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The Golden Globe

by Richard Behrens

 

"·and the shadow of Quadosh came to Arhat as he sat beside the river tree. And Arhat said, Who are you? What is your name? And Quadosh said, I am the Writer of the Word within you·I have come from the other side of Space to tell you this: you shall not know God for Man was not meant for such as this. And Arhat held up his hand said, I know you Devil. I cast your false teachings to the fire of winds."

The Kephket Codex

i
in a file,
shut in a cabinet
drawer

The Offices of Interspatial Administration.

Tzedkiel spent all afternoon searching through the Memory Bank, trying to locate the one stream index that described the Terran Arhat. It took the Locator Pointer seven rotations to find the records, but they eventually streamed out the information to the trembling Replicator's Scribble Slate. Tzedkiel watches the words scroll down the glossy face of his slate, his heart sinking, his breathing decreasing to dangerously low levels. After absorbing a mere fraction of the summary, he reached for the signal bell. Somewhere deep in the halls of the OIA, the signal alerted the Replicator whose name had appeared on the Fact Sheet of the Record Bank. A few moments later, Hamm appeared in the doorway to Tzadkiel's office, his face beaming with pride, his long robes flowing behind him.

"You rang," he said.

"Yes," Tzadkiel groaned. "This is very difficult."

"Difficult?"

"Yes, please come here. Sit down. Take a candy. There's some in the dish over there."

Hamm shrugged and slid into the sculpted seat before Tzadkiel's station. He reached for the candy and bit into its soft interior. "Hmm," he said.

Tzadkiel's wagged the Scribble Slate. "I've been doing some research. This has to do with your past projects."

"Past?"

"Yes, the Terran project in particular. Do you remember about five or six kulgas ago?"

Hamm screwed up his eyes and swallowed his masticated candy. "Wait a mite. I think·I, well, well, I didn't know that Terra was still on your agenda."

Tzadkiel's shoulders slumped. "I had a feeling you'd say something like that."

Hamm sensed something seriously wrong. "What?" he asked.

"It's still an open order." Tzadkiel stared down at the Scribble Slate and with a few gestures of his fingertips, drew up the Directive Chapbook. He read in silence for a moment, then started to recite: "Produce a sephirotic in-folded geosphere for the purpose of nurturing a self-replicating protein strain of dense variegated malkuthian intelligence that would elevate its ego-conscious along the Middle Pillar bypass to arrive at stations at the level of Tiphareth. This project is of a purely experimental nature and the self-replicating protein strains are by no means subject to Arhathood and should never been allowed to progress past the Quadoshian Veil."

"The Quadoshian Veil, yes." Hamm nodded. "That was very explicit in the project plan."

"Yes, we merely wanted to nurture these strains to see if they can be tamed. Eventually, I believe, they were to be seeded through the Alphanor Quadrant which is more conducive to the awareness of Presence."

Hamm squinted his eyes as if peering into the past. "The Pinpoint was very explicit on that. Self-replicating, yes." His face shook itself free and tightened, as if snapping back into reality. "But what? Is something wrong? Has the planet collapsed?"

"No, nothing like that."

"Did it poison itself? I do admit that I've been procrastinating my duties towards the Terran Arhat. I do believe I was saying to myself just the other day, What ever happened to that sephirotic geosphere with the Middle Pillar path to the Quadoshian Veil!"

"Were you now?"

"Yes, I was just saying the other day. Do you need me to do a geoscan?"

"Hmm. It's clear to me, Hamm, that you don't have the slightest idea what I'm talking about."

Hamm looked down at his feet. "Apparently," he said.

Tzadkiel sighed, his shoulder's slumped as he placed the Scribble Slate back on the Bank Station. "Well, I don't know if...no, you don't. I believe you. You don't realize, do you?"

Hamm thought very hard. His fingers pressed against his knees, then his wrists trembled, then he stared hard at Tzadkiel's Scribble Slate which bleeped and jerked on the surface of the Station. His eyes filled with realization. "Oh my God."

"Yes."

