor did they cast their lines. I didn’t feel like fishing anyway. I suddenly felt I needed the water … it pulled at me and the fishermen knew it. I felt I needed to engulf myself in it (like it was life itself and currently I was without), and without thinking, I jumped. It was cool and fresh and blue, and penetrated each pore. I lived a thousand lives in its melted hands, and felt revival. When I turned back to the canoe, they were slowly paddling to their next fishing hole. I was going to shout to rescue me, but somehow I knew they would not return. Then the one in back with the black goatee looked back at me—and our eyes met. As he stared, he studied me, and I realized he was fine with letting me drown. Why such contradiction? Who were these people feeding me and teaching me and then ignoring me and letting me die? What had I done? They had seemed so good—but another side, I was discovering.

As I treaded water, I looked again at the village and saw the Elder standing on the shore—just watching my predicament like he had done before. He stood with someone else and I squinted hard to see. Is that who I think it is? Yes, I was sure, It’s Nikita Volkov! He’s in this world? Here’s my proof to MYSELF this world is real. Nikita can corroborate … I frowned, But what good now?

As my arms tired and my strength declined, and I slowly sank beneath, I looked up through the water at the faded, glowing sun, and as breath escaped me and that deathly fog enveloped my mind, the water receded with me as I sank. As it did, the village and smoke and people above, blurred like a mirage that dried and went away, and I was left lying on the parched dirt of the dry lake again—the water gone—myself coughing, and gagging, and wheezing until I breathed. I survived! But again my agony, as the heat baked my soul, burned my skin, chapped my lips, caused my eyes to tear!

My consciousness faded—only halfway there, but somewhere deep a sliver of thought remembered the Elder and Dry Lake (as I named it). The Elder set my mind wandering and wondering, for I had never mentioned I was on a journey to a Mountain. And how would he know a Beast would come for me? I shuddered. I thought long about his words—about their meaning, as I lay and looked up at the sun and then the stars. Then I remembered the old man by the lake in World One and his words to “Get the Guidance from the Elder,” and I suddenly realized this was him! And when I did, I knew his words were not just idle chatter.

Was there a Rule in all of this? I concentrated totally. What was this experience telling me? I calmed my breathing. Thought of nothing else … for much time. A flicker of a thought or a vision crossed my mind—and went—then another. The thoughts did start to coalesce. The Elder called it a lesson that the lake was teaching, and suddenly I had a revelation, and his words enlarged inside my mind into something other—something much bigger—a key tenet of life to remember …. They were indeed a Rule, I realized—my first, for which I searched for months and months!

He spoke about time—that it lives—and to use the living thing. He spoke about the lake’s water being temporary—but to focus on lasting things. I thought about the bird nest versus the squirrel house inside a tree I saw. I smiled and thought of the Rule that I had found. THE RULE OF THE DRY LAKE: Spend most time on the things that last: of knowledge, personality, and relationships. And I wrote the Rule inside my mind and later in my leather-bound black book. “If I survive, I will become it!” I told myself. “Its meaning will feed my cells until I do it because that is who I am.” Then I looked back at prior months and recognized the Pebbles I had found preparing me for the Rule. One Rule of ten I’d found, and with all ten, I would find the treasure and change the world (and I envisioned two of the greatest names then to be read in history books … “Columbus and Tiz”)!

But now I was just a lump of almost-dead forgotten flesh upon the dirt—exposed to whatever it was the Elder said might tear my limbs apart. Would I ever get to search for Rules again? As I thought it, my blurry eyes spied a half-buried stone in the dirt. With my last bit of energy I moved my hand to cover it, then barely pushed with my thumb against it, till it came out. I held it between my thumb and forefinger and strained to see—it was an uncut, magnificent, round, polished, perfectly clear diamond the size of a dime. It caught the sunlight and sparkled intensely. Then I passed out.

* * *

As I found out later, back at the jungle village that I no longer saw, the Elder and the man with the black goatee stood looking out over the lake. The Elder inhaled slowly while thinking, then exhaled. He reached in a pocket and pulled out a nine-inch knife of the most exquisite beauty and expert craftsmanship—golden blade—precious designs carved into it, cocobolo wooden handle inlaid with oak and cherry woods, the last fourth of it a shining ruby. He handed it to the man with the black goatee, paused, and while pointing at the lake said, “See if he survived, and if he did, and decided to continue on, envision different ways to kill him and then do what must be done. But act with stealth, for it should not be known we were involved. The knife should only be used if it’s needed.” The man with the black goatee took the knife and ran his finger along its shiny, sharpened edge. It cut his flesh and blood did pool, then it slowly fell as drops into the dirt.

chapter 5

chapter 5 title


[Tiz took a drink of water from a glass on the lectern, then he stretched. There was a lot of conversation between neighbors in the auditorium, with many smiling and shaking their heads. “Definitely still deranged,” someone said. But no one stood and all waited for him to continue.

