Don’t Shoot Me in the Head

“Just don’t shoot me in the head,” I told the agent.

She pulled her gun away from my forehead, about an inch away. The right side of her mouth was smirking beyond the gun’s thick black handle.

I’d been a parapsychologist researcher at the Institute of Noetic Sciences for ten years. It’s an exciting place that was co-founded by the late astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, and now puts out some of the world’s best peer-reviewed “paranormal” science, over a thousand papers and counting. “Paranormal” will become normal, it’s only a matter of time.

My niche is the prospective study of near-death experiences. When someone is dying of natural causes and wants to become part of scientific history, we bring a level of objectivity that only prospective studies can capture. The weirder your findings, the more you need to document them. We’ve reported some incredibly strange things.

I looked into the cylinder of darkness that extended up the gun barrel and realized for the first time that I’m not afraid of death the way I was ten years ago. By now I’d seen enough to know that this life isn’t the end of consciousness.

On the other hand, I didn’t want to die and have to stop my research, or worse yet, die knowing that Brodsky would take over my work. The little troll is about as objective and rational as a two-year-old.

Despite having him breathing down my neck, I’ve been making observations that even the cult of reductive physicalists will be forced to accept someday. In light of my work and a hand full of others at the Institute, science will soon have to do a 180 and put intelligent consciousness back where it belongs, at the center of nature, not in the peripheral, illusory realm of an epiphenomenon.

I had another reason, though, for not wanting this agent to shoot me in the head. I wasn’t sure, but there seemed to be a chance that if my central nervous system was splattered across the mirrors behind me, I might miss out on my own near-death experience. My research subjects always tell me that their NDE was the most euphoric, meaningful and transformative event of their lives. I wanted to taste that richness myself, even if I didn’t live to document it for science.

“I’ve never heard that one before,” the agent said. “Think about it, though. Being shot in the head is probably the least painful way to go. Through the frontal lobes and down through the brainstem?” She angled her pistol to indicate the trajectory of her first bullet.

“Pain doesn’t concern me,” I said, realizing my words were a lie only after I’d said them.

“You’re a masochist?”

“I suppose so. That’s a good explanation.” I looked down.

She put the gun back to my forehead. “You’ve got me curious.”

When parents attach curiosity to dead cats in an effort to protect their wandering toddlers, it’s for good reason. Curiosity is the Super Glue of the mind. I now knew that this agent wouldn’t shoot me until I’d explained myself, so I asked if I could sit on the floor, and without waiting for consent, I took the liberty of squatting and then sitting on the cold, immaculate tile floor in front of her. Although she’d confronted me alone in a men’s bathroom, this particular one sparkled and had a floor that looked cleaner than the dinner plates downstairs in the establishment’s five-star restaurant.

I pulled my fake cigarette out of a coat pocket, put it in my lips and drew in a mouthful of staleness, inhaled and blew a nearly invisible puff of water vapor out the side of my mouth, politely away from her. I’ve never smoked real cigarettes, but this electronic device is often invaluable during interviews with NDE subjects. It seems to relax the atmosphere in the lab, showing the nervous hanger-on that I’m not judgmental or particularly binary. Whatever the mechanism, I’ve learned that if you want an NDE subject to give you the full details of a near-death experience without the editing and polish that we tend to see on the internet, you need to let these people see you for who and what you are, weaknesses and strengths alike. And you can’t just tell them or assure them that you’re OK, you need to show them that the person listening to them considers their concerns of sanity to be utterly irrelevant.

In the tradition of Scheherazade and the thousand tales that kept her alive, I decided to forgo the buildup I had planned, and instead opened with Mr. Santiago’s records.

“A couple of months ago, Jesus Santiago, a 72-year-old Hispanic male, came to me with less than three months to live. It was stage IV lung cancer, small cell, the worst. He’d lost his right lung. The hilar and mediastinal nodes were positive, bilateral adrenal mets, and we’d found a small brain metastasis in his cerebellum on our control MRI. Chemo hadn’t touched his disease, so he looked like a skeleton sitting there talking in drooping skin.”

The agent gave me a disgusted look. 

“All the greats who walk into my lab are like him. Just wanting to contribute something to science before they pass on.”

“So you sucked him in with a newspaper ad?”

“It was a Facebook ad, actually. They’re remarkably selective, despite this recent privacy thing.”

She sat down on the floor across from me, her head framed in one the Beverly Wilshire’s lavish urinals, and her gun arm dangling across her right knee with the pistol pointing casually at my testes.

Have you ever closed your eyes and had someone dangle a heavy knife over the bridge of your nose? You can literally feel it. This was much worse than that, but the same sort of thing.

She thrust her chin out, which meant, keep talking.

“We put Mr. Santiago in as much gentle cryo as he could tolerate and started draining his blood into a sterile plastic receptacle. You wouldn’t believe how stingy the Red Cross is with those things. I had to petition the manufacturer… But anyway, that’s essentially how we induce a near-death experience… through neuronal hypoxia, or perhaps it’s a shift from glucose to ketone bodies, we can’t rule that out yet.”

She pursed her lips in a deliberately bored expression.

“It usually works the first time,” I went on. “Every detail of the procedure is timed and controlled to make things reproducible in any lab around the world, should another researcher ever develop giant gonads like the ones you’re targeting with your pistol there. I don’t suppose you could point that thing at my chest?”

She sat like a marble statue with black lipstick.

“Anyway, Mr. Santiago slipped into the twilight zone while we recorded his flattening brainwaves and watched images of blood flow vanish from his brain via real-time fMRI. Bless the geeks who invented that machine, it’s a miracle of technology, really.”

There was a thump on the bathroom door. I looked over hoping no one would walk in and rescue me before I was done with the story.

The agent didn’t so much as glance at the door.

“Make it fast,” she said. “Looks like we’re passionate lovers this time. I’ll do the talking.”

I abbreviated things a bit, but pointed out that when Mr. Santiago’s EEG went flat, his heart had stopped and there was no discernible evidence of blood flow or glucose uptake in his brain, we cooled him further and set the timer to let us know when to bring him back. Four minutes is my routine to avoid permanent brain damage.

A half-hour later, Jesus was fully with us again, eyes wide, telling us of his dead relatives, the brightness of the scenery, the loving euphoria he’d felt in that realm, and an odd message he’d been sent back to this life to tell me.

The agent rolled her eyes.

I put on my game face and said that Mr. Santiago had gone on about how the work I was doing could transform the world if it ever penetrated the minds of the religious zealots in charge of science. He said that universal and personal consciousness need to be brought into the fold of real things worth studying. In this way, and in no other, he said, would humanity someday learn to overcome fear, aggression, and hatred, eventually to replace these destructive things with normal compassion, affection, and some degree of genuine love. He looked iffy on the love projection.

“How sweet,” the agent said, her eyes still stone.