"The Self-Replicating Protein Strains."

"Yes, the SRPS. I see you are starting to realize."

Hamm hit one palm against his forehead. "Not to breach the Quadoshian Veil. Not to advance beyond Tiphareth."

"Yes."

For a long time they sat in silence, staring at each other. Hamm had undergone a serious transformation, his face now slack and dull with dark light. Tzadkiel, fending off his impulse to smash furniture, sat quietly waiting for the guilty Replicator to speak, to say anything, to defend himself against the indefensible.

"What are we going to do?" Hamm finally blurted.

"That's what I'd like to discuss," Tzadkiel said.

"Discuss -- I'm afraid to ask -- what?"

"Hamm, can you in your seemingly advanced imagination begin to fathom what life would be like on a planet that has endured three kulgas of self-replicating gene strains without the proper supervision of the originating programmer."

"I think I can vaguely approximate an imaginative picture."

"Somehow I doubt it."

Hamm winced. "Bad?"

"Let me put it this way," Tzadkiel said, taking a deep breath. "The molecules reached Theta stage, then it hit the Multi-Form Split."

"Uhhh...oh no."

"And after another half kulga, Arhathood."

"Not Arhathood." Hamm could barely look Tzadkiel in the eyes.

"Yes, " Tzadkiel nodded. "It's all in this report. A full kulga of multi-form InterWill. Each form vying for resources without synchronistic empathy with others. Proliferation of localized spirit projections, inversion effects, development of internalized psyches, and worst of all, multiform rejuvenation paths."

"Multiform paths?!"

"Can you imagine the vanity, the ignorance, the cycles of internal degeneration? The Terran Arhat, without our supervision, split into these multiform morphisms. With Arhathood arrived the vocal codes and language symbols. They split the Arhat even further. The codes themselves became the basis for Will formation."

"That's the most obscene offense in the universe. Was nothing done about this, in all this time?"

"Hamm, I need you to realize that I have protected you in this case."

"I appreciate it."

"I've shielded you from even the highest levels."

"I understand. What do I need to know?"

"You never filed documentation."

"Yes, I did. I was working in the Chronosynclastic Development Department and..."

Tzadkiel waved his slender hand. "The planet is safe. You filed that. Over the kulgas we've maintained its integrity. It's quite resilient in spite of the Fractured Arhat anomaly and the damage that's causing. The problem is you never filed documentation for the Genetic Strain."

"Oh."

"We did our best. We sent envoys well trained in the molecular composition. We emulated their consciousness, tried to direct the pieces of the Arhat back towards each other, reinforced the instinct for reunion. But there was something in the original strain that we couldn't detect. It was a bug in the machine. The Reunion Instinct became another kulga of verbal infection. Books proliferated, each claiming to present the Reunion Formula."

"So the Arhat fought its own disintegration."

"No, the verbal infection decayed its integrity even further. These texts are on file in case you wish to study them. But they are painful to read. The Wisdom is hidden behind a veil of superstition, folk lore, mythology, witchcraft, ghost tales, religious cults, end of the world prophets, God knows what else." Hamm shook his head painfully then asked, "What is being proposed now?"

"We considered destroying the strain, writing the whole project off as a mistake. But orders from on high say it is to be another experiment, to see if the Arhat will disintegrate completely or if its Will-Hood is strong enough to pull it back together."

"What nonsense! who would want to watch an Arhat disintegrate."

Tzadkiel lifted his eyes towards the ceiling.

"Oh," said Hamm.

"We've never seen an Arhat disintegrate. It would be...revealing."

"But the multiforms. They must be experiencing dynamic grief."

Tzadkiel's eyes were deep with sadness. "They kill each other over words. They are incapable of realizing the true nature of their Reunion Formulas."

Hamm lifted himself from his seat and stood defiantly on his two feet. His aura's colors were flaring dark crimson. "Something must be done."

"Yes."

"As soon as possible."

"Yes."

