The soaring interconnected towers of the Church headquarters shone high above the mazed gardens of the city-state of Riaspa.
Through it's many and varied machinations the Church, in all it's many guises, had become the center for law, communications, and entertainment throughout Riaspa.
A large crowd was gathered in the Central Square viewing pit for the nightly viewing. Their faces mutely reflected the colors of the giant viewing screen.
The viewers seem to have achieved a bliss entirely apart from that gained from ordinary endeavors. A unanimous sigh seemed to roll across the assembled as the morality play they where seeing reached its conclusion.
As he moved past the crowd Tahril's back shoulders sagged despite his efforts. He was saddened and frustrated to see multitudes, across the city, lulled into opiate –like states by the mindless, self-serving platitudes found in the Church provided entertainment.
After decades of the Church's television, it was apparent nothing could compete with the hold the giant screens held over their audiences.
Tahril sorely missed the now defunct open- air Riaspian theater. He had especially enjoyed the live unpredictable performances, improvised plot developments and how the theater had brought nature into performances, almost as a character with their wide open air theaters and when a well known play synchronized its climactic scene to the sunrise.
He also lamented the loss of the theaters formerly not insignificant voice in the affairs of the day, as many plays had been lightly veiled comments on current affairs as well as the more complex questions of existence itself.
But in the face of the giant viewing screens the theater had soon withered then vanished completely.
Just over the bridge a passerby whispered to a companion "That's Tahril he's on the council…" but was cut off by the companion who matter of factly stated "He doesn't know what's going on."
Tahril gathered his ceremonial cloak against the late damp autumn chill as he saw Sarella. Sare, he thought seems to be reclining no matter her position. Somewhat reluctantly he met her eyes and they made small talk.
Later as he walked home Tahril thought more about Sarella. They had seemed destined, in his mind, he felt they effortlessly fit together like jigsaw puzzle pieces. When they had met, three years ago, he had been certain they would soon be lovers.
Tahril was glad to close the blue green door of his modest home against the chill.
His home was surrounded by a large amount of land. Tahril had bought the land from money he had made selling the interests his family had in publishing and oil.
The money had also given him the opportunity to pursue interests that most of his people knew little or nothing about.
As he walked through his home Tahril wondered how Sarella would react if she saw his large and varied stock of indoor traja plants. "Hell he's be upset by his general messiness let alone the forbidden plant life." he thought.
As he moved past his book and paper strewn desk Tahril thought Sarella would deem his lifestyle to be seriously out of the "flow", the Church approved way of viewing life. Tahril couldn't fall instep with it. "An inch within an inch full of miles…." Tahril mused to himself.
For most of his life Tahril had drained his energies resisting Church claims that all problems could be solved by adherence to dogma and all questions answered by examining collected Church wisdom.
Tahril found great pleasure in escaping his cares by smoking the mature, blur traja leaves. He was heartened by the potency of the variety of traja he had created. As he inhaled deeply a grin crossed his pale face as he thought "No Sare would not go for any of this all, this traja plant seems to be getting over the nasty resistance I've probably gotten from smoking too much…"
Later as he sipped warmed wine Tahril had a singular compulsion to go out into the city. After a short time he passed a viewing. While he was idly watching, the idea emerged, fully formed. He had never experienced like the transition the epiphany made to his view, the transition and transformation was like nothing he had ever felt.
To Tahril it was as if a logjam in his mind had suddenly broken. What had been invisible was now clear to him.
It seemed so elegant to him. There was no need to reinvent the wheel to loosen the Church's stranglehold on a once free society. All that need be done was manipulate the Church broadcasts on a subliminal level and the people could be reached by a force other then the Church for the first time in decades and it would be by the Church Tahril laughed hoarsely to himself.
Tahril was euphoric. It was now the third week since most of the Church transmissions had passed through his electronic device and had his message appended to them all.
To his friends Tahril seemed badly in need of a good rest and certainly seemed too much in the spirit of the upcoming mid winter festivals.
A fortnight later, Tahril had developed a high fever but felt a renewed energy (the strength of the ages he called it) as he went out again into the dark streets to see many throwing themselves and others into the ceremonial fountains.
Tahril had foreseen more bizarre behavior but what could he have expected? The only message he had loaded over the nightly broadcasts, flickering too fast for anyone to see, was "They are coming." accompanied by an image of four shadowed figures.
A month later, enclosed in an amber colored dome high above the city, Riaspa's elite celebrated the passage into a new year. Despite the colorful festivities and the blinding snowstorm Tahril's friends noticed his obsessive preoccupation with the new fads.
Later that night Tahril was unconcerned about the snow on his boots as he advanced towards his game table. Sarella followed just behind as Tahril entered his game room.