Tiz looked at the person and then at the director and continued, “They called Columbus crazy for saying he would sail around the world. What if he also told them someday we would travel to the moon—or see and talk to people through a device held in our hand?”]

I lay on the sunbaked, cracked mud of Dry Lake, and somewhere in my subconscious mind a voice told me, You must return. But I was groggy—had to remember how to think. I tried. Return where? I thought, through the haze around my mind.

“You have two lives—the other in World One—too long here and you won’t get out,” the voice told me—but the voice was not within my mind this time—it was without!

My eyes popped open wide and darted around—no one was there! I heard a voice, I’m sure! I sat still! The voice I heard was low and hoarse. I concentrated, and remembered the voice of the old man from the park in World One! I heard it again. I froze in place. I listened carefully. “You left something behind in World One that you must have to make it to the Mountain. It will light your way, and without it, you will flounder in the dark.”

“What is it?” I quickly asked, but there was no answer—he was gone. That is when I started referring to the old man simply as “Old Man,” since his name I was without.

But the light-beam in the east was enticing me—so far off but so very bright. That’s the way the Elder said to go—and I wanted to—but I couldn’t move—too weak to. A fabulous reward was there he said—and I envisioned a metropolitan delight—parties into the night. Or riches maybe everywhere. What riches does a place so great provide, that it’s advertised by such a light? I pictured myself there—an amazing city with others too—a bonanza of food and drink and beautiful things and conversation of the most magnificent subjects into the night. But I realized my deathly state. How can I make it there?

Then I remembered Nikita Volkov, who I saw, and wanted to talk to, and that cemented my decision, Yes, I will return. That will prove this world’s reality. Why continue if it’s a dream—much of it a nightmare actually? And going back, I’ll save myself from dying on this lake. And if it’s true, I’ll return here again—but I’ll focus instead on the light-beam and transfer there, instead of to this deadly lake!

I concentrated, and in little wisps, a faded memory started coming back to me—of reality. Another lake—but with water—me sitting by, amongst some trees—another life—World One, I then remembered. What was the portal here and back? I told myself, “I have to get out! I have to get back! If I see myself there, who’s to say I’m not? I’ll envision it, and know it’s true.”

I concentrated harder, trying to remember reality, but it was hard. I thought, If I was in that, what would I see? What would I hear? I focused my thoughts. Blurry images began to clear. I finally saw people walking ’round, joggers running by, kids flying kites, boys fishing. I saw myself in a chair, eyes closed in sleep or contemplation. I pictured myself opening my eyes—and when I did, growing from the slightest whisper, then louder, I heard the sparrow’s song, and then the voices sound. I smelled sweet flowers scent and felt the sun’s grand warmth.

One last glance of Dry Lake showed me a blurry image of someone walking toward me—a shiny, golden object in their hand. But through the tunnel’s other end I went—returning and again rejoining my other self. He was healthy and I took on his state, so happy I was for that—but my clothes—so quite ragged.

It was now fall, but the next year, so I found that over a year I had been gone! This long I’d been away? And had just one Rule to celebrate? Thousands of miles I must have walked! MYSELF had been there living as normal, but I had been away. Now both were one again.

I made the same mistake twice when I informed a couple friends I was a great explorer and told them of the other world I visited, and the people I talked to and things I’d seen and done, like: a sparrow talking to a man, a camel with a trunk, trees with only one huge leaf on top, spitting flowers, dying and coming back from it, lakes dry as a bone then suddenly filled then dry again in seconds, how I wanted to go on the journey but MYSELF didn’t. Then, on both occasions, after they said they had to make a phone call, we just happened to run into their friends—and guess what—they were both psychiatrists who invited me to their offices!

“Well, don’t you understand?” I told one of the psychiatrists in her office. “I’m not crazy. I just talk to people others can’t see, and travel to another world.”

“Ohhhhhh,” she said and nodded.

“I get there through my mind, but when I arrive, I think it’s a real place.”

She rubbed her chin, “Really ….”

“Maybe it’s a place like Heaven, where people who have died and then come back say they have been. An Elder there disperses clouds by pointing at them. He gave me juice that let me speak his language.”

