Toxic Self-talk Cloaked in Objectivity

When I was 13 years old, Jack, the brother of my band’s bass player, told me about a book, “How To Be Your Own Best Friend.” Since then, I’ve known the importance of avoiding negative self-talk.

But knowing and doing are vastly different. I went ahead and indulged in “analytical” negative self-talk without realizing what I was doing. Now it’s an ingrained habit, and here’s how it all happened to me.

I pride myself in being objective and value it beyond almost everything else. This ingrained mindset came from my blessed atheist Dad and his constant intellectual influence. He was a medical doctor with Boards in 3 specialties, including pathology, the field I wound up in and finally quit, thank God.

Of course, objectivity is the only way to overcome your blind spots as you search for truth.

And while it may be humanly impossible to be truly objective, it’s a worthy goal, sort of like getting the perfect truth onto a patient’s surgical pathology report despite the fact that human error in the laboratory is known to be beyond eradication.

So with Dad’s influence on top of the influence of the fundamentalist Christian religion I joined at age 14, with all its “infallible” messages that I zealously devoured, learning how despicable and abhorrent it is to take any credit for the talents that God has given me, I did two things that, in retrospect, were psychologically, socially and professionally stupid.

  1. I developed a blind spot to my own negative self-talk by accidentally hiding my self-criticism behind a veil of false objectivity.
  2. I swallowed the evil notion that it’s uniquely displeasing to God if I should ever credit myself for anything good I’ve done or will ever do. Along with this came the concept that it’s pleasing to God if, at the end of each day, I searched for my “sins” and felt maximally guilty while begging in a pathetic inner voice for forgiveness for anything negative I had done that day. The perverted logic was: “the closer you get to God, the worse you’ll look in your own eyes.” Which meant that the guiltier I felt, the more God liked me. Sort of like the publican and the Pharisee in the temple? (Luke 18:10)

I swallowed the Guilt Cool Aid almost every night of my life for years, probably decades before I was able to see the absurdity of an intelligent, loving God wanting this kind of self-destructive prayer.

To be fair, it’s pretty obvious to me that the Christian fundamentalists I’ve known over the years have done a million times more good in the world than harm. Unfortunately, that’s the “baby” and most of the sacred doctrine that seems to produce the good deeds is the “bathwater,” at least as far as I can tell now.

So in a perfect world, we would look up to the glowing example of all the fundamentalist Christians that I’ve known, rather than despising them for their odd narrow-mindedness and essential hypocrisy that being human brings. And I think the often-mentioned crusades, used to put down Christianity historically, should instead remind us of the hundreds of millions more who were killed in the name of fundamentalist Marxism.

I guess rational thinking is required, no matter what belief system you choose.

And I’ll admit, there are arrogant people out there who have pathologically unrealistic self-confidence, a dogmatic, controlling attitude towards others, and an unshakable belief that they are always right about everything they think, say and do.

Such people would probably benefit from a dose of the fundamentalist Christian self-talk poison that I swallowed. It would be medicine to them and maybe bring some relief to the “little people” they steal from, abuse and kill.

But few of us (besides politicians and world bankers) are arrogant and dangerous to such a degree.

Most of us are more attuned to reality, more vulnerable to guilt, and could probably benefit by improving our self-talk or at least learning to recognize when it’s destroying us from the inside out.

If you’re half blind to this venom the way I am, the challenge is worth accepting. There’s much to be gained.

For instance, just this morning I heard my inner voice, the person I assume is me, saying that I’m lazy. It flew past me at first. I didn’t flinch or even notice it. But in a few moments, its echo caught my attention and I finally recognized it as negative rather than objective. I stopped my train of thought, backed up and ask myself if I would say such a thing to someone I loved and cared for, someone like my son or daughter.

Hell no, I wouldn’t! I love my suddenly adult kids unconditionally!

So I literally talked to my subconscious mind.

This is a little off the beaten path, but here’s an accurate and helpful glimpse of the human inner landscape as I see it…

The subconscious mind needs to be treated like a beloved dog or perhaps a domesticated dolphin. It needs simple logical explanations spoken in easy words with clear messages delivered with honest supportive emotion.

I apologized to my inner Labrador Retriever.

My subconscious mind is not an inner child, by the way. It’s been around the block with me, rejected by its peers at every job I’ve had, considered a failure by loved ones despite objective success, considered a weak pathologist by surgeons despite the fact that the opposite was objectively true, at least to the few pathologists who worked closely with me and could judge the quality of my work intelligently.

This morning I told my dog-like subconscious mind that it had done plenty of hard work all of its life.

I reviewed the evidence.

I pointed out several of the many people we’d helped together over the years when nobody else was willing to do the extra tedious work – the extra hours it takes to find one or two pre-malignant cells on a pap test where thousands of normal cells hide the rare villains and dozens of normal pap slides hide the few abnormal cases. The extra hours it takes to review other pathologists’ surgical slides for them, slowly and thoroughly, to search the literature to find better diagnostic accuracy, to search and find the missed positive lymph node or the focus of residual cancer that the faster pathologists tend to overlook again and again.

When you do this for pathologists who are also your bosses (as they’ve always been for me), they don’t necessarily appreciate your help or take a liking to you for saving their cookies. At an emotional level, they often seem to resent you. And they virtually never thank you for finding their mistakes.

It’s human. But diligence helps cancer patients survive, and it takes a non-lazy pathologist to stay at the scope and do this work when there’s no extra external compensation, only lonely hours away from home and a reputation for being slow.

After this unusual inner monologue, I felt better. A little stronger and more open to sharing the whole story with you.

I hope it helps you recognize the inappropriateness of “objective” inner criticism when it’s not really objective at all. And I hope that next time you catch yourself being cruel to your inner best friend, you’ll apologize in detail and really mean it.

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD

 

 


Fundamentalism in Science and Religion

The growth spurts of science come from dissent, doubt, and radical questioning of norms. These are the sunshine and water of science.

When your interpretation of evidence brings you to disagree with something that science has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, you are following in the footsteps of the greatest scientists in history: Einstein, Copernicus, Salk, Papanicolaou… the list grows every decade.

But when we agree vehemently with a scientific dogma that we haven’t studied, or can’t understand after studying, we’re following in the footsteps of the average American fundamentalist, whether “religious” or “scientific.”

And that distinction may need to be tentatively abandoned because “scientific materialism” is an untestable assumption that rules out God, free will, higher purpose and the reality of our own minds by decree, not by experimentation.

Dogmatic assumptions may rightfully dominate fundamentalist religions, but they shouldn’t dominate science the way they do.

The thing that fundamentalists of all types have in common is a belief that they possess a source of ultimate truth, whether old writings, a person with special insight, or an array of science journals dominated by group-think specialists. The assumptions behind their doctrine must be kept static, never doubted or questioned, because the sacred assumptions are facts that anyone with an ounce of wisdom or objectivity should be able to see.

To go against the known “truth,” or even to doubt it, is considered irrational and morally wrong, especially among modern scientific fundamentalists.