"I mean, Eternity is Forever, but in the Multiform Level time flows like an arrow. They cannot see their own Future-Now." Tzadkiel smiled slightly and nodded. "You are beginning to see the scope of this problem, my dear Hamm."

"Yes. I will descend. I will take on their protein sheath. I will bring a new Word to them, since Words are all they can understand."

"Sure. But don't be too optimistic."

"Why not?"

Tzadkiel's voice was troubled. "It's been tried before. It led to further woe. Comfort for some, misery for others." Hamm smiled and thumped his chest. "Yes, but you are forgetting. They are my algorithms. I just hope and pray I commented liberally."

"Yes, well, here is your pen and your parchment. Get to work, Hamm. YodHevah be praised."

The two Replicators stood staring at each other. There was hope between them.

ii
stone words,
across the
stars

He touched down in South Carolina where the Arhat was being fractured by the priests. The Word lay in ruins about the landscape, he could see the gray dust of its residue. Every human who had the Multi-Transformer switch activated, or even partially activated, in their neural net claimed authority in their writings. Further, they perpetrated Ego-Fraud against the semi-educated of the Earth. No one saw the dust.

Hamm disguised himself as an evangelist and was bitten by a snake. He spoke in tongues in church and cleared the building. For effect he babbled in Enochian, the language of the angels. The congregation knew unconsciously that the words were coming from a truly divine place and fled in terror. God's real descent was something they couldn't handle. It threatened to undermine their authority.

So many yesodic breaches, so many fragmentations and bifurcations of the original light. These creatures were not responsible enough, not wise enough, or brave enough.

That was when Hamm got the idea. He needed to trace the exact moment in history when the human forms first became conscious of the energies descending from the Quadoshian veil, when they first felt the impulse to ascend beat warmly in their breast, when they first thought it was within their power to experience the worlds of light beyond the veil of matter. He needed to trace that moment so he could kill the child in the cradle. A life race without religion and no awareness of the Arhat was infinitely more desirable than thousands of years of misery, suffering and slaughter in the name of YodHevah.

It's the only way, he wrote to Tzadkiel. I know my methods will come under vast scrutiny, perhaps I will even be audited. But it's the only way to undo the damage to the Strain.

Hamm chiseled the letters into rock on the underbelly of a schist plate in southern Australia. That was the agreed upon communication port. A decade later Christian missionaries would find the words and run in terror calling the cave an evil place. A television documentary crew would come and film the words, broadcast it to the world under the title of Strange Mysteries of the Ancients. They believed the words were thousands of years old, so crafty were Hamm's scribble skills.

In the documentary, it was explained by a world renowned philologists that the letters found in the schist plate were similar in character to the letters of the Kephket Codex, a fragmentary scroll that was found in 1952 near Cairo, hidden in a clay urn and buried in a cave. The pieces were compared to the Australian text for years with no avail. Eventually, a strange professor calling himself R.D.F. Byfangle approached the Egyptian team with a document that was almost immediately dubbed the Rosetta Stone of Kepkhet.

Once translated by Dr. Byfangle, the Australian text seemed to be a communication between two angels about the nature and future of the human race. The Kephket Codex was considered to be the written scripture of an ancient religion, one that predated Ancient Babylon, previously unknown in the history of religion, and based upon a cosmogony of hierarchy of angels and the battles between Light and the Evil One.

Professor Byfangle disappeared almost as mysteriously as he had appeared. There was a concerted effort made to track him down and interrogate him about his philological knowledge, but nothing came of it. It seemed his purpose was merely to translate the Kephket Codex. Wherever he vanished, he took along a copy of the translation with him.

iii
also he went down
into the great
sad city

He grew the protein strains and put on the suit of flesh. Then using a special permission slip from Tzadkiel with the official stamp of YodHevah's offices, Hamm was able to skip the process of gestating within the body of a female human. The experience was always a pleasurable one, and he had looked forward to floating helpless in the warm media of female liquid, but his mission had been scribed on the fast track and every decade saved was a blessing. By arriving on the Earth fully grown, as an earthling of about thirty-three years old, fully mature and possessed of wise powers of mind and limb, Hamm was able to hit the ground running.

