Friday, December 31, 2004


self portrait of Jonathan Batchelor he reclaimed in a fire Posted by Hello

Where Angels Dwell and Dream

What can I say about Angels? Are they gods?
They have the power of the Soul, the power
to be free, while we are bound by the flesh
and vulnerable, and by false needs are fooled.
Theirs is endless joy, while ours is held
in fleshly bonds--captive to mortal law,
our lives swiftly ended as we reach for wisdom.
In creative ecstasy we glimpse their pleasures--
to be intimate with the universe; to learn
of that fabled road--which leads us blindly
to the Hall of the world where we look
into the measureless eyes of the Soul....

Jonathan Batchelor

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Warm Red Wine

My friend the cricket joins the song
Of the viola's cry
Like birds high in the hills.
Soft, and dreaming, they mutter
In the sea-born moon fog;
Stung by stars--murmurous as sleep--
Still reveling with me,
My fellow dreamers rally,
Dipping onyx bowls,
To fill with warm red wine.
The members of the clan
Replete their bowls
To steep the nerve and brain
In the Bacchic elixer--
Their madness quieted,
Their anxiety allayed,
To dwell in the fabled realm
Where grows the magic grape--
Where flows the juice of grapes,
Pressed and poured together
With herbs in the fragrant pool--
To rouse the lover's zeal.

We refill dark bowls,
Heavy and ceramic--
Crowding the lamp-lit house,
Knowing the cricket's talk of love.
The chill of Autumn's night
Is warmed away.
The vineyard's magic sap
Becomes the cream of song;
The lonely bard imbues
His eyes with roses;
In this hour his dream is real
As the warm wine delights
And sweetens the look of woman.

Though the hour is late,
Though the night is cold,
No one knows or troubles
As into his blood
Now steals the warm red wine.
Outside, the world's a garden
Where each reveler wanders,
Watching rain and wind
Carouse with giant trees.
For us, the sky's a magic play--
And Earth is infinite joy...

So, the haunted room--
Scented with wine--
Opens to the night,
Gathers its happy crowd,
Rings with music,
Trembles with dancing feet--
Is guarded by the Vineyard's gods.
The night is a revel,
A joyous Bachanal.
The dreaming soul ceases to dream--
Awakes in an endless hour
Of caressing lips,
Of searching gaze,
Galactic laughter,
Coalescing wine and mind...
The night is a carnival
Where each turn of the arms,
Each voice in song,
Each pulse of the heart,
Is a dance of ecstasy....


Jonathan Batchelor

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Naiad

On a serene, overcast morning I was at the heath, drifting on the lagoon. Birds of various species and color had joined me as they sported among the rushes that bordered the lagoon. The multiple colors in the heath and the forest beyond had a sombrous beauty such as one might expect in Autumn, although it was the middle of Summer. The lagoon shimmered in its depths, revealing an inverted land of amazing charm; and numerous swallows glided gracefully in the far reaches of a calm morning sky. Stretched full length on the deck of my little boat I dreamed of the mythic beings described in ancient Greek lore.
Suddenly, I was startled to see, in the center of a mass of water lilies studded with red and yellow buds, a naiad lifting her gorgeous head from the water. She turned her face toward me, opening dreamy, heavily lidded eyes, and called softly. Strangely, I heard, though moments before I had heard only those exquisite songs the mind composes.
"Would you like me to upset your boat? The water is not cold, and you could come down here so we can sing and swim together."
"Are there others?" I responded. "Surely, you are not alone. Anyhow, I'd rather not go for a swim just now."
"But it is such a nice morning," she said. "Oh come now, let me take you by the hand. You do not even need to swim."
I laughed. "Maybe I had better ask why you are not content to just sit here on the rail of my boat and talk to me--tell me how it goes with you and the others." I leaned over the rail and stretched toward her.
"But I dare not," she said. "The sun may come out and spoil my complexion. Come now, you needn't fear, no one can hurt you down here in my realm." She looked at me with her mystical eyes, smiling as though amused. "What are you thinking of," she chirped. "Perhaps you are thinking about stars and colored stems of pale flowers? I shall upset your boat anyway if you do not come. You will be in the water with us and we shall all pull you down."
The naiad moved over to the side of the boat. She put her hand on my arm and pulled gently. Her hand was very pale, iridescent, like lotus petals. I was puzzled to note that her fingers were dry and no water dripped down her arm upon the deck. I had thought she would be clammy and fishlike. A pleasant warmth radiated from her pallid, petal-like skin. Her hair was abundant, wound around her head, growing in strands, like water plants and mosses, not of any definable color, but variegated in pale greens and subtle vermillion. Because she was so beautiful I was drawn to her as I looked into her large dark eyes.
"Oh come down to me," she implored. "Let us play together. You will love me when you know me better." She was like some lovely, exotic water being, a magically animated human creation of water and flowers.
I stalled for time, thinking the sun might come out and the naiad would cease this beguiling enchantment.
"But my clothes--everything will get wet," I said, "and the sun may not come out to dry them." I put my hand upon her arm. Her flesh was pleasantly warm and soft. What shall I do, I thought, with this bewitching flower creature?
"Oh, your clothes!" she exclaimed. "Why are you worried about those miserable things? Take them off--what good are they anyway? Look, I have never worn anything at all,
because to have anything hanging on me would be dreadful. I don't think I could even be me if I had to swim around with such stuff on me."
"How long have you lived in this lagoon--since it was formed thousands of years ago; or did you hatch out yesterday?" I laughed a little as I watched the frown in her mythic features.
"I do not remember," she said. "But my name is Maya. Do you know what Maya means?"
"It seems I knew someone named Maya--a woman who dove from a lofty cliff into a very deep lake. She disappeared into the depths and was never seen again. Perhaps she haunts those mysterious mountain lakes no one dares to swim in. The name comes from something very ancient, I think."
The naiad's sensual lips twisted a little and she stared at me. "I have been watching you since the first day. It was I who pushed your boat from the rushes so you could find it. It had belonged to a fisherman, a brutish fellow we didn't like. We let him drown, of course." She glanced at me, as though to see how I was taking this. "I thought at first that I would wait until you got into the boat and paddled out to where the lagoon is very deep, then I would upset the boat and drown you." She smiled at me. I noticed her teeth when she grinned--sharp, like pointed pearls glistening between her lips. (I shouldn't like to be bitten by her, I thought.)
"Would you really wish to drown me?" I said.
"Yes, I intended to drown you. We resent any coarse mortal men invading our fine lagoon. We usually drown them, you know. But I was curious, I wished to see how it would be if, after being sure you were drowned I would take you away and revive you. Then you could never leave because you wouldn't know how to get back. Besides, you would then be immortal as I am. But I decided not to go through with it because I saw that you were in love--with a dryad."
"And that displeased you? But why didn't you drown me anyway?"
The naiad began to say something, but was interrupted when a warm shimmer came upon the lagoon. The air brightened as the rushes danced in swarms of coruscating jewels. The sun had come out of the clouds. Its warmth pierced the naiad's soft. diaphanous flesh. She released her grasp on my arm and with a sonorous laugh, dropped into the deep lagoon, lost to sight and sound. I peered into the mystic, quivering depths for a long while.
I lifted the paddle and slowly wended my way across the shiening surface, among broad-leafed plants and masses of water moss. With a shiver tingling in my nerves, I felt that I had not seen the last of the naiad. Where the water lilies cleared, I thought I saw swimming in the depths the forms of pale, orchid-petal mystic beings--too wondrous, too beautiful for modern men to know--unless....

The End



By Jonathan Batchelor

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Garden of Delay

Trees stand tall and dark,
giving the air their fragrant breath--
while a startled sky looks down
upon a garden of delay.

Wind moans softly, passing through
an open doorway, stirring your picture,
pinned upon the night's mantle--
furtively stirring a dead leaf
in the soft light of a lonely
weeping candle.

Swiftly now the sky grows dark,
as night-wings beat the air
lulling the weary senses.
While they stand in the garden,
the trees sway their arms
upon the mantle of the night.

While fantasmal denizens of the land,
stand far in the east--as we
who sailed unlighted on a fathomless sea,
our boat adrift in a frenzied wind--
return at last to rest once more
in our magic garden of delay....


Jonathan Batchelor

Monday, December 27, 2004

THE DREAMER DREAMS, BUT DOES NOT KNOW HE DREAMS

Are you a Dreamer? If you are not a Dreamer,

then, this is how you and I are different from

each other. Why am I a Dreamer? It is because

the world I am born in is an alien world, filled

with alien ways and hateful feelings about you

and me--hateful things about Nature and all that

is simple in the ways and doings of living.

So, I dream of another world, of a better life.

Surely, you also have such dreams.

Will you go with me there?



Jonathan Batchelor

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Siren Whose Name is Beauty

If we have never seen what greatness lies in the world,
many should have long gone mad or perished in some
miasmic dilemma. Alone, I sit here, looking into the
friendly face of my gray cat. I remember....

I remember diamond-clear droplets falling on the floor,
while outside, an angel crouches, blowing a black horn.
Slowly the gong swells to bursting, then bursts, and in
its particles drifting in the newborn light that comes
from eyes that watch me, I see the walls bend like

sheets of melting lead.

The light is a fluid that spills over me and I am

lifted into a bowl and consumed by her whose name is
Beauty. The light is a fluid from a river that flows
through the caverns of Ix where symbols are born. She

may be seen if one cares to swim in that fateful fluid.
She is the fateful one, the Siren giving song in
violin sounds while you rest or play, wake or slumber;
or while you labor onerously until you sink in fitful
dreams. And while you lie in bone-deep exhaustion she
it is who sings to you in tremulous harmonics--singing
of the one you seek, whose name is Beauty.
She it is who fills the empty vessels to overflowing.
You scream with mingled joy and sorrow as the fire she
makes boils the cauldrons of broth from the bones of

those who lie long dead, who, though dead,
still search for the Siren whose name is Beauty....



Jonathan Batchelor

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Revelation

In the brain-house there are dark rooms where
nefarious thoughts are kept. But because we
haven't learned to keep them in check, they
perpetrate all sorts of mischief in the house,
especially when the folks are asleep. They peek
through the windows and insult the passersby,
making faces at them...troubling their dreams.

Some there are who beat fresh paths in a desperate
effort to begin again a life once lived. But the paths
cannot be retraced. The past holds firmly its hoard
of life, and shares but a distorted glimpse of the
treasure. Most of us sally forth to perish, having
scarcely held a handful of life.

There is a kind of beauty--at once elemental,

apocalyptic, hideous, ecstatic, intoxicating,
which leans upon us as we look into the remote
reaches of its power. It has no frightfulness
about it. When we have penetrated into its realm,
perhaps some will have found the secret path
through the wilderness to follow.


Jonathan Batchelor

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Cave

During my wanderings this morning I have found a grotto on the hillside overlooking the heath. Comfortably ensconced on a dry bit of turf just inside the grotto, I watch rain drenching forest and sedge on the fen below. No sound comes to me, save the low obbligato throbbing of the storm. It is the brumous nature of my retreat that fashions for me a kind of sinister aspect. This, of course, does not alarm me; its the sort of thing that always fascinates me.
Huge gnarled and mottled roots writhe about in the gloom like pythons with gaping jaws and staring red eyes. They cling to the ochroid clay walls above and crawl down the sides of the cavern. Dim light makes a tortuous pathway along the vine-grown hillside to the old road below.
Dusk crawls along the walls of my cavern. The shadowy world around me seems to mumble in cobwebbed hollows. A large spider crouches in one of the hollows, as though waiting for me to be caught in its web; and a fat slug lies slumbering nearby. Outside, the storm has not abated. Indeed, it has increased its fury and rages at the entrance to the cave. A carpet of dense sea-green moss hides the damp clay, luminous with glittering crystal beads of dew. But all is calm in my cave as the storm raves and rants on the heath and in the forest beyond.
The soporific murmur of the storm slowly lulls the senses. I scarcely know how long I've enjoyed the comforting shelter of my cave. It is still raining, filling the cave with its dank breath and hypnotic song. I shall remain in the earthy retreat until dawn. I shall meditate--perchance to dream.
I have just awakened from a deep sleep; was it sleep? was it a dream?


Jonathan Batchelor

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Sea is a Woman

The black-masked cat contemplates the uterine sea--
Immortal, rhythmic womb of the earth.
The endless waters govern life, lavish nurture and care.
Engulfing Earth's entrails, slithering and swimming
In the plasmic brain, reaching pseudopodally to the sky,
Seeking the moon, the sun, the planets--galaxy--
Far-reaching, knowing the source--
All life we know arose from that boundless bog.

In Time's instant, when life spawned and flourished--
When life was legless, wingless, embryonic, yet unborn,
The Mother--Sea reached to grasp the ultimate.
The sands, the slimes, the blood she made,
Merged and bore the myriad beings yet to swim,
To crawl, to walk, to fly, to watch and wonder, to find...
Yet to learn and build the citadels and see the stars,
The immensities within and beyond--to seek and question--
The eager hordes she nourished, held in mothering arms.

The black-masked cat reflects upon the known and dreams
Of the warming sun, the starlit night--the endless search...
While the Woman-Sea turns her face to the wind's kiss-
Watching the moon-fog's mystery veiling the trees....

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Rope He Hung Himself With

High in the vaulted tower hangs a tousled rope,
dust-laden, dangling with cobwebs. It cuts a
twisted, shaggy line across a rhombus of sunlight
cast upon a door at the head of a winding stairway
leading up the cupola wall. The rope sways lazily
as a furtive wind passes through...hanging and
swaying since last a voice uttered solemn words
in the tower. Who hung it there went his way--
a lonely deposition....

A stricken moment, shuddering, as lethal numbing
pain transfixed the mortal corse...then slowly, time
made its relentless way...no sound save frenzied
hum of flies and murmur of wind. In deepest night...
the silent sentinal of death.

The winding stairs he slowly climbed, reaching the
rope he had rigged on a shackle in the tower dark-
ness. First, a bristling crown--the noose toused
his skull, had to be stretched to fit. Slowly
over the sweating face, gazing eyes now fixed
and staring, the rope lay roughly round--an ugly
necklace; the crown of thorns had slipped.
In the dim light he could scarcely see the floor,
some ten feet below. There, on that fatal step, the
moment seemed endless, bearing thoughts and strange
remembrance. Was there a tear drifting down the
cheek from vision blurred by sorrow? Was it sweat
from late-summer's heat converging in the tower's
height--while blood still pulsed the startled throat...
a final stirring of neurons in the tortured brain?

Was his name Iscariot who betrayed you? Did he not
betray you because you were the King and were feared?
To this end were you born? And the robe...behold the
Man! Why did you not speak in your own defense? In
this wise did you not hang yourself? That your Kingdom
was not of this world you allowed it to be said--and,

that you were the King. If you had denied it, might you
not have gone free to continue your work? Or did you
consider your work in this world finished? In this way
did you not crucify yourself?

And now the noose. In this moment might you not cast
it down and go free? Is it because they feared you?
Is this step not that same place of the skull, which
they called Golgotha? Now the noose...and the soldiers
platted a crown of thorns nd put on Him a purple robe.
The rope now reaches the shadows...and now the noose
fits snugly, and the bristles of it burn the throat.
An imposter and violator of sacred law! The Son of
God...a malefactor! But the robber Barabbas was
released at the Passover in your stead. And for
what gain? That Barabbas himself might find his way?

The good shepherd...a blasphemer! who lays down his
life that no man shall take--for the sheep. But you
lay down your life, that you might take it again,
because you and the Father are one. You had the power
to lay down you life, even take it back...as Lazarus
from the pit of death. Was it not only to show who you

were, that you brought back Lazarus, who was already
with the Father?

Alone, he stood in the shadows. Do we not die alone,
or do they come with us? One step, an easy step--
a leap. The rope holds fast, tightening its noose.
A swift jerk, the lethal, numbing pain. Life surges,
writhing and trembling. Then--quiescence.

There, in the gloom of that stricken place, a cloud was
forming--a luminous cloud, a nebula of dust?

No--a rift in a cloud through which, shafts
of light danced, pouring swiftly over the body
of the hanging man--who was flesh and now dead.
The light is a lambence from a source unknown,

Brightening the shadows, and the hanged man.
First, his back, his hair--making it
blaze, as though imbedded with luminous gems flashing
in the fulgence. Then the light flamed on his shoulders

and the twisted neck, creeping over the tautened noose,
turning the noose into burnished gold.
The light fell upon the loose folds of his shirt--
transformed the staring face from the agonized look of death
to the features of a god. The darkness opened,
letting in the light from another world...
an ineffable radiance throughout a boundless garden,
where trees blossomed, where brightly plumaged birds
disported and sang their paeans of ecstasy....

Jonathan Batchelor




Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Ropes

Twilight is a fitting friend to
swaying, tattered ropes in vaulted towers--
while gently open and close the ancient gates--
with a sometime, ghostly thud.

High overhead hang the tousled ropes, bedraggled,
dusty, cobwebbed. they cut their twisting, shaggy
lines athwart a sunlit rhombus cast
upon a higher gate in the cupola...the ropes sway
dizzily in the soughing wind.

The ropes have hung there swaying for aeons.
Who climbed to reach and hang them there? Dead?
Ah yes; but I shall not remove the ropes...as ruin
shall crash or wrecker's mawl and bar may
tear apart the ancient house, old ropes may fall
to reckless hands--be roughly tossed aside
in clouds of dust--the aged fibers crumbling
as workmen drag them down, to vaporize in shadows.


Jonathan Batchelor

Monday, December 13, 2004

Is Time Forever?

As though in a garden flanked by the walls of a cathedral, I grope for keys to doors in the walls. I am told by a very old monk who lay dying that beyond one wall in a philosopher's lair there lie certain dust-laden books, long forgotten on cob-webbed shelves, some of which tell the tales of a kingdom noted for its refinement and gentility, and that it would be well worth the time and trouble to investigate.


Jonathan Batchelor

Fog Demon

Not sure I slept, I heard laughter
Making merry with rain and wind
Blowing east from the sea.
I sat alone on a mound of moss--
A drunken clown recalling revels.
Dim light showed rugged lines
Of trunk and limb of forest tree.
A vale of mossy land lay beneath--
Where, as in a dream, a dryad danced.
Though awake, my eyes were closed--
Surely I dozed and this a fancied thing--
A glimpse of mythic beings long dead?

My hands lay open on my knees,
Where sadly I buried my face--
Thinking what a fool I've been.
But a soft caress aroused me.
Surely, I slept and this a fleeting dream?
I bounded up, searching the gloom.

A mossy bough swayed slowly in the wind,
Swaying gently over the vale.
Someone called--the wind called,
And gray fog rolled in from the sea....



Jonathan Batchelor

Silence

In the temple-dusk of vaulted corridors
He roams, forgotten--his giant hands unmoving.
His somber hugeness lost in shadows.
Though his flesh is stone, he lives, he stands--
The voiceless, rigid god of silence.
Fate hangs like carven chains about his throat,
Once revered, the glitter of jewels encrusting them,
Though the demons of Time have dulled their glint,
And fashioned a veil to shroud his dark domain--
The clouds of a storm which never breaks the silence.

Majestic, proud, defiant beauty issues here--
An idol hewn from living stone--the labor of
An ingenious sculptor of an age which never reigned
Within this formless, tortured world of fools.
He stands, a memory's pain contorting his brow,
As numbers of aeons march swiftly by--
Madly shouting while chaos rages at his walls,
The greed of thieves, their fingers at his windows.

This is the noble god of Silence standing here--
No wrath nor fury breaks his stillness--
Nor stirs the dust which aeons lay about him,
Not even Death reveals his wordless lore....



Jonathan Batchelor

The Young Man and the Sea

There is a light in the darkness. A man is out there looking into the sea. He plunges his face into the water. A light is shining down there. The man searches for the source of the light. The source is very deep. The restless waters engulf him.
The man digs his hands into the sand, lifting handfulls and watching the sand fall back to unite with its infinite kin. It happens mysteriously. The man no longer distinguishes the particles he had held in his hands. The particles of sand no longer have individual identity. They seem all alike, but when he looks closer he finds there is a difference. Each minute particle is different. The man wonders about the difference.
Now the man is running along the endless beach--a vagabond who has come out of the sea. He runs like a wild thing; he runs like a young satyr with the sand in his cloven hooves. Sandpipers brush his hair, calling to him as they fly. He laughs at them. He laughs at the wind too; he laughs at the gray gulls wheeling over his head.
Suddenly he stops running. Something glistening lies at his feet in the sea-drenched sand. The wind whisks salty spray into his face while he stares at the thing he has discovered. He stoops close to it and gingerly touches it with sensitive fingers. What is this thing? He lifts it in both hands and looks through it at the sky. It is wet with the cool wetness of the sea, and it is hard to hold. It slips through his fingers like a grotesque monster, but keeps together its shapeless substance. It is diaphanous, clammy and cold, having the feel of something more dead than alive, yet he can tell that it is alive. It is like jelly, protoplasm. He flings it back into the restless surf. He can no longer distinguish it from the water. The thing has lost character. It reminds him of the sand falling back into the immenseness whence it had come. He reflects for a moment, wondering if this is how we are--like the blowing leaves in the forest, all of different shades of color as they fly away to disappear, becoming part of the sky and the earth.
Again, the man is running along the endless beach. He runs like a wild satyr with the sand in his hooves. The sandpipers call to him. He laughs at them. He laughs at the gray gulls too. But the light is gone out. He wonders where the light went away to. He runs on and on holding his face in the wind. The darkness of night encompasses him, swallowing him in its vastness. He too, becomes indistinguishable. He is like the sands, or the jelly-thing, the jelly-life which fell into the sea to become one with the stuff whence it was born....



Jonathan Batchelor

Which Way, Mankind?