Tahril held the familiar instructions within the game box close to his chest. Once again he felt a within an incomprehensible power. Many different things went through his mind. His world distorted he felt he and all around him had become a hundred times larger, then everything distorted wildly for him and Sarella standing close by seemed to somehow be drawn into his experience also.
Now as the clock chime marked the hour they both saw the game instructions momentarily blur. Focus soon returned but the instructions had assumed a different configuration with different content.
Tahril looked at Sarella with a somewhat stricken expression and gestured emptily at the box.
He drew Sarella to him in a weary embrace and continued looking at the instructions.
At first Tahril felt the changes in reality he orchestrated would herald the start of a new age of true knowledge. But a deep dread had settled over him as if he had opened something far more dangerous then Pandora's box.
These days there was a constant buzzing in his head about his new process. It had removed him from his love making with Sarella.
Part of his personality had dispassionately looked on seeing Sare's body as something that had somehow bloomed from his own.
The snow drifted from the pearl colored sky onto the city and sea just beyond. Tahril idly traced the outline of Sarella's breast and listened to the wind.
"Tahril?" asked Sarella now sitting up in Tahril's blue green bed and holding the still altered rules "How did these get changed?"
"I've uncovered a way of changing the way things have become. By flashing words and pictures on the viewing screens too fast for people to really see them. The Church has been doing the same thing for a long time.," he added softly.
"When I first implemented what I thought was my idea I found that the Church had been doing exactly the same thing since the first viewing screens appeared. I'm not playing God" Tahril added.
"I don't understand." Sarella said flatly.
"By displaying words and pictures on the screens too fast for people to consciously see them these images come into the mind coated by what the person is consciously seeing like a mental Trojan horse."
"You can change reality at will?" Sarella asked.
No, it's like creating an artificial tidal wave. Gradually enough energy is created, a time is set and the energy released and the change to reality is made."
"It must be as if you're God for a time." Sarella mused.
They where now in the sunroom as the last of the days light spilled through the terrace windows "No, it's totally man made." Tahril replied.
"It's time" Tahril announced and he abruptly turned to face Sarella over the cluttered table. The air became filled with an almost electrical buzzing and Sarella felt the same disorientation she had endured the night before.
Then for Sarella there was a feeling of no longer having any concept of herself as a separate individual; she became aware but was unsure of how much time had passed while she had been what she later called it "one with all" that sensation was followed by a merging of her senses and then a feeling of passage through something.
Then as suddenly as it had begun all was restored to Sarella, her whole world and sense of herself as an individual being, but she heard a recurring sound she hadn't previously heard in the room. Looking through the sun room windows Sarella saw the ocean in all its somber blue magnificence where she had just seen a series of low lying hills.
"All the insects and animals I've affected on those barren hills…" Tahril mumbled as he crossed the room and opened the drapes to see the birds flying over the white caps as the daylight yielded the cold sky to the night.
The relay station was at the summit of the small mountain. On this day there was warmth in the February air and the sky a deep blue.
The sight of the play disks into the Church's had quickly brought Church security to the secluded sight. Church security had soon matched DNA found on the disks to Tahril.
As the Archbishop left the station, surrounded by his staff, his cheeks where a bright red such that they made a pleasing contrast with the sky.
Soon the Archbishop was speaking rapidly, a staff member interrupted that killing Tahril would be a crime against the royal family. "Then we must simply remove him from out society forever!" The Archbishop thundered in a voice beyond anger.
Near a sand dune Tahril addressed a large crowd advocating the end of all Church controls.
At the fringe of the crowd Jersef, Tahril's chief of staff and Sarella stood, grim faced and silent.
Jersef whispered to Sarella, "Now they'll have no choice but to crush the movement. They'll see his speech as a call to anarchy. It's like a different personality has taken over his body." "No, it was always there." murmured Sarella "Just sort of dormant she slowly added…"
Late that night, in Tahril's tent, Tahril seemed weary to Jersef. "What will you do next?" Jersef hesitantly asked Tahril. "Your tricks impress the people but stuff like changing rivers courses and food from nothing won't save you from the Church army."
"We need to move up the evolutionary scale….we can create a paradise here if we can channel the power in the right ways."
After a long pause Tahril continued, "I have to do what I'm doing, it's like swimming with the tide after a lifetime of fighting it."
At that moment a Church assault force descended on the encampment.
"You must let me leave….I must leave…..Tahril's feeble voice reverberated down the featureless corridor.
"How can this be?" Tahril thought. "How could my life come to be these locked corridors?" Tahril's mind continued in this circular fashion.