The ground, so it appeared, was a parched desert landscape, just inside the dilapidated city walls of Urhdak-Pradesh. It was an ancient city, one that would not survive the ravages of time. Within a few hundred years, the stone walls, the mud-brick hovels, the female bleeding huts, the sacrifice pits, the sacred ghost grounds, all would be ruin under the shifting desert sands, obliterated from all human records except for the fragments of scripture that would appear thousands of years later in a clay jar within a cave, and even those writings the result of men living far in the future, men who had never heard of Urhdak-Pradesh or any of its Big Chiefs.

The white clouds drifted above like pieces of heaven trapped within a deep blue dome. Under its canopy, the tamarind and acacia trees stood motionless in the windless air. Hamm followed a dirt path to the burial grounds and stood over the rise looking down into the mummy pits. Off near the city wall there was a commotion, the only sign of life so far. Two men were struggling with a single club. They snarled and snapped their teeth at one another and strained their arms for possession of a gnarled piece of wood. Hamm watched silently while one seized the heavy stick and with an animal yell, slammed it hard down on his foe's skull which split like a ripe fruit with a sickening crack. The unfortunate loser of the contest fell straight to the dusty ground. The murderer lifted the bloody club into the air and howled with delight. He saw Hamm staring at him and directed his strange tongue:

"I am Victory! I am Big Chief! I own the Voice Tree!"

"Yes," said Hamm and backed off slowly. The man known as Victory and Big Chief huffed and snarled, raised his club to the sky and howled like a wounded wolf.

Hamm turned down the path and saw a strange site near the gate to the sacred ghost grounds. A young boy was straining on his hands and knees while a corpulent adult sat on his back, fanning himself with a hand mirror. The boy was obviously in tremendous pain and struggled to keep his knees firm and his elbows locked. The adult on top of him was quite large and was bedecked in garish jewelry, his face crusted with thick pulpy cosmetics. He held up a mica slate and was inspecting his skin for blemishes or smudged make-up. As the boy tottered and leaned, his tormentor occasionally took out a small birch rod and whacked the boy on the buttocks, drawing forth short pitiful screams.

"Sir," Hamm said delicately to the fat face buried in thick pulpy cosmetics. "Don't you think that the chair over yonder would make a more suitable support for your afternoon leisure?"

The fat man stared at Hamm for a moment, then glanced at a thick wooden chair that was nestled near one of the burial mounds. He snorted and waved a thick-wristed hand. "Don't you understand, this is my Undercatch."

"Yes," said Hamm. "Undercatch, he is. But the more strain you put on him, the shorter his life span. The chair can bear your weight, last forever, and never need to be disposed of when it dies. Nor its family informed."

"He is my Undercatch," the man said with a tone of finality, and went back to touching up his jowls.

Hamm left and worked his way towards the inner walls. He was starting to feel the strange sad feeling that Tzadkiel has warned him of in his office. There was a heart-wrenching sadness to the condition of the Terran Arhat. The souls of these creatures, trapped between the Stations of Malkuth and the Quadoshian Veil, were in a condition of helplessness, yearning towards the light of the Middle Pillar, but incapable of keeping its steady balance.

Before he left, Tzadkiel had shown him a particle chamber, a straight vertical shaft of magnetized walls. With a press of a button, tiny electronic flies were released from the bottom of the shaft. They had within them small program chips that drove their entire existence towards one goal and one goal alone: to ascend the shaft towards the top and reached the light bulb that shown so brilliantly above. However, Hamm was horrified to see how many thousands of these electronic flies never made it more than a few inches off the ground. Clang! They all flew to the sides of the chamber and stuck painfully against the walls. Once pinned, they wiggled and twitched, still trying to perform their prime directive. However, only a small handful of them overcame the force of the electromagnetic pull and rose a few more inches before they clanged once more against the sides of the shaft. Soon, a handful of those wiggled themselves free to rise yet another few inches.