Many Christian fundamentalist groups have been arguing over sacred doctrines for so many centuries, they’ve come to see the irony of Christians continuing the vicious outrage of bygone generations. Many have found compassion for their competition, arguably the central theme of the religion…

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Scientists could learn from this. They could easily study the history of their craft and discover that most of the great scientific breakthroughs have been vigorously opposed by the establishment’s devotion to “known facts” which later turned out to be fiction.

Instead, scientific fundamentalists continue to cast aspersions upon the dissenter’s educational credentials, their sanity, mental acuity, motivation, and funding. But not so much upon the details or logical weaknesses of the infidel’s ideas.

It’s too much work to read and analyze something you “know” is wrong on the gist of it. It’s easier to laugh, ridicule, and poison the well of the pseudoscientific heretic. Easier to excommunicate her from the faith.

But think about it. In order for science to leap a great distance forward all at once, it must go beyond itself, which always means going into “pseudoscience” because gentler words such as “speculative theory” don’t express the moral outrage of fundamentalist gatekeepers.

An important example is the way these emotional authorities have responded to the Philosopher of Science, Stephen Meyer, Ph.D., in his detailed analysis of DNA and molecular biology, Signature in the Cell. Meyer’s analysis shows evidence of intelligent genetic coding and intelligent design at the level of molecular biology.

Wikipedia, our new self-appointed final authority in science and everything else, glibly labels Meyer’s work “pseudoscience,” as if anyone with any sense should deny this man’s genius without reading his work.

Meanwhile, in the journal, Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, thirty-three mainstream scientists who understand the odds against Earth’s genetic complexity arising through random mutation in 4 billion years (Earth’s history) have written a review article to the effect that our DNA might have come to Earth in extraterrestrial viruses on comets which brought new DNA that created new species and simultaneously exterminated many existing ones. The authors present this to explain the “Cambrian Explosion” of genetically complex species found in the geologic column, a flaw in neo-Darwinism that they want to acknowledge and fix, head-on.

Kudos to them, they’re being honest and imaginative!

Here’s a quote from their paper:

Our aim here is to facilitate further discussion in the biophysical, biomedical and evolutionary science communities to the quite different H-W “Cosmic” origins viewpoint which better handles, in our opinion, a wider range of physical, astrophysical, biological and biophysical facts often quite inexplicable, if not contradictory, under the dominant Terrestrial neo-Darwinian paradigm.

That’s awesome!

But if Stephen Meyer is right, and I think he is, the math still doesn’t allow the complex viral codes from ET sources to appear randomly within 13.8 billion years (mainstream’s cosmic history).

Having studied Meyer’s book, it seems to me that to explain the known molecular complexity of life without an infinite universe, an infinite past, or an infinite number of parallel universes popping into existence along the way, we still need an intelligent code writer and a designer of specific molecules working together in the complex, feedback-balanced biochemical pathways that our DNA encodes. Even extraterrestrial sources of DNA haven’t been around long enough to have developed the necessary complexity.

Meyer simply said that we can account for the known complexity of biology in a finite universe by allowing the existence of an intelligent code writer or writers.

He didn’t say God wrote the code. He left it wide open for others to perhaps speculate on intelligent ET’s without the time requirements of complex biochemistry and DNA, or any other source of conscious intelligence with the means and brilliance to write genetic code and design functional molecules from scratch — perhaps a sentient Universe or intelligent beings from the realm of dark matter. Who can say, from a scientific standpoint?

“Show me evidence of this spaghetti monster,” the fundamentalists will say.

DNA and molecular biology are the evidence. It’s as simple as opening one’s eyes and reading Meyer’s book.

But no, all his work is called pseudoscience because the establishment “knows” that ET’s, if they exist, couldn’t have visited Earth, the distances are too vast (unless the ET’s are viruses on comets, I guess), and God or any other superior intelligence couldn’t possibly exist, don’t be stupid.

But looking at it objectively, no one can do scientific studies to validate science’s sacred dogmas, they must be intuitively assumed using the same emotions that guide religious fundamentalists into “knowing” that they belong to the one true religion with the accurate doctrines.

When the 33 mainstreamers call upon extra-terrestrial viruses, it’s acceptable because it continues the assumption of a Cosmos run by mindless forces alone.

Cross that line or any other sacred line, and you’re an infidel whose work will not be published and whose career will be destroyed.

Judy Mikovits, Ph.D. crossed another sacred line. She is a renowned researcher with remarkable publications, who was thrown in jail for, as best I can determine, refusing to denounce her heretical data that showed evidence of ongoing retrovirus contamination of vaccines that may be causing life-threatening diseases.

Vaccines have become a sacred cow in mainstream medical circles. It’s a moral issue to the enlightened in power. You don’t question or doubt vaccines because to do so would put patients’ lives at risk. Furthermore, if a few vaccines are good, several dozen all at once can only be better. End of discussion. Oh, and don’t forget, it’s been proven beyond doubt that vaccines have no causal relationship to autism. Never mind aluminum or retroviruses. Never mind genetic SNPs and the diverse sensitivity of individuals hidden within every random population sample.

Here’s a video where Doctor Mikovits talks to the public. Warning, Will Robinson, she’s religious. That’s strike 2 in the eyes of a scientific fundamentalist.

Below is a video of Doctor Mikovits talking to fellow scientists. Anyone can tell after listening for a few minutes that she has rare intelligence and moves effortlessly at breakneck speed over complex concepts that to her seem simple.

I haven’t read her book yet, but here’s a link to what sounds like an interesting read.

You know, I sometimes wonder why fundamentalism is the default style of human thinking.

As much as I hate to admit it, fundamentalism may offer a survival advantage that I don’t understand or value as I should. Perhaps I shouldn’t paint fundamentalism in the black-and-white colors it endorses.

After all, I was a religious fundamentalist myself for most of my life and still respect many aspects of that mindset, such as honesty, living with purpose and striving to be courageous in the face of fearful opposition.

So maybe fundamentalism is like salt — necessary for survival, but fatal if the dose is too high or too low.

Or would you say it’s more like cobra venom, toxic at any dose?

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD


Beyond Death (Chapter 20) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

“I have an anti-Darwinistic stance against something called the naturalistic fallacy – that nature is not moral. But who you have to rescue is the very weak to encourage risk taking on the part of entrepreneurs because the system needs them. You guys got here because of entrepreneurs, not because of bonus earners and bureaucrats. And not thanks to bankers, by the way. Alright? So you didn’t get here, you didn’t start the industrial revolution without risk takers who have small downside, big upside.” – Video excerpt, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Antifragile.

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I run to the narrow cylinder where my brother is trapped and floating. I hit the thing with my fists. It’s as solid as steel but looks like a column of water extending up from Anahata’s floor to her marble ceiling. It’s probably ice-cold saline, Shiva’s recipe for drowning humans.

In Hawaii, James can stay under for four minutes, but that’s in eighty degree water.

Vedanshi stretches her arms around the cylinder, more than half way. She puts her forehead on the cold surface and looks at James. He looks back, their faces separated by millimeters.

I put my arms around the opposite side. Maxwell shows up next to me and kicks it several times.

“We’ll get you out,” Vedanshi says to James.

He rotates in the fluid and looks at me with that in-charge way of his – total confidence in tough situations. That’s him in real-time. Later if it’s just the two of us, he’ll admit he was scared out of his mind.