Aware that we human beings are the only species--at least on this planet--that has the faculty to realize an ideal way of life, what do we with this rare ability? Just look around and consider what we've been doing. The evidence isn't very gratifying, is it? What with mass foolishness, ignorance and the refusal to learn, religious and political alienation, race prejudice, overpopulation and poverty, false directives and fanatical leaders--so many ridiculous errors in judgment that cause destructive wars, the miserable biological and mental flaws that daily grow worse--we humans have made ourselves the earth's nuisance species.
Here we are, each one of us born with a marvelous, almost miraculous brain--and what do we use it for? It appears that the pursuit of financial wealth and political power, are the never-ending objectives. And in the almost psychopathic pursuit of these objectives, we have no regard for the injury we do to each other and the planet! In fact, we consider money and power more important than life! Not long ago, I heard a man say that without plenty of money he'd rather be dead!
We have dreamed of several ideal states of being--most of them, unfortunately based on the possession of wealth and power. Just now, I am reminded of Utopia, the ideal state Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, had in mind. Of course, we can visualize many ideal states, but--for the reasons mentioned above--we never realize any of them. So, are we using our marvelous brains to our best advantage?
If we are to achieve the peace and freedom we need so desperately, if we are to achieve any of those ideal states we dream of--it appears to me we must get all of mankind out of this insane and deadly pursuit of financial wealth. Here we are, madly consuming, trampling and polluting everything around us. Anything that does not bring immediate financial gain, even it if is beautiful, is simply shunted aside as something worthless.
Okay, so we acknowledge the importance of getting us to face up to the mess we've been making, and getting to work doing something to clean up after ourselves. We need some radical changes and improvements in our way of thinking and behaving. We need to change our way of using our brains, improving our way of seeing and treating each other. We need to improve our mental and spiritual attitude toward our planet and the natural world around us.
Biologically impossible, you say? We can't change human nature, you say? Well, you are probably correct. But if we don't start now to improve ourselves--even if the job takes another several hundred years--if we consider the way we are going now, we are doomed to destroy ourselves and this magnificent planet. Ugly pessimism, you say? Not so! Are we admitting we are too morally and mentally weak to face reality?
The gain of money and financial power now appears to have reached a stage of non-stop madness in human affairs. In our media of communication we hear the phrase, Financial Power, which seems to say: Want to buy yourself a politician, a president? Just put out enough money and you can have just about anything you want. Isn't this how it is? Money buys everything--right? What if you want love, respect? How about a college degree? Is there anything you can't buy--if you have enough money?
A disgusting state of affairs--right? The trouble with money is simply that, even if you are an ignorant, frustrated bumpkin, with plenty of money you can probably have just about anything you want. What about power? influence people? control a nation? make radical and unfortunate changes in world affairs? I guess Plato was aware of this when he failed to realize his dream of an ideal state called Utopia.
The noted scientist, Albert Einstein, once said, "We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive."



Jonathan Batchelor

Time's Backside

Time takes flight to sullen, glutted worlds,
Traversing an abyss of reason--
Taking toll of the sweet and the dear;
Time is a thief, who stifles thought.
The soul heeds not this baffling hunger
Which Time awakes in flesh and mind.
All is taken prisoner, unawares--
Caught in a web of wish and fancy,
Spun in the darkness of blood and bone--
Devise of cunning and wit of devils.

What mark has Eternity on these evil hands,
Which fashion dungeons where Beauty is kept?
Eternity casts it spell upon the poet-dreamer,
Tyrannizing thought and worrying flesh--
A masked mummer disguised as fact,
Set at large by unwitting reason--
A knave befouling Freedom's sanctum,
Arresting guile and fancy's flight.



Jonathan Batchelor

Morning Interlude

I got up early this morning and have wandered out to the edge of the forest where I rest on a moss-laden log. I have been closing my eyes, listening to a symphony of bird-songs, opening them now to look ecstatically across the land of growing green things and the hills--the pastoral, magnificent interlude of flourishing life rooted in the earth, so fecund, so ineffably vital. Just this minute a new, dominating perfume has come to mingle with the forest's breath. What is it--god or dryad? Perhaps it is an angel, a word from an angel, one of God's emissaries.
As though challenging the noble words, a chipmunk is chattering over there, its long, tail swishing as it moves about on a nearby shrub. Another responds on some distant arboreal perch.
It rained heavily yesterday and last night. Fog lies ponderously on distant hills, like some god slumbering. I doubt if I should try to paint the scene. At this time it is simply too immense. But some day I shall do it. I feel more at ease with the small things, the human, animal things--or the wine and fruit which they consume for love and pleasure, even for a need, a need greater than other needs. For now, I shall feel at ease with the flesh of human or beast, or flowers, or sunlight and the color of shadows, or the light coming from the homely things lying about the house. I must paint the small, tangible things. Just now, they are more the stuff to paint....



Jonathan Batchelor

Adrift on the Lagoon

I am sitting on the deck of my little craft in the middle of an enchanted Lagoon, watching the salamanders stirring in the dark water. I am drifting, where the wind whispers its slow music in the rushes. Is it the wind I hear? Or is it a satyr concealed there, curiously observing me, while he intones bewitching strains on a syrinx? Yes, of course, it must be the syrinx I hear--a playful faun perhaps? Or, what am I to believe it is? Ah yes, I think I know--it is a dryad hiding there, humming her haunting song!
But the winds are now blowing from the north. Those winds cool the fever I feel. I shall not bother; I shall lie quietly stretched upon the deck of my little bark and commune with those wondrous sprites who think I'm a silly man, whose life is a dream--and who doesn't exist at all except in his imagination. Not to worry--I shall let the lagoon's soft embrace carry me far beyond in the secret places, wherein I shall be one with my happy visions. Perhaps I shall just lie here, adrift, while a naiad mischievously watches me from the depths, hoping somehow my craft should capsize and send me plunging to her arms.
But now I think I shall paddle my little boat across the lagoon to the tall, dancing rushes. Scarcely stirring the placid surface, I have slipped across quite an expanse--to quietude, where I may truly dream.
But hush, what is this I hear? Three water snakes make for their home amid the reeds. They undulate in the shadowy lagoon, making jewel-chains, curving in the crystal-clear water. Alas! Nowhere am I alone with my dream! This I hardly mind, you know--sharing all with the water sprites who are everywhere, watching every move I make--knowing even my thoughts and visions.
Closeby, amid a huge mass of pale, green moss, floating slowly in the quiet depths, many salamanders, red ones, dark crimson ones, pale russet and ochre ones, have come to look at me with their small gem-like eyes. Some wriggle close to the hull of the boat, subjecting it to their sharp scrutiny. Above me the graceful rushes nod to and fro their furry heads and cat-tails. Then abruptly, the quiet is broken by the rush of a huge fish from the kingdom below, in quest of unwary prey.
Again, the wind sets the boat in drowsy motion, and I am drifting back to the wide gulf of the lagoon. As the wind gathers force, and I begin to feel its fingers in my hair, tugging with steadily increasing purpose, the boat moves among several flower-laden floating islands. The sun, fast sinking in the west into the scintillate abyss of the sea, loses its sway over dusk as vast, portentous clouds come scudding across the sky. Once, as the gloom grows, all is startlingly illuminated--each rush, each crest of wave shipped aboard by the wind, while each mass of dormant earth in the distance, each mountain and emerald fen stand out in lurid brilliance for a thought-staggering instant. Then all lurches into the darkness of approaching night--the darkness deepened by the sudden contrast, all followed by a finitude of fearful silence which is blasted asunder at last by the cataclymic heaving of two universes, one crashing headlong into the other. Moments later come the countless, circles in the dark pools, wierd, apprehensive soundlessness and the small, cold prick-points upon bare flesh. It is raining, and now I must paddle nearly three hundred yards of black water across the lagoon to grassland banks, disembark, beach my faithful bark and find my way back to the trail through the forest. Wet grasses are there, and beyond lies the wide fen. This is the land of magnificent treachery, the land of the Titan, and the wild, unpredictable wind which suddenly comes up, and as suddenly falls into the western sea. This ia a place of coruscating sunlight, a place of oceans of jewels, hidden, then artfully set aglow by gray ghosts from the sea. The sun roars up into a sky clear as crystal and is abruptly shut away by strange, rhythmic mists--fog, lovely, palpable fog, lovely as a woman's loveliness, comes upon a man while he slumbers, kissing his brain and driving him stark mad with soul-haunting dreams....




Jonathan Batchelor

Aftermath

Slow, mumbling voices talk of the winds
Blown last through crystal forests
To the mighty castles in the east
Bearing storm-spent clouds to other lands.

The calm sea breathes languidly out there,
Dreamily looking at the sunlit hills
Lying splendid, soaking warmth and fragrance--
Swift to leave the somber days of storms....


Jonathan Batchelor

Flowers You Gave

My hands are in these spreading mosses,
Holding, as I hold the sweet flowers you gave--
Flowers to cherish in my wilderness.
The forest trees stand erect,
Sole witnesses of my joy.

With small red eyes, the black beetle stares,
Searching the soul of its woodland friend.
Now I bury my face in the fern-like moss
To kiss the sweet breast of earth--
Hearing the giant heart beat,
Remembering a like-sound heard before.

There, too, in aeons gone, tears were shed--
Falling like rain in the fragrant moss,
Washed, therein, by countless rains,
Carried by woodland sprites in the moonlight.
How I adore that shimmering scene!
Of angels playing with tears I dropped
In the middle of their midnight glade--
Bearing each an opal lantern in the dusk.

Softly, now, falls again the precious rain,
Slow to come but long to endure in the heart--
Making calm the fervid, frantic glance
Of this weary wanderer in the night.
Fades, in this clamorous, mounting song,
The voice of bird and whir of bees.
This soul takes flight in the blissful azure,
Far above those sullen clouds that hide the stars....


Jonathan Batchelor

The Remembrance

In the dark hollow I found, and the smell
Of sweet butter melting, I felt the stir
Of my mother's breast while she held me.
I knew not all, then, she had said--
But I remembered, and remembering,
I called aloud in my hollow in the dark--
For she didn't move again, and when I kissed her
The flame had gone out--somewhere else.

When my mother looked at me I cried--
For it was she in whose warmth I dwelled.
But that look was not for me--
Not for eternity to kiss her breast--
Nor smell the sweet butter melting.
When I looked to those boundless eyes--
The gaze of an angel groping for the key--
Frenzied passion twisted small despair,
In those arms, devoid condolence.
On the floor I struggled, crashed to the wall,
And lay tear-drenched, calling a name gone forever....


Jonathan Batchelor

The Fall

My hands reach out to the raw herbs,
Reaching for the deep, secret dankness below,
Grasping serpents and fog-washed stems--
The fog-washed, the mist-washed stems
Of wild berries and ranging myrtle.
My breath is gasps that force open
The writhing, brine-stung lips.
I spasmically thrust my hands, searching,
Reaching through the darkness.
My feet touch, briefly feel earth
Then slide down muggy outlines
Swerving through the dark.
Dizzily, I sway above them--
Nothing holding, tearing as I grasp
The yielding fibers, bathed in leaves
And tangling tendrils of tawny fruit.

Reaching wildly through the fog,
Lurching, half frightened, half joyous,
Into familiar, watery space,
As faces and arms crazily spin--
And I rest, awake, lying sidewise
In the fragrant embrace of earth....


Jonathan Batchelor

Untitled

The beggar demands, "Give me food and drink." The pauper does not ask anything. He is usually self-willed, independent, frugal--getting through life making the most of what little he has.

Jonathan Batchelor

Drawings of the Earth

Today I made a drawing in sanguine of a group of pines with the fog-bound hills in the distance--and the silvery sky shining through pine boughs. I had it finished once, but I leaned it against an old log and stood back to study it. Looking at it carefully, I saw that it lacked character. Those trees out there were twisted and gnarled, the foliage existing in a peculiar, agonized contortion, giving the trees a truculent appearance. I went back to my sketch and ground in some heavier, stronger modeling, deepening the lines of the tall, straight boles, forcing them into a more savage expression. I worked over the long, rhythmically twisted limbs and foliage. The foliage in those trees was savage. I had to make the trees look wild and violent. There, I finally had it, all the dynamic contortion. The thrashing of the fierce winds that blew in from the northwest. The earth itself had to be wild, torn by hard rains, and all of it untouched by the cloying hands of civilization.
Thinking about it as I stood there looking out into the beautiful, wild land, I thought that it was the way I wanted the people--forever young but fully aware of all that life has to teach. I wanted the people to be innocent, but devoid idiotic pretensions, free of the sacrilege of falsehood, free of the crude vulgarity which so often spoils them, beings of kindliness and compassion.
I made another drawing of people, mostly young women of the earth--sitting on the earth, eating on the earth, loving on the earth. The young earth must have freedom. Wings are not needed. Such freedom is not something that is rationed out to you by the civilization machine. This is the freedom God has created for every living thing in the world....



Jonathan Batchelor

The Mother Sea

Outside are the Titans looking over the land, standing upon the mountain sides and the meadows, where the grasses and flowers grow from the fertile sod. All look to the Mother, who murmurs ecstatically. The Mother laughs at them, her children, the Titans
--minions of earth. She lifts her ample arms and sighs profoundly.
Tomorrow, the people will come to her again to lie in her embrace. She will kiss away their fevers, and they will be rested, and go away rejoicing.
Far away, the mist-shrouded mountains loom hugely, contemplating it all. They have contemplated for aeons. Long ago they began watching the Titans. They bore the tears of the world of men--as they do even now. It was the Mother who left them standing there, little children--alone in a chaotic, troubled land. She laughed at them. Even now, she laughs at them and carresses them tenderly. After she left them at that time, she went away to her bed to nurse her spawn of sea beings. She hardly knew what might be coming--what was going to happen out there in the land she left. When the plants and animals were born from the seeds she left, then the fishes and all the other sea spawn--even the strange, blind worm creatures, she grew concerned that all might not go well. But she lay back and laughed at them, saying: Fair thee well little mortals! Even now, though, she loves them all--because they are her children.
Out there is the Mother, the sea--the most beautiful of the earth. She loves even the land, the beautiful land she gave, where a man may be alone with his soul and his ecstasies....



Jonathan Batchelor

The Sea Ghosts

Today, I was lying face downward out there on the white edge of the Mother's bed. Above, were the winds blowing. The subtle fragrance of sand verbena mingled with her breath and the breath of the Titans standing beyond on the land's end. Out there were the winds and the forever-young gulls laughing with the Mother:

Out there, the gods made merry;
And out there, men died who knew not the Mother;
But they went to rest in her arms--
To dream eternally at her ample breasts.
They died shouting and waving their arms.
I know what they were shouting at...
It was at the rocks along the Oregon coast--
And at the tall women standing there.
It was they who laughed at the young gulls
Sailing over the rocks above the howl
And the roar of the Mother's brood.
Did they not see the tall women standing there?

In the bay, north of Waldport,
When I was calling you and the gods,
Three silver ships were sailing the deep.
Out there were twelve men in a bark--
A bark long-scuttled in the China Sea.
It was their ghosts who manned the dripping oars--
Their ghosts who benched the little craft
To make off at a gallop up the shore.
I laughed--ha-ha! Ghosts you are, aye?
And stood my ground laughing at the clouds
That sped swiftly overhead riding the winds.

But it was the rocks they were heading for,
The fog-bound rocks along the Oregon coast.
I heard their husky voices sounding in the cliffs,
Above the screaming of the young gulls.
Their voices echoed among the rocks and died out.
Only the yelling of the gulls and wind prevailed.

Looking over the gunwales of the ancient boat,
Feeling the skin of the bowsprit's belly,
My hands felt the slime and the green scum--
All that was of the mother's womb.
I felt of the oars and listed the timbers,
And they sagged heavily to the sand.
The decks crawled with sea slugs,
And there were piles of seaweed in the holds.
Many years were long dead since that boat sank,
Yielding is cargo and crew to the sharks
In the blood-red waters of the China Sea.


The rocks along the Oregon coast.
It is a watery clime, the winds are swift.
They are the fog-bound rocks
Where the tall women stand laughing in the gale.
And the men who laughed back
Are the ghosts of those I saw in the bay
North of Waldport, heaving the black oars
Of a long-scuttled craft pounding its bilge
In the sand-filled, rock-bound waters--
The stout little boat with its crew
Which knew not, nor loved the Mother--
Which laughed, alas! at the women
Who haunt the fog-bound rocks--
The sea-bound rocks along the Oregon coast....



Jonathan Batchelor

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Letter

In the evening I sat by the window reading an old letter. The words were bitter-sweet, like small drops of cold wormwood falling on feverish lips. I sought their subtle affect as one seeks the fantasy-inducing intoxication of mescal. The half-hidden meanings, couched in beautifully devised phrases, crept into my senses, casting a veil upon the shape of things, altering the appearance of the walls and the trees standing in the twilight. The people surrounding me appeared to grow into wondrous phantasms, whirling in vortexes of luminous smoke. The people staggered as though drunken and reeled across a scarcely visible insolid floor, colliding indifferently with each other, and stumbling over the slowly disappearing tables and chairs. The walls, and the pictures hanging thereon, dissolved into wisps of dark fog. All that I knew of the present time and place dwindled from sight and touch and was replaced by different walls and pictures. The furnishings assumed the properties of those I had known in another land, at another more joyous time, in another more gracious abode.
I was sitting in a chair by a tall window overlooking a fair city, talking to a woman. I was sadly talking about a journey. But that was a long time ago and no letters have come since. No...it was just a few days, less than a week ago. It seems there was a bridge and a long wait at a depot...a train? No, it was a bus. There were many people, hurrying and thronging excitedly. They too, were going on a journey. But I was alone. No, there was
someone standing beside me--the same woman I had seen at the window. I was sadly talking to her about a journey. I kissed her and stepped into a waiting vehicle, catching a final glimpse of her face. There were no tears, but her face was pale and tense with pain.
The scene warped and spun wildly, taking flight in a hurtling world of mists and shadowy trees. Then the light went out and I could hear the sound of mud falling into a tarn. Again the scene changed as I heard the sound of water dropping into shallow puddles. It was raining heavily. Once again, I was alone. sitting in a chair before a window. A letter was in my hands. I turned it over and over, looking at each of three pages until I was sure there was nothing more to read. But I had found something notable in the upper corner of one folded page:

Two things stand like stone:
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in one's own.


Jonathan Batchelor

The Barracks

Chairs are disposed about the room in view of the dim light from four small windows. Through one window I can see columbine mingling with wild roses and iris. Upon a table close by, in a large can, a small pine tree grows. Seeming alien to the drabness, in a narrow shaft of sunlight the little tree flashes its green and saffron color to delight the eyes. Across the floor are several bunks pushed long-wise against the painted rough walls, and used in the fashion of davenports and upon which are the mattresses and rolls of olive drab blankets of military issue. Beside each bunk stands a small table, and in a corner stands a makeshift bookcase of piled egg-crates stuffed with different colored volumes, all sizes, and in divers states of disrepair. Far down the long dorm are the rows of young men's bunks with the olive drab blankets and the tall, wooden lockers wherein are the few precious things--the prize books, miscellaneous possessions and Sunday clothes. The pictures of wives and sweethearts are visibly pinned to the walls, while lying on the bunks one sees some of the men who are humming half-forgotten melodies, reading over their letters written in unmistakably feminine hands.
Stepping outside, I am greeted by the nebulous swarms of color pervading the outside light--the grays, the shifting cloud-shapes, the shadows in the visages of swaying pines, while colossal spruce and cedars stand, vigilant amid the pines. This is the garden and the ample clearing of raw earth on which the long barracks stand, mute witnesses to the luxury of encompassing forest, the ubiquitous rhododendrons, the myrtle, the young fir trees, and the wild irises which bejewel the earth in brief glades of the forest.

But this is not enough, it could never be enough, not even the mother sea lying out there on her back, nursing her spawning multitude, nor even her fever-allaying kisses, nor her nacre-white arms which embrace me when I go to her bed.
Only in the night, or when I stand out there alone in the crepuscular limbo of some wilderness-hollow can I dwell ultimately with the thought and anticipation and the triumph shaping in the mystic stuff of Time. But this is the castle wherein I am captive --the temple wherein I worship. It is the refuge of humbled souls who seek its confinement, while outside, the tempest dashes out the light burning at other altars. The wild beasts are here too, but they are held at bay. The barriers may yield, but some may stand to defy them....


Jonathan Batchelor

Night Soliloquy

The panorama of the day has gone into the visions of night. I look into the haunted gaze of a haggard man's hope and fancy. I am going to sit down now, and look at the four clean walls of my room. And later, I am going to lie down in the neat bed and try to recall the splendor I beheld today. I lie here now and look into the wild sky. There, I can see your face mirrored in the fathomless dark water of night. There, I catch new glimpses of you holding my picture in your two hands, as you wonder how remote I am--and how freely flow the tears of hunger.
Now, I breathe the perfume of night, and pick up fallen petals one by one, to search their faces for answers. Here, too, I think that all possible pursuits may bear but one significance--the significance of anticipation, to recall the voice in my heart which asks over and over--How much longer?
The pilgrimage which is my life, seems--even now--to have scarcely begun. Each day I stand, waiting for new reactions and new impressions, the new perspective of space and substance. Could I know which chasm before me may be the profounder, which pathway may lead farther back into the sadness of torn rose petals and broken trust? Could I have a grasp upon images now hidden in other planes of thought, a gain in the strength to frustrate injustice and paucity of wisdom, to formulate plans for regeneration of painfully overwrought nerves and centers of conception?
Surely, it is regretable to clutter a library of books bearing fine and beautiful contents with unlovely, dull volumes; or sadder still to overwhelm the mind with unwanted hatreds and suspicions of one's neighbors. However, I sometimes feel--like one who has grown paranoid--fancies he is being critically observed, and cannot enjoy a moment's tranquil meditation. But I must avoid suspecting injustice which does not exist; and I am not clever enough to suspect criminal thought and device--even where it does exist.
I have just returned from a walk in the wilderness--which I call Elysium. I have a passport to Paradise--a passport out of Hell. I have not tasted wormwood for nothing, and the gall in my brew has not left me wanting in a profound sensitivity for the beautiful. I have every reason to believe that we have never lost the fabled Garden of Eden.
Nearby, is a beautiful lea and masses of vegetation burgeoning from the sweet earth. I have looked at the most lovely thing in the world--the growing of trees and flowers, the growing of fascinating form and color. When I am presumably preoccupied, I shall be thinking of the exquisite shape and the light coming from the intricate carvings of myriad jewels.
There are the seemingly still, pellucid waters, flowing forth from the verdure--an ecstasy of growing things, the meandering stream, seeming never to end, but staying close to the beach and the friendly forest, afraid perhaps of the mighty Mother-sea lying quietly beyond. The white sands of the beach hold the stream away from the beloved, the strong, undefinable passion swimming slowly, unrequited in its soft flesh--awaiting the inevitalble gratification. And, when that rapturous gratification comes, then the gentle, meandering stream shall open its opalescent eyes to the germinating warmth of a sky of suns and moons to finally lie on its back stretching languid limbs forever.


Jonathan Batchelor

And Some Jewels

In the slow breathing of the Earth
I hear the weeping of little gray birds.
I picked up a handful of sand today.
The long-blowing winds moaned in its dry hair
I let fall slowly into the dark water.