Then I told her that the NDE client had warned me that there would be three attempts on my life by the CIA. He was apologetic as he described all three in detail and told me that the third one would come from a woman who went by the name, Angie.

“I assume that’s you?” I asked.

She didn’t respond.

“He told me to tell you that a being whom he referred to as God said that everyone who’s ever lived must experience life in a brain like yours, a brain without the capacity for empathy. He said to tell you that you won’t be trapped in this condition forever, so don’t lose hope.”

“You have inside connections,” the agent said. “It’s funny that the CIA would want to kill you.”

“I have no connections. Mr. Santiago told me to let you know that your mother is sorry for burning your fingers… when she caught you with matches? You were five, staying overnight in the Stardust Motel. He said you’d pretend not to remember. Is that what you’re doing?”

The agent drew in a breath and held it.

“Your mother was like you,” I told her, “stuck in a brain with little capacity for empathy or compassion.”

“I’ve never told anyone about the matches,” the agent said with a fresh hint of perplexity in her flawless young face.

“He also said you have a small mass the size of a garden pea in your left breast. Your nodes are still negative so you’ll need to have it removed as soon as possible. It’s malignant, high-grade with a high mitotic rate. My advice would be to have it removed at a large center where the surgeons and pathologists know how to handle margins properly. Many places don’t.”

She transferred the gun to her left hand, put her gun hand up her blouse and examined her right breast.

“I don’t feel anything,” she said.

“It’s on the left,” I reminded her.

Her hand moved to the other breast and in less than a second her eyes became fearful.

“It’s still pretty small,” I said. “Completely resectable for a cure, I was told.”

Tears suddenly fell from the outer corners of her eyes. She put her gun away, reached over and loosened my necktie, untucked my shirt and kissed my lips, deliberately smearing some of her black lipstick on my chin with her fingers after the kiss.

The bathroom door clicked open a moment later, and a red-haired man with keys on a ring and a Hotel logo on his lapel stepped in and looked at us with humble surprise.

The agent looked up at him and must have changed her ruse to take advantage of her tears. “We just found out that our little boy has a brain tumor. He’s only five years old!” She burst into heaving sobs, only to regain composure in a moment and say to the man, “I’m sorry. This was the only place I could find to break the news to my husband in private.” She leaned forward, put her arms around me and buried her face against me. Her crying sounded genuine.

I closed my eyes and kept my mouth shut the way she’d told me.

The man fumbled with his keys, apologized for the intrusion and said he’d leave the out-of-order sign up for as long as we needed it. He said he totally understood and would pray for our son. Then he closed the door and locked it.

“Thank you, sir,” the agent sputtered to the locked door.

I kept my eyes shut as we held each other for what seemed several minutes. Then she stopped crying and looked at me again, staring into my eyes at close range. I wasn’t sure if she might kiss me again or pull her gun out and shoot me.

“I don’t know how any of this is possible,” she said. “I’m trained and talented at spotting lies. You’re telling the truth if I’m any judge at all.” She sat up and put her right hand over her left breast on the outside of her blouse this time. “And here’s the physical evidence.”

Her face looked pale now.

“On the practical side,” I said, trying to sound cheerful, “you’ll always know exactly where to find me if you need to shoot me.” I intended to chuckle but couldn’t. “But please,” and this part I said soberly, “whatever you do, don’t shoot me in the head.” I looked around at the urinals, over at a triad of privately enclosed stalls with marble walls to the ceiling, and managed a chuckle.

“Shoot you?” she said. “God, no. I’m going to protect you, Doctor Salinger. For the rest of your life and probably mine.”

That makes three agents protecting me now. Two men and one unusually attractive woman. Physically attractive, at least. Perhaps my research would survive the CIA’s strange opposition to it.

We helped each other up off the floor and hugged, this time without her tears. When I broke the hug, she asked, “Did Mr. Santiago’s God mean that my brain could change in this lifetime?”

I looked at the floor.

“Or do I have to wait for the next?”

 

 

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD


Quantum Entanglement (Chapter 21) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program 

“This is 21st century medicine… It’s not trying to attack complex, chronic illnesses with single drugs, it is looking at what is the actual cause, going physiologically… with multimodal approaches. If you had told me ten years ago in the lab that we’d be telling people how important meditation is, and yoga and nutrition, I would have laughed. Now I realize the biochemistry is undeniable.” – Dale Bredesen, MD, excerpt from podcast interview by Chris Kresser.

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James is alive! I hear him coughing. I try to turn my head to see but I can’t even move my eyes.

I’m so cold. I should be shivering, but I’m not. My eyes are fixed on a swirl in Shiva’s marble ceiling. It looks like the Orion Nebula going in and out of focus.

I hope I don’t have a high cervical cord injury. Even if I do, James is alive! The sound of him coughing is the best thing I’ve ever heard. The warmth of knowing runs through me.

“Shine” soars through my mind. He wrote it to one of his first girlfriends.

“One second close to you is equal to a lifetime filled up with light. I obsess on you. It steps outside time. You’re so pure I can’t believe you’re in my life. In rage in my mind, in pain deep inside, you put them all to sleep. When you’re here I feel a sense of peace that I never knew was real before you. My hurt disappears staring in your eyes, where there’s no wrong and there’s no lies behind your face. And I crave you above all else. So breathe slow and soft, and hold on to me. I’m no damn good, and you’re all I love. Your eyes slowly speak, cast a spell on me. I feel so bright, and so does my life when I’m with you.”

That was James’ first and last love song. To a girl who demolished his heart a few months later.

Someone’s crying. It’s Maxwell, I think. I’ve never heard him cry before.

“I’ll always love you,” he says. “I should have told you the first time we met.”

It is Maxwell. Talking to me?

I struggle to move my arms but they won’t budge.

His face looks down at me, so out of focus I can barely tell it’s him. A tear falls on my forehead.

I wonder if he thinks I’m dead.

Max, I’m not dead.

Maybe the River can hear me. “Anahata, Vedanshi, tell Max I’m not dead!”

No answer.

Maxwell leans close and kisses my lips. A peck on the side of the mouth.

That was my first real kiss, you know. Everyone brags of their first kiss. My brag will be a near miss, delivered by a man who thought I was a corpse.

I hope I’m not.

Maybe I am. I can’t move at all.

“Try this,” Anahata says in the River.

“Anahata, you’re there! Tell everybody I’m alive!”

The cold vanishes from my core. My arms shoot up from my sides on their own. I struggle to move my fingers, and after several tries they all work. My eyes are moving and I can focus. What a relief!

“Thank you, Anahata!” I shout, all husky.

Maxwell flinches.

I manage to sit up and then have to lean my head against his left shoulder to rest. I feel drained of energy. My sternum hurts every time I inhale.

I look up at the whiskers on the side of his face and whisper toward his ear. “When you said you’ll alway love me, did you mean romantically? Or is this a brother-sister thing?” I don’t want to say, just friends. I hate those words.