Before long, the vertical shaft was splattered with these small creatures, clustered heavily at the bottom, growing sparser and sparser as the shaft rose towards the light bulb. Only one or two lay helpless and shaking a few feet from the brilliant white orb.

"Such is mankind," Tzadkiel had explained. "Even the great mystics of human history are like those last few pathetic flies, stranded within a short distance of the final goal, crying for the final push. The light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. But you, my friend Hamm, you are going down to the bottom of the shaft, where the greater cluster of unilluminated, light-less beasts are stationed. Or stranded, more like it. You are going to the brain stem, the basest landscape."

And now, Hamm thought to himself, overlooking the city square of Urhkat, I must deprogram these flies. Stop them from ever wanting to climb that shaft at all.

The square was crowded with a large number of city dwellers, mostly men in their goat skin vests, clustered about a raised dais on which several muscular fighters swung their clubs. As Hamm adjusted his sight to the spectacle, the man whom he had witnessed murder his enemy by the city wall, the man known as Big Chief, came bounding up the square and leapt dramatically onto the raised platform, taking his place among the warriors.

They all yelled in overlapping shrieks, "I am the Victory! I yield the Tree That Speaks With Blood! Why do you not give me money? Give me your woman for I need a woman! Give me your best goat and ten sheep! Can't you see I am Big Chief!"

The yelling went on until the sun had drifted over the female bleeding huts. Then the contest began. The five or six men on the dais all turned to each other and began to swing their clubs. The fight grew in intensity until they were all clubbing each other with savage ferocity. Blood flowed from cracked heads, limbs snapped with sickening cracks, teeth flew from mouths. Within ten minutes, there were only two men standing, Big Chief from the burial ground and a man twice his size. They clobbered each other mercilessly, their howls cascading like boulders, their bodies soaking in each other's blood. Finally, Big Chief took a carefully aimed swing at his opponent's collar bone and the cheering crowd was treated to a loud snap. The man's head lilted sideways and took another blow, a brutally forceful one from Big Chief's club. Within seconds, the large blood stained head was rolling free from its shoulders and hit the ground like a melon falling from a tree.

Big Chief bounced up and down on his dirty, bleeding legs. "I am Victory of Big Chief Day! Give me your women and goats!"

Cheering men in the crowd pushed forward their woman who advanced reluctantly. Big Chief snarled at them and grabbed one, threw her to the ground and started to force open her legs. Hamm turned in disgust and walked from the crowd, trying to put distance between him and the ugly scene. Behind him he could hear the women's screaming, the men cheering, and Big Chief boastfully screaming about the size of his sexual organ.

Big Chief Day, he thought.

He came back to the fat man who now sat on the flattened corpse of his boy-chair. The boy's face was crushed like stone into the ground, a pool of blood growing around it. The fat man looked perturbed.

"Excuse me," he said to Hamm, lifting up his mica slate to catch the Replicator's attention. "Excuse me."

Hamm stopped and stared at the gruesome site. "Yes," he said.

"You were perhaps right about the proper material from which to build an Undercatch. Can you help me to my feet, I can't seem to find my balance."

"No," Hamm said. "I think I'll leave you there. Until the boy rots and you must smell your handiwork."

The fat man's brows furrowed. "Now, now, there is no need for levity. If you would only help me gain my height·"

"It is a pitiful shame," Hamm said. "Men like you are poison to the human race."

"Word and Big Chief!" the fat man exclaimed. "I can't believe the only person within helping distance is a Yesodian. What my luck! A Yesodian?"

Hamm frowned. "Yesodian?"

"Yes, you obviously ear-catch the lessons of that man who babbles like the wind, full of feeling and pause, but ultimately constructed of nothing. That Yesod, who sits down by the creek under the crackleberry tree. Yonder! You must have been polluted by his talk."

"Yes," Hamm said. "Where? The creek?"

"The creek! Didn't you catch me right? Now help me off this slave or I'll sit on you when I have the chance!"