But I heard the hydrangea's leaves whispering
That flowers are now growing in the meadow
Beyond the black forest, and I laughed again.
I laughed again today and drew close
To their small, broken nests
To gather their cold forms
In trembling hands to warm them--
That they may live to laugh,
As I have laughed today.

I've heard them saying
That the colored flowers
Are growing in the fields
Beyond the ruined city
Where the mummers are silent--
And cant no more.

And this is saying that my hands
Wish only to hold the jewels
That lie glittering in the temple
Where I worship the sweet Earth--
In which the dark waters eternally dwell.

In the slow breathing of the river
I hear the whispering of falling sands--
The falling sands, blown in the wind--
But let the flowers grow rankly,
That grow on the meadows beyond--
The meadows beyond the wilderness;
And let the strange flowers wither
On the altar in the onyx temple,
Where at night I go to worship--
A handful of dust--
And where the vision of a goddess
Is graven on the stone walls--
A goddess whose name
Shall never be erased
From the book's bronze pages,
Kept secret in its sacred crypt.

It is the slow sound of dark waters
Flowing in the deep caverns where idols sleep;
It is the soft song of winds, long-blowing
In the desert where I lie eternally;
It is the look in the jeweled eyes
Of a carven idol crouching in the shadows
Of the temple garden. I remember now,
When I kiss the soft petals of flowers
I gathered, and which lie strewn
Upon the fresh-turned earth
Wherein is a book and some jewels,
And some graven words--
And some dust....

Jonathan Batchelor

The Wine of Eden

The grand old Victorian house stands, as it has for more than a hundred years, partly hidden in an immense rose bush, on a heavily forested stretch of land not far from the verge of a cliff which falls more than a hundred feet into the forever restless sea. In the early hours of the day, the old man sits in his big old comfortable chair before the big red stove. Within the stove a brightening fire flickers and gloats through the big room, its sultry warmth revealing chairs, tables, paintings on the walls, computer with its big laser printer and the calm smile on the old man’s face while he sips tea from a big crockery mug. He turns to a big high window, glimpsing the rain-drenched forest, and watches the rain filling the wild land with its loud whisper. The old man sits back in the chair, staring into the wild scene, and sighs.
“Oh how fortunate am I!” he mutters. “Here am I, dwelling in this ancient house that was my father’s, living in the midst of a wilderness paradise. Ah yes, the Garden! It’s the Garden mankind thought to have lost, back there when it was all beginning, The Garden where God had a special tree, bearing fruit which God thought might be a way of testing his two young children, Adam and Eve. He forbade them to eat of the fruit. Ah yes, so that’s how the trouble began. The beautiful Eve made so bold as to yield to the temptation to taste of the sweet fruit, and liking it so well she wished to share it with young Adam, who, of course, also yielded.”
The old man gets up and slowly walks to the window, where he stands looking out into the wild wind and the rain-washed forest.
“So, “ the old man mutters with a chuckle. “God thought to punish his disobedient children by banishing them from the fine Garden, But did God really banish them from Eden? Yes, of course, he did. And did the two unruly children ever really leave the Garden? Yes, they left it alright. But was the Garden actually closed and shut away from them? Was the beautiful Garden closed and shut away even from their children and all the children born thereafter?”
The old man thinks for a moment, continuing to watch the wild wind and rain. He considers the severity of the punishment meted out by God to those two youngsters, thinking how harsh God was to deny the children the wondrous Garden. The Garden of Eden! But were the children really so severely punished? Did God really deny them the beautiful Garden?
“Yes, of course, they were denied,” the old man mutters. “However, the Garden remains, still the lovely Garden it always was. It remains everywhere. And even now, the Garden remains closed to the children—but only to their minds and spirits, because they continue to disobey.”
The old man sighs again, and smiles as he looks out into the Forever Garden, into the rain-drenched forest. “Ah yes,” he mutters, “even now.”
He reaches to the window and opens it wide. There is the smell of the sea in the wind that blows hard in the torrential rain, as it pours in through the open window, as it pours over him, streaming over his jubilant face---pouring over the happy old man who knows that the lovely Garden is everywhere. The Garden is out there for him to know and to love---yes, even now.


Jonathan Batchelor

A Turtle Or Two (A special note from Notes)

As anyone knows, there is a turtle whose name is Arabella. Arabella certainly isn't an ordinary turtle. To begin with, she doesn't poke along, as most turtles do. In fact, Arabella can easily outrun a rabbit. Imagine that! Well, I didn't intend to tell you about Arabella. She's a secret. She and I are profoundly in love. Oh, I'm sorry. I neglected to tell you. Arabella and I are engaged to be married. After all, she and I have known each other for nearly a hundred years. Not so long, of course. We are a special breed of turtle--a breed that lives a little longer than most of those folks called human. As you may know, our breed of turtle lives more than a thousand years, which, as you might also know, is a trifle in our world....

Jonathasn Batchelor

Early Visitor An Allegory by Jonathan Batchelor (7 pages)

In the twilight of early morning I lay in bed wide awake, my eyes half closed, waiting for the comfort of sleep to return. Presently, I was aware that an uninvited guest had entered my quarters. Because I had been alone the intrusion alarmed me a little. Had I seen someone step across the floor at the far end of the room, perhaps someone who had been sitting quietly in a chair concealed by a chest of drawers? But moments later, in the faint light of a streetlamp it seemed I distinctly saw the person slowly approaching. I was still unsure that what I discerned was real, or merely my groggy vision playing tricks--when in another instant I looked up into the face of a woman standing at my bedside.
She appeared rather tall, lightly clad in a kind of gown, a mass of dark hair lying loosely about her shoulders, her face gleaming softly from the frame of her hair. The soft light revealed enough detail for me to know that this was no ordinary woman. Delicately luminous, her flesh shown through the veil-like gown. I let one arm slide from the edge of the bed, reaching my hand to the floor, not knowing what I was about to do. Nothing was spoken, nothing was known. All was felt. All was sensual.
With almost imperceptible motion, the woman drew close to the bed. For some time no words were uttered. I felt no need of words. There was no sound until she stood directly in front of me. Thinking I might be hallucinating, I put out my hand, expecting to feel nothing. My fingers pressed upon the gossamery material of her gown and felt the familiar firmness of flesh. There was something of the sea--a fragrance I knew of things in the shallows of tide pools left by an ebbing tide, disturbing and erotic. She bent slowly down, looking with lambent eyes into my brain.
"Is there any point in asking who you are?" I said softly.
"I am No," said the woman.
"You are who?" I said.
"Of course I'm not Who," she said. "But listen, do you hear that rumbling voice?"
I listened. I heard the sea lunging rhythmically somewhere far away. Was it the sea I heard? No. It was the sound of my own breathing.
"You have been calling me," said the woman. She leaned close, almost touching my forehead with her lips. The scent of her flesh swept over me like an engulfing mist from the sea. She smelled of the briny things lying along an unfrequented beach, tossed there and abandoned by restless waves. I fancied I could see strands of kelp tangled with her long, black hair. "But why are you wasting life talking to me? Don't you credit your senses? Look carefully at me. I am real. Here..." She took my hand and pressed it against one of her breasts. Through its firmness, its piercing ampleness, I felt the movement of breathing. Breathing? Did I feel the beating of a heart? As I watched, the flimsy thing she wore shifted aside and fell to the floor. There remained nothing to obscure the wild look of functionally female human animal. She was a little plump the way a woman is comfortable to the touch of the hand and the searching eye.
"You have eaten well," I said.
"Worlds of words lie rotting in abandoned wells while life pulses on," she said.
I thought for a moment about her titillating logic. Why now was I bothering to talk? Why now the senseless interference of the intellect? Does the ram parley so with the ewe? The senses had done their work well--the body was roused to the verge of action. Yet the tongue clacked on; the mind dickered with reason. I studied the woman's physical qualities. Surely, her flesh was sweet, untainted, replete with clean, vitalizing blood. I studied her with eyes that probed beyond surfaces polished and perfected by pampering care. I penetrated into the depths of flesh and bone where rushing, working, tiny beings with round, plump bodies held up the living walls of other bodies, all in motion ranging from swift pursuit to gently stirring pulsation. The neurons were there, naked, whispering their messages to each other, storing information in libraries piled in tiers, connected by corridors where pictures drifted in opalescent space. The entrails sang softly as they went on with their toil, while minute fibers grew into rounded, rigid bone and flexible cartilage; and beneath those marvelous eminences, one of which I had touched, with their pointed nipples that burrowed into the brain's quicksand of desire, a pair of bellows motivated elements of inner fire with rhythmic blasts of oxygen; while nearby, feeding fluids were being sluiced into the limitless avenues of a city of warmth and labor--a labor of passion and pleasure which went on as I watched--nothing concealed, all uninhibited, all at liberty and dancing with anticipation of joy to come.

Not wishing to spoil her blithe humor, yet feeling I must speak to her of the sadness I felt, I said, "Though you've come from a better place and perhaps know little of this world, I must tell you that it is a troubled and turbulent world. As I see it, you are something of the sea and the wild places beyond the reach of civilized decorum. You do not appear to exist in this world--this world of prejudice, hate, murder, rape, rapine and foul pollution; this world that openly boasts of high ideals and wisdom; this world that is notable for hypocrisy and deception, where hypocritically virtuous persons cant of sin, providence and charity. You are not of this world of glorious falsehood, malice, gold and paradox."
"While vain utterance flourishes, pleasure languishes," said the woman.
"But how did you get in?" said I. "The walls are solid enough. Did you fly in through the open window, which is quite high above the street? Or did you have a key to the door?"
"I have not wings nor a key. But I have better possessions, have I not?"
The woman moved so close I could smell the fragrance of her hair as it fell over my shoulders. She opened her mouth a little and half-closed her eyes, their light shining like the light in the sea; and I saw the same beings swimming in them that lurk in ocean-hewn caverns. I felt the urge to take hold of her with the swiftness of a frenzied beast and draw her down to me.
"So you call yourself No?" I said. "Is this your name? It might amuse you to know that a moment ago I assumed you were an erotic apparition."
"No is just a name."
"Well, if you are No, then I must be Yes. And while we are being mysterious, just why are you here? Or am I supposed to know? In fact, dear lady, I don't believe you really exist."
"Does one need a name if one is to exist?"
She stood up, moved back a few paces, and began to dance
--the performance of a trained ballet dancer. And was there music? Her performance created its own music as I watched. It was music that was felt rather than heard. Was it the dance itself that made its own music? Or, after all, was I merely dreaming the whole thing? And, being a musician, was I hearing the music in my own dreaming mind?
She stopped dancing and stood quietly observing me, a broad smile animating her face. "Well," she said, "aren't you going to get out of that bed and dance with me? Come on, Sandy."
"My name! How the hell did you know my name? Look, I was enjoying the performance. Why don't you just go on dancing? But I am puzzled. What music was that, and how did you get an orchestra to play it? Is this some kind of magic?"
The woman laughed wildly and began to leap about, obviously amused by my bewilderment. Then she was silent, standing quite still, her legs wide apart. Despite the rather strenuous performance, her respiration seemed normal enough.
"Of course, you don't remember me," she said. "It was so long ago. But you once knew me very well. I certainly haven't forgotten."
"Then you know who I am," I said. "You probably also know that I have a performance of my own tomorrow evening, and I need to do some practicing this morning. Now why don't you just calm down and let me go back to sleep. But honestly, I can't remember you at all, and I have never known anyone who could dance so well. But please, I'm a lousy dancer. You probably know that too."
She walked slowly to the side of the bed and sat down, watching me closely. Oddly, I felt no pressure nor movement of the mattress when she sat down. She put her hand on my shoulder and leaned down to kiss me. "It doesn't matter
who we are or where we came from, does it?" she whispered.
"Now I am going to crawl in with you anyway. I'm sure you won't mind."
Admittedly, I didn't mind. I hadn't enjoyed a woman's intimate company for more than a week and was beginning to feel the hunger. I had simply been too busy--what with practicing and preparing for concerts! But, I must say, this was entirely too much like an erotic dream--and even as it was happening, I was not sure it was real.

Was it a dream? was I awake but dreaming
of a neried's arms holding...shadowy eyes
that moved in streams of liquid light?
Surely, I was dreaming as I stepped forward
and dropped like a plummet--cooling water
surging over me as I sank into its embrace--
hands holding so I couldn't swim--
dark hair entangling like sea grasses....

The End


Jonathan Batchelor

Is Time Forever? (110 pages)

At dawn, high on a precipitous mountainside, I stood in a garden flanked by the walls of an ancient monastery built into the granite of the mountain, which I was told had been deserted and fallen in ruin. I reached this place by means of an arduous climb up a winding, badly eroded stone stairway. Resting on a bench, I took a few sips of water from my canteen and began groping about under old rose bushes and stunted trees for the keys to a certain door in one of the corridors. I was told that the keys might be found under a slab of stone somewhere in the garden.

Earlier that year I had been summoned to the rectory next to the cathedral to attend a very old monk who lay dying. A priest sat nearby. He was Father Ryan, a good friend of the family whom I hadn't seen for several months.
"So glad it was you they called, Dr. Legassek. Old Henry has been asleep for more than an hour. I'm sure he will be very pleased to see you again." Father Ryan looked up, smiling broadly. "Doctor, would you like a cup of tea? Or perhaps you'd prefer to share some wine with me?"
"Well, Father," I said, with a chuckle. "You know me.
I'll have the wine. As I recall, the wine here is always the best. But just one glass, Father. I must hurry back to town to attend a meeting."
"Oh drat the meeting, doctor! I insist that you stay awhile--relax from your doctoral duties for a few days. I'm sure old Henry will be happy that you are here." Father Ryan turned to me as he reached for a bottle of wine. "And Doctor, I believe Henry has something to talk to you about. He's--well, Henry has been mumbling a lot in his sleep. It's about a philosopher's lair. You've probably heard about it. Maybe you've read the stuff about some philosophers who long ago came to the monastery. Imagine, doctor! philosophers in a Catholic Monastery--a home for Roman Catholic recluses! I think a couple of those people stayed there for a long time. Old Henry seemed intrigued by the fact, did a lot of reading about it in old journals he'd found somewhere in the monastery."
Father Ryan carried on persuasively, urging me to stay in the old house behind the cathedral. As he said, the house appeared to be a ruin, but he assured me my quarters would be comfortable and interesting.
Well, of course, I stayed. But the quarters he mentioned proved to be more interesting than comfortable.

That evening, when Father Ryan had escorted me to my lodging and I had found a comfortable old chair, I must say, it was pleasant to sit back and look around at the walls of books and just meditate. Perhaps it was the environment of the place, the smell of old wood and the many shelves of books that prompted my indulgence in a bit of philosophical wayfaring. I wondered about how mankind has progressed in the last two million years. Look at us now, I thought, are we children who cannot remember the lessons we learned in past ages? Have most of us put away those lessons, out of sight and mind? If we are to profit by some of the major incidents in our past, perhaps we ought to put the mind to work recalling images:
There were people we once considered divine and absolute, but who were eventually replaced by new images, new heroes and new persons thought important; there were things once done hich were thought worthy, but which were soon considered antiquated, soon forgotten or replaced by forms considered fitting for the time and place--new ways of thinking, new fashions and styles of doing things, which were called Modern. Progress? Are the new ways really better? Are we not merely repeating the same old mistakes that so often lead to more problems, while we haplessly continue trying to get along with each other?

Such ideas were all I could recall before drifting off to sleep. It may well have been the large comfortable chair or the events of the day, the fine wine and repast I had enjoyed with Father Ryan, but I awakened the following morning, still sitting in the old chair in a room flooded with bright sunlight. I was a little annoyed with myself that I hadn't retired in the fine bed across the room, but I felt eager to get on with the day's work and whatever I could do for Henry, the old monk.
Shortly later, I was sitting at Henry's bedside. He calmly admitted the direness of his condition while trying to express warmth and friendly recognition. He vainly attempted to sit up, and although I urged him to stay calm he was determined to convey his enthusiasm regarding the contents of a very old journal he'd found in the Monastery archives. His speech, of course, was often barely audible and, despite the booster of oxygen supplied by means of tubes to his nose, was interrupted by gasps for breath. However, during the three days I cared for him, whenever he felt able to talk I listened carefully and managed to jot most of what he told me in my notebook.