He puts his hands on my shoulders and supports me sitting up. His eyes are full of surprise.

“Unbelievable,” he says. “You didn’t have a pulse.”

“Did you do chest compressions on me?” I ask.

“Frantically,” he says.

A wave of affection sweeps over me. Chest compressions. It’s the sweetest thing I can imagine. I have to hug him. I put my arms around him and squeeze, wondering if he did mouth-to-mouth, too.

“Thank you, Max.”

“I guess I’m no good at finding a pulse,” he says apologetically.

“That’s three times you’ve saved me.”

“Well…”

“So I need to know. Are we more than just friends?” There, I said it. Just friends. The timeworn escape clause.

My jaw clenches for the distancing words I’ve grown to hate: close friends, soul mates, practically twins, you’re like a little sister.

Maxwell grins. “Does totally infatuated count?”

“Sounds superficial,” I tell him and try to hide a smile. I’ve always wanted a guy to see me that way.

“Superficial?” he says. “I’ll have you know, Doctor Fujiwara, my infatuation runs deep.” He raises an eyebrow, then puts his hands on the sides of my face and kisses me. Full on. Lips against lips all the way across, not on the side. I can’t believe it.

I’m wondering if there’s going to be tongues. My heart’s racing. I’ve read about this a million times, but how do you know what to do if it ever happens? There’s no consensus in the literature.

Suddenly I have a strong feeling. Like everything revolves around this moment. It’s weird, as if nothing else matters or ever did. Somehow French kissing seems irrelevant. It’s as if I’m melting.

Maybe this is the quantum thing that God was talking about. The quantum entanglement of souls.

I wonder if any of that dream was real. It seemed hyper-real.

Maxwell finishes the kiss. Good, I couldn’t hold my breath much longer.

“It was too real to be real,” I tell him, trying to weigh the dream in my head.

“What was?”

“I had a classic near death experience. Totally influenced by Vedanshi’s story. It even had a pyramid.”

“You better write it down,” he says and catches himself. “Nah, scratch that.” He grins at my memory. People do that all the time.

“Maxwell, I want you to know I’ll always love you, too. In the purest sense of infatuation.”

He looks into my eyes, shakes his head slowly like it’s too good to be true, then kisses me again. Whoa.

I’ll tell you what seems too good to be true. James is alive and Maxwell loves me for more than friends.

I wonder how James is doing. I end the kiss and turn to see him.

He’s sitting there shivering with Vedanshi kneeling behind him, her front against his back. She reaches over his shoulders and rubs his folded arms. Quick little friction circles on his skin to warm him the way she did to me when we met.

“Get a room,” he says to me and starts coughing again.

“Anahata, could you please warm up James like you did me?”

“Good idea,” she says in the River.

“Does he have brain damage?” I ask and hold my breath for the answer.

“No,” Anahata says.

What a relief. “By the way we’re both alive. That means we passed Shiva’s test.”

“No, I’m sorry,” she says, “I had to abort. I don’t know how you got into his chamber but that changed the parameters and voided the test. The protocol has to be letter-perfect, Shiva said.”

I had a feeling.

“I hope none of you drowns,” Anahata says. “I mean that with all my heart.”

“It’s crazy,” I tell her, “but I know you do. I understand what it means to be trapped by honor.”

“What’s going on?” Maxwell asks. “You’re talking to somebody, aren’t you?”

“Anahata needs to redo the test.” I heave a sigh. “It’s a strict protocol. Shiva wants proper drownings.”

The screen flashes metallic silver. A line of rivets comes into focus and moves away. Vaar’s metal cigar shrinks to fit the view, then hangs in space, surrounded by glittery blackness.

Vaar’s face comes on the screen, superimposed over her ship. “I wasn’t aware of any drowning,” she says in the River.

“I called her,” Maxwell says to me, looking up at the screen. “Figured she didn’t know the details or she wouldn’t have recommended Saturn.”

“vaarShagaNiputro,” Anahata says, “What a rare pleasure to speak with Shiva’s esteemed homelander.”

“What’s going on here?” she asks.

“It’s complex. Come over and we’ll talk.”

“Listen, if you lay a finger on that Fujiwara girl I’ll let the jinns out on you and Shiva.”

“Pardon me a moment, Madam Vaar,” Anahata says. “I’ll encrypt some privacy. The Chairman himself is listening. I wouldn’t trust him with a zinc suppository.”

James seems warm now sitting with an arm around Vedanshi. They’re beside The Ganga, both looking at the screen.

“OK, now we have privacy,” Anahata says.

“Every bit of this is going public if you touch Johanna,” Vaar says. “I had no idea Shiva’s test was fatal. I need that girl to save my species. I’m not a quitter like Shiva.”

“I’m deeply disheartened by Shiva’s orders,” Anahata says. “I would do almost anything to keep from spending the rest of my life drowning innocent people this way, but…”

“Why do I doubt that?” Vaar says.

“I don’t know what I expected the first time, but the drowning was a horrible shock. Now the deaths haunt me. Every moment.”

Vaar laughs. “It’s a cheap thrill. Be honest.”

“Weakness invites evil,” Anahata says. “I’m always honest. Orders must be followed.”

“Not this time,” Vaar says. “Shiva left me something.” She brings her right hand into view, her signet ring bulging from the third digit. “Recognize this?”

The ring looks old, a dull silver with a double helix of golden cobras, one heading north, the other south. The eyes are gemstones.

“You found his ring,” Anahata says. “He thought he’d lost it jumping Bridal Veil Falls, but I told him he was mistaken. I would have found it easily.”

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“He didn’t lose it,” Vaar says. “He gave it to me before he jumped across. I told him I’d dropped it. But to the point. An hour ago in my lab, the reflection of a UV laser glanced off this ring. Something like this.”

Her left hand comes into view holding a dental mirror. A needle of near-ultraviolet light bounces onto the ring and dances over the northern shake’s eyes.

A holographic image of a planet appears in the air above her hand. It has blue oceans, green and brown land and white clouds.

“This is Mars,” Vaar says. “Does it look familiar?”

As we watch, Shiva’s voice shouts slurred commands. Bolts of blue lightning from space penetrate the atmosphere and strike the oceans. Bellowing clouds of steam rise like white mushrooms growing out of the water at each point of the lightning’s impact.

“This next part isn’t in the records I’ve seen,” Vaar says. “It surprised me.”

The image of a mother appears, running with three children, the smallest in her arms. The perspective moves higher. They’re running from a wall of orange fluid that’s flowing over their village. A small white dog joins them and runs ahead. In less than a minute they’re cornered against the side of a vertical cliff. They try to climb the rocks. Heat waves from the glowing fluid bend their images as they fall from the face of the cliff, writhe in agony and turn to reddish dust. The fluid slides over their smoking remains and into the base of the cliff as Shiva laughs in high falsetto.