Her eyebrows rose, “Oh my! I’d like to drink some of that myself! Can you speak some now?”

I spoke, “A mama llama doinda samba ay caramba.”

She looked confused.

I did too, “That didn’t come out right. I guess I’ve forgotten now.”

She nodded and smiled a bit. I exclaimed, “Maybe my body is locked inside this world and my soul floated away there. The sky is green and there are three moons. A village is there but it disappears.”

Her forehead furrowed, “Imagine that!”

“Maybe it’s another dimension we can go in a perfect meditative state. Some flowers there are taller than trees and I think there might be dinosaurs. I want to find one and maybe try to ride it (her eyes got big)! I’m on a perilous journey there to find a secret map!”

When I informed her of that, I had her convinced, because she said, “Oh wow! Really? I’d love to hear about that!”

Then she mentioned, “Your story sounds like one I read, about an insane Russian man named Nikita Volkov. Have you ever heard his story?”

“Yes …” I warily said.

As she looked at me, she pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows. “It’s a psychological order called Mirroring. You’re just mirroring what you heard him say.”

In the end, she said, “It is all pretend—a dream you are in. You need to look within yourself, and be careful, for your mentality might someday take over your life and get you fired from your job.”

I couldn’t let that happen, though, for the kids at the school I taught were everything to me. I so much wanted to tell them everything I’d seen, but look where it got Nikita. I respected him though, for he stuck to his beliefs—told anyone that listened, for he said what he learned could help. But I wasn’t so strong or brave, so I let it go. Was I really just mirroring? I couldn’t tell.

So I reeled in my thoughts and went about my mission methodically, and my students never knew about my other world. But in my lessons, some things I taught them furtively—like the importance of timeless things.

They still kept me thinking defensively, from things they said like, “Mr. Tiz, you’re too boring. Why don’t you get out and see the world? Put away those exciting encyclopedias of yours and go on a great adventure!”

“That’s a good idea. I think I will,” I said and smiled at my inside joke. “But I have to pay for it by sharing my vast knowledge with you knuckleheads.”

“And while you’re at it, find a girl!” they said. And they gave me advice on where to meet her: “There’s a cashier at the store that looks in need of someone.” And, “Here’s my aunt’s number, she hasn’t been outside for a while.” And, “There’s a girl I always see waiting for someone outside the bar.”

“I don’t date girls that wait for people outside bars!” I answered.

Then with whispers, quickened by excitement, they started discussing with each other, and from the bits and pieces that I heard, I got nervous: “Here’s what we can do about his looks ….” And, “…perhaps a moustache.” And, “I’ll talk to my dentist about his teeth.” And, “You hit up the dating websites, and I’ll ask my preacher.” And, “His ears are kind of big. What do you suggest?” They all looked over at me, and I tried to look at my ears myself. Then, “What was his mom thinking? If I could only have been there when he was growing up.” And, “If you break it, I’ll reset it so it’s finally straight.”

Sometimes they tested me and got out of hand, but that didn’t bother me. I learned that from my mom. I almost never saw her get mad.

But to make it clear, I actually did go out on dates—but I was still looking for Ms. Right. One day at my parents’ house for Sunday dinner, I told them about World Two and they were so worried. “Oh my!” my mom said looking at me sadly. Shortly after that, a pretty lady with shoulder-length light-brown hair knocked—asking for historical information about my parents house. I had seen or met her very briefly in the city twice before. I will admit, I thought her very nice, and thought, Who knows—Ms. Right? But I didn’t get her phone number. I asked my mom to give her my phone number when she returned, but she didn’t want it, my mother said. Ms. Right—strike one.

I tried to call Nikita Volkov to ask about his other world and how I saw him at the village by the lake at the edge of the jungle, but the mental institution would never let me through. So I wrote him a letter and waited for a reply.

One day I was called into an interview with the school superintendent (my principal’s boss). She’s a good lady, I’ll admit, but she said the principal wanted me fired—but the superintendent was the one that had to approve it. She said the principal was complaining about me playing in a band, and that she heard I had been seeing a psychiatrist. I told the superintendent there wasn’t a problem—just difficulty sleeping, so she dismissed me with a warning, “I’m sorry, but I’ll have to fire you if you have psychological problems. We can’t have that with the kids.” Then I was sure, unlike Nikita, I would not tell the world and deal with the consequences.

As I waited for Nikita’s reply, I kept busy and enjoyed the ease of life in World One, melting back into my comfortable, normal routine, never visiting my park or sitting by the lake or feeling a need to go adventuring.