Hamm left the fat man to his peculiar miserations.

iv
bright heart
flame

Sitting silently by the creek, under a thinly dying crackleberry tree, was a skinny pained-looking youth, his body free from all coverings except for a filthy loin cloth, his legs curled like tangled roots under his torso, his face hairy and dirty, his eyes closed but twitching with troubled thoughts. Hamm approached slowly, his shoes falling softly in the mossy dirt. He stood for a pace over the meditating man, examining his aura, watching the wisps of vermilion mist that rose from between the eyes. This was a man at war with himself.

"Ahem," Hamm said, coughing into his fist.

The man opened one eye, twisting the ball upwards to examine his rude intruder. The eye was laced with red veins and a few milky spots.

"You need the attention of a medicine man," Hamm said calmly, pointing at the man's suppurating ankle wounds.

"I'm fine," the man said sharply. "I'm also busy." The eye slammed shut. Hamm shrugged and walked up and down the bank of the river for a good half hour, never straying too far from the strange man by the tree. Finally he returned, tapped the mendicant on the shoulder.

"You really think," he said to the passive face, "that you can achieve enlightenment by doing this?"

"In a matter of strictness," the man said harshly, "I'm not supposed to talk with you. You're invading my God-time."

"Yes," Hamm said, nodding. "I wouldn't want to do that, now, would I?" and he lifted his left fingertip to the man's forehead. The red eyes moved inwards, following the finger. When the tip touched his grimy scalp, the man sat bolt upright, his spine stiffening, his legs trembling, his hands grasping at empty air. Hamm laughed and pulled back his finger, stuck it in his cloak pocket.

"Big Chief!" the man shouted, his eyes glued shut. "What did you do? What was that? How did you do that? What's happening to me?"

"I merely aligned all of you towards your center. It's a modest trick," Hamm said.

The man opened his eyes and stared at Hamm with the fascination of a man looking upon the face of a powerful God. "Are you a wizard?" the man shouted. "What did you do? That block I couldn't -- I mean -- this is not what I expected when you -- how did you do that?!"

"Let me sit with you," Hamm said, "and I'll tell you a little bit about myself."

"Yes," the man said. "Sit. By the way, my name is Yesod. But you can call me Raja."

 *  *  *

They sat under the crackleberry tree, their heels dug into the powdery earth. Raja was animated, his eyes alight, his face glowing with an inner excitation. The wounds on his physical body no longer seemed urgent. They talked as the sun slanted towards the remote mountain tops.

"Five hundred and twenty-two sunsets I have seen," Raja explained, "since I have sat by this tree. Ten times that number I have been tempted by a demon. He comes at night, taunting me, telling me that I am cold and he can bring me a goat skin. He tells me that I am hungry and he can bring me tamarind fruit. He tells me that I desire a woman, and he can bring forth any woman from the city to pleasure me. These things the demon promises me."

"In exchange for what?" Hamm asked, already knowing the answer.

"That I forget about the lights I have seen, that I stop sitting here trying to see them again. He tells me that God does not want any creature of the earth seeing the light of Wisdom."

"And what harm will that be?"

"It will harm only the Evil One."

Hamm played with a stick, drawing a small mandala form into the dirt. "Yes," he said. "The Evil One does intend that you give up your search. But does not this search cause you more misery than it is worth?"

With a furrowed brow, the calm, serene face suddenly grew dark with suspicion. "Why do you ask such questions?" Raja said cautiously. "Are you the Evil One disguised as a healer?"

"No," Hamm smiled. "I brought the light closer to your head, didn't I?"

Raja nodded and lowered his head. "I have to be careful," he said. "There is adversity all around. I live in a bad time."

"The Big Chief," Hamm agreed.

"Yes, I suppose you have been in the city? There they club one another for power and money and women. Is this not a spectacle that sickens your heart? Over the years, I grew disgusted with their ways. They live close to the beasts in their instincts and their sex. They fly towards petty pleasures and never keep the goal in mind."

"And what goal is that?" Hamm asked, amazed.

Raja pointed to the top of his head. "The light is up here. It is turned on for all time. But no one can see it. They are darting about like ants rolling their dung balls. They seek fame and power and Talking Trees and bloody skulls, but they do not see the light. They cannot see the light."