The sketchy and irregular information I had received from the monk before he died which I had managed to record in my notebook indicated that the keys would open doors to a place of great importance. However, Henry wasn't able to tell me what sort of place I'd find and why he emphasized its importance. His determination to tell me this as he lay dying and the way he said it aroused my interest and drove me to get on with the search for those keys and find the door or doors they might open.
As I stumbled around in the ancient garden, I was aware of something about the air, which at that altitude was free of the usual pollution. But there was an odor which, initially, I attributed to the old and untended garden, the plants and the soil I had disturbed during my search for the keys.
I realized, of course, that finding the keys was going to be difficult. I suspected that those keys were lying somewhere on the ground, exposed to the elements and probably nearly buried in the hard-packed soil. Hopefully, they were wrapped in something to protect them from corrosion. For more than an hour I crawled around on all fours. Old Henry had mentioned stones; the keys were somewhere under some stones. What stones? There were no stones that were more than mere pebbles. Perhaps the stones were covered with soil, which, having been untended so long, would need to be loosened with a pick. Doggedly, I persisted in the seemingly aimless search. It was well past midday when I sat on a bench and opened my knapsack to have lunch.
I had observed several different species of birds that seemed to enjoy flitting amongst the knarled and twisted trees. This puzzled me. Birds usually like vegetation that is full of moisture and verdure. Was there something about the peculiar odor that attracted them? I got up and walked a few paces into the garden where I stood glancing about, wondering what attracted the birds to such a drab wilderness.
The strangeness of my actions prompted by an old man who was dying--a doctor of medicine turned explorer--suddenly seemed almost absurd. There I was, high on a mountainside, groping for keys to doors somewhere in the walls, seeking an unknown secret beauty, the nature of which was bound in a dusty tome somewhere in a philosopher's lair. Long ago I had read of this place. I was told that it lies somewhere beyond the walls of the monastery and that one of the keys fits the lock in a certain door opening into a chamber where resides a magician whose name eludes me. I cannot recall the name of the one who informed me of this. Old Henry muttered something about it, but he was incoherent and I hesitated to press him further. He said something about a door, and that somewhere beyond the door lies a book in which I may find the answers. He said that the book lies forgotten on one of the shelves. He failed to tell me where I might find that shelf and what sort of book to look for. But I had read a brief description of the book and believed that I'd recognize it. I resolutely continued the search. At least I must first find the keys.
But why did I bother? After all, what might I find beyond that door? When I had opened the door, would I find it worth the effort? But old Henry had sounded so convincing. After hours of the search and it was growing late in the day, I gave up. I would return the next day. Then, something reminded me that I ought to return to town and check on whether there might be some urgency at the hospital. Stopping at the rectory, I was told that the hospital had called to say that a patient of mine was needing attention. This proved to be a matter that required nearly a month's work at the hospital. The patient had been seriously ill with influenza complicated by pneumonia and had developed arrhythmia which required further care.
Back at the monastery when at last work at the hospital was completed and I'd had a stay at the rectory, a visit with Father Ryan and a night at the old house, feeling rested and eager, I went back to the monastery to resume searching for the keys. At last, on the second day, after scrounging for hours, late in the afternoon I found the flat stones, but as I turned over the top stone and was brushing away some sand, I was stung by a scorpion, a big red fellow who delivered his sting and scampered away to hide.
The medical kit I always took with me, of course, was equipped for this sort of thing, so moments later, I had the sting under fair control. Aside from a swollen hand, a nasty sore and slight ache, I was able to continue work pushing sand around until I found a brass ring with two keys. Probably due to the arid condition and the altitude, there was negligible corrosion.
By then, the hour was late and I would need to use a flashlight to negotiate the rugged trail. The ancient stone steps were a hazard, what with many places close to the edge and hardly enough of the corroded steps left to ensure footing. I decided to try spending the night in the monastery, to begin the search early the following day. This was not an easy choice. The few rooms that were still suitable certainly offered scant hope for a restful night. There weren't any beds nor cots, only shelves or bunks cut into the stone where the monks slept on pallets of straw, all of which showed celibacy and Spartan discipline carried to the extreme. Indeed, I wondered how old Henry had lived at all anywhere in the ancient stone edifice! Fortunately, it being the middle of August, even at that altitude the weather was tolerably warm.
I looked around for the best of the stone bunks, but of
course, they were all alike. No favoritism here! Ah, those monks were a hardy lot! Standing there in the middle of the rather small room, I thought about how the monks spent there lives. I wondered--were they attempting to show us how we should all live, or was this their devotion to their chosen way of life and work and nothing more?
Work? Ah yes, what about their work? At the far end of the room there was a door. Rather odd, I thought--I hadn't seen that door when I first entered the room. Oh well, I said to myself, everything is dusty and hardly visible in the dim light. Still wondering how I was going to rest in any of the stone niches I saw, I walked to the door and carefully pulled it open. Large spiders hung on their webs. They scarcely moved as I cautiously stepped past them. This is their realm, I thought--now that the monks have departed. But had they? I was sure I had heard someone talking somewhere in the crepuscular depths of the room before me. Fishing a flashlight from my pack and still avoiding the spiders, I probed into what proved to be a large, shadowy chamber.
Had I really heard someone talking? Surely, I had imagined it? I stepped slowly, pointing the flashlight beam in different directions. Suddenly, to my delight the beam revealed the contours of a massive table. And did I see chairs variously placed about the table? A few steps further revealed something standing on the bench. It was so heavily draped in cobwebs that the details eluded identity. Moving closer, I gently pushed aside enough of the cobwebs to see that the object was an oil lamp. And was there any oil in the large glass receptacle?
Well, there wasn't any oil and the wick was in need of trimming. No point trimming the wick until I had found oil. Of course, there'd be a can or bottle of oil somewhere. I was getting a bit weary, so I decided to go back to the room where the monks had slept, return to the search for lamp oil in the morning.
The coat I wore made a skimpy mattress, my pack served as a pillow. It was later than I thought--nearly midnight, as I crawled into the stone niche and made myself comfortable as possible. Not at all comfortable, of course, but I awakened, rather stiff and at first wondering where I was. It was as though I'd had a night in a dungeon and slept on a rugged floor of rocks and twigs--the sort of thing I sometimes did when I was a boy living in America and backpacking in the California Sierras. I was surprised when I glanced at my watch to see that it was nearly ten a.m. Must have been tired, I said to myself. I lay it to the clear mountain air that I slept so well. In my pack I found a cheese sandwich, an apple and half a bologna sausage which sufficed as breakfast. Happily, there was plenty of water in my canteen.
As expected, it was quite cold when I groped around looking under odd bits of furniture and probing into the few dark places that had probably served as closets. After some time of this and on the verge of giving up, I stumbled and nearly fell as my boot struck the edge of a heavy wooden hatch that was warped and hadn't fitted flush with the stone floor. Massive and unwieldy, it was difficult to lift. A bit of struggle to get the huge lid out of the way revealed a stone stairway descending into the darkness.
Using my flashlight, I made my way down the ancient stairway and reached the stone floor below where I paused probing about with the flashlight. A heavy table, probably of oak, stood on the floor with a few chairs ranged about it. On one wall were shelves laden with a variety of objects including some jugs and bottles lying on their sides, which I fancied were containers of wine. A few massive barrels set on trestles appeared to confirm the assumption that this was the monastery's wine cellar, doubtlessly also a place where the monks convened to relax and discuss their work. Oil lamps placed about on the table was further evidence of this. Oh well, so these monks didn't have such a bad time of it, after all! But why did they finally abandon the old monastery? Matters didn't seem to be quite so harsh as they appearaed to be on the outside. Indeed, with an ample supply of straw for a mattress, even the stone sleeping quarters might not have been so uncomfortable.
Putting aside these musings, I cast about for jugs or barrels of oil for the lamps. Surely, in this isolated place there had to be something more than a modest supply of lamp oil. It had already occurred to me that this particular monastery was abandoned some time at least a hundred years before. I also considered the possibility that, for reasons of devotion to their order, the monks had rejected the advantages of such comforts as beds, mattresses and pillows, preferring to continue the rather Spartan habits of their predecessors. There remained, however, the question that had already begun nagging me: Assuming that at the time so long ago, he had even been born, who had cared for him during his childhood? And why had old Henry remained so long after the other monks abandoned the monastery?
Groping about in the big room with my flashlight, I found a niche in a dark alcove where I was happy to discover a thirty-gallon steel drum, equipped with a petcock, that proved to be nearly half full of kerosene--which as I recall, in those days was called coal oil. Moments later, I had put oil in a couple of lamps and had trimmed the wicks. So, with good
light before me, I sat at the table to ponder the procedure of arranging a sabbatical from my medical practice, getting supplies up the tortuous trail, and continuing the search for the philosopher's lair and a mysterious book.
I postponed further activity at the monastery until I had the legal matters of a sabbatical settled, and a much desired sojourn with Father Ryan. Glancing around at the shelves of bottles and other beguiling objects, and feeling the need of a bit of refreshment, I selected a bottle and opened it, noting that the cork stopper appeared a little decayed. Among the articles on the shelves I found a ceramic mug from which I sipped a taste of the wine. To my dismay, the wine was sour and rather bitter. Oh well, so much for well-aged wine! The cork had long since needed to be drawn and replaced. I relaxed, however, and had the last of the provisions from my pack--a trifle sad that the wine had gone afoul!
Back in town and returning to the rectory, I found Father Ryan who was pleased that I intended to do more work at the monastery.
"And, of course," said Father Ryan, "you will remain here with us while attending business matters in town." Reaching for a bottle of wine, he asked about my stay at the monastery.
"Well, Father, I was fascinated with the old place. There was so much mystery. There were things I shall need to ask you." I was interrupted when a young man who I assumed was one of the several Brothers living in one of the buildings adjacent to the cathedral brought in a platter laden with some bread and a large chunk of cheese.
"Thank you, Brother Robert," said the Father.
A bit puzzled by this menial display--it never occurring to me that this sort of thing was practiced in Catholicism--I commented to Father Ryan, "Well, Father, so it is customary for the priesthood to allow one of the Brothers to act as servant to a priest?"
Father Ryan laughed as he cut some cheese into convenient pieces and sliced the bread. "This is sour-dough bread prepared in our own bakery. You'll like it, doctor. It's the real old-time sour dough. Well, now about the menial display. Of course, you have observed the altar boys in the church, serving a priest during the service ritual. No one ever considers that a menial matter. But this particular Brother who brought us the bread and cheese is a relative of my family and hopes some day to become a priest. He has chosen the Brotherhood as preparatory study. Although it is a bit unorthodox, he can learn a great deal in this way. But, doctor, I'd much rather get on with our discussion concerning the mysterious monastery. I'm sure you have a bag of questions to ask." He poured us wine and smiling broadly, sat back in his chair.
I had a sip of wine and said, "You are right, Father. The primary question concerns the old monk who lived so long in the monastery after the others had gone. How and why did he remain in the monastery so long? Assuming the monastery was abandoned back in the late nineteenth century, he must have been a very young child when the monks abandoned the place. In fact, I have a problem with this: He could not have even been born so long ago."
"This might seem amusing, doctor, but you are correct. The old monk hadn't yet been born. He didn't enter the monastery until after the turn of the century when he was a young man. Curiously enough, as a student planning to enter the priesthood he had read some of the history dealing with the monastery that fascinated and influenced him to go there and devote himself to study and research into the mystery of certain parts of the historical literature." Father Ryan paused for a moment, thoughtfully sipping wine. "I suspect you are familiar with some of that literature, aren't you doctor Legassek?"
"I've not only read the literature, I've done some research of my own while in America, attending the university in Berkeley, California. You are doubtlessly aware that a few of the men there in the philosophy department were a little curious about the mysterious stuff they found, and, of course, this is what got me going." I sat quietly for a few moments, glancing around at the scholarly aspect of Father Ryan's quarters--the walls of shelves packed with books and an assortment of manuscripts which I assumed were the Father's work. "Father, I suppose you've thought a little about the abandonment of the old monastery. To me, it appears very strange that, after so many years--since the eleventh century when the monastery was formed--there should suddenly occur, in the late nineteenth century, something to give cause for that abandonment. As you say, Father, old Henry muttered in his sleep about persons thought to be philosophers who came to visit the monastery, some of whom remained indefinitely. So we wonder, Father, just why did all those monks leave the monastery? And who were those philosophers the old monk talked about in his sleep? Were they real persons or a figment of old Henry's imagination, carried into his dreams and prompting him to talk about them in his sleep?"
"Doctor, there were things and places the old man sometimes talked about when he was awake. But he always ended such talk, rambling away incoherently and growing silent while staring into space. I suspect that he was deeply troubled by something and apparently didn't wish to tell me about it."
Father Ryan was silent for some time, occasionally glancing at me as though curious to see how I was taking his words about the old monk.
"Don't get the idea that I think the old man had lost his mind, becoming senile or any of those conditions attributed to old age. Nothing like that, Father. I firmly believe Henry had witnessed something disturbing to him. In fact, I suspect he well knew why all those monks suddenly left the monastery, leaving very little to explain their reasons for doing so."
"Leaving very little except a few lines in a journal which Henry found sometime during his last year at the monastery." Father Ryan said those words slowly, while looking steadily into my face. "Yes, doctor. There was something in that journal so strange and disturbing that it made him ill. Knowing he was going to die he came here to be near me for comfort and assurance that you were to be summoned. I think he wanted to ask you something--talk to you about matters he thought only you might understand. Did he say anything, ask you anything that was odd or out of the ordinary--anything about what might have upset him when he read those few lines in the journal?"
"Yes, Father, I'm glad you've asked those questions. There were several things he told me. He seemed eager to find someone who might understand, believing most persons would conclude he was balmy. He told me where to find the journal lying on a shelf in a small chamber off of one of the three corridors in the monastery. He had placed it there and locked the door. He spoke of a second chamber opening into a garden. He had also locked the door to this chamber and put the two keys on a brass ring which he buried in the front garden between flat rocks." I sat quietly for some time, sipping wine and nibbling cheese and bread. "Well, Father, I know this has begun to sound like a child's fairy tale. However, I must say, as he lay dying, the way he talked about it, the things he said, convinced me he wasn't suffering from dementia. I haven't yet gone about the old monastery to locate the corridors Henry talked about, but I've found the keys. All I can show for it now is a puffy hand and a sore where I was stung by a scorpion while searching for the keys. I'll go back to the monastery, well equipped and provisioned, to remain there until I learn a few things about old Henry's tale of mystery. But, I must also tell you that, personally I am fascinated by the whole thing. In fact, although this may sound ridiculous, I believe I've been bitten by the explorer's bug."
"All right, doctor. This doesn't surprise me, and I am greatly pleased that you are getting serious about it. However, I trust that you intend to remain here with us for a few days. My young cousin, Brother Robert, has confided in me that he'd like to talk to you about what he calls "The Mysterious Monastery."

It was more than a week later when I settled into the living quarters at the monastery. This consisted of the stone-hewn bunks already described and a large antechamber that had apparently been the kitchen and dining room. The spiders, of course, were the hosts here, while I remained the guest--unbidden though tolerated. I was well equipped with camping gear and a tank of water--which proved unnecessary when an excellent source of water was found nearby, pouring out of a crevice in the rock wall. Everything had been carried up the trail by cousin Brother Robert and several of his confreres.
The few books I brought were hardly ever read. I was kept busy writing memoirs in a notebook--which form the basic material for the following account.

After a few days of wandering through the monastery, I found two of the three corridors the monk had mentioned. Using an electric lamp with a powerful beam, I found that the keys fitted none of the doors in the first one. Not long later I was walking along the second corridor, trying each door. But when one of the keys fit the last door, to my surprise, I stood looking with disbelief at a blank stone wall a mere three inches away.
As I stood there staring at the wall before me I had to laugh. It was like a kind of game--a game of surprise and disappointment. I shut the door and left, hoping for better luck in the last corridor.
Of course, there being no floor plan, no blueprint, locating the last of the three corridors proved to be difficult. I was amazed to find so much of the monastery that was cut into the granite of the mountain. It reminded me of ancient Egyptian tombs. Everywhere there was the evidence of long-ago antiquity, the evidence of very ancient, long-dead civilizations. At the university I'd had a year of archaeology, a subject so fascinating to me I might have abandoned medicine and chosen archaeology as my profession. My parents saw differently. Then, of course, had I become an archaeologist I'd have never met Father Ryan, nor arrived here at this time to bring ease to an old monk on his deathbed. Ah, the Wheels of If! Are we ever really disappointed in the choices we have made?
Several days later, after much probing into holes in the stone that proved to be little more than closets, one of which opened into a low-ceilinged cavern full of cobwebs and a strange odor, I entered a corridor having many false turns leading to deadends. I was reminded of the legendary labyrinth of King Minos of Crete as I continued along what appeared to be the main corridor. I began to hear the sound of rushing water when, groping around a narrow bend, I came to a wide pond into which icy water flowed from a fissure. Since it was surrounded on both sides by the stone walls of the corridor, there was no way to get around it. The pond was too deep to wade across, so I was obliged to turn back and try again later.
Once more I was reminded of the labyrinth and the Minoan king's daughter, Ariadne, who, feeling enamored of the Greek hero, Theseus, had given him a length of thread which was left on the labyrinth floor to mark his way. Without Ariadne's thread, however, it was an ordeal wending my way back. So it was quite late and well past sunset when, exhausted, in need of a hot meal and rest, I finally returned to my encampment in the monestary.
Several days later, having rested and spent some time writing notes in my journal, I set out one early morning with a large water-tight pack for clothes, towels and other gear, prepared to swim the icy water of the pond. Shortly later, continuing along the corridor, there were many more turns, but no more blind holes.
After at least an hour of this, the corridor made a sharp descent, in places nearly too steep for secure footing. I was relieved when the floor of the corridor leveled out and I was able to walk normally. Not long later, after several more turns, I came to a place so narrow I had difficulty sqeezing through with my pack which had to be held over my head where the walls were farther apart. When I reached a level place where I could sit down and rest awhile with my back against the wall, I humorously pondered the lot of the archaeologist who must often encounter situations even more severe. True, the medical profession occasionally puts the doctor through some harsh trials. But I have sometimes philosophically concluded that much of life is a series of trials to be borne and accepted as part of a fascinating learning process.
But, what of the pond I expected to swim across? What of this corridor I had been traversing? It appeared to be such a devious and arduous route! I wondered whether any of those monks ever walked this way. What would have been their purpose? But maybe one of them did, and he found something so disturbing that he and the others abandoned the place. The old monk seemed to know what it was, and that it was important that I come here to solve the mystery--to learn why the others were so disturbed by it.
So I had found two keys, one of which I had used. Perhaps the remaining key might open a door leading to the chamber where the philosophers had stayed?

It was over an hour later. The corridor, with all its ups and downs, twists and turns, seemed endless and without purpose. Then, after a long turn, beyond the darkness ahead, there was a faint light. Startled, I stood still, peering into the shadowy distance. So far as I could see the floor of the corridor was level and without visible obstruction. I turned off the flashlight and walked slowly. Of course, I was curious. There had been nothing but darkness in the corridor ahead and now suddenly there was light which grew steadily brighter as I walked toward it. I thought about what it could be--maybe a gap somewhere in the wall or roof of the corridor, letting in some light from outside? As I moved forward, however, I concluded that it had to be something else--something more than a mere gap.
This I soon learned to be the case when shortly later I came to the end of the corridor and stepped out into the glowing sunlight of the garden--the same garden of stunted trees and rose bushes where many days earlier I had searched for keys.
Feeling the humor of the situation but tired and a bit frustrated, I walked to the old bench, deposited my pack on the ground and sat down. I was relieved to be out in the open, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. There was still the remaining unused key, so what next was I to do?
I suddenly felt a longing to get back down to the village and have a little relaxation with Father Ryan. I realized that this was the best thing to do--a much needed rest, enjoying the good food and wine at Father Ryan's rectory. I had no intention of abandoning the quest--to find the answer to the riddle--the riddle that had become an engrossing arcanum--the meaning and center of which lay somewhere in or near the old monastery. But I had to get back and just relax for awhile, wander around town, speculate on how it would be to resume practicing medicine.
The following days were pleasant enough. Father Ryan, of course, wanted to know everything that happened. There was little to tell him, except that I felt almost hopelessly frustrated. When I told him about using the first key and being faced with what appeared to be a blank wall, he stared at me as though this was an important disclosure.
He interrupted me, saying, "A blank wall, you say? Did you look carefully? I wonder if it was something else, another door, perhaps, or--?" He broke off, a quizzical expression in his face. "Don't you agree with me that you ought to go back in there and have a good look? This sounds a bit paradoxical, but promising. What do you think, doctor?”
"Well, now you have me there. What else could it have been? It certainly looked like a blank wall. But you make it sound interesting. Come to think of it, this could be the only remaining possibility. I must say, finding that blank wall beyond a door I opened with a key hardly makes sense. You're right, Father. It appears I ought to go back there tomorrow to have a close look."

Later that day, Brother Robert came to join us. I was very surprised to see that he brought a charming woman, an archaeologist, whose name was Nadia Carlin. I soon learned that she had received her doctorate at the University in Berkeley, California. During her studies she had learned of the monastery and its mysterious history, and wished to visit the place, "just to satisfy my curiosity," as she put it. I studied her for a moment, wondering if she was the same young graduate student I saw one day standing in the hallway near the entrance to the archaeology department. I recalled that she had stared at me rather inquisitively as I passed by. I thought nothing of it. Such incidents are not uncommon at a coeducational school. I was impressed to learn that she had done a considerable amount of work on the eastern slopes of the Andes in South America, searching for traces of a lost civilization. She had learned from Brother Robert that I had just returned from the old monastery and intended to return.
"Well, so you wish now to visit the old monastery on the mountain." I told her about searching in the old garden for some keys.
"Keys to some doors, I suppose."
She made this comment in what seemed to me a rather taunting manner. Apparently, she knew--far more than I realized--about what I had experienced.
"All right," I said. "I might have guessed that you knew something about the mystery of why those fourteen monks suddenly left the place. What I'm curious to know is, were they frightened by something, or did they simply wish to avoid whatever was discovered when they read the contents of a notebook that was found in a room somewhere in the older part of the monastery--a room I understand that was believed to have been a library kept by some persons, thought to be philosophers. They had come unbidden to occupy quarters previously unknown to the monks, who seldom ventured outside the confines of their small world in the mountain. I later learned that those people simply disappeared, leaving two persons who soon left, revealing nothing about why they had come and what had become of the others."
I was silent for a moment, carefully looking at her, careful to keep matters professional. "You know, Miss Carlin, some time ago I felt strongly that this entire structure, so much of it cut into solid granite, with all its tunnels and peculiar branches that seem to lead nowhere, is the remains of an ancient city or village. Because it was thought deserted and unused, a small group of monks assumed that they might occupy and use it for what they deemed a sacred purpose. You haven't had much time here to form definite opinions, but I'd be quite interested in whatever ideas you have about it. What do you think?"
"You're right about one thing. I haven't even gone there yet, and I don't like to form ideas about anything without at least having a good look at it--and I'm very eager to do just that. When do we go, doctor?"
Father Ryan was pleased that we were going to work together at the monastery. I told him about my belief that the entire edifice--a very small part of which had been used by the monks--could be part of a an ancient civilization that existed in Italy before the Etruscans and long before the Romans. He offered the suggestion that perhaps it existed not only in Italy, but included much of what has become Western Europe. "Fantastic?" he said. "Much of what is being learned about the ancient past is sometimes hard to believe."
I looked over at Miss Carlin who smiled. "So, Dr. Legassek, you have the advantage. Father Ryan has said that you opened a door onto a blank wall. I am sure you agree with me that this simply doesn't make sense. You know the way and I understand that you have one key left--and I'm sure you are aware that the blank wall isn't a wall. In fact, I'm wondering if any key will prove to be useless and that we may need to find another, more special way to go any farther."
I recalled watching videos on the exploration of ancient Egyptian tombs. The Egyptians used no keys. They usually permanently sealed the tombs. I realized that I was dealing with an accomplished Doctor of Archaeology and should be thinking of her as a Doctor, not a Miss. But there was something lacking in this idea about keys. Why had any keys been needed to open any door in this place, and what would be the use of the remaining key?

After a restful night, we set out early the next day climbing the ancient stones to the monastery. Brother Robert helped with more food stuffs, equipment, and Dr. Carlin's gear. After Brother Robert left us, there would be two days in the living quarters before leaving to reach the door and its blank wall. There it was, in all appearance, solid granite and immovable. Dr. Carlin took the initiative and felt the surface in all directions. Neither of us could reach the top. Even when I had Dr. Carlin climb on my shoulders, so far as she could reach there was nothing but what seemed solid granite extending upward beneath the wall and out of sight. At the moment, there was nothing more to do. We stood back to discuss the strangeness of the situation.
"Well, Doctor, I think we are overlooking something," she said. "We obviously can't move that wall, door, or whatever it is, by feeling around the surface for a keyhole, knob, button, or a latch. And I hardly believe we can use force--smashing and breaking our way. I suspect there is something else to look for."
"Exactly what I've begun to think," I said. "But, aside from our dilemma, do you mind if I cut the doctor business, and call you Nadia? I rather like the name. And, of course, my name is Sandor, friends and family call me Sandy. Is this all right with you?"
"Well, thank you," she said. "This will make matters simpler. I've always felt uncomfortable with formalities."
I studied her for a moment, beginning to realize something about her that, for professional reasons, I felt had better be strictly controlled. If we were going to get anywhere with it, this situation demanded rather scientific attention.
"Turning the problem into common sense," I said, "I cannot recall reading anything in the literature that might tell us that the ancients, so far as we know, ever used keys. They apparently used other, more subtle devises to keep things private."
"That might not hold in all cases," said Nadia. "It's a moot question that may not get us anywhere. But certainly, right now, we have something peculiar to deal with. That thing in there--the way it is set back from the wall--simply does appear to be something that ought to move. I think we will find the answer somewhere in or on the wall outside of it."
"Well, Nadia, I suppose the way to go is to feel around
--search and find. Even the floor or the ceiling might have some kind of knob, lever." I began feeling the walls. Nadia just stood quietly, watching me. Suddenly, she said something that at first sounded absurd.
"Let's try something like a certain tone on a musical instrument. Sandy, I really don't believe we are going to get anywhere feeling around or pressing anything. A moment ago you mentioned 'more subtle devises' which has given me an idea. Can you come up with something that produces musical notes, maybe something that can run a diapason--you know, up and down the scales? I recall someone who once knew you when you were very young, who commented that you enjoyed playing the violin. Is this true? Do you maybe have a violin? If so, can you play it?"
"Nadia, this is interesting. But I am amused that you should have heard anything about my enjoyment of music. Yes, I did play a violin, even took lessons while in school. I still have the instrument, given to me by an elderly landlady whose sister was an accomplished violinist. I haven't played it for years though. If you think it will help, we'll need to go back to town. Whatever you say."

Two days later we were in town. I shall never forget how pleased I was when Nadia insisted that she accompany me back to my apartment. There was that same sensation I had when she climbed onto my shoulders to try reaching the top edge of the
wall--something about the feel of her thighs, a certain subtle odor--pheromones?. The word affinity seems to fit. Maybe there was something else. I remember the moment of trying to disregard the sense of affinity--the primordial male-female affinity. In this crass, religio-restricting society we are supposed to keep such primitive reactions under surveillance --even denying their power. In fact, there is the tendency to deny the existence of those parts of our anatomy that suggest we have any sex at all. So at all times to be decent we go about keeping them concealed as though they were ugly and dirty. However, at the risk of seeming licentious to some persons, I must acknowledge that I have regarded such repressiveness as unhealthful interference with physical and mental health.

It had been so long since I held the fine old violin. I had been told by a violin-maker that the instrument was possibly one of the few remaining creations of the famous Guarneri family of Cremona, Italy. Could I play it, make it sing as I once did? Maybe with a little practice.
Trying a few chords, noting that the tuning was perfect, I played the first bars of Beethoven's Romance.
"You did that well enough!" she exclaimed. "Now I'm eager to get back there and try it. When shall we leave?"
Standing once again before that door. which still appeared to be a massive and immovable granite wall, I was convinced that there had to be a reason why it was set back from the corridor. Was it movable, was it some kind of door? I suspected, as Nadia intimated, that there was a more subtle devise than a lock-and-key or a knob somewhere. But might it not be ridiculous to think that the sounding of a mere musical note would move that massive door--if indeed it was a door?
"Sandy, please don't keep me in suspense. Don't just stand there," she pleaded. "Let's get on with it!"
Saying nothing, I took the instrument out of its case. Then it happened. That moment when I picked up the violin the strings must have touched something that caused a soft response. The sound was not at first a chord I recognized; there was an eerieness about it, rather like the moaning of wind in a forest. We both stood transfixed as the great door slowly rolled back revealing what appeared to be an
entrance-way to a large, dimly lit chamber. On our left was a stone bench conveniently placed against the wall; on the right side of the entrance was a doorway to what appeared to be an antechamber. The walls of the main room beyond appeared to be lined with carved structures, the details of which were not discernable in the dim light.
"I think we had better examine the floor very carefully before entering," said Nadia. "There might be something we need to do." (Her experiences at Cal digs had taught her to be cautious in similar situations.)