I laughed and enjoyed myself, but most time on the lasting things, for I used the living thing—time, like the Elder and Rule One taught. I had only found one Rule, but I perfected my use of it … and from that, along with all the personal reflective time as I walked alone in World Two, I started seeing certain increased abilities—perhaps like monks with so much time to think—the way my thoughts coalesced. I noticed friends more often now confided in me, for the words I noticed coming out of me, “I’m sorry to hear that.” “Is there anything I can do?”

I thought more clearly. Lyrics rhymed, and harmonies and melodies fit together more easily. I found that World Two was good inspiration for me to write new songs, and my friends and I booked new gigs and played them then. Thinking of what I heard in the jungle in World Two stalking me, I wrote one I called: The Last Jaguar. [Several people yelled from the audience, “Yes! In the year 1500!” Tiz smiled.]

Fans were increasing, and more came to hear us than before. We recorded a CD and posted our songs on YouTube so they learned our songs and then they sang along, and I was quite surprised. We were developing a little following, and as we played, the band smiled at each other.

“One, two, three, four,” I would yell and we would hammer on the keys and strum the strings and beat the drums to the audience. Then I would yell the questions for The Anthem of the People and they would answer. “Join me now:”


Who are you?
Who are we?
How do our minds create the things we dream?
Say it now ….
With me ….
Who are we?
We are the children of the world—we sing!


Our venues enlarged to fit the crowds, so now we were playing at parks and high school gymnasiums. [Again Tiz raised his smart phone to the microphone and half the audience sang along—then Tiz too—and it felt so good for him to sing again:] (The Last Jaguar, track 2)


Intro:
Lay on your back, and listen good
to the legend, of the last Jaguar:


Verse:
It's the year, fifteen hundred
and you are sent, on a mission
to kill the last, remaining Jaguar
in the dark, drabby, lonely wood


You think you hear, somewhere a branch snap
and look around you but see nothing
still walking-- you see a shadow
you look behind you and there it is


Chorus:
The last remaining Jaguar you've searched for
The last remaining Jaguar on earth
The last remaining Jaguar that stalks you
and soon it's either him or you
and soon it's either him or you


Verse:
You want to run, but it's too late
and you feel its paws, upon your back
you feel yourself drifting, into darkness
and see the fog, rise up over you


Crawling on, hands and knees
you emerge from the wood in the clearing
you swear that you'll never return again
to hunt what you wanted so desperately


Chorus Repeated


Music


Verse:
And from the cold, dreary wood
there emerges not one, or two, or three
for the last and lonely, only Jaguar
was a her with child on that day


And now the race, starts all over
and now the race blooms fruitfully
and now the story is told through the ages
of a hunter and the hunted
and what remained


Chorus Repeated


Although our success was improving, we needed a break-through—something else to get attention. We played at any event that would have us, but we wondered how to increase our following. Then the principal heard a couple kids playing our songs from YouTube at school and he chided me, “Now kids are wasting their time at school!”

I told him, “They only play them outside at lunch time.”

“I’m going to get you fired Tiz.”

The other teachers patted me on my shoulder and said, “Just ignore him, that’s what we do. He’s a tart one.”

Then the principal made an announcement over the loudspeaker, “There shall be absolutely no playing of songs by FlyTheBlue on this campus. IT IS PROHIBITED!” But every weekend we were out there singing and playing.

I started compiling stories for a children’s book about a hedgehog I read about and his valley of talking animals, for the stories inspired me—same story as mine almost, but I didn’t realize it then. Chisel Hedgehog was also on a journey—and wrote songs, like me, to weather the storm—for he was on trial too! (Listen To The Breeze, track 3)


Verse:
Listen to the breeze
talk to the trees
ask Mr. Summer
what he has in store


Wave to the night
sing to the moon
wonder if tomorrow
brings a friend or two


Chorus:
Yeah, laugh with the clouds
dance with the wind
close your eyes and glide
through your mind’s blue sky


Music


Chorus Repeated


I relished the summer, for our band played full-time—every night. But soon it was over, and a whole year had passed since I’d come home—over two years since I first traveled to World Two. And I was quite comfortable sleeping on a bed in my room—not on the ground under trees.