I put the side of my head against the cylinder and picture the nano gadgets I designed for Anahata. I shouldn’t have helped her. I imagine a big hammer smashing them.

I open my eyes. James looks worried now.

Don’t lose it.

He pushes off the floor with bare feet and shoots to the ceiling thirty feet above. I step back to see. His feet are on one side and his back is against the other, pushing. Nothing seems to budge.

I need to think.

He’s digging his fingers into the circle where the fluid meets the ceiling.

I wish I knew Anahata’s mechanics. Actually I don’t know if she has any. The Ganga doesn’t.

I squeeze the tall pillar between my arms as hard as I can, slow my breathing, close my eyes and watch ones and zeros fall inside my head. If I knew this code, I could write a trojan and speak it to Anahata, maybe take control of one of her systems.

“I’m so sorry I have to do this,” Anahata says in my head.

“Damn you,” I shout back.

I’ve never said those words to anyone before. Not like that. I feel cold inside. It’s the things you say that corrupt you.

I look at Anahata’s words. Three ended with the letter, “o”: “so,” “to,” and “do.” The first of the three starts with “s” and the last word in the sentence ends with “s.” I replay the binaries that fell when she spoke and pick out matching strings: my first two letters of the Universe’s machine code.

I line up ones and zeros on a spinning wheel in my head and turn it: SOS, SOS, SOS. Faster and faster.

It’s not a trojan, though. Not anything, really.

“Shiva should have trusted you,” I say to Anahata. “You’d sentence yourself to hell as long as you were following orders.”

Suddenly I’m floating in icy fluid with half a breath in my lungs. My body wants to curl up. A frozen headache pounds beneath my left temple. Cold is a unique pain.

“Did you do this?” I ask Anahata in my head.

“No,” she says. “It’s not protocol.”

I push off the floor and discover that the pain of cold is more intense when you’re moving through it. A new chill factor. James’ bare feet appear above me and come closer as I rise.

I’m behind him now. I grasp his right shoulder and turn him around. His eyes are open, I think, but everything’s blurry. He reaches for me and hugs me with his head down on my shoulder, like when he was a toddler.

Bubbles percolate past my right ear.

He hugs me a little tighter for a second then his arms get weak. His cough reflex jars him. His fingernails dig into the skin of my shoulders. More bubbles and he goes limp in my arms.

No, God, please, no. Please!

The loss seems infinite. The weight of failure is heavy. It’s like an intravenous injection of sorrow flowing up the veins of my arms and landing in my heart, cold as a deadly anesthetic.

Everything was a mistake. I could have saved James a hundred ways.

He would have been John Lennon. He would have been the cure to misery for the depressed loners of his generation. They would have found themselves in his music.

His first prayer song screams through my brain.

“Make for me a dirty heart

filled with all the darkness of the world.

I’m taking all the dull shit in

and burning up inside within,

it’s true.

I hate you.”

James. If only God had given you a normal sister. Someone less self-righteous. Someone with common sense instead of a star-struck fan with all my terrible advice.

If I’d only drowned myself in the ocean this morning. I was so close but I couldn’t inhale. Now it’s just a matter of time.

Or is it?

I put my lips over James’ mouth, pinch his nose tight and blow my breath into his lungs. He seems peaceful.

My little Hurricane. With those broad shoulders. You grew up when I wasn’t looking.

I open my mouth and breathe in Shiva’s fluid. It tastes like tears.

My throat clamps shut. My gag reflex triggers my stomach muscles but my throat is shut tight.

Suddenly I’m swallowing. It’s not even me anymore. It’s autonomic.

I see the white light.

I won’t leave you, James.

My feet are on the lowest stair. I take the next one. Another appears above. I jump over it and start to run, almost vertically. My feet leave the blocks and I’m floating inches above a steep stairway of white quartz.

At the top it’s flat, thirty square feet with a square room in the center. I float above it and hover, looking down at the four sides of a white pyramid with stairs on each side and water all around, dark blue, almost black.

Ojiichan’s words come to me, “All roads lead north.”

The room on top has a square opening. I float down to the white blocks and walk in.

Inside is outside. There’s a great canyon as big as Arizona’s.

grandcanyon1

Blue desert flowers cover the flat ground at the canyon’s top, and hang down in broad swaths of blue against the orange and red walls of sedimentary rock.

Euphoria sweeps over me. It’s a home I once knew but can’t remember. I lived here long ago – before cancer took Mom and that white truck ran over Daddy on the Pali.

Long before.

I sense someone behind me and turn. There they are, Mom and Daddy. I knew they’d be here.

But why are their faces troubled?

A chimpanzee stands between them, bent-legged, holding Mom’s left hand and Daddy’s right. It’s Moody. I see him so often in nightmares. His sad, gentle smile says more to me now than words ever could, “It was all me. You can’t forgive yourself when there’s nothing to forgive.”

I rush to him, pick him up and hug Mom and Dad with Moody’s long arms around my neck and his legs around my chest. I kiss them all, one after the other.

Thirteen feet behind my parents stands a young man in a blue swimming suit, a yellow surfboard under his left arm. Something for winter-size waves. I know this surfer’s face from somewhere.

I’m about to ask his name when I notice that my feet are twice their normal size. My legs are long. My calves aren’t the white radishes I’m used to, they’re haole calves and way hairy! My knees stick out like a man’s. This is embarrassing.

I look up at the young surfer. He smiles and the soul of God shines through his eyes. Euphoria comes back even stronger.

It seems that love is euphoria. Or maybe it’s the other way. Overwhelming but gentle. The feeling fills my lungs with admiration for my old friend, The Great Surfer.

I breathe in love like air and hold it inside, then drop to my knees to show my heart’s intent.

It’s your character not your power.

He doesn’t want me on my knees, though. He’s told me before.

I force myself to get up.

“Shiva,” he says to me. “You’ve brought Johanna this time.”

A small boy comes running down the hill behind God, stampedes past him and slams full force into me, hugging my left leg like a tourniquet.

“You gotta come home this time. Please! Vedanshi went back for you. You made God all worried.” The little boy looks over his shoulder at God.

I try to speak but nothing comes out. I hand Moody to my dad and step away from my parents. They’re keeping something from me. They’d be talking if everything was fine.

It’s weird that God called me Shiva. I look down and my right foot steps forward without me, then the left. A man’s back is inches from my nose.

It dawns. Shiva has just walked out of me. The little boy is still there clinging to his leg.

“You’re coming home!” God shouts. The Transcendent Surfer drops his board, jumps in the air and throws his hands up, kicking his legs before he lands – with a grin, a broad grin that pulls back more than up, because of that one thing where you see something in a person that no one else can see. He’s looking at Shiva, not me.

The little boy looks up at God, glances back at me and then up at Shiva. “You are coming home!” He squeals with joy and tightens his grip on Shiva’s leg.

“Dude,” God says to Shiva, “I shaped you a righteous board. We got a south swell this morning with an offshore, but Shiva, my boy.” He laughs. “It’s big, so no heroics, eh? Be selective.” He thumps Shiva’s chest with his knuckles and gives him that respectful look that surfers do with posture. Then he hugs him.