"And how did you discover this light?"

"Simple," Raja said, lifting his palms. "I stopped wanting what they wanted. I removed myself. This berry tree is my world. I no longer wish to live in the world of Big Chiefs and Clobber Feasts."

"Clobber Feasts," Hamm whispered. "Yes."

"But you," Raja said proudly. "You come here to the river and you touch my head and the light comes closer. Closer than it is has ever been before. How did you accomplish this? What is your power?"

"I am a healer of the light," Hamm announced. "I have technology."

Raja tried to pronounce the last word Hamm spoke but twisted his tongue about it. "What is this thing that you have? Is it more powerful than the Voice Tree?"

"Yes," Hamm said. "It is more powerful than the Voice Tree."

Raja stared off into the distance at the flowing river, the glorious sunset streaking the sky crimson. He touched the earth, then his head, then stared deeply at his mysterious companion. "Can you use this thing you have that is more powerful than the Voice Tree? Can you use it on my head again and bring me even closer."

"Yes," Hamm said. "Just close your eyes and sit still. And I will work my technology. I will bring the power of the light into your head, and then down into your body. You will arrive, my friend, my Yesod, my Raja. You will arrive."

Raja closed his eyes and sat trembling, his forehead glistening with the sweat of anticipation.

Hamm walked up behind him and placed his fingertips on his skull. "Now take a deep breath."

"I am ready," Raja said, with a triumphant pride that made Hamm pause. It was a sad moment.

Hamm pushed at Raja's aura with all his might, splintering its shell, blowing the rest of the glittering light into a scatter pattern that exploded like a gas bomb across the river front. Raja's eye bolted open and pushed from their sockets, frightened, surprised, amazed. A shriek of horror emerged from his throat.

"I'm sorry," Hamm said, and began to walk away. The man known as Yesod fell to the dusty earth, his tongue lolling, his throat gurgling, his fingers and toes clutching at incomprehensible and invisible enemies. Within seconds, he had been reduced to a babbling lunatic. He would be found by the city folk, they would see his condition and know that he was insane, that all his teachings and all the words they did ear-catch from his talk was but the precursor of insanity. All his followers would be hunted down and slain. The scriptures would never been written, never be buried, never languish in the darkness of the caves like unhatched viruses. Yesod's words, the Arhat scriptures, the Kephket Codex, the wisdom that would inform the Nile Valley and be passed by the Egyptian priests to the Hebrew tribes to carry forth into the centuries, a vast current of religious and spiritual wisdom that would flow through the next few thousand years with all its beauty and horrible shudderings, was now a lost dream, crushed in its cradle, diverted from the human heart with one blow of an Angel's hand.

"I'm sorry," Hamm repeated, keeping his mind fixed on what he had seen on Tzadkiel's scribble slate, the slaughter, the ignorance, the rise and fall of militaristic nation states with their Holy Books of Death. All gone now. The human genome would be nurtured to the correct level and then brought to Alphanor Quadrant for seed scattering. Not here, not here would Arahathood be reckoned, not on this ball of dusty earth and cold oceans filled with monsters would the Terran heart know the light at the end of the tunnel. Not here on this golden globe known to the Angels as Malkuth the Kingdom.

Then he saw it, filtering across the water, backtracking along the path on which he had sent it. The vermilion wisps of Yesod's aura, regrouping, clustering, moving back to the shore. The tendrils and strands of lights and warmth reaching back towards its origin, towards the lunatic body that twitched on the ground, towards that soulless shell that lacked an auric egg. At first Hamm laughed nervously, thinking that the auric lights, intelligent as they were, merely meant to sniff about the flesh and bone of its former host, like a dog who runs to its fallen master during a hunting accident. But then he saw the lights peel themselves back against his limbs, wrapping delicately about his scarred and pitted flesh. The slobbering idiot was slowly down his pace, taking in deep breaths, apparently bringing back his aura, calling his light sheath home through the power of his breath and his will.