I stared at her for a moment, noting that she was smiling as she studied the edges of the floor before us. When she gingerly put one foot into the room to touch what seemed to be a solid stone surface, the entire room was flooded with light. It wasn't the light of ordinary incandescent or fluorescent lamps, or that it radiated from the walls or ceiling. There didn't seem to be a definite source. It was as though the air itself was softly luminous. In fact, it was as though we stepped into another kind of world, or at least a totally unique kind of illumination.
"Nadia, do you believe this is really happening? It appears we are witnessing something of a science rather far ahead of what we've known. But what of this strange light, do you suspect it might be harmful, perhaps the harmful ultraviolet light of a radioactive source? Please forgive, I can't avoid being a little alarmed. I've treated people who had been exposed to such radiance. They were usually quite sick."
"Well Sandy, I believe this is different. Oh I agree that the illumination is strange, that it is not the sort of thing we are accustomed to, that it appears alien and unworldly, but I have the feeling we are witnessing evidence of a kind of science superior to anything we've known, maybe the science of a far more civilized world." She was silent, peering at the huge objects that lined the walls, that appeared to be carved out of the solid granite while remaining immovably part of the walls. "Just look at those carvings. We've seen sculpture a little like this in ancient Egypt, carved out of the sandstone walls of tombs. But surely you agree that this stuff is far superior. Even the Greeks, as beautiful as their sculptures were as we see in the few remains we have found, never attained such remarkable skill, such magnificense." She paused again, then turned to me. "But Sandy, I'll leave it to you. If you are concerned about it, maybe concerned about adverse medical consequences or something, perhaps you'd prefer that we turn back and think about it for awhile. At least we've opened the door and discovered evidence of something we ought to investigate. What do you say?"
"Thanks, Nadia," I said, "but before we make any decisions, I know you've seen that open doorway on our right when we came in here. There appears to be a room of some kind. Perhaps we ought to see what's in there. Agree?"
The interior was dark, perhaps an antechamber used as a kind of vestibule. We stood briefly at the doorway. In the reflected light, I could make out a small dais upon which lay a book. I picked up the book and turned to Nadia. "Maybe it's a journal or something. Let's have a look."
Going over to the stone bench where there was plenty of light, we sat down and opened the book. The pages were covered with handwritten notes. "You read it to me, Sandy. You're probably better than I at reading handwriting."
The date of the first entry was August eighth, l892, which suggested it might have been written by one of the monks who left the monastery. With growing excitement, I read:
'Now I see it, though it lies in darkness and is shrouded in cobwebs. I walk slowly through a mystic garden where the trees lean to the sea. The magic of wind and fog conveys the impetus of a meaning which gives me pause to scorn the vanity, the seeking after wealth that is the ambition of the people, provoking me to reach higher, to seek a way to find the secret beauty described in the book.
'I am lost in thoughts as they emerge from their hiding places in the brain. Here I am, for some peculiar reason indulging in ways of thinking which many consider philosophical. I wonder about how mankind has progressed. Look at us now, I think, are we not children who have lost their way in a wilderness--though the wilderness is beautiful? Are we not children who fail to see that the wilderness is beautiful, and in which they fail to find enlightenment and cannot remember the lessons they learned in past ages? Have we not put away those lessons, out of sight and mind, though they are written and are not acknowledged by us? If we are to profit by the incidents in our past, perhaps we ought to put the mind to work recalling images.
'When I move in this wilderness and am aware of its splendor, I think it is sacrilege to speak of mankind's foolishness and the upheavals he has created in his world. I wish I could completely erase from the mind's drawing board mankind's slavery to the golden coin, to devote my strength to the furtherance of beauty, to cleanse mankind of his debauch in ugliness and brutish violence.

'A short time ago, I rested beneath a tree to meditate. While I sat leaning my back against the tree, I caught sight of a brown form moving over a mound of moss, which turned out to be a chipmunk that had come down from the tree and is now quite near. He resembles a huge caterpillar browsing in the green mosses. He sits now upon a twig curiously observing me, probably surprised that I appear so friendly.'

For more than an hour we read the entries in the notebook. That the writer was a devotee of nature was evident; but it was also evident that he despised the ways of his fellow men, and knew that their arrogance created an impenetrable wall, which interfered with efforts to help them; as the ancient Greek poet, Aeschylus, once said, "Arrogance is its own undoing." The poet was probably aware that arrogance is a commonplace disease, of which most men are unaware.
But what prompted those monks to suddenly abandon the security of their stone monastery? Had one of them stumbled into this seemingly uninhabited place and was alarmed by something so frightening?
We decided to get up and walk out into the big room to more closely observe the sculptures carved into the walls. We hadn't gone more than a few paces when we were startled to hear a woman's voice.
"Do not be alarmed. It is favorable that you are not so garbled by strange beliefs that you fail to appreciate what
is now possible to you. It is well that you are not afraid and are scientists enough to allow your curiosity to wonder and wish to understand. I can assure you that something quite important and unusual is happening to you. For now, I shall not tell you much more than that you are fortunate to be here. I know that you are impressed by the sculptures. Be at ease, feel free to wander about and enjoy."
Of course, we were surprised, not only by the voice, but even more by the message we were given.
"We'd appreciate knowing who you are," I ventured to say. There was no response. I assumed it was a recorded message, probably informing anyone who walked in to relax and enjoy. But there was something about it that convinced me we were in a place far more significant.
"Nadia, how do you feel about this? That woman sounded so cordial. It was as though we had entered an unfamiliar house or museum and were being invited to stay and look around."
"Well, Sandy, what interests me is this bit about our being in an 'important and unusual' situation. I'm particularly concerned about what the woman meant by saying that we were 'not so garbled by strange beliefs you fail to appreciate what is now possible to you.' I wonder what it is that is now possible to us. Obviously, we are missing something."
"You have me there, Nadia. I'm trying not to be puzzled, but you'll have to admit, this is something quite unusual, even exciting, and I'm not at all alarmed. But I must tell you I feel relieved you are here with me. I'm sure it wouldn't be at all so interesting if I were in this thing alone. So, what do you suggest we do, stay here and look around, or go home and think it over?"
"Sandy, I'm too curious to leave now. I think we are in the position to learn something. I'd really like to look around, maybe find out who lives here."
"All right, I'm with you, Nadia. Let's see what's going on here. You lead the way."
Aside from the sculptured walls, which were interesting enough, at the far end of the big room was a portal, or open doorway. I was so fascinated by the carvings cut into the granite walls that I paused occasionally to study them. Although interested in the sculpture, Nadia appeared to be looking for something. Apparently, she was more curious than I to learn in depth who or what gave us the message we had heard. Of course, I, too, was interested in this, but, whenever I thought about our present situation, the mystery that had primarily drawn me to explore the old monastery seemed comparatively insignificant.
As we approached the doorway, I noticed that the room or passageway it opened to seemed dark. Moments later, we stood peering into the space within. Nadia put her hand on the stone that framed the doorway and reached her foot into the darkness.
"There is solid floor ahead. I'm going in," she said. "Ah, this is it. It's a landing or platform at the top of a stairway. Don't worry, Sandy, I'm determined to see what's in here. Come along, if you want to."
I was a astonished that Nadia would walk into such a dark place without a flashlight. Was she being careless, foolish? I couldn't believe that. Warily, I stepped out on the landing and probed my foot to find the edge of the first step.
"Nadia Karlin, please tell me how you are able to see your way down these steps. I must say, I'm a bit leery."
"Oh, Sandy, just do it. Come on now--you will soon know."

Moments later, cautiously feeling my way, trying to see each step in the total darkness, I made it down the first five steps. She had seemed so convincing that I could do it. Was there something I was missing? Whatever it was, I continued to descend. Then it happened; I looked up, thinking I might at least see Nadia's white blouse. About twenty yards ahead, I saw her calmly walking on a level floor, clearly visible in the same pleasant light we had seen in the hall of sculptures.
To me, of coure, this was some kind of miracle. It seemed there were other miraculous happenings, but this was far stranger. I could now see ahead into what a few moments before had appeared to be total darkness and which was now glowing with light. I smiled as I thought of the adventures of Alice in her Wonderland--the beautiful tales told by Lewis Carroll for a child's amusement. Were the things that happened to Alice any more whimsical and apparently impossible?

Doctor of medicine or archeologist? The comparison no longer had meaning to me. What was now happening seemed more like a fantastic tale out of H. P. Lovecraft's "The Outsider." This was more like some of the wildest science fiction I had read. The sense of logic and reality had lost its importance. We were now moving in a world outside of comprehension--at least, this is how it seemed to me. That Nadia appeared so nonchalant gave me the feeling of security I needed. However, as I followed her, the whole experience--whatever misfortune might befall--was becoming profoundly fascinating.
There was a moment when I wondered whether any of the monks ever ventured this far beyond their quarters. Maybe one of them had willynilly wandered into the labyrinth of corridors and somehow found the door, opened it and caught a glimpse of this place. Convinced that the whole place was the realm of Satan, he hurried back to warn the others, which prompted them to leave. Then, there were the few strange things the old monk had managed to tell me as he lay dying. Perhaps the notebook I found was his in which he had written his thoughts and experiences.

How it happened, I may never know. Finding myself walking next to Nadia, as though a somnambulist in a mystic dream having lost the power of speech, I was startled to hear her voice penetrating the cobwebs in my brain.
"Delightful, isn't it," she said softly, "so like a wondrous dream from which we are loathe to waken? I notice you are surprised to hear me."
"Well, it hardly seems real. Doesn't it occur to you that something weird is happening to us?"
"Oh come on, Sandy. Though it may seem weird and outlandish to you, why not just relax and enjoy? I think we've walked into something quite exciting. I'll bet the old monk would have liked very much to return, and probably would have if he hadn't known he was dying."
She stopped walking and took hold of my arm. "Sandy, I'm here with you, and we are here in this new kind of experience. What about it--you're not going to chicken out on me are you? Besides, what if you tried to get out of here? Have you tried looking back? I tried it awhile ago--all I saw was this level ground we're walking on, disappearing in a wold of immense trees."
This was hard to believe. I turned to look back, thinking perhaps there'd be a stairway leading up--at least back to the big room with the sculptured walls. As Nadia had said, what I saw was a magnificent forest of very tall trees that appeared to be a species of connifer I couldn't identify. On our right was a long row of beautifully carved stone columns. Hearing the rhythmic sound of waves, I looked to the left and was amazed to see a wide expanse of water, a lake, where in the distance lay several forested islands.
"All right, Nadia. you seem to be at ease here--as though it is all quite normal. To me, however, this is pure, beautiful fantasy."
"Well, Sandy, I agree it appears we've walked into something very strange." She laughed slightly. "It's like a fascinating dream from which I'm not sure I wish to waken."
"Yes, Nadia, except when I feel a little worried, I can't help being curious."
"Worried? Are you worried about getting back? Certainly doesn't look very promising. As to exactly what happened when we stepped into that big room back there, I haven't the foggiest idea. It's as though we walked into another world."
We were standing still, occasionally looking into the fanciful land. At first, I thought we had been walking on an unpaved expanse of ground composed of gravel and clay, but the ground now appeared to be grass-covered turf. In fact, I had begun to be concerned that I might have been drugged or had lapsed into some form of schizophrenia yet unknown to science. This, of course, didn't hold. A glance at Nadia dispelled any such notion.
Then, something happened that was so strange and fantastic that, to this moment I cannot explain or comprehend. I was sure I was hallucinating when I saw the earth a few yards ahead begin to burgeon with densely flowering shrubs swarming with what at first I assumed was a species of very large bees noisily humming and buzzing while gathering pollen and nectar. In the next moment, to my amazement, one of the flying creatures landed on my shoulder. At close range I saw that it wasn't a bee.
Surely, anyone who reads this will be convinced that I had gone completely insane. During my years as a doctor of medicine I had known of some unusual cases of paranoid-schizophrenia in which the patient believes he is surrounded by wildly beautiful houris who beguile him to enjoy their incessant caresses, or being attacked by monstrous beings that are determined to cut him to pieces. Once again, however, I was aware that my mind wasn't playing any such tricks. A glance at the tiny creature perched on my shoulder revealed something so astonishing that I closed my eyes for a moment then opened them to be sure I had really seen it.
"Nadia, for God's sake will you look at this!"
"Yes, Sandy, I've just now realized what we are seeing. What we thought was a swarm of bees busy with those flowers turns out to be a swarm of beautiful little people. That they are naked, of course, is logical. They certainly couldn't be flying around with those butterfly wings wearing a shirt--or anything else. Clothes of any kind would be a clumsy nuisance. But the fact that they appear to be of both sexes is a bit odd. If they are gathering pollen and nectar to put into those little baskets, and if they live in a hive somewhere as bees do, I'd expect them to all be neutered females." I looked up briefly. She was grinning and humorously staring at me as I peered at the tiny girl on my shoulder who suddenly leaped into the air and flew away. "Pretty little thing, wasn't she, Sandy?"
"All right, Nadia. Wouldn't you be a little curious if one of these fine creatures lit on your shoulder? But seriously, what do you make of it? Is this real, or are we both somehow walking in a dream, maybe under the influence of a drug, something in the atmosphere, enchanted by this strange experience--or what? I'm having a hard time believing it is really happening--as if we may have unwittingly walked into a land where deception or magic is the way of life. What do you think has happened to us?" I turned to see if Nadia was listening. She was smiling calmly, seeming not the least puzzled or disturbed.
"Oh Sandy, stop fretting. Relax and enjoy. Truthfully, I'm finding it all beautifully fascinating. Let's keep walking--maybe we'll see something even more interesting. I'm curious to know where these little beings are taking all that stuff they are busy gathering. It's a place that's closest to paradise I've ever seen. I agree with you, though--this place, land, or world we've walked into is so wonderful it's hard to believe it's real--hard to believe our senses are not deceiving us."
"And you are convinced we aren't being deceived, tricked by some magician or something?"
"Well, Sandy dear, if there's a magician skillful enough to create such a fine deception, I'd like to meet him or her. Meanwhile, I'm sure this is the greatest experience any archeologist could have. I think we should stop fussing over whether it's really happening and keep moving. Personally, I'm getting very hungry. What about you?"
"Nadia, admittedly, I've been so puzzled over what's happeneing to us that I hardly noticed. I'm not only hungry, I'm thirsty. Since I left my pack back there at the entrance I guess we'll need to do without--doesn't look like we could get back there. I'd like to find a place to sit down--maybe get my wits under control."

We had walked about a quartermile beyond the flower garden and its Lilliputian human bees, and had entered a forest of conifers. Through the trees, not far ahead, we could see some massive stone structures. I thought of the pleasant voice we'd heard as we entered the big room. Would we soon find the people who inhabited the land, one of whom had so cordially urged us to explore and appreciate what is happening to us? Were we scientists enough? What was happening certainly aroused our curiosity. Nadia seemed scientist enough, even appreciating the situation more than I.
"What do you make of those buildings, Nadia? Do you suppose we'll find people around?"
"Those buildings could be just about anything--even mausoleums, maybe tombs." She turned and faced me. "You know, Sandy, I shouldn't be surprised to learn that we have entered a kind of Necropolis--a city of the dead."
"Well, I hope for once you are wrong. How about getting there and finding out, maybe we'll be in for something more satisfying. That woman whose voice we heard back there sounded friendly enough."

The buildings were far higher than they had appeared. Each the same height, flat-topped, at least a hundred feet high. From where we stood we could see no windows, no stairways nor entrances. Although there was no walkway nor clearance around them, we made our way through the dense surrounding forest to the opposite side of the buildings which were all lined up, spaced about thirty feet apart, facing the same direction. Oddly, though each of the structures had a wide stairway leading to a tall entrance there was no walkway nor road. Then, I realized I had seen no road nor any kind of walkway anywhere. In fact, I could see no indication that there was any kind of vehicle or means of transportation. I wondered if this might be the case everywhere in this strange land. Also, I hadn't seen any people--unless one could call people the butterfly-winged Lilliputians we had seen gathering pollen and nectar. Interestingly, we could see these beings coming and going somewhere high above the row of buildings! We climbed the few steps to what we had assumed was the entrance of one of the buildings only to find that there was no door. What might have been a door proved to be solid, featureless stone wall!
Shortly later, we had gone down to the bottom step where we rested for awhile. "Nadia, what do you make of all this? Have we walked into some kind of wonderland full of puzzles?"
"Well, it looks like the only thing left for us to do is keep going--whatever we are up against. Obviously, there's no point in trying to get out of here the same way we came, which is puzzle enough. But really, aside from needing sustenance of some sort, I'm finding it so fascinating it seems a waste of time to fret."
I got up and walked around, feeling the need to stretch a bit and take some deep breaths. Then I noticed something about the air. Perhaps there was a greater percentage of oxygen, or was it something else?
"Nadia, what do you think of this air we're breathing? Just now, I'm feeling so light, kind of levitous -- almost as if I could fly."
Nadia was standing nearby, looking across the lake at the islands. "You know, Sandy, I'm getting very curious about those islands out there. Perhaps we may find a boat or something. Let's look around."
We walked down toward the lake. Oddly, I noticed as I walked that I could easily rise above the ground, as though gravity had lessened and I might take flight. Then it happened: I was flying a few feet into the air!
"Nadia, will you look at this--I'm flying! Do I have wings? No, but I can actually fly!"
"Yes, of course, I see you. But stop yelling about it. Can't you see? I'm flying too. And I'm going to get over to those islands. Come on, Sandy--let's fly!"
I wasn't convinced. The old sense of fact and logic, with its grip upon the mind told me that it was all a ridiculous dream--just another, Alice-in-Wonderland fantasy. Flying? Were we actually flying as we rose into the air and floated out over the water toward the islands? Then I remembered the melodious voice of a woman telling us "It is favorable that your minds are not so garbled by strange beliefs that you fail to appreciate what is now possible to you...." Now possible to us? Is this really happening? This was a repeated question. It all seemed so hard to believe!

We drew near the two islands, which were quite larger than they had appeared. The lake itself proved to be wider, far more expansive, with more of the lake lying beyond the islands, the mainland visible far in the distance. Aware that human vision is often deceptive, I wondered if maybe the whole scene might be a mirage, or a visual aberration.
Both islands were so densely forested, we had to circle about to find a small clearing where we settled easily on a thick carpet of moss. Always it was this way--there was never any hardness, nor unpleasantness. I recalled that when we were sitting on the stone steps, the surface had seemed soft, as though upholstered. Was this tricks of the imagination or exactly what we were supposed to experience anywhere in this phantasmagoric land? But there was always the queer sensation that I might be asleep somewhere, dreaming away the day, certain to waken and find myself back in the old ordinary world. In fact, I sometimes suspected that even Nadia Karlin might be part of the same fantstic dream! Then, there was sometimes an alarming sensation that indeed I might have lapsed into the nightmarish, mind-twisted schizophrenia of the hopelessly insane. But I always slipped out of such disturbances. Nadia was therapy enough to ease the mind. Whenever I looked at her, all troublous thoughts were assuaged away. In fact, at such times I felt that the entire adventure might have ended when I stood before the big room staring at the strange carvings on the walls. Certainly, I would have turned back and returned to the rectory to relate my findings to Father Ryan. And was it not Nadia, herself, who suggested using the violin, without which I might have failed to open the door and would have given up?
"What now?" I said, turning to Nadia.
"Well, Sandy, something tells me we ought to look around, maybe find something better to drink than lake water. Trouble is, there doesn't appear to be any easy way to get through this tanglewood."
We were standing there in the little clearing, peering into the forest. There was a large rock, barely visible a short distance away.
"Wow about going over to that rock?" I said. "I feel the need to sit down and try to make sense of all this wonder."