Shiva hugs back. Tears drip from his jaw.

“I missed you so much,” Shiva says.

“I never catch a wave without missing you,” God says.

Shiva pries the boy from his leg, picks him up and kisses his cheek.

The three turn and look at me. My legs are short again with thick calves, almost hairless. It’s a relief.

I’m starting to remember friends from before. Ronny Bradshaw, Philip Gulnick, Lisa Gomez, Glenna Studer, Tim Andrews, Leslie… I was too young to know last names when she and I played in her backyard. We made houses with walls of grass clippings. She showed me how to tie my shoes.

My heart fills with longing for these people. I love them so much. They’re here somewhere. I’ll go find them. We’ll play in a new place. Me and Ronny, we’ll build a fort while our parents talk about complex issues – the way it always was. And James can…

Where is James?

I see him drowning. The feelings run cold.

What was I thinking?

My mother’s eyes well up with tears. “We understand, dear,” she says.

“Time is flexible,” I tell her and look at Daddy. “Your absolute infinite vacuum doesn’t look so infinite these days.”

He shakes his head at the concept of space he taught me as a child – that space is nothing and “nothing” can’t have an end.

Mom starts crying and hides her face on Daddy’s chest. Moody holds Dad’s pants leg with one hand and reaches out to me with the other, stretching as far as he can.

“Don’t be sad, big guy,” I tell him. “I have to go back for the one I love.”

God comes over and stands in front of me. “You make me proud,” he says.

I don’t know how to answer. I need to go help James, but I’ve got so many questions I’m dying to ask. And time is flexible here, Vedanshi said.

“Did I ever know how to surf?” I blurt out, wondering if I ever really fit in.

“For sure,” God says and chuckles. “You’re a holy terror.”

Shiva laughs and shakes his head. “You don’t remember the Overheads?” he asks.

I shake my head. It’s odd not remembering everything. Kind of a relief.

I look at God and there’s one last thing. “What’s your take on religion?”

“All depends,” he says. “Strengthen the weak, the poor, the orphans. All good. Especially the guys that annoy you most. Help them.”

“Sociopaths annoy me,” I tell him.

“Everyone rotates through their dilemma,” he says. “Try to figure it out.”

Maybe I should work with Vaar.

“I know this is childish,” I tell him, “but do you answer prayers?”

“Between cycles, yeah. Otherwise it cuts into people’s decisions and their outcomes. Free will is the basis of identity. I cherish it and leave it alone.”

“What cycles?” I ask. A gentle wind ruffles the blue flowers beneath us.

“It’s like this,” he says. “You pray for yourself and nothing happens. But when that cycle of the Universe is over and everyone switches to someone else’s spot, I answer your prayer the best I can. Not in binary terms because everyone’s web is interconnected.”

I nod.

“So when an answer comes,” he says, “it fits naturally into the next person’s life in your spot, looking like a coincidence. That way free will stays intact.”

“So when somebody prays for themselves, they’re really praying for someone else?” I ask.

He nods. “And when you pray for someone else, you’re praying for yourself, because eventually you’re going to be in that spot.”

“So you never answer prayers in real-time?”

“Only to restore free will to a large group. Like a whole species. The power to choose a path and walk on it is fragile in 229, so I stay in the nodes.”

“The nodes?”

“Places where the warp and woof of free will aren’t sacrificed. Without the free cause and natural effect of decisions there’s no personhood. When someone loses free will it’s like brain death.”

“So you absolutely never mess with it? Even over some giant cataclysm?”

“No. Two-twenty-nine is about comfortable people from Reality wanting to find out who they really are. It’s a struggle of will against detractors. Sociopaths, tyrants, drugs, crowd dynamics, innate fears, addictions, illnesses, tragedy, physical and emotional pain, hunger, all the forces aiming to cripple your primary will to act according to your intuitive moral knowledge. Everyone here wants to see who they are without my influence.”

I shake my head. “All that suffering. People must be brave.”

“They are,” he says.

“Do you ever send prophets?” I ask.

“Everyone who writes honestly is my oracle. Spiritual, rational, heuristic, scientific, legal, historical, advertising, self-help…”

“Even storytellers?”

“Truth is the exchange of love,” he says. “Honest lives create love and trust, whether in life or in stories. When two things touch at the quantum level, they become entangled. This is why you commit for life before you quantum connect.”

“You’re talking about marriage?”

“No, but that’s a good analogy. I’m talking about stories. They shape everything in 229. The characters and ideas that a person becomes entangled with at the quantum level – they move mountains. Try to be selective with the characters you love. Make sure you want them with you for life. Myelin wrappings make the divorce of beliefs very slow. Difficult to want, let alone accomplish.”

“What do you think of fundamentalism?” I ask, afraid of wearing out my welcome.

“It’s useful for passing heuristics and rules of thumb from generation to generation, especially through a pinch point where a population gets down to a few individuals. I really like the way fundamentalism can sometimes promote honesty and trust. These are the foundation of love, the backbone of true civilization. But when infallible beliefs, inerrant prophets and supernatural books lead to violence, it destroys free will. That’s the price of claiming too much.”

God hugs me and whispers that he fixed my board. “The pink one,” he says.

Before I can thank him I’m on my back looking up at a familiar marble ceiling in Anahata’s convex room.

Next to Shiva’s Throne.

M. Talmage Moorehead

If you feel like it, please email a friend about Johanna’s story (here at http://www.storiform.com). Maybe before you forget?

Thanks.

Keep writing your dreams. If you take them seriously, other people will, too.

Talmage


Warriors (Chapter 19) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

“In a materialist worldview of an arbitrary, mechanistic, unfeeling Universe there is every reason to feel alienated, lonely, fearful and depressed. On the other hand, in a blissfully conscious Universe there is every reason to feel inherently connected to people and to the world, to feel loved, hopeful, happy, at peace with oneself and others.” – Dada Gunamuktananda

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Anahata’s black floor vibrates beneath Shiva’s Throne as the giant convex screen in front of me flashes from one white-out to the next. I wish I understood what sort of weapons they’re firing at us.

“We could prolong the dance,” Anahata says, “but why?”

“To buy time,” I tell her. “How long do we have?”

“Five minutes at this pace.”

To the left of Shiva’s Throne the air turns gray. Pink sparks crackle. The Ganga appears on the floor looking like a hologram for a second, then she’s solid. Dark purple.

“Get out fast,” Vedanshi says in the River.

“No, stay in there!” I shout silently. “Leave now, while you can.”

The Ganga’s hull shifts dimensions, making Vedanshi and James visible on either side of Maxwell. They’re tugging on his arms to get him up off the carpet.

He’s up now on bent knees, wobbling from the edge of the rug onto Anahata’s glossy floor. All three of them turn and look at me with wide eyes. The Ganga’s hull changes to an opaque pulsating glow of ultraviolets.

“We were going for a fast grab to get you out of here,” James says. “Then something hit us. Totally screwed The Ganga.” He glances at Vedanshi.

“We barely made it,” she say.

“You shouldn’t have come,” I tell them. “I don’t know where to start…”

“We know what’s going on,” Maxwell says, his voice all gravel. “We heard everything through the ring.”