* * *

Then, as I was told later, an expensive-looking, long, black limousine pulled into the parking lot of Grand Park. The driver got out and came around and opened the back, passenger door. A man’s legs pivoted out—feet on the ground—brown pointy shoes with buckles. His pants were blue. He got out and looked around—yellow shirt, green vest. Yes—Old Man. He smiled, and walked slowly to the lake, then all the way around it to the other side, breathing deep, enjoying the sun and clear blue sky. When he reached the other side, he looked around, then up in the trees. Again he sat by the tree—but no preaching. Soon the bird flew down and landed on his shoulder. He lifted his hand, and the bird jumped on. Old Man kissed it on its head and spoke to it, and the bird chirped back.

* * *

The next day, from inside my house, I noticed a finch on my outside windowsill looking in through the window at me. She had that same discolored feather in her wing—same bird from the park two years before! I opened the window but she flew off. In school the next day, again I saw the finch on a windowsill looking in at me, and then from a tree walking home, and I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up!

That night I had a dream. In the dream, I saw myself approaching an ancient castle with lights inside the windows. I got chills when I knew it was a vision of what might be.

Signs were beckoning me back to World Two again, and I remembered the promise of treasure maps leading to gold and riches, and my goal and quest and what could be, that would make “Tiz, the Great Discoverer,” a common, household admired name. What would I find on the Mountain? How would I be changed forever by the opened gate? I wonder if I can ride an Apatosaurus there!

However, the psychiatrist’s lack of faith in my belief had me questioning. What if she was right, and World Two wasn’t real? The Elder said something might tear me apart, but was the real threat insanity? And it was pulling me into its snare?

Was Old Man an illusion—my own insane invention? I went back to the park to find him again. I could find out if he was real and if so, ask what I left behind. The only clue, he had said, was that it would light my way. I already brought a flashlight so it wasn’t that. The stars? They were in both worlds. I never found Old Man at the park. I spoke out loud to him, but he didn’t answer like in World Two …. That is where I would have to go to ask him. I realized I hadn’t touched him, so I made up my mind that I needed to find him and shake his hand to see if it was firm and strong, or instead, if it went right through him—and proved he was a ghost … that I envisioned. And the last place I heard him was World Two ….

“I have to go back!” But then I remembered my principal trying to get me fired, and Nikita still stuck inside that mental institution. “I won’t go back!”

Then a coconut came rolling up from behind me with two boys following it running. I reached down and lifted it and looked at it—remembering the game in World Two—then at the boys who reached me. I held it out to them.

“Thank you, mister. We were playing a game called, ‘Kick the Coconut.’ I found it by that tree over there.” He pointed at the tree Old Man had been sitting by.

I pensively smiled and nodded and shivered again. “Yes I will return.”

I mentioned it to MYSELF, and he was upset, “World One is reality—World Two lunacy. With concentrated mind and peaceful thoughts I was able to pull you back this time, but the more you’re gone, the harder to pull you back.”

I countered, “You didn’t pull me back, I decided to come back. Old Man suggested it.”

MYSELF answered, “Old Man isn’t even real. Or if so, how do you know he isn’t the Devil—pulling you into insanity?”

“For heaven’s sake, Old Man is no devil! He gives advice. He had no horns!”

MYSELF countered, “But didn’t he wear pointy shoes?”

“Ha! As if that proves something. Maybe you’re the Devil!”

“Ha! If I am, then you are too!”

I countered, “If World Two is insanity, and he wants me there, why did he tell me to return to World One?”

“To make you think he isn’t what he is—the master of deceit. The real thing to see is if he suggests that you go back! Each time it’s for a little longer—that’s how he works—until the demons there take care of you and you can never return to the real world!”

“Be quiet!” I said and I turned around. But it made me think, World Two is like a drug, enticing me. But is the drug good, and it is God—pulling me toward higher understanding? Or is the drug bad, and it’s the Devil—pulling me into insanity? I groaned, “No, I won’t return.”

Dusk was upon, as I pondered this, then a spotlight shone in the sky from a store in the city telling all to come—“just like in World Two!” I pulled the diamond out of my pocket and looked at it. I knew I must obey the beckoning. Surely all these things were miracles—not just coincidence. I couldn’t say for sure, for there was no proof, but I thought they were.

Then at home, I received a letter … from Russia. In the top left corner was the name, Nikita Volkov! My hands shook as I opened it. It read, I am so glad to receive your letter. I, too, believe in my other world, but also have a hard time proving it. But our common village by a lake seems to assure it. But you already heard me say that, so perhaps you are just mirroring what you heard me say. To know for sure, in the other world, find a monastery. Come back and tell me what looks down on it. I won’t tell you what it is. If we match, we’ll both know it’s true. “Yes I will return,” I decided.