Hamm was astounded. He watched while the Arhat returned, the lights regained their shape. He watched a spectacle he had never seen in all his kulgas: he watched the auric egg regrow. The hard shell, invisible to the human eye, oblivious to matter, but so visible and obvious to Hamm, formed about Yesod and regained its former shape.

Tzadkiel is not going to like this, was all the Replicator could think.

A few moment later, Yesod rose to his feet, strong, confident, balanced, his feet apart and rooted in the hard earth, his eyes twinkling, his skull crown glowing with a white brilliance that outshone even the one he had worn when Hamm first approached him. He drew up his spine, sucked in his abdominals, tightened his sinews and said in a strong, God-defying voice, "You try that again and I'll kill you!"

Hamm flinched, fear rising in his heart. He backed off, staring at that the bright creature that now glowed from all his body like a heart on fire.

"Who are you?" Hamm said, horrified.

"A man," Yesod spoke. "And I know now the Tipharethic path. Thank you, my demonic friend. In your haste to destroy me, you showed me the way."

"Yes, it seems I did."

From over the rise, from the direction of the town walls, came the New Big Chief and his entourage of thugs. He came swaggering in his bear boots and goat vest, his large arms swinging the bloody club that had killed so many that very day. They came down the path to the crackleberry tree, their eyes aflame with power and hatred, and came to a stop a few feet from where Hamm stood with Yesod.

"Untrue Voice!" the leader howled. "I am New Big Chief! I have the Voice of the Tree! And I will speak it with your blood!"

Yesod stood motionless, staring down the man who was technically his king.

"Urkhat does not want your ear-catching," The new Big Chief screamed. "No more!"

And he brought the club heavy down on Yesod's skull. And within five seconds, he accomplished what Hamm the Angel could not. Yesod lay bleeding and broken on the floor, his life force fleeing.

The crowd cheered, marveling in the power of their New Big Chief. They raised him on their shoulders in a sudden spasm of victory. Yesod's body was tossed about, clubbed, dragged to the town square and hung up with nails on the side wall of the woman's bleeding hut.

Hamm followed close behind, amazed, trying to catch a glimpse of the massacre in order to see if Yesod was truly destroyed. He stood motionless, watching for hours, as Yesod, a man who had stood before him so proud and illuminated, a man bathing in light, now hung twitching and bleeding, his throat strangled with creeper vines, his body lacerated with spear points. The crowds gathered to throw stones and jeer.

"No more ear-catching!" they were yelling. "Untrue Voice!"

Many of Yesod's followers were rounded from their huts and driven through the streets, forced to run gauntlets, beaten with clubs. Some fled into the desert clutching their copies of the scrolls of Yesod's teachings. By the middle of the night, no Yesodian was left in the city of Urkhat-Pradesh. Yesod himself had given up the ghost, his body now lifeless and dangling.

Big Chief paraded like a triumphant emperor. In one day he had defeated his enemies, eliminated his opponents, driven several new wives into slavery, seized control of his city. But most of all, he had destroyed his most hated enemy, the peaceful mystic teacher known as Yesod.

"That is the end of his ear-catchings!" Big Chief cried to the placid sky of silent white clouds drifting.

"No," Hamm said, almost silently to himself. "I think this is just the beginning."

"·and Quadosh the Evil One spoke to the nations of the earth saying thus: Listen to my Words, you Priests and Kings of the Earth and all its sorrow. I bring the Word behind the Words to your kingdoms. I have been called the Recording Angel for I remember all·but lo, I am first the Writing Angel, for I have breathed the Word into your lungs from the beginning. I drown your pride in a sea of my magnificence. I have endured Aeons of your arrogant worship of the All Mighty. I have come to put an end to your altars and your worship and your false ideas. I am the End of Religion."

--- The Kephket Codex*

Story copyright © 2000 by Richard Behrens <behrens@pipeline.com>

Artwork "Planet-Intellect" © 1999/2000 by Zozzy <zoz@freesurf.ch>

 

 

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