I glance at my fingers and rub the ring with my thumb to make sure it’s still there.

“You look green,” I say to Maxwell. “Come here and sit down. This chair’s just your size.”

I pull the straps away from my chest, something clicks and they come loose. There’s no friction as the white seatbelts slither over my clothes and vanish into the upholstery. I get out of Shiva’s Throne and go over to take Maxwell’s left arm from Vedanshi. James ducks his head under Maxwell’s right arm and we help the big guy over into the chair. His butt hits the holographic ostrich feathers and the sound of air brakes bounces around the semicircular room.

I lean towards Maxwell on my toes and kiss the side of his head. I’m getting bold.

“Gunner,” James says to me.

He should know. I turn and hug him so tight I hope I don’t break his ribs. He’d never tell me.

“Anahata,” I say out loud. “I’d like you to meet my amazing brother, James.”

James glances around the room. “Hey,” he says. “You’re one big-ass spaceship.”

Anahata moans. “I tagged you in that Vimana.”

“For reals,” James says. “Left foot.”

Don’t admit it!

James takes his left foot out of its rubber slipper and shows off an area of missing epidermis.

“This just keeps getting worse,” Anahata mumbles, her voice coming through the air. It’s odd hearing her words through my ears. “James, I’m honored to meet you,” she says. “You have an amazing sister.”

“Yeah, kind of short, but otherwise OK, I guess.” He holds a deadpan face. Classic. “This other knockout is Vedanshi, The Role of the Sacred Knowledge.” He gestures in her direction with an open palm.

She’s standing near The Ganga, staring up at the strobing screen. “Nice to meet you, Anahata, the Unbeaten.” Her lips didn’t move.

“You’re with Earth’s older breakaway,” Anahata says.

The floor shakes with new force. I wonder if the Sentient Fleet has switched weapons on us.

“I’m afraid you know more about Earth’s rulers than I do,” Vedanshi says. “My only friends are here in this room.”

“You’re the pilot,” Anahata says.

“Yes,” she answers. “And this is The Ganga.” She turns a sorrowful face on her UFO friend, glowing the color of a failing baby on life support.

“This is the ship I was talking about,” I say to Anahata. “You don’t know her, but she’s one of you. At least in spirit. She’s always trying to do the right thing but making the occasional mega-stupid mistake.”

“I don’t make stupid mistakes,” Anahata says.

“Yeah you do. Mirror images. She wouldn’t let Vedanshi into the River Libraries on her dead mother’s orders. Same lame thing Shiva did to you, and you’re still following his orders.”

Anahata sighs. “This man in Shiva’s Throne is heavy with opiates.”

“Maxwell Mason,” I tell her, “the man of my dreams.” Shoot, I said that out loud. “The opiates are just a phase he’s going through,” I tell her in my head, trying to think of a future where Maxwell proves me right.

“Opiates destroy character,” Anahata says.

“And free will,” I say silently. “He’s not perfect, but he doesn’t plan to drown me.” He actually saved me twice.

“I wish I were dead,” Anahata blurts out.

It’s weird. I can feel her ‘eyes’ turning away from me and staring out at the artillery. I don’t even know if she has eyes, or anything remotely similar.

“Max is in withdrawal,” I say to her.

“Do tell.”

“Can you help him?”

She grunts. “Here… I’ll take off a methyl or two and kick the noxious substrates down. It won’t help his willpower, though.”

“Slow breathing might.”

Maxwell straightens up, takes a deep breath and stretches. He looks surprised. “Damn,” he says. “I’m taking this chair home.” He holds his right hand out and stares at it. “Not even shaking. My legs aren’t burning, either.” He stomps his heels.

“Compliments of Anahata,” I tell him.

“Really? Thanks a metric ton, Anahata.” He looks up at the screen, then down at me with a crooked grin. “You said I’m the man of your dreams.” It’s a full grin now.

“Sorry,” I tell him. “Probably not a normal thing to say.”

“Normal? You think I give a rat’s ass…”

“Anyway,” I interrupt, “Anahata’s about ready to drown me. Unless the Fleet kills her first – in which case we all die. Right, Anahata?”

She says nothing.

“I figured as much,” Maxwell says.

“But you brought my brother here anyway? How could you do that?”

“It wasn’t his decision,” James says. “We barely let him come with us, the shape he’s been in.”

I turn and hug James again. I’ve spent my life trying to protect him. From himself, mostly. I feel like such a failure now. “Why in the world did you have to come here?” I ask, holding back tears.

“I’m sixteen,” he says. “Not eight. You think you wouldn’t have come after me?”

I start to say, “That’s different,” but it’s not.

All I can do is hug him… My little ‘Hurricane James,’ sword fighting a tree in the backyard. Always a stick in his hand. I just want to go back to those days… when Mom and Daddy were alive.

“Can you help my ship?” Vedanshi asks Anahata.

“Sure,” Anahata says. “Looks like she took one in the chops. There’s neural damage but it’s mostly synaptic. Here you go, back to the mids for now.”

The Ganga stops glowing. She’s a lighter violet now, too.

“You’re done?” Vedanshi asks.

“Yeah, she’ll be fine.”

“Areey!” Vedanshi’s eyes are shining. “Thank you so much. Will she wake up soon?”

“Probably. But I can’t have you running off. Sorry. I’ll have to ground her for a while. I have my…”

“Orders,” Vedanshi says. She sits on the hard floor and crosses her legs. “Following orders is a type of religious fundamentalism. Surrendering your mind to a uniform instead of a sacred book. Tell me, if God doesn’t think for you, why should Shiva?”

“You’re welcome,” Anahata says softly. “Your little Ganga’s going to need some sun.”

“After you’ve drowned us, what will you do to her?”

“I don’t know… Look, I’m really sorry about all this.”

“Will you sell her?”

“No, of course not, she’s sentient. Nothing to test either, she doesn’t breathe air.”

“No, she doesn’t,” Vedanshi says and leans sideways, resting her head on The Ganga’s hull.

“Maybe she’ll join the ancients in Antarctica,” Anahata suggests. “No sentient ships down there, though. It could get lonely.”

“She gets very lonely,” Vedanshi says.

“If she’ll forgive me for following orders, she can join my fleet. Or replace it, I guess. After all this shooting’s done.”

The floor seems to ripple, then a ten by ten slab from the ceiling crashes to the floor behind Vedanshi. She doesn’t jump, just turns and looks.

“Sorry,” Anahata says. “I need to focus.” A hundred irregular pieces of stone float back up to the ceiling and become part of the polished marble surface up there.

“Are you really going to kill your sisters?” I ask.

“It’s that or die in shameful disobedience.”

“I sort of get that,” I say, but really, I’d die in disgrace a hundred times before killing James. “Tell me, is there a spacesuit around here?”

“Why?”

“I’m going out for a smoke.”

“What?”

“Those sisters of yours. Shooting the hell out of us? I’ll bet my life they hold their fire when I’m out on your hull.”

“I’d stop shooting,” she says. “Hmm. I could let you out. Extend the shield around you, but what then?”

“I’ll tell them the truth. It tends to be antifragile, you know. Like an out-of-the-money long option?”