Then MYSELF buckled down, trying to convince me not to go. “Quit living in a fantasy world. You believe in miracles—in things that cannot be! You’re going to bring us down. Connected by a climbing rope, when you fall, we all will go.”

Who was he to say it wasn’t real? And I wanted it to be! And I was the one with the chance to go! In World One how many get to look for dinosaurs, or see three moons and asteroids in light green skies? I loved the “looking-for,” and being king of all I saw.

Our disagreement darkened my soul like stormy clouds obscure the light of the sun. I felt rage arise and surge inside at his judging me, until I felt that I might strike him. But again it caused uncertainty. Maybe I should stay!

That was the final straw, I guess, for the next day our town was consumed by thousands of ravens circling overhead—a storm cloud unlike anything ever seen before—at least in this world. The town was aghast. “Why are they here?” everyone asked. But I knew. The beckoning was becoming a demand!

World One was easier—funner, but it wasn’t my destiny. Something great must be at the light-beam if all of this is calling me—a reward so great—maybe it’s a city made of gold! I finally decided, “I will go back. I’m so close to the light-beam, I’ve got to go! But nine months from now I will return, for we have concerts to play all summer long.”

So on the weekend I went to the park and I sat and watched, and thought—trying to get back. And I dressed appropriately, for how I was, is how I’d be. I was a blue-jeans, white T-shirt guy, but now I started wearing hiking boots instead of tennis shoes.

I envisioned the light-beam and how beautiful it is there—but the vision never caught—for I had forgot what the Elder said. I would need the journey there to see it like he did. Then I envisioned my peaceful, gentle, carefree meadow. But also there, I could never transfer. Then I found myself reflecting on lying on Dry Lake, and that is when the vision stuck and my consciousness was whisked away—and then my body, and my soul. I could feel being pulled …. No! Not there! I thought, and tried to stop. But I couldn’t. I was becoming mist—sucked through an extended foggy tunnel. Then again I was lying almost dead upon the lake, still in the same dreadful condition as when I left—still as a corpse, except my eyelids sometimes slightly rising.

Through blurry eyes I saw, I think, a man with a black goatee looking at me (Goatee Man as I named him). He was holding a golden object that glistened in the sun. He bent and squinted when he felt my pulse. I discovered later, he then returned to the village and reported to the Elder, “He’s almost dead on the lake. The knife may not be needed.”

The Elder replied, “Keep it until we know for sure.”

A lady in the same vicinity then heard a low, hoarse voice from all around, “Find a Rule out on the lake.”

Sometime later, I felt cold, fresh water … on dry, blistered lips, filtering through teeth, over tongue, trickling down throat. Eyes opened to a lady’s pretty face as my head lay upon her lap—her hair was short and blond. “Are you alive?” she asked with a voice sounding soft and sweet. I peered into her caring eyes and I couldn’t talk (because of my dehydration, I’ll say). More water until I sat up. With arm on shoulder—steadied—we walked off that wretched, dry, and killing lake. And although only slightly death-repaired, I could tell my arm felt good in its current position. I know I probably smelled like Hell, but my head was close to her hair and it smelled like Heaven.

Inside the edge of the jungle, she sat me down against a huge kapok tree in the shade, and I was thankful and told her so. In my weakness, my mind and eyes tried to process things. She was a lady about my age who wore a hat and pack, and held a spear. Standing in front of me, she smiled—and the warm way in which her lips were curved did touch me.

“Here, eat some of this,” she said, and from her pack she gave me some flatbread. She ate as well and handed me her water.

As I ate, I looked at her and thought that maybe she was an angel sent to rescue me, for she looked like what I pictured one would be—and her smile convinced me further. Then I thought, Wait. Is this the Scholar I was told to find? Then I paused and thought … or even perhaps Ms. Right?

She finally asked with a soothing voice, “What were you doing out there?” And the way she asked made me know she was a caring soul.

(Then I thought about my students, surely disapproving of my looks in this condition, since currently I looked like death warmed over. “Mr. Tiz!” They would have frowned while shaking their heads.) I managed to talk in a raspy voice, as my throat was dry and damaged, “I just got back from a hidden village where I found a Rule.”

Then she really looked and sounded interested, “How long have you been looking?”

“I’m not quite sure. I’m still quite foggy, but very long—many months.”

“MONTHS?” she blurted, surprised, and pounded the end of her spear into the ground. She looked like she was about to cry. Then instead, in an instant her countenance changed, and her warm smile and soothing spirit left her in favor of a mean frown. “How ’bout something for my trouble?” she said like the neighborhood bully.