The rock proved to be upholstered with a thick growth of a species of moss I couldn't identify. I tried to feel at ease, peering about into the forest hoping to see some sign, any sign of human habitation. We were in the midst of a wilderness that probably covered the entire island. I had always enjoyed a wild place, far preferring nature's unmolested realm to the noisy, polluted, machine-dominated city we call civilisation. Did I, really? Mankind's realm is frightully imperfect, causing many physical and mental ailments, but where else might one walk into a well-made shop full of desirable items of food and useful commodities--the vade mecum of everyday human life? Here, in this seeming paradise it appeared there wasn't even a tap where one might draw a cup of water, nor was there a place to dine, while listening to pleasant music.
"It is all so very beautiful," I said. "It's odd though; we haven't found any convincing evidence that anything called human has ever inhabited the place--unless one might regard of human design those stone buildings and as human the flying Lilliputians we saw back there. Wonder what they were doing. You don't suppose they had been out collecting the makings of honey or something and delivering it somewhere on top of those stone skyscrapers? But everything we've seen so far is so strange. What say you, Nadia?"
"Sandy, You must admit that in the world we've known--at least the world mankind has created--so much is garbled by failure to choose the best directions to follow. During the millions of years of his existence and evolution, man has developed an almost perfect brain, a marvelous instrument for reasoning and solving problems. The amazing thing about it, though, is the fact that mankind bungles so much--leading us to suspect that the brain is either imperfect, or it is misused. But maybe the results of man's mistakes are Nature's way of teaching him to grow and improve--despite the evidence that the improvements drag along so painfully slow. Somwhere, I recall someone commenting that lessons painfully learned make long-lasting impressions."
"But here we are in this strangely wonderful place. All we did was open a door and step into something that doesn't appear to fit into the world we have left. So far, we haven't tried to find a way to get back and return to that world. No one knows we are here, nor do we realize what has happened."
"Ah well! So you are puzzled? Now you are as the characters in Shakeseare's play 'The Tempest.' I can hardly blame you, of course. But I think we ought to be at ease; I suspect there is much for us to discover and enjoy."
Nadia was always the one who pulled me back to the present, pleasantly steering me into the awareness that we were enjoying an exploration of a new and fascinating world.
Then we were startled to hear a voice, the friendly voice of a woman, as though to confirm Nadia's reassuring words. It was the voice, the same beautifully intoned voice of a woman we had heard as we stepped into the great hall of sculptures. There was more of the fragrance we had enjoyed as we walked away from the stairway--as we walked into the garden. She was fairly tall for a woman, standing nearby, clad to her ankles in a gossamery, richly colored veil thrown loosely over one shoulder.
"My name is Dahlia. I shall be your guide and assist you while you enter your new world. Unless you insist upon returning to that dull, troubled world from which you've escaped, you must come with me now," she said. "Of course, you are free to return at any time, but I urge you to learn what is here before you decide for some reason to leave us. Now, we may fly if you wish, but it might be more pleasant to swim. If you wish to swim you must, of course, divest yourselves of those ugly things you're wearing."
Apparently, Nadia shared my amazement as both of us stood silently observing the uncannily beautiful woman. Surely, I thought, something must be wrong, were we both seeing the same thing? Was this actually happening?
"Nadia--for God's sake!" I exclaimed, "do you believe this is real, or have we both gone completely mad?"
"Ah, so you think this couldn't be real," said the woman who called herself Dahlia. She laughed a little. "Yes, I suppose it does seem like a pipe dream--but be assured, it is all quite real. You shall find, of course, that this is a world quite different from the Learning School where you've spent your lives up till now. Are you ready for it? I think you are--although I had a bit of trouble convincing the others. Oh, I see you are puzzled, you'd like to know who the others are. All I can tell you now is that those few who went to the other world were thought to be philosophers."
Feeling more at ease as we were told these things, I glanced at Nadia. She was smiling at the woman. I sensed that she had already accepted the situation, perhaps had realized more keenly than I that indeed we were fortunate to be there and that this woman was a friend. Certainly, we weren't being idly entertained. This was an introduction--a kind of passport to paradise! Were we cowards...afraid to venture into this strange new world--this brave new world with such wonderful people in it? And were we to find new and wonderful people such as Dahlia?
Then to my astonishment, Nadia, who always took the initiative in this venture, turned to the woman saying, "All right, while I haven't any qualms about going forth naked, I'd like to know where we are and whether this is the real world and not something fancied while under a spell. I'm sure Sandy here shares my wonderment."
"Oh, of course, you both need to be convinced that it isn't all a beguiling dream. Nearly everyone who existed so long ago would certainly not comprehend what I'm going to tell you. To begin with, you could not have come this far unless you were both ready. Any of the others could not have even found the way to go past that wall. The violin? Yes, although the necessary sound that opened the wall was accidentally produced in that instrument, the fact that it was Sandy's violin made the incident possible. So, dear ones, you are here; but this is not an entirely different world located in some far away part of the universe. It is the same world you have always known--the same planet Earth, but not quite the same country or nation. In fact, it is not a nation at all. Long ago we learned that nations have borders, walls, separating them from neighboring lands. We learned that such separations create contentious attitudes which often result in violent conflict. Dear ones, you are now in a world where violence, hatred, jealousy, prejudice, and all those troublesome things that are typically of a brutish nature, were eliminated from human life. So, you are now in a world of peace. Call it Paradise if you wish, but it is a real world, and it is here for you to enjoy."
At first, it was hard to believe that this beautiful being who called herself Dahlia, was a human being--a being of flesh and blood, who breathed the same air, who breathed the same oxygen needed by all creatures of flesh and blood. For a moment as I studied her, she seemed to be a goddess--
a being that might once have been conceived by a devout and reverent Greek to symbolize the highest form of feminine beauty and intelligence.
"Dahlia, since you refer all the faults of the world to a 'long ago,' are we to assume that we now exist in a world in which human life has reached that dreamed-of perfection some philosophers once wrote of and that we are at present living in the future?"
"Ah yes, Nadia," the woman replied, "so you would think in those worn-out terms we once called Time. Aware that this thing called Time was merely a devise once used to measure distance between events, along with those useless and troublesome matters characteristic of our basic animal nature,
Time was also discarded from human life. We now think in terms of life, not time. And, of course, you link with time any passage of events in life, so you believe we are now living in a future time. Well, this may be something that at first seems impossible to you both, but, although I refer to a long-ago which suggests a passage of time, you are now existing and living in exactly the same year, date and hour it was when you opened that wall back there and walked into this world. Yes, dear ones, it is true. In fact, if you are wearing one of those outmoded things called wristwatches, and were to return to the other world at this moment you'd find that you are now in exactly the same state of life you were in when you stepped on the floor of the big room of sculptures and I advised you to remain at ease."
"So this means there's been no passage of time since that moment," I said, "and that we are simultaneously alive back there reading the notes of the old monk?"
"This is true, Sandy, but not in exactly the same way--such as your biologic clock might indicate. Your biologic time hasn't altered in the same way it might be in the sense that you are experiencing exactly the same sensations you were feeling when you and Nadia walked into the big hall. Your sensations are now those of persons exploring a totally new and mysterious world. You are curious, of course, you wish to know where you are and what is really happening. These things will all be known to you, and I assure you that you won't be disappointed." She stood silent for awhile, observing us. I had the feeling she considered us a pair of awkward children being escorted into a new park. "Well," she continued, "shall we fly or swim? Either way, dear ones, you shall be delighted."
I glanced at Nadia. Seeing that she was removing her clothes, I proceeded to follow her. There was no use standing there being a gawking spectator.
"What about our clothes?" I said, feeling a little foolish as if we might need them again.
"Just toss them on the ground," said Dahlia. "They will be perfectly safe and will remain where you left them--in case you ever need to wear them again."
I reflected on her last remark--"ever need to wear them again." It sounded as though she didn't think we'd ever want them again. Well, I thought, I guess there is something we have yet to learn. To be sure, when Nadia had shed her clothes and I had a moment to see those two women naked, there was hardly anything but exuberant anticipation as I dove with them into the lake.

There wasn't the usual darkness in the depths of the lake, which glowed everywhere with soft, uncanny luminescence. Nadia stayed closeby, moving slowly with gentle strokes. I could see Dahlia, who seemed part of the light. swimming like some colorful water nymph. But there was something which at first I hadn't noticed: we were swimming with no diving gear! We were breathing as though equipped with specially designed water lungs, effortlessly extracting oxygen from the water!
Water? Was it really water, the simple compound of oxygen and hydrogen, in which we swam? I hadn't noticed that we hardly needed to breathe. Were we now moving in the atmosphere of this amazing world? Perhaps it was atmosphere, atmosphere that differed somehow from that we had breathed before diving into the lake; or did we now need to breathe the same way we always had to obtain oxygen and now were somehow able to obtain oxygen from this water without drowning? Absurd, fantastic? But everything in this place was absurd and fantastic. Ater all, Nadia had said something about going along with it and enjoying the experience.

I glanced at Nadia, wondering how she was going along with it. Then, to my surprise, I saw several others who had come out of nowhere to join us. They appeared to be frolicking and playing about us, as though urging us to frolic with them. They reminded me of a school of dolphins I had seen in a video nature program. Dahlia had joined them, and I was not surprised to see Nadia getting into the fun. But I was surprised to distinctly hear her say, "Come on, Sandy. Get into the game." Moments later, a woman who might have been in her forties came over to me, almost touching. "Well, young fellow, what is holding you? Come along, join the fun."
Yes, I thought, what was holding me? How was this possible? We were down in deep water, swimming and frolicking like dolphins. It was all so much like some vivid dream of an impossible drama! Indeed, I doubted if even the best technical cinematics could match this kind of action. Human beings, without scuba diving gear, carrying on like dolphins in deep water, dallying about, breathing water in a lake? Surely, this had to be dreaming; it couldn't be happening! This had to be a madman's vision of events in a world he firmly believes to be real! Even now, I wonder, perhaps the insane can enjoy such wonderlands and fancy that they may indulge in pleasures, such as those who are sane in their wildest flights of fancy may only glimpse. A line from Nietzsche's Zarathustra flashes through my mind: "Unmoved is my depth; but it sparkleth with swimming enigmas and laughters."

Did I join them in their dalliance? Of course I did, and I was astonished at the ease with which I breathed. But was I actually breathing? Dolphins, a species of cetacea that apparently don't breathe underwater, can stay submerged swimming and frolicking about for protracted periods of time.
The frolic, while remaining most of the time a kind of freely dancing about, occasionally grew into close encounters happily embracing a partener. Indeed, there seemed no end to this sort of underwater enjoyment!
I watched Nadia following a small band of revelers to the shore outside, where she disappeared with them into the forest. I assumed, of course, that I was left to my own choice of pleasure. Then, a moment later I was joined by a lusty woman about my age who put an arm on my shoulder.
"I am Sarah," she said, looking thoughtfully into my face. "Please don't think me rude, but you seem lost. Maybe you are wondering what to do? Out in the forest I know where there's a little bench where we can talk. Like to go there with me?" Her warm friendliness was convincing enough that she wanted to know me, perhaps even needed someone to get away with her from all the revelry.

It was a warm, sunny afternoon when we climbed out of the water onto a green sward and strolled toward the forest. The woman was so friendly I wasn't sure she was sincere. This person who called herself Sarah might be up to some kind of device to inveigle me into an undesirable situation. As we drew near the first of trees that grew so dense and tall it was hard to see how we could walk in their midst, she put her arm about me.
"I know," she said, "this is surprisingly sudden and you might be suspecting I'm up to something. Please believe me, I am at least as much in need of you as you are of someone to be your friend and help you understand this strangely beautiful world."
"Your assumption is correct," I replied. "and I am feeling a bit lost. My name is Sandor Legassek. Friends and relatives call me Sandy. It might amuse you to know that I am a medical doctor turned archaeologist."
As we entered the forest, I noted that we were walking pleasantly along a roughly cleared narrow trail that looked little traversed and used by few hikers. This was a forest of fragrant redwoods, with an occasional giant that towered out of sight amidst young trees. In all directions I could see heavy growths of rhododendrons, their rich colors shimmering high in the verdant boughs. Ferns and mosses of various species unknown to me clusterd everywhere, carpeting the forest floor, while many birds sang and sported everywhere among the boughs.
"You seem to know this forest rather well," I said. "I bet you've done a lot of wandering here. Do you live nearby, have a family here or something? Should you find it hard to answer such a personal question, please don't. I would understand."
I was a bit curious about the distance we walked along that trail through the forest. It seemed we should have at least reached somewhere close to the far side of the island.
Must be a very large island, I thought, far larger than either island had appeared to be.
"Redwood trees," I commented, "probably growing so profuse because the earth is saturated with the lake water."
The woman was silent, seeming a little preoccupied but smiling pleasantly as we wandered through the forest. Finally, after a long hike, we came to the bench, probably the one she had mentioned. It stood in a sheltered place, surrounded by a dense growth of fragrant young plants. She motioned me to sit down, but remained standing, seeming to be carefully studying me. Humorously, I thought of the specimens I had studied in bell jars at the university. For a few moments I took the liberty to have a good look at her. Aside from professional observation, I had occasionally admired a woman, often someone who had come in for nothing more than a routine check-up. Perhaps it was the strangeness of the situation, the singularity of the adventure itself, but there was something about her that puzzled me.
"Now don't stand there studying me," I said. "I'm really not some strange creature from outer space. Please sit down. I'd like to ask a few questions--maybe just talk or something."
"Oh," she laughed as she sat beside me, "forgive me. Of course, I want to talk. But I am a bit curious about you."
"Likewise," I said. "All right, I'll take the initiative; first of all, please tell me why you led me to this far-out place."
"As you know, this is an island, a large one. But there is no place on it where one may sit down and be private except here."
Noting a pleasant odor as she drew close to me, I said, "So you wish to be private."
"No other reason than that it is comfortable here and the only place to find a bench. I like this old bench; the wood is well-aged and has a beautiful patina of moss. Besides, don't you like being private while we talk?"
"You seem to know a lot about this island--you're not a newcomer as I am. Have you lived here a long time?"
"I can't remember when or how I got here. You ask if I have a family." She was silent, seemed lost in thought. Suddenly turning to me, she continued. "Where you've come from do people have things like children, a home where others live, a family or something?"
For awhile I just sat there, studying her features, at a loss for anything to say.
Interrupting my wonderment, she said, "Is there anything wrong? Have I said something disturbing to you? But really believe me, I'm quite curious about why you are here and how you came to this island. And I'm very interested in knowing where you've come from. Do you think you can tell me about it?"
"Yes, of course; I can tell you all about it. But please tell me how you came to be called Sarah. It is a lovely name; it is the name of the wife of Abraham, an ancient Hebrew father. Their son was Isaac, who became one of the Patriarchs. I am not Hebrew, although my paternal grandmother was descended from a Sephardic family of Castile, Spain. But I am fascinated by the histories of all ancient people. I needn't go into that, so I shall tell you that in order to show you what it is like in that world from which I came I shall need to take you there. But before we can do that it shall be necessary to get out of this place, and I don't know how."
Her response was a surprise. As though instructing a science pupil, she calmly said, "Well, Sandy, I guess I shall have to tell you something about where you are. You are not here at all. Though you think the contrary. this is not a place, it is no place. You are not here at all. The problem is simple enough, because it really isn't a problem. This place is actually but a mirror of what is occupying your mind. In fact, this place is your mind. You once said, all is mind, did you not?"
When she paused to look at me, I said, "Are you telling me that I've thought up the whole thing and that all of this is merely something I imagined?"
She laughed. "Well, no, that is, not precisely. Of course, you remember that a chance chord intoned on your violin opened the wall so you could walk into this world. Well, we shall not need to go back there and get your violin. There is a far easier way. That violin was left back there in the other world--the other dimension--so we would need to resort to a difficult device."
When she was silent, I said, "Pray tell me or show me the easy way to get into that other dimension, as you put it. I must say, your information has me terribly puzzled. I might add, dear one, I find it surprising that you appear to know so much about science. I have always been interested in astronomy and physics. Recent theories concerning the universe, other worlds, multiple dimensions of time and space, have been an inspiration to me. So you'd like to slip into that world from which I came. It is a beautiful world, but I must warn you, this whimsical creature called Man, with his suicidal, anti-nature ideas and ambitions, has unwittingly begun to trample it to death." I looked solemnly into her face, wondering how she was going to get us into that messy world without some special key or device. "It has been a relief to get out of it," I said, "but you have me curious to see how you're going to get us back there. Now I have a key, if you need it. There's one thing though. It may seem humorous to you, but we can't go back there like this--I mean as we are. In that world everyone, except in some primitive tribes, is expected to wear something to cover their bodies--especially the parts of the body showing sexual attributes. I think--"
I was interrupted by Sarah's laughter. "Sandy, do you mean to sit there and tell me that every living thing in that world must go about wearing those untidy, unsanitary things?"
"Well," I said, "not every living thing. There are many living things in that world. Most living things there are not human. They are called plants and animals. Yes, admittedly, it is a bit odd, but only humans are obliged to go about dressed in something--regardless of environmental or weather conditions." I was silent for a few moments, studying her classical features, which reminded me of the faces on the Greek sculptures I saw in museums. "So where do we go from here? I am very curious. Whatever, we shall need to get into some clothes. My friend Nadia and I left our garments on the shore of the lake when we followed Dahlia into the water. I think we had better go there and retrieve my clothes.
However, before we continue, perhaps we should inform ourselves of something. In that other world most scientists, even some who ought to know better--as though it were a new religion--believe that because an astronomer named Edwin Hubble, basing his conclusion on the Doppler Effect, assumed that the entire universe is expanding, and is therefore moving away from some common center of origin. It is assumed that in order for this to happen something very powerful had to occur--such as an immense explosion which has come to be called The Big Bang. This, of course, suggests that Mr. Hubble is a kind of prophet who has ushered into the world a wonderful new religion about how the universe began. As it is with the origin of most religions, I find it hard to accept the Big-Bang theory. Then, of course, there is the mathematical concept of multiple dimensions of space and time, which if proven valid would clearly debunk the Big-Bang theory.
Anyway, dear one, to side-track all this mathematical stuff, where do we go from here? Fact is, I'd like to see and know a little more about this place--which, as I recall, you infer is not a place at all, and is something entirely created by the mind. So, dear Sarah, if it doesn't really exist, why and how do we, you and I, happen to be here? Humorously, it begins to seem more and more like Lewis Carroll's wonderland. Indeed, it begins to suggest that we--even we here--do not exist and are purely a figment of the imagination--and if so, whose imagination?"
When I found that Sarah had gone down the pathway whence we had reached the place, I saw her, nearly out of sight beyond some outcropping branches. Oh well, the thing to do was to get up and follow.
"Sandy, please don't be offended. I thought you might like to see more of this interesting world."
"Well, I was a bit surprised, but yes, of course, I'd like to have a good look at it before going back. I'd like to meet your family, relatives, maybe your friends." Pausing for a moment, I said, "You know, Sarah, you really have me mystified. Here you are, calling this an 'interesting world' and a moment ago you clearly said that this is no place at all. Tell me, if this is not a place how can it be a world?"
"All right, Sandy," she replied. "Firstly, we need to 'think different.' Remember, Einstein said that, didn't he. Let us say there is a difference between a place and a world. A world may be just about anything; a place may be any place. A place is some undefined location in space and time; a location in time and space may be a world. So for convenience we say there is a location in that world we call a place. Now let us assume that we exist in that time and space which is a world, and that where we happen to exist is a place in a world. Why do we exist? Let us not trouble to answer, because there isn't an answer. You may argue that statement if you wish, but in the end you won't find the answer. Therefore, we need not bother. We wish to return to a world that, for all we know, doesn't exist. So the only way to know whether it exists is to go there and find out."
The clothes Nadia and I had left on the ground were still there. Leaving them, we flew to the mainland, past the shore well beyond the lake. We came to a place where there were several people--all of them nude. They seemed unaware of us and were occupied in activity, appearing to be making things, but I couldn't see what those things might be. Deciding not to ask questions, I followed Sarah to another group of people, some of whom greeted us, happily embracing Sarah who introduced me, explaining that I was from the "other side of the sky." I shortly learned that some of them had gone there and had returned, sadly saying it was "a place not fit for man nor beast."
I had to laugh at their disparaging comments about the world I had known, but I was having a hard time making sense of their world. I had yet to believe that there could ever exist a world in which everyone simply wandered around stark naked, appearing to do nothing but enjoy the environment and each other.
Paradise? Maybe this is what is meant by being alive in a totally free arboreal kingdom, living free and uninhibited in a world where violence, disease, jealousy and hatred are unknown; where poverty, crime and personal wretchedness have never existed; where sexual pleasure and gentle demeanor is a way of life. Some persons might find such a world intolerably dull, boring and unexciting. Certainly, in the world I knew and to which we might soon return, nothing like this can exist and has never existed. Indeed, it seems that mankind is bent upon ensuring that such a world may never happen. In fact, I realized that mankind seems bent upon ensuring that eventually there might not be any world at all.

I was startled when out of the milieu emerged a large cat resembling a tiger which slowly ambled over to Sarah and stood rubbing its furry body against her legs. She reached to caress its head as it looked up to her face purring loudly.
"This is Nanger, Sandy. Oh don't be alarmed, he's far better mannered than the cats you've known."
"But what does he eat, Sarah? Similer beasts I've known are dangerous carnivores and are apt to eat just about anything of flesh and blood--including people."
This comment evoked more chuckles from Sarah. "Well, Sandy, I guess we need to have a talk all right. Here, let's find a good place to sit down."
We entered a copse of trees which I assumed were cedars. The moss here was unusually soft and dense, inviting us to sit comfortably. Sarah lay back, smiling at me.
"Sandy," she said, "I think I knew you were going to have a hard time getting used to this world. Of course, if you ever wish to remain here, you will discover much more than this brief exposure can possibly show you. Please believe me--there is so much here to delight and invigorate body and spirit. I must say this, you are in a world where nature is dominant. All here is clean and beautiful. You may have noticed the total absence of artifice and machinery. That sort of thing is so lost in a distant past that any record of its existence
has faded away and is unknown. In this world there is no rot nor decay, no pollution, no ugly sound...nor is there anything such as a gun or a show of militance. In this world there is no need of defense because there is no offence, nor is there anything like obstinance or prejudice. Oh, Sandy, be assured that there is plenty to excite and delight the senses. What say you, dear one? Here, bend down close and kiss me--let your hands feel the femaleness of me. But if you are impatient or reluctant, let us go now to that world you've known beyond the sky--a very brief journey and we are there. Are you ready?"
"Yes, Sarah, I am ready--but there is something that I've almost forgotten since it is so little noticed. Why do we never feel the need for any kind of sustenence. I recall that when Nadia and I first came here we wondered why there seemed no place to get a drink of water, no place to find food such as a market or restaurant. There were those Lilliputian people who tended the hearts of flowers and flew to disappear at the tops of huge stone towers. Were those creatures gathering something from the flowers and taking it to a place inside those towers? If so, what was it?"
"Yep, Sandy. You are quite right. Those tiny beings were gathering stuff from the flowers that is used for making food."
"Food?" I said, a bit exasperated. "Food for what--food for whom. Oh yes, food for the Lilliputians, of course."
"You are right again, Sandy. The Lilliputians inside
those towers prepare a special food for themselves; but they also fix something more substantial." Smiling warmly, she paused for a moment, looking into my face observing my annoyance. "Oh, Sandy, don't look so cross. As I've said, I knew you were having a hard time getting used to matters, but stop being so disturbed. Really, I have reason to believe this is a far better world than the one you've come from. And don't think I'm putting you on. Now listen carefully: Those tiny beings are busy doing more than gathering stuff from the flowers and taking it to some place inside the towers...they are making food for us."
"Okay, Sarah, you have me there. But please tell me what that food is and where I find it. Oddly, I haven't felt hungry, but I'm certain to need something, some kind of sustenance to keep the old body going--especially if you are expecting me to get excited about sex. Oh, and while we're discussing food, what about something to drink--lake water or something, or do the Lilliputians supply something better?"
"Laughing happily, Sarah got up, saying, "All right, Sandy, so much for this idle talk. Yes, of course, there is excellent food and drink, but now we have something more important to take care of. Come on, let's get going."

She turned and walked down the trail. For awhile I had to stay behind, trying to focus my wits. Much as I was enjoying Sarah, I had trouble understanding what seemed her impulsive behavior, the way she had of telling me something that seemed odd to me and not bothering to explain. Probably,
there wasn't time. Maybe she was eager to go ahead with the journey back to my world. For a moment the situation seemed funny. I could recall instances in the life I had known, where it was typical for a woman to be like Sarah--a little whimsical at times, even mysterious, as though she had something that was all hers, something most men could never comprehend. Chuckling quietly, I got up and followed her, feeling confident that she knew exactly what she was doing.
Watching Sarah as she moved along ahead of me on the narrow trail, was a special pleasure. I had already concluded that the people of this world were, physically at least, far superior to any I had known. I thought of Sarah's response to the amazement I felt concerning her world's simplicity of life when she referred to a time "so lost in a distant past that any record of its existance has faded away." As in the process of evolution because they are no longer useful, certain organs or parts of them are lost or discarded, here, life has learned to live without the complications of machinery and the myriad gadgetries of commerce. Perhaps science has also developed means of controlling weather and biology--even controlling the planet's movement. But there is so much in this world that remains deep in mystery and I felt the uselessness of pressing Sarah for the answers.