“Huh?”

“Enhanced by risk, danger and volatility.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb gets things right. Academics hate him for it. I love him. He says that if you see fraud and don’t shout, “fraud,” you become part of the fraud. Elites don’t tend to shout fraud when it’s part of their own system.

He tells us that biological systems benefit from unstable, unpredictable environments that cause many small failures which, in turn, strengthen a species to avoid the real failure, extinction. He’s right. God designed us that way. Biological life is antifragile. Not just “robust,” as in weathering storms with little damage, but antifragile: becoming stronger because of the storm.

This is also true of the human mind and its access to free will. Stress your soul with use and it grows like a muscle.

Truth, too, Taleb tells us, is antifragile. Try to suppress accurate knowledge and it becomes a force too great to hide. Steven Greer is counting on this.

“You mean truth is biological?” Anahata asks.

“Yeah, basically,” I answer. “I’ll only tell what we both know… That I’ll do anything to keep my brother alive.”

“I believe that,” she says.

“I’ll tell them that if they’ll stop shooting, I’ll shut you down from the inside. Hopefully I won’t kill you, but I have trouble with my temper sometimes. That’s the truth.”

“I know,” she says. “I mean, I know you’d shut me down or worse if you could. Part of me wants that, to be honest. This whole nightmare keeps getting worse.”

“Doesn’t it? Sheesh.”

“You realize now I have to test your little brother.” Anahata groans. “And his pilot friend, Vedanshi – I assume she was there, too.”

“I was,” Vedanshi says.

“Damn, I’m sorry,” Anahata says to her. “This man, Maxwell. Please tell me he wasn’t with you.”

If we weren’t talking in the River, Maxwell would call dibs on drowning first.

“Do what you’ve got to do,” I tell Anahata. “Maybe I’ll get your sisters to stop shooting so you can drown me in peace.”

“The more time fundamentalists have to think, the better,” Vedanshi says.

“If my death saves your fleet,” I tell her, “it beats dying for the amusement of Chairman Jock Itch.”

“You sound like a warrior,” Anahata says.

“No. Vedanshi’s got a point. Warriors are forced to be fundamentalists. All of you stop thinking when the orders stop making sense. I tried that sort of thing once but I couldn’t turn off my critical thinking for Church school.”

Anahata grunts.

“Don’t get me wrong,” I tell her, “I love your character. But fundamentalism is a bike I can’t ride. Can’t reach the peddles, no offence.”

“Offense?” she says. “That’s the furthest thing from my heart. If I could, Johanna, I would die instead of you.”

“That’s sweet, but it’s a big if, isn’t it?” I glance over at Vedanshi in Warrior-One yoga position. Eyes shut. I wish I had her calm. “Let’s do this. Where do you hide the extra-smalls?”

“You don’t need a suit,” Anahata says. “Walk through the screen. I’ll extend the shield and hug your back.”

A white cord shoots out of Shiva’s Throne, encircles my waist, goes diagonally across my chest and ties itself in a square knot. Then the ends fuse together.

“Just in case,” Anahata says.

In case of what, I don’t want to know. I pull Parvati’s locket up over my head, untangle it from my hair and put it in my pocket. Then I walk to the screen. My right hand passes through it up to the wrist.

Looks like Jame followed me. “What’s happening?” he asks.

“I’m doing a pizza run.”

“I’ll go with you.”

“No, stay close to The Ganga. If she wakes up, grab Vedanshi and Max and haul ass out of here.”

“I’m not leaving without…”

His voice is gone the moment my ears move into Anahata’s hull. It’s like putting your head in water. There’s a blue granular light that comes and goes when my eyes pass a certain area. I bet this is Anahata’s cortex. If it runs through the entire hull, she has a truckload of pyramidal cells. And Oligo’s. Trillions.

The hull is thick. I put both hands out beyond the outer layer and poke my head out into space. I can’t imagine this technology.

The fleet is lined up in a single row, hanging over a velvet sea of stars in the three-dimensional blackness. Space has a calmness.

An orb from the fleet hits Anahata’s shield turning it into a bright orange-red fog a hundred feet thick. It vanishes the next instant. I’m waving my hands, but the fleet’s still shooting… blue-gray spheres. They glow deep blue just before they hit.

I should talk to the Fleet.

“Hey ladies, don’t kill me. I’m outside. We got to talk.”

“The time for talking is past,” the Chairman says. His voice is coming from Vedanshi’s cloaked ring. I move it close to my mouth.

“I don’t mean you, Scrotumer. Why anybody would listen to a man with that moustache is beyond me. Just try to shut up for a while… Hey, warriors? Can you hear me? There’s something you need to know.”

The orbs from the center ships stop in mid-flight. The ones from the ships on the ends keep coming, but they’re slowing. Now they’ve all stopped.

“Thanks,” I tell them. “Listen, things have changed in the last five minutes. My brother and best friends just crashed the party. They’re in Anahata’s main room. She plans to drown them, God forgive her. You guys understand what it means to be sisters, I can tell that. It’s the exact same deal if you’ve got a little brother. That’s what I’ve got. His name is James. He’s been tagged by Anahata.”

“He’s not our concern,” the Chairman says.

“Chairman Ballsac, would you just shut up. If I want your opinion, I’ll ask.”

“Continue firing,” he says calmly.

“Ladies, ignore the coward. James is your big picture here. I’ll do anything to protect him. Anahata knows it and respects me for it. She wasn’t the slightest bit pissed when I told her I’m coming out here to tell you that if you’ll stop shooting for a while, I’ll go back inside and do everything in my power to disarm her. I’ll try not to kill her, but honestly, that option is wide open right now and I told her so.”

“You did?” It’s a female voice coming through the ring. She sounds surprised.

“Yeah. My brother’s here, for frick’s sake. You get that, I’ll bet. Anahata sure as hell does.”

“This is Radhika,” the voice says. “We understand perfectly. You have twenty-four hours, but we have one condition…”

“Thirty minutes,” the Chairman bellows.

“Ignore him,” I tell the Sentient Fleet. “What’s your condition?”

“Anahata must erase your leukemia,” she says. “Immediately.”

“I rubbed the clone out hours ago,” Anahata says. “What do you take me for?”

“It’s nice to hear your voice, Anahata,” Radhika says.

“And yours,” Anahata says. “Johanna can’t disarm me, you realize. I almost wish she could.”

“She’s got 30 minutes,” the Chairman adds.

“Why do you listen to this toad?” Anahata asks.

“We heard the ancient minutes,” Radhika replies.

“Not enough of them, apparently,” I tell her. “Anahata has actually been inside a River Library. With me. She knows Shiva’s biggest secret now.”

“Twenty-nine minutes,” the Chairman says.

“Radhika, how much time do I really have?” I ask.

Silence eats a dozen seconds. “One hour,” she finally says. “I can’t think of anything you could do to defend yourself against Anahata, but then, I can’t imagine what your DNA does. That seven and eighteen.”

“Yeah, some weird stuff, I hear. But I’m strong with codes. It’s what I do. If I survive, I’ll help you girls figure it out.”

“Godspeed, Johanna,” she says.

“Back at you, Radhika.”