My eyebrows furrowed and I wrinkled my nose.

“Money!” she added abruptly, staring at me.

“Oh,” I mumbled. I felt my pocket. Yes, there was something. I pulled out a wad of bills, opened it, and gave her one. I looked at her closer, “I think I recognize you from somewhere.”

“Absolutely not,” she said gruffly, and put the sharpened point of the spear on my chest and pressed. I winced and groaned a bit as it pierced my shirt and skin. She pushed a little more, and with raised eyebrows asked, “I’m sure your life was worth all of it, don’t you agree?” Then she took the whole bundle. “For the rest of it, here’s some advice: go around the lake next time—it’s a killer!” She laughed, and seemed to try and make it sound sinister—but her laugh was cute and she couldn’t disguise it. “That should make us even!” Before she left, she sneered and said, “Don’t look so hurt, I’m just doing the same as done to me—I learned the trick from a man named Emgo who stole the same from me.”

I tilted my head. “Emgo? If it’s the same, then … no, he wouldn’t do that! He helps people.”

She laughed again. “Yeah, he helps people—himself—to my money! And I helped you as well!” She said it sarcastically, but she looked and sounded bitter, and I got the feeling the meanness wasn’t really in her.

What she said hurt me, for Emgo’s people loved him so. I couldn’t understand the contradiction and it hurt my head. I thought I’d like to ask him to explain himself, if this was really true.

I watched her walk away, and like her laugh, her walk was nice as well. And since I wasn’t in a hurry, I continued watching. I sighed as I looked at the little spreading blood stain on my shirt where the spear had pierced. She hurt me, but I don’t mean with the spear. She had seemed so nice (maybe Ms. Right)—and then to turn like that …. I frowned and a pain shot through my heart. In that fragile state I was, her compassion had tasted like pie—but then it turned, and her anger tasted like liver! “Definitely not the Scholar—nor Ms. Right.” Ms. Right—strike two. I bowed my head and felt so alone and shut my eyes to hide them. But even though “Ms. Spear,” as I named her, had stolen my money, I wished I had more time to find out where the bitterness in her came from. I would have liked to become acquainted with that nice, sweet side of her that I first met.

I looked back at Dry Lake and a thought occurred to me: Killer that lake is, but I hadn’t been looking for a nice, relaxing place. Sometimes through tears, you find a way around your fears; sometimes finding when not looking. Sometimes there are lessons only tears will teach.

I sat back against the tree and rested for a while. But I was getting weaker. Still almost dead and getting deader, I listed. No energy to even move a finger then, just breathed—and listened, with drooping head and eyelids. I was fighting for my life. Then a mosquito buzzed around my head, and then another. I tried to wave my hand to discourage the little freaks, but couldn’t move it. Then more and more came. Then landing on my face—and on my arms, and everyplace. And sticking me with needles. “Oh woe is me!” I cried.

“Is this the place I wanted to return to from World One?” I asked. “Not quite what I expected. Maybe I’ll go back again.” I tried to envision World One, but hard as I tried, I couldn’t.

“Not time,” someone said aloud. I silently gasped. Again it sounded like Old Man’s voice—low and hoarse. But maybe it was really me—and I was pretending someone else was instructing me, for I was the only one there. I couldn’t tell. My heart beat loud—goose bumps on my arms. I realized that life in World One had been more comfortable than I had thought—but now I was in World Two … and couldn’t get out. I heard an echo, “… only tears will teach.”

Then a rat visited—and tasted. Gnawed at my finger and took some with him. No energy I had to deny him or to move my fragile body. But I wasn’t to his liking—and he left.

Then high in the sky I saw a bird—bigger than I’d ever seen, and I remembered those giant tracks I saw—and the more I studied the bird, and the closer it got, the more sure I was: it was a Pterodactyl! Extinct in World One, but alive in World Two. As I watched, unfortunately for me, that was precisely when it happened to poop. I saw it coming down, down, down—a blob of sizable proportion. I closed my eyes and bowed my head and you know where it landed! Half on my head and the rest engulfed my chest and lap in a great KASPLASH! And the smell was not at all pleasant!

A skunk came walking next—from around a bush only three feet from me. Startled by my presence, she lifted up her tail and pointed in my direction. My eyes enlarged. Is this really happening? Oh woe is me. Woe, woe is me! No, please don’t. She sprayed once with a direct hit, and looked behind to spray again. But then she smelled my wretched stench already from the Pterodactyl and figured she couldn’t improve on that (for I saw her sniff and frown—then walk away). I closed my eyes in thanks that she resisted a final shot, and I decided things were finally getting better.