We had passed through the throngs of people who seemed forever in the midst of celebrating the beauty of life and the environment, and now stood at the far side of the lake where I picked up my clothes and dressed. I felt it was nonsense to ask Sarah how she was able to find the elegant gown and shoes she wore. Of course, there were no shops where such things might be had. The remarkable absence of anything remotely suggesting the use of metal or mechanical devices had been a constant source of amazement. In fact, business, commerce, the importance and value of money, government and the affairs of state, were things totally unknown.

Glancing at Nadia's clothes, I correctly assumed that they were to be kept on the ground where she had tossed them. I thought about Nadia. Would she wish to return with us? Sarah looked appraisingly at me. "Sandy, aside from your physical improvement, you appear to be very much the person who first walked into this realm. I suppose you are wondering what comes next--right? And I bet you think we are going somewhere to step into a complicated machine which is to whisk us into your old world. Well, Sandy dear, you ought to know by now that in this world any sort of mechanical thing--or some weird elctronic monstrosity--is not only unneeded but despised."
"All right, dear lady," I said, careful not to show any sign of impatience, "please tell me what magical event is going to happen. By now, I am convinced that just about anything is possible in this world." I turned to study her for a moment, wondering if there was any use saying anything more. But my curiosity won out. "Sarah, please tell me why you seem so determined to go with me back to the troubled world from which Nadia and I came. You've already learned from the few who have gone there that, although it is a beautiful planet, it is badly disturbed by the people who live there."
"Ah yes, here we go again. Sandy, I have found it hard to believe that it really is such a terrible place. If as you say it is a beautiful planet, that it is the people who are spoiling it, there must be a few of those people who struggle to save it. So I wish to see for myself how really bad it is." She stared at me for a moment. "Sandy, do you suppose I might think of something to stop the damage, awaken the people?"
I had to laugh. "Sarah, there are more than six billion people, most of whom don't even know what's happening. Some have tried hard to stop the trend toward disaster and have given up, contenting themselves with writing and other arts. But I feel good about your desire to go back there with me. It should be an interesting experience. So what do we now?"
What happened next had a strong flavor of seances and necromancy. If she hadn't seemed so sincere I might have refused to continue.
"Sandy," she said, "we shall need no key, we won't even need the sonic device you chanced to create when you removed the violin from its case, but you must carefully follow my instructions. Now remember exactly what you were doing and what you were thinking before you removed the violin from its case; concentrate on the memory itself, eliminating everything else from your mind."
Though it had seemed absurd that I could have perfect recall of everything I thought and did when Nadia and I stood before that door, the violin still in its case at my feet, following Sarah's instructions was simple enough. But I felt certain it was impossible to so easily accomplish such a momentous move into my old world. We were standing in the little glade where we had dressed for the event when suddenly the colorful light dimmed to darkness--the darkness I knew was the darkness of the ancient corridor. There we were, Sarah and I, standing before the stone door, the violin case at my feet. Incredible though it seemed, we were there. Surely, the whole thing was a magician's trick! In disbelief, I turned to see Sarah's smiling face, appearing so debonair as though we had gone for a short drive in the country and had ventured into a tunnel just for the fun of it. "Well, Sandy, we have arrived. The rest is up to you. Where do we go from here?"
For some time I could only stand there studying Sarah's blithe and lovely face. I thought of witchery and the bizarre spells that are cast upon one by unreal simulachra who enjoy trickery and mystical behavior. Was I indeed now a hapless victim of a witch's unholy craft? Was this uncannily beautiful woman real, perhaps a creation of some yet undiscovered force in the physics of space and time? If so, why am I now made part of this weird twist of destiny? Why me?
"All right, Sandy, what's come over you? You've been staring at me as though I don't exist, as though I am a ghost or something. Please come down to earth; I'm quite real, dear one. Here, come over to me--get close, I'd like a kiss."
A kiss indeed! But why not? At that moment everything was so magically wonderful, so why not respond to this enchanting woman--simulachrum or whatever? After all, she might be the real thing, an exquisite woman of flesh and blood who knew the pleasures of sex as though it were a divine feast!
It wasn't any ordinary kiss, it was a warm embrace such as Eros and Psyche knew when at last they found each other. Surely, a mere medical doctor had come to terms with the profoundness of love. There was no escape, there was no need for escape because this was a kind of freedom known only to the Dreamers Who Take Flight In The Gardens of Aphrodite. Where had Cronos gone? Time was an idiot's design, a design to foil the unwary. Reality? Yes, there was reality, but it was reality of bliss turned to ecstasy--turned to the substance and feel of the Eternal Woman! It may have been hours, days, years. I had no reckoning, needed no reckoning.

We were still standing before the wall. I picked up the violin case, turned to Sarah for a moment and we walked down the corridor out into the sunlight of the ancient garden. I glanced at my wristwatch, noting the time. It was exactly two forty-six P.M. the same time it had been the day Nadia and I stood before the stone wall moments before we opened the violin case. Oddly, I was not surprised to learn that it was the same date, the same year. We walked down the ancient stairway, out into the village. Shortly later we were standing before the door to the old church rectory.
"Well, that was a fast trip, doctor," said Father Ryan as he escorted us to his favorite sitting room. "Although you were gone so briefly, I'm sure we have a little something to talk about." He studied Sarah for a moment. "Now what will you have? May I serve you some wine? I have something from one of the old estates in Northern France, a fine Chateau vintage."
"Father, forgive us, we don't need anything," I apologized. "Just being here is quite enough. You see, Father. we've come from a place where life is alive." Observing Father Ryan's puzzled expression, I added: "In that place, Father, life is fully alive and needs no booster shot. But please allow me to introduce Sarah. It might delight you to know that it is because of her that we are here. I guess it's because she knew the way. Believe me, Father, I might never have found the way, nor be here without her help."
I silently watched Father Ryan as he stared for a moment at Sarah. "Oh, Father, it is all right. Sarah is not a witch...nor is she one of those weird characters who sometimes haunt a person's house. Oh, in case you're wondering, Nadia decided to stay in the garden--I mean, the place on the other side. In that world they call this world where you live and where I once lived, 'The Dark Side'" I smiled at Father Ryan. I was sure he thought I had gone nuts or something. "Yes, Father, I suppose you could say everything has two sides--even the world, maybe even the sky. I think there are many folks who have two sides--maybe many sides. Didn't Voltaire once say something like that?"
"Doctor Legassek," said the Father, looking inquisitively at Sarah who had remained silently smiling at him, "so this is the sort of thinking you found up there in the old Monastery. Hardly a wonder the monks left the place! But please, doctor, I should like a moment with Miss Sarah." He turned to look analytically at Sarah. "Please forgive if I seem a little puzzled, but can you tell me how you came to be living in the Monastery? Far as we knew there had never been anyone there for many years. In fact, the monks were there because the building had apparently been abandoned long ago and so they were there to carry on their various labors and objectives--some of it being the translating of ancient Greek, Latin and Oriental literature."
"Oh Father, I certainly don't blame you for being puzzled," Sarah replied. "But first I must tell you that I have never lived in the Monastery. In fact, I have never lived anywhere; and please don't be startled when I tell you that I don't even exist--that indeed, you, dear Father, do not exist. And don't be alarmed when I say that your whole world, including your universe, doesn't exist." She paused, still smiling as she saw the Father's disturbed expression. "Now, Father Ryan, I am quite aware of what people in your world say about anyone who talks like this. They say that he is either joking or gone--as they say--off his rockers. They might also think that this kind of talk is unreligious, irreverent and pessimistic. However, if you will bear with me, I shall attempt to explain." Sarah turned to me as she continued, "And this goes for you too, doctor. Now, you must both take a moment to look at this thing you call Time, which appears so important to your way of thinking.
"First of all, let us think that anything real, anything that exists must be permanent--that is, must never come to an end and cease to be. This means. of course, that anything that ceases to be doesn't exist. You may think that if you see it and that it feels solid, it must exist. But if it is not permanent it can also cease to exist. So, logic tells us that if it can cease to exist and is temporary it cannot be permanent and if it isn't permanent it does not really exist."
Sarah was silent, leaning back in her chair, smiling calmly while looking at our expressions. The Father, of course, appeared a little upset. I couldn't blame him. This disarmingly lovely young woman was sitting there blithely turning the whole world upside down, telling us that it was all unreal and phony--that what the entire world thinks is so real is nothing but a flimsy dream, a figment of the imagination.
"But Sarah dear, surely you must be joking," I said. "Now, here we are, having come back to the world where I lived for so many years, and have come to visit my good friend, Father Ryan; can you, dear one, sit there and tell us that we are not really here, that we don't exist--that even you don't exist?"
Sarah turned away from us, the smile fading. Closing her eyes, she said, "Being well acquainted with the ephemeral nature of ideas and such tools of the mind as theories, you ought to be able to look questioningly at everything that comes to be considered a fact. We find it hard to deny that you and I are really here in this rectory--which we might call a fact. We know, however, that our position in space and time is transitory. We have faith that the concepts of God and the heavens, the great ideals and convictions of the immortal soul shall be ours forever. We know, however, that Soon, Father Ryan will be back tending his parish, administering gentle admonition to those who are troubled and unhappy, conveying benediction on the dying and the dead. Then, eventually, say ten thousand years from now we, you and I, our graves or tombs, for all we know, may become memories. A few million earth-years from now, all of this may have changed into something unknown and alien. Ultimately, in the billions of earth-years to come, the planet earth and the entire solar system of which it is a minuscule part, may be a mere cloud of ionized vapor. These are not facts, of course. All that I have said is a ball of uncertainty and philosophical twaddle. But are we strong enough to face the possibility that all that we think is viable, dependable and secure, may eventually come to an end--gradually or suddenly and violently? We refuse to think this way. We remain positive and optimistic. The world and all that is in it is ours to enjoy and use creatively. We believe that love is endurable. We hold that all is dear and worthy--and permanent. So we believe and have faith, but can we be sure of anything?"
I noticed that Father Ryan just sat quietly, staring incredulously at Sarah. Some of what Sarah said he had heard in various forms and ways. But nothing had ever altered his conviction that God, who has come to the world in the flesh and blood of Jesus of Nazareth, is real and benevolent and governs the universe. So here is this woman, Sarah, who, he is told, has come from another world, another world existing in another place in space and time, which is a world different from the one he knows. Is he therefore to believe that God has indeed created other worlds, other worlds than this one he, father Ryan, has known and loved?
Certain that it was a situation not to be taken lightly, I turned to Father Ryan who was still sitting as though caught in a storm he was hardly prepared for. "Father, please do not fret over this talk. It is true that something very remarkable happened to Nadia Carlin and me when we walked through that doorway and eventually stepped into a beautiful garden where I met my friend Sarah. Now she and I have come to visit you, and I am happy to be here. Most of what I might tell you is wonderful and a little strange, but let those matters rest while we enjoy being back here with you."
Father Ryan had been sitting, speechless, as though just awakening from a trance. It was as though he might have been frightened by something. He was rather pale and I was surprised to see his hand tremble as he reached to adjust his glasses. During the years I knew him, to see Father Ryan frightened by anything would have been an impossibility. He was a man of great spiritual strength, to be respected and admired; but most of all, he was a warm, loving comfort to everyone who knew him. However, at least in Father Ryan's presence, it was obvious that reference to alien worlds and people existing in an alien culture had to be minimized. Realizing the predicament I was in, to my relief, Sarah solved the problem.
"Father Ryan, please forgive me. Although it is true that doctor Legassek and I met in that garden, there is nothing so strange about it that ought to disturb you. It is true that our pleasures and needs are different from those of the people in this land, but don't think I fail to appreciate your offers to enjoy them. Unless you wish any further explanation, I shall say no more about it. However, I am eager to know and see all I can about this country and its people. Doctor Legassek will be my guide here, although I shall hope that you, Father, may inform me of matters concerning your life and beliefs."
I knew that the Father was having a hard time forgetting Sarah's brief description of another world and its people. It was a relief to see how quickly he regained composure and relaxation, saying that he would be glad to escort us into the gardens surrounding the church, the nave and adjacent rooms where beautiful sculptures in stone and wood were displayed. Sarah was also interested in being present at services. I studied her for a moment, wondering how much of this talk about God and Christianity she might accept and understand.

After we left Father Ryan and the environs of the church, I thought it of interest to visit the nearby cemetery. Sarah was particularly surprised to learn that this was a parklike place where people were put away in the ground after they had gone to sleep. She was puzzled by the strange inscriptions on stone slabs and images that were placed in orderly positions on each bit of ground. But it astonished her to learn that the people were to sleep so long.
"You mean to say that these people don't ever rise and go about their lives after resting? Why do they need so much sleep? Is it because they enjoy their dreams so much they don't want to waken? But why are they put down in the ground and covered up? I should imagine they'd get tired of lying there in the ground so long."
I was having a hard time not laughing as I tried to explain the epitaphs and why the sleepers were put down in the ground. In her world where I had stayed so brief a time I had learned that people hardly ever needed sleep. Of course, I had also realized that in that world, such biological needs as food, drink and sex were matters of sensual enjoyment, not necessities of life. Birth, illness and death were unknown. The population was limited in such a way that only a few newcomere were occasionally allowed to enter. This was a source of constant amazement to me. Why were Nadia and I ever permitted to enter? Was there something so special about us? I was also bemused by Dahlia's assurance that we might return at any time we wished.
Time? What about the time of every day? Time in the world I had known was a common means of measuring distance between events in space. What about the time of events in every day? In my world time was commonly measured by instruments called clocks. I had seen no clocks in Sarah's world. Was time unknown in her world? And what about other worlds? Surely there were other worlds than Sarah's? Was hers the way of life in the worlds everywhere in that universe?
There seemed no way to explain to Sarah the ordinary facts of life--pregnancy, birth of infants, childhood, schooling, adulthood, old age and death. In Sarah's world there was no disease, no old age, no decrepitude and no death. Moreover, the people were always in excellent physical condition. In fact, in Sarah's world people seemed to live forever. Was I missing something? Surely there was a limit of some kind to this longevity? I shall never forget Sarah's surprise when I told her that the people in the cemetery who lay in the ground were gone away in a condition called death, and that they would never be seen again.

At length, we left Father Ryan and the church. I found it interesting to note Sarah's fascination for the religious ceremonies, but I was especially delighted by her fondness for the Father, often hugging him and calling him her beloved friend.
I took her to many places in Europe, much of which she found exciting. I was surprised to see how much she enjoyed the nightlife in Paris. She was especially amazed by the the displays of art in the museums, the beautiful paintings of nudes and the sculpture of ancient Greece. I was astonished to learn that she had never known such music as was performed in the great symphony halls. I surmised that the music of her world were the sounds that were heard in nature's realm. She was delighted by the beauty and diversity in the natural parts of the land, but was horrified by all the noise and odor of the cities. She was even more horrified when it came to gotting into a car so I could drive to distant towns and parklands.
When it came time to cross the sea into the Western Hemisphere, it was amusing to observe her disbelief when she looked out upon the Atlantic Ocean. Obviously, she had never seen expanses of water greater than that of a lake, where it was always possible to see the opposite shore or an island.
"Sandy, is there any end to it? There doesn't appear to be any place to land. Are we really going out there?"
This time I had to laugh at the expression in her face of mingled wonder and fear. "Oh Sarah dear, look around you," I placated. "Do you see those big things called boats? They can swim anywhere on water. We will get on one of them and let it swim us far out across all that water and go to a different land where there are more people and more wonderful places. You will enjoy it. However, there is another way to go. We can fly if you prefer."
"Fly?" she said. "Oh yes! Let's fly. I think that would be much better. Come on, Sandy. You must tell me where to go."
I realized, of course, that she naively thought I meant to fly the same way we did in her world and before I could explain the difference, she leaped into the air, trying to fly. When she came back to the ground, landing on her feet, she looked curiously at me.
"Well, dear one," I said, "remember, we are in a different place. We can fly, of course, but we shall need to get into another big thing--another kind of boat. We shall drive over to what is called the airport."

Sarah seemed a little troubled by the sight and noise of the huge jet planes with their big wings. As we descended the ramp and she saw people ahead moving into the plane's belly she wanted to turn back. Persons behind us objected to the intrusion; so I explained that all would be well once we got into the plane and were comfortably seated. When a few minutes later the great plane began its swiftly increasing motion and rose into the air she was surprised to look upon the land below as it began to fade into the distance.

The New York airport was its usual noisy and busy place and Sarah grew increasingly disgusted with all the bad odor and hubbub as we walked out amongst the crowds and got into a taxi. We hadn't gone far, less than a mile through the labyrinth of buildings, the scrambling traffic and blaring noises when Sarah calmly asked that we not go any further. She insisted that we leave.
"What is this horrid place? Please take me out of it," she pleaded. "There must be better places in this world?"
She spoke without any sign of bitterness, but I realized that New York was perhaps the least natural place I could have taken her, I directed the driver to take us northward into the mountains and forests--anywhere away from the city.
"Sorry, lady, I don't go to places away from town. Any place in town you'd like?"
Exasperated, I said, "Back to the airport, O.K.?"
Enroute, I thought of some of the wilderness areas I knew of. There were not many left that were entirely natural--unless we got out and roughed it. But I wanted Sarah to know that there were a few cities where the environment might be pleasing to her. I thought I'd try San Francisco.
Leaving the San Francisco airport, I took her to the Museum of Modern Art. Commenting that she had seen better things in Europe, I took her to the De Young Museum. She obviously preferred anything that suggested the appearance of nature. Matters dealing with conflict, suffering, mental disease--conditions of human life removed from nature's beautiful and tranquil moods--were repugnant to her. But she liked San Francisco. She commented that it was like Paris--only much smaller. She also liked San Francisco Bay, adding that she'd like to go out in one of those boats with wings that moved so gracefully on the water.
I took Sarah to all the museums and art galleries I could think of. Not needing to sleep, drink, nor eat, we spent the nights in hotels where I introduced her to the television. Finding this of little interest to her, I thought it worthwhile to take her to libraries where we browsed through books and discussed the difference between her world and mine.
One day, after wandering around in Golden Gate Park, I took Sarah to the Japanese Tea Garden. We found a bench in a quiet place beside one of the many ponds where beautiful koi fish swam. I had to laugh at her comment that at least some of the inhabitants of this world emphasized the importance and beauty of nature.
"Well, Sandy, you've probably shown me a very small part of this world. It is just as you had of my world--a brief glimpse. I am sure there are places I haven't seen that are wonderful. but it is an unsettled world in which mankind is nearly always having some sort of trouble--mostly with itself. I think, although I'd like to stay longer perhaps form a more solid opinion, I'm feeling the need to get back. Really, Sandy, this place gives me the chills. Doubtlessly, I shall want to return to this world, but for now--please forgive me if--"
"Oh Sarah, no need to apologize. Actually, when you asked to come here and see for yourself, I knew you'd not like it very well and would wish to return to your wonderland. Of course, I shall return with you. Before we leave though, I think we ought to have at least a brief visit with Father Ryan. Also, there are a few questions that heve been nagging me. For one thing, how is it that you and I remain as we were in your world, needing no rest, food nor drink? You may have noticed that everyone here not only needs these things but without them will grow weak, collapse from fatigue or even die. Perhaps you've also noticed the very young and smaller individuals called children. In this world a man, whose body includes the same organ meant in your world for pleasure, is here not only for pleasure but is also the instrument for inducing pregnancy in a woman who in a few months brings forth an infant who in turn grows to be an adult individual such as you and I. I should think that although the people in your world do not need these things, surely I, who was born in this world, would need them and could not carry on with you as though immortal. Immortal? Ah yes, this is the question: is everyone who exists in your world immortal--or have I actually imagined or dreamed the whole thing?"
"Dreamed? Ah, Sandy, so you question your senses! This is a characteristic of the people in your old world. Anything so wonderful as what you've discovered in my world is incredible to these people--and even to you! As for being immortal, if you insist that the universe and everything in it, at some moment billions of earthyears ago, began with a big bang, you are probably going to insist that time also began with a big bang--the time of day, the time of the year, the time of the millenium, the time of life. If you say that everything has a beginning and an end, of course, you also think life has a beginning and an end, which suggests that anything living in this world cannot be immortal and is doomed to live a brief life, grow old and feeble, then die. Logic, however, informs that such a beginning and end is a theory which can be proved incorrect. So, as your philosopher Plato claimed, immortality is possible and real."
"All right, Sarah, your comment about the Big Bang Theory reminds me that I have a problem with it. I've been wondering about time, which apparently began with the big bang. If the world should end, does time also end? What about before the world began? What about before the big bang? If the universe, which so many think began with the big bang, should end, does this indicate that time must also end? And what about this thing called Time? If I recall correctly, a mathematician bearing the name Minkowsky came up with a beguiling phrase he called 'the space-time continuum.' Does this not infer that space and time are related and are one and the same thing? And what about your life and mIne? Are we really different from the people who appear to live in this world? And what about this world? Does this world really exist?"
Once again, she laughed--as well she should. Apparently, I naively asked the unanswerable. "I think you know how I feel about time and space, the Big Bang and the beginning and end of everything. And I agree that we ought to have a visit with the Father. Hardly correct etiquette for a guest to take leave without offering apology and gratuity to the host. Shall we go now without further ado? If I understand correctly, we shall need to traverse that large lake out there. Is it all right if we go aboard one of those large boats?"
I'll never forget that trip across the Atlantic. Sarah greatly enjoyed the ship and its rhythmic motion as we sailed to Europe, saying it was more fun than flying. We landed in London, England, where we visited the Britich Museum and its rich collection of Greek sculpture.
"Those people certainly appreciated the body, Sandy. You say these fine bodies were carved in stone? In my world this sort of thing was done at a point in history so long ago that the ones who did the work are long forgotten and unknown. You may have noticed some of that work in the big room when you entered. Remember, in my world there is nothing made of metal of any kind. Of course, you may have also noticed that everyone lives a life of complete nudity. Since those ancient years, the people now live in such controlled weather conditions they don't need to wear protective garments. Moreover, each individual's physiology is so altered that the body is close to perfection and is nearly immortal. There's more to tell about this matter of perfection, and why the concept of morals and sexual behavior is meaningless in this world. But for now, we have things to do."