I pull myself into the hull with the white strap and there’s the weird light again, probably the rods and cones of my retinas moving through Anahata’s neurons, messing with who knows what? Maybe the dimensions of free will.

There’s Anahata’s floor again with my brother standing between Maxwell and Vedanshi. The Ganga’s looking dark gray now, an improvement, I think.

You know, I probably should have given some thought to disarming Anahata before this, but maybe I could…

A cylinder of fluid streaks down from the ceiling and surrounds James as fast as I can focus my eyes. It stands like a glass of water, but without the glass. James is pushing out and up on the sides to keep from floating to the ceiling. He looks calm.

So this is Shiva’s test.

But why would James have to go first? It’s so gut-wrenchingly unfair the way the world treats him. Again and again. If someone would normally get a warning, he gets two weeks in jail with a gang and no phone calls. It’s cruel and it’s just evil!

Breathe, Johanna. 

Nah, forget it.

“Anahata, I’m going to boil you in battery acid. Leave my brother alone!”

M. Talmage Moorehead

This story starts here as a WordPress scrolling document. No email address needed.

Also check out my infallible ebook, “Writing Meaningful Page-Turners.” I may start writing to you in a few months if you don’t immediately unsubscribe. But it’s alright if you do. 🙂

If you have Multiple Sclerosis or any other autoimmune disease, check out The Wahls Protocol. Dr. Wahls is an academic physician doing groundbreaking research. Her results continue to be remarkable. Watch her videos and read her book.

It’s that “everything’s vanilla in the real world” mindset that locks people out of life-altering nonfiction and our natural thirst for knowledge. Most doctors, for instance, don’t read their own specialty journals cover to cover, let alone basic science research where the insights and breakthroughs usually begin.

Basic science on lab mice is where Dr. Wahls turned when the monster was killing her. When the best US doctors in captivity couldn’t slow its progression, she took matters into her own hands. If there wasn’t science throughout her story, people would call it a miracle. I’ll call it that anyway, I guess. Wait till you hear her tell it on YouTube! Wow.

I’m liking the concept of having “empathy for the reader” as Shawn Coyne puts it. It’s ironic that fiction writers who refuse to “sell out” by writing for non-academic readers are sometimes ripping readers off. Twice. Once for the price of the (often) boring book, and once again for the value of the reader’s time spent reading to the disappointing ending. That’s kind of “selling out” to selfishness, in a way. No?

Keep writing steadily. This means you, the one with something important to say. There’s gotta be a balance out there somewhere between our soul’s needs as writers and our reader’s needs as good deserving people. Empathy for both seems right to me.

Talmage


Brittle Beliefs (Chapter 2) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

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I’m breaking the speed limit in the Prius, heading for the South Jetty to drown myself, but I need to say goodbye to someone first.

I push James icon on my phone and pull up in front of a vacant lot beside the house I used to rent in Astoria. The Prius engine dies automatically. James’ phone is ringing.

A skanky black cat trots up and jumps on my hood. His nails click as he lands. He walks silently toward me leaving smudgy footprints.

Jame’s voice comes through the car speakers, “Yeah.”

I set my phone in a cup holder. “Someone’s trying to kidnap you. Grab your keys and get out of the house. Run to the car. Drive to the police station fast as you can. ”

“For reals?”

“Yeah, I’m not kidding! Go. Hurry! I’ll stay on the line.”

“Got to find my keys,” he says.

I open the glove box. Two cans of cat food are left. I’ll open both.

“On the floor by the foot of your bed.”

“Won’t be there.”

“Just go look. Hurry!”

I open my window, put my arm out in the usual way and the proud little thing marches up my arm, rubs his matted fur against my face as he climbs down to my lap and curls up.

“Herpes, you little tramp.” I sneeze. When he first came to my patio door demanding attention I had no idea I was allergic. First it was just itchy eyes.

I open both cans of cat food with an old round-bladed device I remember from childhood when it was shiny and had a place in my mother’s kitchen. I dump the catfood into a plastic bowl that’s usually sliding around on the seat beside me. Smells like fish. Herpes springs to his feet and begins that delicate gobbling technique. His ribs are showing again. Poor little thing, out here starving. “I’m sorry I can’t feed you again,” I tell him. “I won’t be coming around anymore.”

I try to pet him but he doesn’t allows distractions while he’s eating.

He has a worn leather collar with a dangling ring that must have held a happy tag with his real name on it. Once. I wonder who he was.

He finishes the whole pile of food before I’m ready to say goodbye, then steps back into my lap to let me pet him. Three times is all. Then he jumps out, lands confidently on the road and looks up at me.

“Goodbye, sweetheart,” I tell him. “I wish I could…”

A van rumbles by and scares him away.

I put the two empty cans in a plastic grocery bag, twist it tight, tie a knot and set it on the seat beside the bowl. Someone else will have to take it to the trash.

“Good call,” James says. “They were right by the end of my bed. It’s spooky how you do that.”

“It’s just luck,” I tell him. But lately I wonder. This time it was an image of his keys. Sometimes there’s no image, just a wordless thought. “Get in your car. Hurry!”

I hear his feet on the old wooden floor at Grandfather’s house. Actually we called him, “Ojiichan,” not Grandfather, but it means the same. The door of the old Ford slams. Low pitch. The starter churns.

The sun isn’t up yet. Jetty Road looks empty as I make a right turn onto it.

“Yo,” James says. “You there?”

“Yeah. Drive straight to the cop station. You know the way?”

“Take a wild guess,” he says.

He was arrested for underage drinking in front of Starbucks not long ago. In broad daylight.

“I’m not saying you’re a moron, James, but now that you mention it…. God, I love you.”

“Ditto, but no need to get all… Whatever. Hey, I never-one knew they kidnap teenagers. You sure about all this?”

“Yeah.” I wake up a few neurons with a neurofeedback technique I learned in a research lab at Yale. They kept asking me if I’d ever been hit in the head. No. I can make an EEG trace jump at will. I learned it with electrodes pasted on my head, staring at squiggly lines on a monitor. Trial and error, bottom-up science not the mythical top-down BS they preach.

Neurofeedback wakes you up like coffee, but some people have memory loss. I should be so lucky.

“Keep an eye on the road behind you,” I tell him. “Somebody could be following.”

My peripheral vision is strange now. The trees… swishing past on both sides of the road. They grab my attention as if they were in the center of my field of vision.

“Nothing’s behind me,” James says.

I ease off the Prius’ gas pedal, pass a crow on the dotted line and watch it hop away in the rearview mirror, wings our angelic. Tough immune systems, those little guys, eating roadkill and living to tell the story.

“The kidnappers are Frameshift goons,” I say to James. “That’s my theory. They’re trying to recruit me.”

“Like into the Army?”

“Same idea.” Should I tell him? Not while he’s driving. “You shouldn’t drive and talk on a cellphone, you know. Under normal conditions, I mean.”

“Pot calling da kine black.”

“No, I got a hands-free setup. Matter of fact, I’m driving right now. To the South Jetty.”

“Some of us drive Ojiichan’s old Ford, you know.”