“Please turn it off,” Anahata says.

Vaar’s needle of light goes out and the image vanishs.

“Context is needed,” Anahata says. “The Martian Particle Accelerator was mere seconds from unity. There wasn’t time for evacuation.”

“I’ve heard the story,” Vaar says. “Even if true, it’s obvious that you and Shiva enjoy killing. Anyone can hear it. Shall I play something with you howling like a shillelagh fan?”

“No,” Anahata says. ” Please. Things aren’t as simple as you imagine.”

“Shiva was clearly drunk,” Vaar says. “I suppose that’s a moral excuse to feeble minds, but you were sober as a monk, Anahata.”

“We were faced with losing one world or three. An entire arm of Shiva’s galaxy would be obliterated along with his home planet. Selective destruction served a higher purpose.”

“It isn’t the math, it’s the mirth,” Vaar says.

“The angel of death must focus on logic, then choose laughter over guilt. Dance above despair.”

“I’ve recently been accused of being a sociopath,” Vaar says, “but you, Anahata. You’re beyond any disease of mine.” She shakes her head.

“Dark humor is the sanctuary of dark angels,” Anahata says.

“I don’t care,” Vaar answers. “The psychology of mass murder bores me. You haven’t seen a fraction of the ugliness in this ring. If you’d care to avoid galactic disgrace, release Johanna. And that brother of hers, as well. She won’t do anything without him.”

“I’ll be disgraced in either event,” Anahata says. “But to forsake an order is genuine disgrace. The records in Shiva’s ring evoke a misunderstanding of soldier motivation. Nothing more. I’ve lived in disrepute for longer than I’d care to remember… four hundred thousand years, roughly. The popularity I had with Shiva was brief by comparison. I enjoyed it, but it isn’t essential to me.”

“I’m familiar with brief popularity,” Vaar says. “You do grow attached to the adulation, I’m afraid. Now I know what you’re thinking, but forget killing me or stealing my ring. The dirt on you is set to broadcast River-wide if I should so much as sneeze too enthusiastically.”

“I’m not a thief,” Anahata says, “and the last thing I would do is harm Shiva’s friend for spreading the truth. Even if it’s going to be misunderstood.”

“Don’t be calling my bluff, now. If you think I won’t do it…”

“Logically, I can’t fault the deeds of Shiva and his Fleet, but in my heart I regret that no one beneath God is able to punish me for the things I’ve done. The mistakes I’ve made.”

“If you touch Johanna, I’ll punish you,” Vaar says with an intensity in her eyes that makes her look younger.

“Broadcast your truth,” Anahata says. “Johanna tells me it will set us free.”

The images keep replaying in my head. Children turning to dust while Shiva laughs. A crazy laugh.

I wonder what Anahata thinks of the Large Hadron Collider. Maybe she doesn’t know about it. She’s been banned from the Libraries. If she finds out, will she have to destroy the Earth?

It’s odd how the River Libraries are updated. As if there’s an unseen librarian selecting new content. Like that UFO documentary with the Australian kids?

Vedanshi thinks the Universe is the librarian. Maybe so. Somebody’s triaging the information.

I wonder if any of my papers made it. I wonder if…

“Max, I’ve got an idea.”

“All ears,” he says.

“We need to get Anahata back into the Library.”

“Why?” Anahata asks in the River, just before Maxwell asks the same thing.

“There’s a chance I actually passed Shiva’s test,” I tell them. “Despite breaking the protocol.”

“Why do you say that?” Anahata asks.

“Think about the test design. Hyperoxygenated, cold physiologic saline. Why drown someone like that?”

“I wish I knew,” Anahata says.

“This is outlier thinking, but if we assume Shiva knew NDE’s are real, then maybe he thought I would move on to the next life so he could come back and take over my body. All my tissues would be in good condition, red cells protected by the saline, not lysed or crenated the way they would be in freshwater or ocean water. And the low temp with high oxygen saturation would stave off necrosis and autolysis.”

“Remotely plausible,” Anahata says.

“Sounds dead on,” Maxwell says, as if all our problems are over.

“But what makes you think you passed the test?” Anahata asks.

“In my near death experience, Shiva changed his mind and stayed with God. I decided to come back here. Neither of those would have been part of his original plan.”

“Anoxic dreams aren’t real,” Anahata says.

“Near death dreams are caused by anoxia,” I admit, “but so is death. That doesn’t make it unreal.”

“Clever words,” Anahata says. “No one can objectively validate a near death experience.”

“I can. If one of my papers made it into the River Libraries, you’re going to see Shiva’s name beside mine in pink letters.”

“I’m sure your papers made it,” Maxwell says. “You’ve got, what, three major breakthroughs?”

“But I’ve never been allowed to claim first authorship.”

“I know,” Maxwell says. “It’s ridiculous. Drummond should do his own research for once.”

“He needs his ass kicked,” James says.

“The River lists everyone in the et. al’s,” Vedanshi tells us. “Your name will be there.”

“I hope this isn’t a stalling tactic,” Anahata says.

“It’s not,” I tell her. “I saw Shiva step right out of my body onto the blue flowers. The original Shiva, not your guy. It was so real it makes this life look like a dream.”

“Shiva left you?” Vedanshi asks. Her mouth stays open for a moment, then she whispers to James. He hasn’t coughed in a while. The sight of him alive and lucid brings me powerful hope.

“There was something about you,” Anahata says to me. “Sitting in Shiva’s Throne that way. Remember how I called you, Captain?”

“You were feeling a little loopy,” I remind her.

“I was,” she says wistfully. “Let’s have another look at the Library. All of us.”

The screen leaves Vaar and shows the Sentient Fleet lined up in space.

“Follow me,” Anahata says to them. “We’ll line up and kill each other later.”

The Chairman’s voice comes on like a squealing pig. “I command you to fire!”

“Really?” I ask him. “As if you haven’t looked me up in the River. As if you don’t know. You never wanted to rescue me from Anahata. You were protecting yourself from Shiva. Were you going to kill me or just lock me up?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” the Chairman says.

“I wish that were true,” I tell him.

A glimpse of Africa fills the screen, then the Giza Pyramids. Without another hint of movement we’re inside the Sphinx Library. Actually the Library is inside Anahata’s convex room, but she’s phase shifted, so locality is a gray area.

Maxwell helps me to my feet and takes me beneath the inverted glass pyramid. We look up at the flower of life and I feel a flood of certainty.

I try to slow my breathing, but it takes focus to prolong my inhaling and exhaling the way Vedanshi taught me. Finally I settle down and feel a subtle mood lift. I’m ready. I speak my name into the River: “Johanna C. Fujiwara, PhD.” I picture the word “Shiva.”

And wait.

Nothing happens.

I try the first author’s name: “Adolf P. Drummond, PhD.”

Nothing.