Back in Italy, we walked into the well-tended churchyard during a rainy late afternoon in March. Father Ryan had expected us and came out in the drenching rain, happily throwing his arms around Sarah. "You must forgive me, dear ones," he said. "It is an old man's joy to see you both again! Sorry the weather is so lousy."
"No need to apologize for the weather, Father," said Sarah. "We've seen some of the worst while wandering through this world--and I must say, I rather enjoyed it. As you know, we don't have excitement like this in my world. But don't get the idea my world is ever dull. There's far more in that world to titillate the senses than I dare tell!"

And so it was. We had an enjoyable sojourn with Father Ryan and a bit of wayfaring around the town. We made a trek into the Monastery to visit Robert now turned monk. He wasn't alone--a small group of others had joined him. At last, we stood in the old, now well-tended garden where I began this journey into Sarah's realm. We sat on the same bench where I had meditated on the strangeness of the corridor with its whimsical twists and turns.
"I've sometimes wondered about Nadia, Sarah. I guess you know if it hadn't been for her wish to investigate the Monastery and the sudden departure of the monks, she might have never joined me in my effort to solve the mystery. Then, if it hadn't been for her wise decision to use my violin, thinking perhaps some musical sound might open a door through what seemed an impenetrable granite wall, we might have eventually given up the search."
"What say we go now to that same wall" said Sarah, "and walk back into my country. I bet you'll like to do it this way. Then, of course, I'd sure enjoy seeing those sculptures created in my world so long ago! Maybe I could figure out why they were done and why they were put in that hall. Shall we go now?"
I had wondered about my violin but had forgotten that it was left in the corridor when Nadia and I entered the vestibule. It was still there, exactly as I had left it lying in its open case on the stone floor just outside the wall. But when I reached to pick it up Sarah gently informed me that it couldn't be taken with me. This also happened when I thought to take with me the old monk's journal. When I stared at her and asked why, Sarah explained that nothing of this world could remain material once we had passed through the vestibule and stepped into the great hall. "Don't be disappointed," she said, "you'll soon know why. Really, Sandy, there is nothing to fret about. You'll find that all this sort of thing has no meaning in the other world."
No meaning? Is it because everything in the other world exists in another dimension in time and space, maybe a different wave-length? At the moment, there was no point in understanding it. As I stood there, quietly gazing at the granite wall, I felt Sarah's hand gently turning my head to face her.
"Doctor Sandor Legassek, you are no longer part of that world you've left. You are now a man of my world, the world you are going to love and enjoy forever. Yes, Sandy, you've guessed it--time is forever ours. The difference between this world and the other, is simply a matter of perfection, where all is mind. Come now, put your arms around me, hold me close --kiss me. Now, look at yourself, look around you--where are we?"
Somehow, although I felt nothing, no physical change during the transition, I wasn't surprised to see that we were no longer in that same place before the wall, and, as though by a conjurer's trick, we were comfortably nude. We stood on a trail leading into a wild tanglewood where many birds sang and frolicked.
"Sandy, although you remain the same Doctor Legassek, your physiology is sensually enhanced. Observe that you feel more keenly alive in all your senses. You are more aware of everything you see, touch, smell and hear, as though you are an artist whose objective is the awareness and realization of beauty. Even the familiar qualities of your flesh, bone, blood and brain are enhanced, stronger, almost perfect, almost perfect because you exist in a totally different electromagnetic environment."
"Sarah, this sort of talk has all the earmarks of the balderdash a person might hear at a circus sideshow. I am a medical doctor who has studied all the faults and all the good things about the animal body. However, despite the fact that what you've said, in the ordinary sense, is sheer nonsenee, I am tempted to believe everything you say. I can't deny that I feel almost perfect. But, although I am no longer the frail, vulnerable thing of flesh and blood, typical of all who are born in that world from which we've just come, what are you going to--what am I going to do about it? And what about me? A moment ago you stated that nothing from my old world can remain material if carried into your world."
I hadn't been watching her. When I turned to see how she might be reacting to what I said, she was sitting erect, smiling indulgently at me as though I might be a foolish child.
"All right, Sarah dear, so you think me a naive pupil who doesn't get the message. You forgive me, of course, because you know that I've lived more than thirty years in a world where there is little awareness of the true meaning of life and where all living things must exist so briefly that it is hardly a wonder they learn little more than the means of survival. You forgive me because you know that during that brief existence the body and brain we are born with are faulty devices which compel us to carry on a constant, desperate scramble for the realization of false ideas and objectives--ideas and objectives which are false because the social structure in which most of us carry on our lives is composed of millions of faulty men and women. But you also know that a few of us manage to keep alive those worthy ideals which, though they are scarcely known and recognized by the populace, are the elements in our lives which make all the struggle worthwhile. So I ask, now that we have reached a life in your world which is ideal and seems perfect, what are we to do? Should any of us return to the life we've left behind and try to enlighten the others in a way that should make life more wonderful, might it not turn out the same as it has been since the beginning?"
I was silent for awhile, waiting for her response, my last question dangling in the mind. So, I had at last found the beguiling world where there is nothing to vex mind and soul. I had ventured into that world, savored its sweetness, its seeming perfection--that world where everything I thought I needed and desired was within reach and totally free, that world where there is no hatred, jealousy, bitterness nor hostility. But was that world really so perfect and wonderful?
I sat quietly studying her for a moment. Something unpleasant and repulsive had slithered into my brain, something about a subject that in my old world I often tried to deny really existed, something about morals and Christian ethics. I had not thought much about it when wandering through Sarah's proud, uninhibited world. I was almost certain how she would respond, if I were to mention it. I felt compelled to mention it, the question had begun to annoy me.
"Sarah," I began, "In your world such a thing as moral conduct, especially that dealing with sex and nudity of the human body, doesn't have meaning. But in my world, except for weather, geographical conditions and matters of morality, with the exception of some primitive tribes, the human body, particularly those parts dealing with sex, is kept strictly clothed. In fact, some religions teach that the human body is evil, not to be enjoyed and must be mortified. I recall that you were amused when you were told that in that old world of mine, nearly everyone went about wearing clothes of some kind. How do you feel about this?"
"Merely a matter of choice. But I believe I heard it said, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do.' Looks like this is something for you to ponder. Surely, I can't tell you what to do about it."

Then, one day I awakened as from a strange and mysterious dream. It was as though while strolling in a garden I had lost a valued possession. Something important was missing. Where in this world that seems so perfect is that most importamt possession--where is love? With that awakening I was painfully aware that in this magnificent world there is nothing to make possible the thing called love--as I knew it. In fact, I realized that in this world there is no love that is personal --the secure love that intimately blossoms between two human beings and does not flikker away into another pleasure. To this beautiful Sarah and to the millions of othere like her, this world is ideal and perfect. Once again, was I missing something--or was there something missing that I needed?
I remembered the valiant efforts of many well-meaning philosophers, the clear, forceful words of the Hebrew Scriptures, the admonitions of the teachers, the beautifully composed sermons delivered to quietly listening congregations --all seemingly having little effect. In my world mankind stumbles and bungles along on a journey to an undetermined destination. It appeared to me that I might need to journey back into that whimsical world from which I had thought to escape. Despite all its fautless beauty and grace, I might need to leave Sarah"s happy world where love is wholesale, where love blossoms everywhere, and is equally shared by all.
However fine and beautiful her world seemed, I was aware that it was not what I most desired in life. To find the sort of love I wanted, it was clear I needed to return to the world I knew, with all its faults, its hatreds, jealousies and violence--seeking the wondrous, often misundertood state of being called love, the love that is intimate and personal. Even with its troublesome fits of misunderstanding and quarrels, I was convinced it was the love I wanted. I knew the effort to find it might be disappointing, but I also knew there could be no rest without it. The challenge was too great and wonderful to resist.

Aware that the move back to the old world would be more than a brief curiosity trip, I decided to ponder the situation for awhile. I wanted to see more of this strangely beautiful realm, perhaps to convince myself that in Sarah's world the kind of life I thought I needed could not be found, no matter where I looked. Sarah was a constant and affectionate companion, which made the search pleasant and enjoyable. She seemed to know what I was after, but had difficulty understanding why I was not happy with her kind of love--and the kind of life that is trouble-free and sensually gratifying. I was surprised to find that this lovely woman, living in her ideal world, was obviously troubled by my decision to leave. Was there something about me she really wanted, or was it a matter of pride? I knew that in her world there was so much more of beauty and ways of enjoying it than I might have ever dreamed. Did I really need to leave this beguiling world on the other side of the sky, with its vast and limitless garden? Of course, I was aware that the move need not be final--final, unless I should find something in my old world that I could not or ever wish to leave!
Then, came a moment when we had returned to the old bench where we once sat down to talk. Sarah put her arms around me, looking into my face with her affectionate smile. There was more in her expression than the usual affection. There was a look of sadness, the wistful look of a woman who could not bear the loss of the man she loved--a man who was being sent on a mission to another world perhaps never to return.
"But Sarah, I see in your lovely face a look of such sadness, even of despair. Why are you so troubled?"
"Well, Sandy, surely, you have noticed. Are not these things well known in that other world? Surely, you have noticed that I have grown quite fond of you?"
"Oh, Sarah dear, of course, I have noticed. But in that other world, my feelings for you would be far more than mere fondness. In fact, I'd be very much in love with you. The way it is though, is it not so that tomorrow, the next day or a year from now you'd be off with someone else?"
"Yes, Sandy, you are probably right about the fondness sort of thing. In this world love is everywhere, but is never in the same place very long. In this ideal world where everything we desire is so easily found, there is never any unsatisfied hunger for anything. Does this fact explain why in this world we don't need or want anything to last forever? Of course, I find it odd that in your old world where life is so brief, most people seem to want everything to last forever. Now, Sandy, here you are, wanting to return to a world where death and destruction are common and seem to be a way of life --to find a kind of love that often doesn't last a brief lifetime! Isn't this how it is, Sandy?"
"Sarah, I must admit, this is often how it is. But it is my opinion that in my world there are many persons who think they are in love but are hardly aware of the true depth and beauty of love. For them it is purely a physical matter, usually bependent upon sexual attraction, propagation and family, or the amount of money involved. Oh yes, there are exceptions. But It is so often apparent that so many of us have a silly way of misjudging the meaning of love when they call the act of sex 'making love.' It is obvious that sexual attraction is usually something on the order of a temporary pleasure trip. At the risk of seeming prudish, in my opinion, it is unacceptable for this sort if thing to be called love.

"So, even in the old world from which I came, many persons are hardly aware of the depth of mind and meaning of love and may live an entire life-time without realizing this. Perhaps in your 'ideal world' matters do not need to be complete or permanent and matters called spiritual do not appear to exist. Apparently, in your world the love I wish to find is not ever needed and is therefore not necessary for happiness. What say you, dear Sarah?"
There was still a look of sadness in her face as she spoke. "Sandy, in your old world I saw many things totally unknown in this world of mine. You think of my world as ideal, where life and the affairs of mankind are untroubled and seem perfect, and where this emotion, which in your world is called sadness, does not exist. So, why do I feel this way? Do I really feel this strange emotion you call sadness, or am I merely wondering why you, Sandy, are going to leave me?"
We were both silent for awhile, as though pondering a difficult question. Moments later, when I turned to look at her, Sarah sat quietly facing me. I was relieved to see the sadness gone. Had she thought of something that dispelled the sadness? Was she hoping I might change my mind and not leave? I could see that she had reached a decision. Perhaps she knew I was determined to return to my faulty world to find a love which, despite all the deplorable conditions of life and the frightful environment created by the dull-witted ones of my species, the love I sought was strong, beautiful and was made stronger because of my world's faultiness. She knew that as a doctor of medicine I had witnessed the deep sorrows spawned by disease, the suffering, the loneliness, the desperation and destitution existing somewhere every moment in my world. During her visit to my world Sarah had seen the sadness and hopelessness of a loved-one's death--all such things unknown in her world. I, Dr. Sandor Legassek, she knew, would return to such a hellish world to find the kind of love that was needed to ease the hopelessness of those who would live and suffer the sorrows that grew every year, every day and moment in that strange world. She knew of those glimpses through windows in the wall of ignorance and stupidity that barred all from perfection and happiness, glimpses only too brief, yet strong and beautiful enough to survive and prove that there could be paradise amid the terrors, the monstrous wastefulness of war and the viciousness of crime and deceit. Would he find such a love? He seemed to know that it was there, and she knew he was determined to find it. Sandy looked once more into Sarah's eyes. Did he find tears? Was there the sign he knew so well of sadness?
"Oh stop it, Sandy," she said. "I know you are going to leave. I must wonder why, of course, but I also know you may not find what you most need in this perfect world of mine on the other side of the sky. So go now, dear friend. But know that you may return if you wish--and I shall be here to welcome you. Remember, my kind of love will be here forever --as time is forever."
I wondered, is time really forever, or is it a dream?
One could hardly call it a journey. We think of a journey as something that takes time to travel. But for Sarah, as it was for me--although she stayed in her world--time doesn't exist and the return to my old world was immediate. I found myself standing at the door that had been a wall where Nadia and I had entered the magic world on the other side of the sky. I picked up the case containing my precioua violin and went out of the granite-carved corridor into the garden where I had begun my journey with Nadia. It was springtime, probably the month of May. The light wind was like a girl's caress as I sat there, looking around into the grand old world I could not leave.

I walked down the ancient stairway and entered the village where for a long while I just wandered around looking at things, curiously peering into the shops as though seeing them bor the first time. People passed by, hardly aware that I walked among them. They would certainly think me joking or maybe a little tetched if I were to tell them I had just arrived from paradise to once more join them in their troublesome little world searching for love. In their world didn't everyone want love? Did anyone in their world really know what they were looking for? Oh, yes, of course, they were looking for something like a pot of gold, maybe to win the jack pot in lotto or some other game where the stakes were high. That's it--in their world everyone wanted money. Everyone? Surely, someone out there might be looking for something different, something out of the ordinary--something like love?
I had never thought much about these things. Being in the medical profession had kept me busy tending to people's ailments. Did I know that some of their ailments were the peculiar creations of their minds? Would I tell them so? They'd simply think me a quack and look around for a better doctor. Did they need a psychologist? They'd probably be annoyed if I told them so. "Are you calling me a nut?" they'd say. Of course, some people might walk away, wondering about themeselves.

It was shortly before noon when I decided to visit Father Ryan. Passing the church I heard the sounds and music of the last morning service. I hadn't thought about the day being Sunday. The morning service was ending and people were emerging from the front and side exits. Some persons were busy counting their rosary beads and muttering prayers; a few I noticed saying their lines in Latin.
I suppose if you've spent what seems to you more than a year of your life in paradise you might think it odd that your friends and relatives who haven't been there are so surprised to see you back so soon. Though you have been away for what might seem a very long time, to them, you've hardly walked out the door, turned around and come back. Is this why time is forever to those who dwell in that realm on the other side of the sky? Or is this merely a characteristic of the space-time continuum--and not at all an anomaly that to us earthlings is something hard to grasp? Most of us who live in this world where logic is so important usually find such matters difficult to grasp.
Father Ryan was, of course, bemused to observe that I had been gone so briefly. "How is this, doctor, you are always gone so short a time? I gather you and Nadia still weren't able to get through that wall. Is this true? I should imagine you must be going to give it up. But might there be another way to discover what's beyond that wall? We are still wondering why the monks left, you know." He studied me for a moment, probably wondering why I made no attempt to explain.
"Well, anyway, I was about to have lunch. Please join me docter."
Platters of various cheeses, sour-dough bread and tureens of soup were brought in by two women who were volunteers from the neighborhood. I was amused to note how Father Ryan addresssed the two women--one of whom was a bit younger and quite attractive. Might the proximity of this beautiful young woman have aroused in him even an infinitesimal urge?
Sometimes, in spite of my awareness of rare variations in the endocrine system, I wondered how any man who was physically healthy and vigorous could maintain a life of celebacy through all the years of his life from youth to old age! In such a man the driving force of sex must arouse nearly uncontrollable desire. Surely, the intense spiritual devotion to a religious principle or entity must surmount such physiologic and hormonal forces which should normally result in an individual possessing an abnormal sex drive. I had a hard time accepting the conclusion that powerful spiritual forces alone were sufficient to maintain such a pure and celebate devotion to that religious principle. But in Father Ryan, along with others of his kind, I had found those rare qualities, which in another man might be absent or impossible to achieve. In this strength of character I was aware of a special beauty which to some of us might reveal the soul's actual likeness.

The mention of Nadia brought to mind the need to learn what had become of her since she disappeared amongst revellers in the other world.
"Father, you just referred to my friend Nadia. Surely, you recall that she accompanied me when I returned to continue the search for a way to get through the wall? Has she come back?"
The Father stared at me. I could see my question had disturbed him. "You mean, doctor, she hasn't accompanied you back? She's still in there trying to get through the wall? You must know, of course, that I was a little disappointed when she failed to come in with you. I'm sure Brother Robert would also like to see her."
This made me wonder what might have happened. Either Nadia was still in the other world or had returned and was eksewhere occupied with personal matters--which didn't seem likely. It was logical to conclude that Nadia had decided to remain in the other world. This, of course, made her disappearance hard to explain. It seemed to me that it was best to carry on as though all were well. But I had strong hopes that in a day or so Nadia would turn up and all would be well.

It was several weekw later when I knocked on the door at the rectory. I felt the need to rest a bit and visit with the Father. I had wandered around the town, made a couple of journeys to Europe and the Orient, during which I met some fine and beautiful people and a few interesting women, but there never seemed any reason to cultivate a relationship beyond casual acquaintance. Of course, I occasionally thought of Nadia and wondered if she might ever return. Convinced that she had thought it best to remain in the other world, I had nearly given up the hope of ever again seeing her. Enjoying Father Ryan's hospitality was good medicine for the spirit. This extraordinary man had a way of assuaging away any hint of woe and care. I felt fortunate to know him and made many trips to the rectory. I had set up a new office and resumed my medical practice. In fact, I had forgotten my quest for the ideal love and felt a measure of content settling into life with good old faulty earth. Then one day while browsing through some translations of ancient lore full of myths and legends of mythical entities and their lives, I stumbled upon the story of Endymion and the moon goddess, Selene. There was something in it that aroused my curiosity.
A few days later I hiked back to the old garden and sat for awhile on the bench reminiscing on the events that brought me back to the old world and the life I led since I had returned. I had come back to seek the kind of love I felt was more rewarding than the easy affection shared by everyone in the wonderful ideal world Nadia and I had found. It was a kind of life the people of that perfect world found satisfactory but which had left me needing the experience some of us in this old world call love.

So, here I was, back in the old world in which I was born, searching for that special experience called love. Though I had wandered far and near, thus far, I realized, I hadn't found it. I knew I hadn't looked very thoroughly, maybe needed to put more effort into the search. After all, the love I looked for was never easy to come by. Then, my idea about love probably differed from nearly eveyone else's, and, of course, it seemed to me that anyone who expected to receive such love would not only need to recognize it, but would certainly need to be worthy of it. What is it to be worthy? What is the meaning of love? In my opinion, love and worthiness appear almost synonymous. I think it's a matter of the spirit dominating the body but not denying the importance of the body containing the spirit.
The surge of curiosity that was prompted by an ancient Greek myth of the beautiful relationship between a young shepherd and a goddess had given me cause to hike back to the garden on the mountainside where once I had searched for keys to unknown doors in corridors somewhere in the depth of a monastery. But also I had suddenly an intense desire to find Nadia--even if it meant returning to the world on the other side of the sky. It had seemed logical to get back to the old garden where I might decide what I must do. Then, of course, it was Nadia, with her archeological acumen, who enabled us to penetrate the mysterious wall we had found and walk down into the enchanted island garden to discover the new world we both thought was so wonderful. I recalled that it was the chance sound of a chord on a violin that opened the way to a kind of vestibule. Would I need to use the same method? I had since then learned the way to move into the other world. Would it work now?

When shortly later I stood at the entrance to the vestibule, looking with wonder into the open vestibule where Nadia and I had found the journal once kept by a monk. I remembered that the interior had been shrouded in darkness, but was now beautifully lighted. As I stared, mystified and almost alarmed by the incredible scene within the vestibule, where seated comfortably, reading the journal's contents, my friend, Nadia Carlin, looked up from the page she'd been reading.
"Well, Sandy, I knew you'd come in here like this. Sorry, you're so astonished at finding me here. Surely, you knew though that it was bound to happen." She stood up and came close, smiling into my face. "You really wanted to see me again, didn't you. We're a little like two wayfarers who have lost their way in a magic labyrinth. During our wanderings have we maybe discovered we care a little for each other?"
At first I could only stand there looking silently at the journal and Nadia, wondering whether I might still be seated on the bench in the old garden and dreaming away the walk back into the monastery. Perhaps I dreamed that I had approached the stone door and was standing out there in the corridor, considering the attempt to reenter the enchanted realm on the other side of the sky. Maybe it had really worked and I had actually stepped back into the vestibule beyond the stone door and found Nadia.

"Well, for god’s sake, don't just stand there staring at me. Yes, look into my face, I'm talking to you, I'm Nadia--
and I'm damned glad to see you."
Her words, spoken clearly and with the warmth of someone closer to me than a mere friend, awakened me to the fact that I had effectively used the mental device given to Nadia and me and had actually moved back into the other world. The thing that puzzled me was the fact that it had been so simple. I was to wonder later if it could be possible for anyone of the billions out there to accomplish this? After all, the old world is full of people who'd enjoy living in a world where everything desirable is so easily had! Were Nadia and I, for some special reason which was denied everyone else, granted the almost magical means of teleporting ourselves into this wondrous world?

"All right," I said, "so I am actually here. You cannot blame me for being surprised--it has seemed so much like a vivid dream! But I'm convinced that it is really happening and that I am here with you. You don't know, of course, that I went into the old world because of something I had found missing in this world."
"Well, Sandy, I think I know what it was you were looking for."
"Could it be," I said, "you were out here looking for the same thing? So you think you know what it is. If by some coincidence you know what I wanted, I think we ought to quit playing the guessing game. Nadia, perhaps you know that I was needing something that is wonderful, but is almost as rare in the old world as it is absent in this one. So you think you know. But I'll bet you haven't had any better luck than I trying to find it."
Until that instant I hadn't noticed her irises were so dark--the deep blue that might be seen somewhere far down in the sea.
"Let's stop fooling around like a couple of youngsters and get to work," she said. "Do you have anywhere we can go to discover each other--maybe learn in depth what we are both after?"
"Sounds like we've opened another door, Nadia. What shall it be--we stay in this perfect world, or get back to our whimsical and troublesome old world? Maybe we have a few more things to learn."

The End


Jonathan Batchelor