Eyes closed and mind drifted for a few minutes, and I thought about my fate and of this dismal place, and I felt my sad and lowly, empty thoughts come back. Here also lived my demons: my concerns and stress, barely enough for rent, doubts I had in myself, girlfriends that I didn’t have, mean bosses that I did, family that had passed, all of my addictions, things I wished I owned, bad things I had done, fighting with myself: “I want dessert.” “No, I want to lose weight.” My head hurt with the thoughts. Then in my mind and all around came a shadow—and a foggy mist—thick and gray, and then the smell of a rotten, dead, decaying rat. Awful indeed it smelled. And I wondered who I was inside, for my adventurous side did not usually think these negative thoughts.

Suddenly I was awakened by a loud and vicious growl, and clenched teeth in my shoulder—shaking back and forth to pry it loose for Sunday dinner! “Ahhhhhhh!” I yelled in agony, the pain immediately exiting every pore in salty drops of sweat! The Beast was big and strong. From my poor vantage point I could see he was the size of a large bear, and looked like a mix between a wolf and bear with large bat-type ears, and a big rat-type tail, and saber tooth-type fangs (those I couldn’t see, but the breaking bones inside my shoulder told me so). I could hear myself groaning and panting. My body flung back and forth, the Beast attacking from without, the demons from within, my heart ready to explode, and my head then hit a rock—with a loud and sickening thud! And within a few seconds, I felt peace—for I was floating—could see the scene from up above—looking down—slowly rising—blurry edges to the scene. Soul floating away, I guess. My blood I saw pooling under me. The Beast stopped and howled, informing others to come and feast. Then with the speed and fury of an explosion, out of a bush, an even bigger Beast fell upon the other, his hunger heightened by the howl he heard. The first one wasn’t expecting this. Jaws tight on neck, constricting—the second one dragging him away, for his dinner!

I was lucky, I felt. At least I wasn’t being eaten anymore (so I felt good about that), but now my life was over; my journey ended early—before the Rules all found, before the treasure maps discovered, before Elgobon achieved, before all historians would say, “Our greatest debt is to a man named Tiz, who discovered these things!” The skies were now quickly darkening with stormy, dreary, dungeon, hope-is-lost clouds, assembling, enveloping—themselves ready to pour and flood with wet and cold, and carry away in dark streams flowing, any last hope seeping from my corpse. All was dead. All was lost.

Oh woe is me. Why didn’t I just stay in World One? Now all is lost. Now all is done. Old Man really was the Devil afterall—and he was successful! Now I’m dead. The misery!

Then I thought if I was alive, maybe all these awful things experienced were Pebbles—preparing me for a discovery. But I was not alive, and in my misery, my floating spirit noticed things. The song of birds—so sweet—still sung among the kapok tree’s branches. As I floated up, the trees were so majestic from this vantage point, and still smelled so fresh and new. The grass where my dead body lay was so green and clean. I saw lightning—still flashing in the distance. A squirrel was next to me on the tree, taking a nut up to a hole. A woodpecker pecked. I was dead but life around continued. Didn’t everything realize I was gone? All was done? All was lost?

It started raining—it too not understanding. Then I entered the stormy clouds. Rising—rising. Then through, and above. And guess what I saw? The sky. It was still clear and beautiful! Yes, it was dark and stormy and dead below. But here—no. Here it was clear and green and light and open and dry and gorgeous—and free! All was not lost, as it had seemed! Everything went on. I suddenly saw the world differently. I would remember this—in Heaven. Then as I gloried in this sight and this impression, I understood its significance—its grand meaning. The experiences were Pebbles!

And this was a Rule—come to me only after the greatest of all difficulty. I would remember THE RULE OF CLEAR SKIES: In whatever state or place you are, however bad it seems, goodness still exists—and it waits for you—like clear sky above dark clouds.

Then immediately with that thought, the cold, wet rain on dead face awakened me and I came back. Eyes opened. Death slinked and slithered away. Cold and Wet can freeze and drown, but they also can awaken, and enliven. I lay awake on the wet ground, with rain falling from dark skies. I did not move except my tongue out to get some drops, but eyes open … and slowly—a slight smile … that lingered; for I had conquered death a second time … but those deaths were born of nature—and shortly it would be humanity to try and deal that deadly curse to me. But my smile stayed—for I had beaten the Devil.

In the grass, I saw a blue, uncut, rounded, polished sapphire, the size of a dime, and laid my hand upon it.


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