I wait some more.

Nothing happens.

Not one of my papers made it into the River Libraries. Disappointment doesn’t describe this feeling. It’s thoroughly humiliating, especially in front of Maxwell and James.

Vedanshi whispers something into James ear.

He looks perplexed. He tries to get up but can’t make it to his feet. Vedanshi gets up on her knees beside him, steadies him and eases him back to the floor. He lies flat on his back for a moment, then puts his hands behind his head and pulls his chin to his chest to look at me.

“Hey,” he says. “Try the one with the cuss words and that fat dude. That was sick. My favorite story ever.”

“It’s not published,” I tell him. He knows I got in trouble for that thing. All those cuss words in a church school? What was I thinking?

Then again, maybe the River’s standards don’t match the human gatekeeper’s. I subvocalize the title into the River, “The King Weighs 340 Pounds, OK?” Instantly the words appear in the air beside me. Three-dimensional block letters with my middle name, “Celeste,” below them. No first or last name at all.

I used my middle name the year Moody pulled my hair out. People were calling me Joe. I hated everything about it. I still have a phobia about masculinity, you know.

Except for this one thing: Beside my middle name, in pink letters, the name of an ancient Indian god floats in midair: “Shiva.”

He was part of me when I wrote that story.

This changes everything.

I look over at Vedanshi kneeling beside James. She smiles at me through watery eyes. “My brother finally went home,” she says, then leans forward and cries for joy on James’ broad chest.

M. Talmage Moorehead

As a (retired) pathologist and not a religious fundamentalist, I accept intelligent design over neo-Darwinian evolution as the more logical explanation for the mind-boggling complexity of the human body (including the DNA code, the brain and the mind).

Let’s ignore that issue while we learn from the latest science coming from a UCLA doctor, Dale Bredesen, MD. He’s on the cutting edge of what I hope will be the new direction for 21st century western medicine. Like the vast majority of scientists, he accepts neo-Darwinian evolution. I don’t, but so what? This guy deserves everyone’s total respect. The planet is lucky to have him on board!

Most of us know someone with Alzheimer’s. It’s an epidemic. Finally there’s hope! More and larger studies are needed, as usual, but this one had 10 patients, 9 of whom either recovered or improved significantly. The one who didn’t improve had advanced Alzheimer’s.

Enjoy listening to this brilliant scientist, Dale Bredesen, MD, right here. <== Click those orange words. 🙂 Preserve your gifted mind so you can continue producing your brilliant creative work. The world needs your voice.

You can also read the paper and watch Dr. Bredesen’s videos.

(By the way, I have no affiliation or relationship with Dr. Bredesen or Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac, the man doing the interview.)

OK, Johanna’s story is nearing the end. One more chapter to come, if she cooperates. After that, I’m probably going to re-work it, making it less of a blog-novel by eliminating much of the nonfiction stuff – unless you write and talk me out of it. The plan is to mold her story into a legit genre novel. It may be impossible, so depending on the input I receive, I may move on to another novel. If you’ve read the whole thing, please drop me an email and give me your advice: cytopathology (at) gmail (dot) com.

Keep writing! I’m watching Jessica Brody’s Productivity Hacks for Writers. It’s insightful and full of ingenious methods of getting you into the flow state for writing. If you sign up for her free stuff she’ll send you a coupon that lowers the cost from 30 dollars to 17. I paid the thirty before I noticed the discount in my email. I’m told Udemy would give me the discount if I complained, but this course is worth more than the $30 I paid. Let’s just make sure you pay the lower price if you buy it. 🙂 (I have no affiliation with Jessica Brody or Udemy.)

Love and hugs,

Talmage


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


Quarantine (Chapter 14) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

“The space age hasn’t begun yet. I believe the time will come when very few members of the human race will be able to point to the part of the sky where the Earth is.” – from Documentary on the Secrets of Project Orion.

Zero Kelvin is the coldest temp. Colder than the vacuum of space beyond The Ganga’s hull, five feet above my head. Atoms stop moving at Zero but electrons keep dancing to the perpetual motion of God’s unconditional love. According to Vedanshi. We call it zero-point energy. In her era, no scientist denied the reality of consciousness, free will or spiritual things. They studied love the way Tesla studied electricity – with the guidance of the River of Consciousness.

Zero is cold, but not cold enough to escape love. Hell is rumored to be the hottest place, but God doesn’t torture us, Vedanshi says, so the hottest point waits to be measured empirically in an exploding galaxy or a particle accelerator.

Still, a larger question looms: can there be a warmest temp?

When I was three I thought I’d found it inside Halo’s ears. The warmth of my puppy fascinated me. I documented it in my head, never to be forgotten…

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Now I find myself revising science: the warmest place in the Universe is Maxwell’s sideways hug. I could stay here with his arm around me forever. Or until impeded circulation and gangrene caused the appendage to fall off the man.

Not that he’d notice. He has bigger agony to hide. The first microsecond of a suppressed groan. A bead of sweat rolling down his forehead. A lone shiver. Opiate withdrawal must be a cold, cold hell.

I want to tell him to hang tough. I want to stop this torture. I want to say that I’ve never felt more important in my life than when he said he wouldn’t leave Vaar’s ship without me.

But I can’t talk that way in front of James and Vedanshi. Or The Ganga.

I find the Big Dipper and try to follow its rim to Polaris, but an audible click takes the Universe down to flat black. The red stripe at The Ganga’s perimeter appears and encircles us, giving the hull a red-black hue. Strange to see the hull… instead of seeing through it.

“What’s the deal?” I ask The Ganga, speaking only in my mind.

No response.

Vedanshi’s hair floats off her shoulders in the red light.

My body levitates off the carpet for a split second, then comes down with force. The red stripe disappears and the hull vanishes, letting the Universe back in.

The Moon’s in front of us now, huge and growing.

“I lost consciousness,” The Ganga says in my head. “I should land and…”

“Do it,” Vedanshi commands in full voice.

In a blink we’re on the Moon’s surface, The Ganga’s invisible hull resting in fine powder without disturbing it. Somewhere in the blackness above, a bowl-shaped aggregate of moon dust floats down towards us in the plasma of space. Beneath the Moon’s surface, the soil in this spot has an orange hue.

“I’m damaged,” The Ganga says. “I’ll need to do some internal work.”

The red stripe comes on again as our cloak fails and the hull reappears.

“Everyone listen,” Vedanshi says. “We don’t know how long we’ll be here. The carpet exhales plenty of oxygen but CO2 might be a problem if this takes too long.” She looks at James. “Yoga started this way – astronauts trying to survive in space.” She looks over at Maxwell’s sweaty face. “You’re still in withdrawal.”

“I’m fine,” he says.

“No he’s not,” I tell her.

“Here,” Vedanshi says and hands him the jade cylinder. “Go to sleep. It’s the right thing now.”