A motorcycle’s coming at me in the other lane. One loud headlight. It passes with the infrasound of an old Harley. The wide back tire, long chrome pipes slanting up. I wanted to ride one of the old beasts before I died. My legs wouldn’t be long enough though. I bet.

“What’s the South Jetty?” James asks.

I shouldn’t have brought it up. “It’s a rock wall that goes out between the ocean and the place where the Columbia River dumps in. South side. When are you moving in with the Hadano’s? That was supposed to happen three months ago.”

“I don’t know, pretty soon,” he says. “But you don’t have to worry about it. I told the social worker I’m living there now. Mrs. Hadano backed me up.” James shifts into Mrs. Hadano’s voice: “Yes, James is moved in already. Part of da family.”

“The Hadano’s are rare people,” I tell him. “Don’t make them lie for you.” I hate to nag. “How close are you getting to the police station?”

“I’m looking for a place to park,” he says. “Holy Smokes. There’s this Haole dude in a rental car. Following me, I think. I’ll find out.”

“What type of car?”

“Yeah, he’s tailing for reals. I turned up an alley and he’s coming behind me. Driving that thing you drive. The Prepuce.”

Prius, James. “Lucky thing. OK, when you get out of the alley, turn right, go 20 feet, stop and put it in reverse. You’re going to ram him the instant you see him. Go for his right front tire. Mess it up so it can’t move when he turns the wheel. Then drive away as soon as you can.”

“That’ll ruin my car.”

“No it won’t. The Ford’s a tank compared to a Prius.”

“You better be right.” He takes a deep breath. “I got it in reverse. Here’s the dude’s bumper.”

“Floor it!”

There’s a crunch and the sound of glass.

“No prob,” James says. “I’m driving away.”

“Good man.”

“The dude’s running after me on foot.” James laughs.

“When you get to the cop station, don’t park, just drive up close to the front door, jump out, leave the car and run inside. Fast as you can.”

“Do they let you park out front? I don’t need another ticket.”

“Use your head, James! Kidnappers are killers. Do exactly what I tell you, for God’s sake!”

“I was just asking.”

He gets quiet. Any expression of anger was off-limits in our family. It didn’t matter if you were saving someone’s life or destroying the ozone, anger meant you were wrong. You got silent treatment.

“Where are you?” I ask. “Talk to me.”

“Side of the road, basically. In front of the cop building. I’m leaving the car, like you said.”

The car door slams with memories of Ojiichan, the first Buddhist Priest on Oahu. I took his alter back to Okinawa after he died. That was the first I’d heard of his fame in Japan. The Buddhists called him, “One of The Five.” I don’t speak Japanese and my translator didn’t speak much English, so I couldn’t figure out who “The Five” were. But it’s an interesting coincidence that our ancestor, the great Samurai, Musashi, wrote The Book of Five Rings.

“I’m inside,” James says. “There’s this lady here, but she don’t look like a cop.”

“Hand her the phone, I need to talk to her.”

I hear a woman saying she’s busy. She tells him to take a seat. Here it is. That feeling. I’m telling you, I want to reach through this phone and strangle her. What’s wrong with me?

“She’s too busy,” James says.

“Tell her somebody’s trying to kidnap you.”

He does, and she gets on the line. “This young man tells me he’s the victim of a kidnapping attempt and you’re his older sister. Is this information correct?”

“Yes.” I give her my name and the highlights, trying not to sound like the teenager I still am. She agrees to keep him in a safe place until a police officer can talk to him. That’s all she can guarantee.

A squirrel darts out into the road ahead of me and I swerve to miss it. I shouldn’t be doing seventy on this narrow road.

The phone reception gets sketchy as I drive into a dirt parking lot near the South Jetty. Logs outline the perimeter. A dirt slope leads down to the river beach ahead of me. I could drive down there and get stuck, but I’ll park. Save somebody the headache of pulling my car up the slope when they figure out it was the dead girl’s ride.

James gets back on the phone. “Hey.”

“Listen, I’ve got leukemia.”

“You mean…”

“Cancer of the blood,” I tell him. “Odds are, it’s going to kill me in a month or two. But you need to understand, the kidnappers are after me, not so much you. They only want you so they can force me to work for them. But I’m not doing it. I haven’t got long to live anyway, so…”

“What the hell are you saying?”

“If I kill myself, I won’t have to work for those people. I can’t stand what they’re doing to the world. I won’t be part of it.”

“This can’t be happening.”

“Listen, James. None of this is about you. If we’re lucky, they’ll leave you alone once I’m gone. You won’t be valuable to them when I’m in heaven.”

“You can’t kill yourself. You can’t do that.”

“I’m dying one way or the other.”

“They must have drugs. People get rid of cancer all the time.”

“Not M5b. The stats are dismal. The chemo makes you sick as a zombie. Your hair falls out. I’m not doing it.”

“But you got to try.”

“No. You need to try. Try not to get depressed when I’m gone. Try to find something to believe in so you’ll be a decent influence on the world when you’re famous. All this stuff about no God, no good, no evil. Forget it. It’s bull. You’ve got to believe in something. Something that’s not so brittle it breaks when the aliens land.”

“What?” He gasps.

“Atheism and fundamentalism are brittle. They’re both going to break… when the facts come down.”

“I can’t believe this.” He’s on the edge of tears. I know the sound.

“You’ve got heavy responsibility on your shoulders. Listen to me. Nobody has more influence than a rock star. Nobody in this world. You were born to be famous. You’re like John Lennon. You’re a genius with melody, James. Literally a genius.” I’ve never been able to convince him of that. “You’ve always made me so proud. Everything you write. And you got the singing voice to match.”

“You can’t…”

“I’ll be listening to your stuff. And watching you – from the moon, I think.”

“The moon?” He’s crying now. Normally he cries over great songs and sad movies, not real disasters. Disasters make him stronger than most people. Usually.

“Who’s going to be the only friend I ever had, Johanna? Who’s going to make sure I don’t party all the time? Who’s going to bail me out… of jail next time?” My phone goes dead.

I try to call him, but a battery icon flashes for a second then disappears. The phone was plugged in all night. I look at it in my mind and see 100% at the top, above the old woman’s number.

This close to the Jetty, I’m starting to feel a little hesitant about suicide. James and I didn’t even get to say goodbye. It’s cruel.

I remember Ojiichan saying that our existence isn’t real. Get rid of all attachments and nothing can hurt you.

I hear a Sabbath School teacher reading from a little pink Bible, “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord.”

But I never was able to become a true fundamentalist. Not quite. I came close for a while but… whatever. I’ve always felt a little jealous of those people. It’s like the UFO club. I want to believe but those things just don’t show up for me.

I’ve got the jitters. I’m going to breathe water, that’s all. It’s the least embarrassing way to do this, and to be honest, I’m more afraid of embarrassment than drowning. It’s a Japanese thing, I think. Completely genetic.

I get out of the Prius, face the cold salt wind and walk toward the tall, curving breakwater. Its beauty is gone today. I put it side by side with a mental image from the last time I was here. The sun was up, but otherwise the images match.

I was standing right… here.

I wonder if beauty is still there when you can’t see it.

M. Talmage Moorehead

If you want, you can read this story from page one (beginning with Johanna’s chapter 0). It starts here.

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Talmage