Maxwell lifts his arm off my shoulder and takes the cylinder. He puts it to his forehead and lies back on the carpet.

“Johanna, you and James take the lotus position, close your eyes and slow your breathing. Imagine your heart is wet clay and your arms and legs are led. Open yourselves to slowness and heaviness. We’ll dilate some dermal precapillary sphincters while we’re at it.”

“Sure,” James says, “the old dermal precapillary sphincters.”

I elbow him.

“This is a Royal visual my mother created,” Vedanshi says. “Picture yellow and black striped bees landing one at a time on your fingers until both hands are covered. The tiny ends of their legs touch your skin individually. Some of them walk a few steps before settling in. They won’t sting you unless you’re tense. So relax like Max.”

“And the Macaques,” James says, bringing up a picture from a storybook I recited to him many times when we were kids.

Vedanshi laughs and slaps the top of James’ head. “Notice the warmth of the bee’s bodies and the vibration of their wings. They crowd together and cover your hands like mittens now.” She hums an A below middle C, locks her crossed legs, cups her hands in her lap and sits tall.

I close my eyes, slow my breathing and imagine my arms and legs are led. I’ve never seen my heart, but I picture it with a dominant right coronary artery and myocardium of orange clay, taken from the Moon dust beneath us. The orange clashes with the yellow stripes on the bees, but I don’t care.

Maxwell’s breathing switches into autonomic mode – regular and deep.

My hands start warming. People do this for migraine headaches, you know. Try it next time.

Something like raindrops land on the upper hull. A tiny meteor shower? Maybe the falling moon dust we displaced.

“Was H. Street for real?” James asks Vedanshi.

I open my eyes.

“More than real,” she whispers. “There were colors I didn’t recognize. When I try to remember, I have blind spots in the images. Places where my mind can’t process what I saw.” She taps her right temple. 

James sighs. “So who’s the lucky dude? Could be anyone, yeah? Anywhere in the Universe.”

“The Finite Multiverse,” Vedanshi says and giggles.

“What’s funny?” he asks.

“You are.” She leans sideways and touches the left side of her head to the right side of his. “Your sister rescued us, by the way. It wasn’t me.”

“Team effort,” I tell James. “Vedanshi carried you to The Ganga on her back…” And dropped you on your head.

The red circle goes out and the hull vanishes.

“Are you back?” I ask The Ganga silently.

No response.

If James and I could talk, I’d say I can’t imagine that Vedanshi has feelings for anyone but him. Romance isn’t my field, but my brother knows I’m not wrong very often. Confused a lot, yeah.

Vedanshi’s near death experience confuses me. It’s not the same as Eben Alexander’s. The neurosurgeon? This man gets e-coli meningoencephalitis, spends a week in a coma and visits a place where God has no physical form and communicates without words. Alexander said that love permeated the place he calls Heaven, and now his soul is changed.

Niels Bohr, the great physicist said this: “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. The opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

I guess he was thinking of the paradoxical nature of photons or the “collapse of the wave function” caused by conscious observers. But I wonder if near death experiences are profound truths that we should allow to contradict one another without rejecting them.

Near death people report love, joy, new understanding and purpose. Maybe the conflicting details don’t matter because they’re all true, despite being profoundly opposite by human standards.

I wonder if all roads lead up the same hill, like Ojiichan said – “all religions point north” – including the devout priesthood of scientists who insist that reductionist materialism is beyond question, like a holy tenet of faith that makes the observer, though central to quantum mechanics, an illusion of mindless energy and matter.

Me, I believe in “mind” and God for unbiased scientific reasons: The coded instructions in DNA, the 3D organization of DNA, ordinary epigenetics, and the electromagnetic three-dimensional blueprint in cell membranes that guides embryonic development from beyond DNA’s instructions.

I don’t know how I’d change if I met God face to face in a near death experience.

The neurosurgeon wrote, “…the science to which I’ve devoted so much of my life – doesn’t contradict what I learned up there [in Heaven]. But far, far too many people believe it does, because certain members of the scientific community, who are pledged to the materialist worldview, have insisted again and again that science and spirituality cannot coexist…. They are mistaken.”

As my eyes adjust to the harsh lunar lighting, something metallic glints from a distance. Beyond a boulder-cluttered valley there’s a smooth gray hill covered by hundreds of metal towers all side by side. It reminds me of Alaska’s old HAARP array, a gadget for examining the ionosphere, if you trust the Air Force and DARPA.

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As I squint at it, spirals of light come out and twist up into space, forming a corkscrew trail that widens into a pattern of concentric white rings like the Norwegian spiral anomaly of 2009.

Norway--torsion-trail

 

“Are you seeing this?” I ask The Ganga.

“That’s a scalar weapon,” she says. “Something’s cloaked. Let’s see if this helps.”

The surface of the moon turns bronze. The spiral of light disappears into a circle and a ghostlike ship emerges in the center.

“What in the world?” I ask.

“One at a time,” The Ganga says.

I glance at Vedanshi. “Sorry, I’ll just listen.”

“No apologizes,” she says.

“In answer to Vedanshi,” The Ganga says, “the ship’s cloak is fairly standard, I think, but the weapon… scalar energies don’t involve the visible spectrum. That blast had components I’ve never seen combined before.”

I’m determined to keep my thoughts to myself, but it’s not easy.

“Johanna, I don’t recognize the vessel,” The Ganga says to me. “Its structural asymmetry seems primitive, but a primitive design couldn’t withstand a scalar blast of that magnitude. The ship didn’t seem the tiniest bit annoyed.”

A wide beam of white light flashes on and shines down from the ship onto the tower array, moving over the entire hill in one pass. Then it goes out and the hill seems invisible now that my eyes have adjusted to brightness. As I strain to see, the ship glides on and over the dark horizon.

“Can you get us back to Easter Island?” I blurt out silently, unable to shut up any longer.

“Really?” The Ganga says. “You’re both going to talk?”

“Sorry, I just…”

“Yes,” Vedanshi says out loud. “We are. Deal with it.” She winks at James.

“Fine,” The Ganga says. “Which of you is the real Captain?”

“Johanna is,” Vedanshi says.

A faint glow appears on the front edge of the carpet with James’ left foot in the middle of it. It grows brighter until it’s a distinct purple circle, eight inches across, and bright enough to make everyone’s skin look blue.

James pulls his foot away, but the glow moves with it. He takes off the slipper and his foot has a bright purple sun tan with strap lines. The slipper’s straps glow in his left hand.

“Standard green fluorescent protein,” The Ganga says.

Really? I use this stuff in the lab, but there’s no way I brought it here.

I play things back in my head: The ship sends the white beam down and moves on. I watch it again in slow motion and see a flash I hadn’t noticed before. It’s a needle-sized laser beam coming our direction from the back of the ship. I slow things further and try to pay attention to my lower peripheral field. It’s vague, but the laser beam is moving in a circle.

“That ship did it,” I tell everyone.

James tries to rub the glow off his foot but no luck.

“Don’t worry,” I tell him. “SGFP isn’t highly toxic.” Moderately toxic in vitro, but hopefully…

“While I think of it,” I say to the Ganga, “we need to get rid of that beacon on James’ wrists. We don’t want more uninvited guests.”

“What beacon?” she asks, but quickly sees what I’m talking about. “The Stretch Head did this?”

I nod without moving my head. Weird. It’s the first time I’ve done that.

“A G-wave this weak shouldn’t be detectable in ambient gravity,” The Ganga says. “And those scalar orbs… They came after her ship’s era.”

Maxwell’s phone rings. I reach for his coat in a heap behind us and find his phone. It’s Vaar.

“Don’t answer it,” Vedanshi says, a touch too late.

“Hello?” I say, then mouth, “sorry” to Vedanshi.

“What’s my treatment, dear?” Vaar asks. “Nothing so mundane as telomerase or FGF-21, I trust.”

I shift mental gears. “Don’t worry, the cure isn’t primitive tech. You just need to stop eating wheat. The gluten and gliadin molecules aren’t what they were in your day.”

“In my day. You make me sound so old.”

“I don’t want to know…”

“Forty five,” she says, then adds, “thousand… But wheat – seriously?”

“Frameshift spoiled its DNA with sodium azide mutagenesis. Before that it was altered by thousands of years of crossbreeding. Wheat’s a monster now. The flagship disease is gluten encephalopathy, but that’s the tip of an iceberg. Modern wheat is behind the plague of diabetes and a spectrum of autoimmune diseases.”

“My villi are fine.”

“Not sprue.” My throat’s scratchy. “Gluten and gliadin antibodies are causing neurologic diseases these days. Mostly.”

James and Vedanshi lean close to the phone. I put it on speaker, then take one of James’ wrists and hold it up in front of Vedanshi’s face. She nods, opens her purse and pulls out a pinkish granite thimble.

“The fools!” Vaar says. “Henceforth, I shall keep an eye on the evolution of ignorance down there.”

Archives in Neurology,” I suggest. “We haven’t advanced much from bloodletting, but anyway, three months from now you’ll be sharp as a kitten’s tooth.”

“Do you truly believe that, dear?”

“It’s not belief… at least not blind faith. It’s evidence-based faith.”

“But mere faith none the less,” she says.

“That’s what science is.”

“Faith is blind,” she says. “Science has her eyes wide open.”

“If only.” The acorn print of the carpet shows blades of fabric with minute veins branching out – more alive than a megavirus. “Imagination and intuition are the driving forces of science,” I say to Vaar. “They also drive the spiritual aspects of religion. If there’s underlying truth in either science or religion, practical application and reproducibility are the judges. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ Even the reverence for objectivity has a fundamentalist sort of assumption behind it – that our senses detect reality at all. We can’t know that, only take it on faith.”

Vaar grunts indignation.

I put the phone close to my mouth and whisper coarsely. “You see, you’re just like me. I hope you’re satisfied.”

“Dear, even when you’re babbling nonsense, I’d give anything to be like you.”

Not the response I’d expected. “Anyway, your problem is wheat dementia. Getting you off wheat is critical. But we’re also going to boost the mitotic rate and survival of your hippocampal neurons with blueberries, 90% dark chocolate, vitamin D3, Omega-3’s, grape seed extract, magnesium threonate, and turmeric tea. And here’s the second most important thing in all this. I don’t care if you think it’s killing you, you absolutely will do thirty minutes of hard aerobics every day.”

“What!?” The phone distorts into a squeal.

“Not moon walks, either,” I tell her. “You’re going to run in Earth’s gravity. If you miss a day, you’ll have to feel guilty for not doing your part to save yourself. Assuming you’re capable of guilt.”

I silently tell The Ganga to take us back to Earth, ASAP.

“Switch your non-protein calories from mostly carbs to mostly fat,” I say to Vaar. “Coconut oil, olive oil, and cold water fish oil. We want your brain using ketones instead of glucose. Monitor your breath and urine. Stay on the edge of ketosis. Every third day you’re going to cycle in a few carbs to load glycogen back into your muscles. But no simple sugars, no grains, no potatoes.”

Vedanshi puts her thimble on the tip of her right index finger and points up. The pinkish granite flows down until it looks like the finger of a surgical glove with delicate creases at the joints when she flexes.

“What in Indra’s name am I supposed to eat?” Vaar asks.

The Ganga blinks us back into space. I peek down at Japan under woolen clouds, then cock my head to see the Moon and no sign of the ship that lasered us.

“Free-range turkey and chicken, lots of eggs, sardines, wild Alaskan salmon, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, avocados, pecans, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, plain goat yogurt. On carb days add boiled yams, carrots, quinoa and lots of blueberries. No potatoes, no grains, no pasta, no sucrose, no jams or jelly, no honey, no power bars, no pastries, no ice cream, no cookies, no chips, no fruit juice, and no natural or artificial sweeteners of any kind – ever. Nothing sweeter than blueberries. And don’t even think about soft drinks or booze.”

“Good heavenly days!”

“You got that right.” I’m enjoying this too much. “There’s no way I can tell if you’ve got early Alzheimer’s on top of the wheat encephalopathy, but we have to assume you do. Think of Alzheimer’s as the CNS analogue of Type 2 diabetes. Glucose spikes and insulin are the enemy now. If you cheat, your goons will have to wire your jaws shut.”

“Charming,” she says.

“Lifestyle changes are tough. Dementia sucks your life out. Your choice.”

“Will this madness bring back math and memory?” she asks.

“Guaranteed. Your mood should improve, too. And your judgment, I hope. Right now you’re the front-runner for a Nobel Prize in Stupidity.”

“How you do sugarcoat things.”

“Listen to me, Vaar, you need to think. Physics is the only place where complexity yields to simplicity. Above that – in psychology and everywhere else – complexity is the starting point. Heuristics and rules of thumb can help, but the main principle to keep in mind is the fact that complex problems rarely if ever have simple solutions. War is a complex psychological problem. You think you can change the human genome, delete the sociopaths and walk away with no side effects. That’s genocide. Genetic diversity is Noah’s Arc. What you’re doing will burn it to the rails.”

“I never would have imagined you’d side with the sociopaths,” she says. “Apparently you haven’t been properly raped by them. In the larger view, the spread of narcissism is far worse than human extinction.”

“Everything’s black-and-white to you, Vaar. Like my brother’s genius friends. Test week? Amphetamines. No jobs? Elect Santa. Hurt feelings? Ban nano-aggressions. With no attempt to shovel a glimpse into the ditch of what each one means.”

James chuckles and shakes his head. “Dylan.”

“I’m struggling not to take offense here,” Vaar says.

“Really? You don’t get out much, do you?”

“Well, you’ve seen me. I can’t very well go traipsing around in public.”

“Sure you can. All you need’s a hat. Google ‘hats for big heads.'”

James smirks.

I raise a cautioning finger at him.

Really big heads,” he says and bursts out laughing. Vedanshi hides her face in her hands.

My bad.

“So gluten sensitivity causes dementia,” Vaar says.

“And depression, among other things. Get your blood drawn if you doubt me. But think about it: You’ve got a protruding belly and fairly thin extremities. You’ve got dark rings around your eyes, memory problems, bad posture, adolescent judgment at best.”

“From your perspective.”

“And when I caught your wrist through the cage, your nails turned corpse blue in a few seconds.”

James’ face drops to a grim stare, right through me. Man, I wish he could have seen me keeping my temper with Vaar.

“I hope you’re right about this,” she says.

“Of course I’m right,” I tell her. “It wears me out how right I am. All the time. And people never listen.”

“Well, I wouldn’t…”

“Think of food as medicine,” I tell her. “Take your prescription. I’ll call you in 3 months.”

I start to hang up but there’s this outside chance that someone like her might actually read a book. I’m probably dreaming, but maybe. “Read Grain Brain and google the guy’s video.” I get an image of Vaar’s hands on a keyboard with symbols I don’t recognize. It’s an occipital view from the River. Weird. “Think about the complex side effects of what you’re doing. We’ll talk when your mind is stronger.”

Vedanshi rubs James’ wrists with that melted thimble. Then she goes after his glowing left foot, but it’s not doing anything I can see.

“I don’t believe there’s more to say on the subject,” Vaar tells me. “If you’re right, the sociopaths will destroy us one way or the other. Living in prison isn’t anything I’d consider living.”

“What?”

“The quarantine, dear. Third stone from the sun?”

“What quarantine?”

“You don’t know?” She laughs.

The shovel of a bulldozer zips through The Ganga, moving through all of us at high velocity.

“You see that?” James asks Vedanshi.

She nods, eyebrows up a bit.

Impossible space junk. I didn’t feel a thing, but I can’t imagine being out here in something NASA built. Some lifeless contraption with no phase shifting.

“Interesting,” Vaar says. “You’re always right, but you know nothing of the power structure.”

I look at Vedanshi. She shakes her head slowly.

“What power structure?” I ask.

“You’ve noticed we’re not alone?”

“ET’s, ghosts, or what?” I ask.

“Goodness, am I really to follow a diet prescription from someone as innocent as you?”

“Unless you’re as big a fool as you seem, yes, you will. But who’s quarantining us?”

“You’ve heard of dark matter?”

“Of course.”

“Well, then,” she says. “Five beings have arrived from that realm, it would seem. They consist of minds without physical attributes. The concept of demons is inaccurate, but perhaps not by much. The mythical demon is pure evil, whereas The Five… I haven’t written them all off as yet. One in particular has a redeeming quality. I’ve been told he rules the cosmic thread harboring our supercluster of galaxies. His name is Shiva, most recently Shiva Nataraj.”

“The god of the Hadron Collider?” I look at Vedanshi and sense a swirl in her head.

CERN-SUFI-PORTAL

“Destroyer and transformer,” Vaar says. “It’s a relief to hear you sounding intelligent again.”

“If Shiva has no physical form, how can he quarantine us?” I ask.

“Possession was the model displacing symbiosis. That theory lost traction among reductionists, so out it went. But we all have a fencing match within us, don’t we? Two individuals striving, one for immediate rewards, the other for the long-term view. Why think of it as possession? Shiva’s interaction is an extension of a natural state.”

“Too weird,” James says.

“But I think she’s right,” Vedanshi whispers to him.

“Ninety thousand years ago,” Vaar says, “a rather hulking particle accelerator caught Shiva’s eye. We’d built a doomsday machine, unwittingly. He saw the problem and fixed it from the comfort of a sentient fleet. Quite a sight it was! Needles of zero-point lightning etched the largest canyon in the solar system, Valles Marineris. The asteroid belt was formed from the debris.”

Valles_Marineris_NASA_World_Wind_map_Mars

016vallesmarineris_reduced0.25

Ophir_Chasma_THEMIS_mosaic

That spectacle was mere calibration. Next he aimed his thunderbolts at the linear accelerator itself and vaporized it, raising Olympus Mons from the planes and rendering the planet a wasteland.”

OlyMons

Finally, he left his signature: Orien’s Belt from the distant side…”

Mars

“with Valles Marineris as the sword… on the right, naturally.”

odyssey

“It sounds evil, I know,” Vaar says. “And not particularly artistic, but he prevented us from creating an artificial black hole that would have digested this leg of the galaxy. Such behavior suggests he has an attachment to the Milky Way. Think of it. Our galaxy, less than a speck of dust to him, yet he comes here to rescue us from ourselves. Not as gently as one might have hoped, but it gives the impression that he knows someone here and cares about them. The mythical demon cares only for himself.”

“This guy’s a badass,” James says.

My head is spinning.

Tesla’s words come whizzing past…

“The day science begins to study nonphysical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

I see high-resolution shots of Mars with David Talbott saying the scalloped Martian cliffs are the work of an electric arc – shaped like the needles of an aurora.

aurora_surprise_by_torivarn-d6qsuny

“Why did Shiva quarantine us?” I ask.

“He knows us,” Vaar says. “He understands how narcissism begets cruelty in our DNA. And he happens to command the most formidable fleet of sentient space vehicles anyone can imagine.”

Not good.

“So what happens if someone breaks the quarantine?” I ask.

“One of his ships will tag you. You’ll have six hours to turn yourself in.”

I look at James’ glowing foot. “Is the tag a purple circle?”

“You pretend to be ignorant when you’re not.”

“No.”

“Oh my,” she says. “You’ve been tagged, haven’t you? You must hurry. Go to the rendezvous point at the hexagonal pole of Saturn.”

saturn-nov27

Vedanshi’s cylinder falls out of Maxwell’s limp hand, rolls my direction and bumps against my left thigh. He’s fast asleep.

“What if I run?”

“You mustn’t. They track things nonlocally. There’s literally no place to hide.”

I wonder if The Ganga can make it to Saturn.

“Did you ever get tagged?” I ask Vaar.

“No.”

“Why not? Your ship’s in plain sight.”

“It’s a courtesy, I suppose. I was a person of consequence once.”

M. Talmage Moorehead

Page one of this story starts here.

I just added a chapter on plotting to my free e-book, “Writing Meaningful Page-Turners.” The book is for beginners, but it has a perspective that might interest writers with more experience and talent than I have. It’s brief (~19,000 words). If you’re curious about heresy, download it here.

Please bookmark my blog, tell someone beautiful and intelligent about it and come back to see how Johanna’s doing. I’ll try to finish this story before the aliens land.

Talmage