The nature of time had changed for Tahril who often wondered if he was eating a morning or evening meal (as inmates where roused long before dawn) and the long hair and beard he seemed to have suddenly acquired where wild and dirty.
Long ago life had become hopeless to Tahril as he watched seasons change through the unforgiving bars covering every window in the institution where he languished.
The outside world with all its space beauty and color seemed like a fantasy to Tahril. Tahril's life in the insane asylum was one of thin soup, gray walls and others endless screaming under the imperious gaze of ubiquitous guards. The thought subduing drugs that where forced upon Tahril formed a chemical strait jacket inside him.
If it was a dream, Tahril felt it was an exquisite one. "Yes Sare" he heard himself say as he took her hand. "I'll walk you home…" he droned on. Sarella grimaced and wept as she took the knife from her sleeve and placed it inside his fingers.
Still feeling he was in a dream, Tahril viciously plunged the knife into the back of the guard.
Using the guard's keys and the knife, Tahril managed to escape the asylum. "They'll pay!" Tahril muttered as he made his way unsteadily towards the cover of the forest.
Tahril soon gathered his followers into a mighty war machine, which he soon unleashed, on Riaspa.
The suffering and destruction that Tahril's forces had caused made Sarella wish that he had used the knife on himself as she had intended.
Now numerous fires reddened the city streets. In the midst of the fighting, Tahril came upon the Archbishop leaning against a wall. Tahril stopped directly in front of him.
"Are you pleased Tahril?" shouted the Archbishop.
"I don't act to please myself!" Tahril shouted back.
"Your existence puts all order in jeopardy. Do you want to put us back in the stone age?! The Archbishop continued "You act only to please yourself or why would you desecrate this city? Your followers may think you're a hero but you're the most self-indulgent man that ever lived! Despite your cunning stunts you won't live to write your history!
"No!" Tahril exclaimed as he saw the explosive plastic the Archbishop removed from his breast pocket.
"Yes, Tahril, it is all done for you!" hissed the Archbishop as his detonated the plastic and the wall tumbled down on them.
Tahril found himself deep in a forest without sound, as if under water. Across a river in front of him Tahril saw a figure resembling him leaning on a sword speaking to woman wearing a red cloak whose back was to Tahril.
All at once he found himself on a portico adjoining a flower garden. To his left sat a bald bearded man of indeterminate age and a woman with red hair and a matching cloak, her eyebrows raised in an ironic expression. An ornate crystal cup containing a pink liquid appeared on a green table by Tahril's left hand.
"Drink." Was the unspoken command.
Sensing no danger, Tahril drank deeply. Shortly he felt buoyancy as the liquid seemed to lighten his body and loosen his knotted muscles. He remained standing, now leaning on his sword.
"I take it I'm dead?" asked Tahril after a time, in a tone molded by defeat and a bitterness beyond caring.
"No, merely transported through space and time." Replied the man in a pleasing yet penetrating voice. "If you had not been brought here you would have died in the calamity you created."
"I didn't enslave people's minds and stifle their creativity by spoon feeding them mindless drivel…"
He was cut off by the man's upraised hand.
"But you decided to upset the established order. We have to discuss what allowed you to gain such a powerful following.
"What was that?" asked Tahril in a now tentative voice.
"That, we will call psychic energy" said the man now speaking more rapidly. "It's an energy force like fire, water, and sunlight. Psychic energy is generated in the minds of sentient beings.
As you learned and the formerly ruling forces of your home learned before you, physical laws don't necessarily apply to anything. What happens, Tahril is that there can be a gathering of psychic energy and certain genetically predisposed individuals, shall we say mutants like yourself, can act as lenses to focus this psychic energy to alter the past, present, and future as you started out by changing game rules and the coastline."
By the way my name is Avar and my companion is Veedso. We represent a group that utilizes a far larger psychic energy pool then Riaspian television viewers for a far greater purposes. We expand and develop the universe."
"How long has this group existed? Who decides?" Tahril blurted.
Veedso continued in a musical voice be in a manner that seemed to indicate that she and Avar shared the same mind. "Tahril before explanations we want to give you a chance to regain your internal equilibrium. We can take you to a place of repose, where after a rest you can come to understand what we offer you."
"We feel we can use your mind to manipulate amounts of psychic energy you cannot begin to imagine to expand and develop this universe. You have nothing to lose. Veedso's features softened as she paused before continuing "And you can use some rest after your busy few years.
The sunlight sparkled on the lake water and through the windows of Tahril's cottage as he splashed cold water over his now tanned and smooth features.
Tahril soon left his cottage for the short walk to the lake in the mountains. The morning light slanted over a patio, which opened onto the wide lake. A young nude girl lay on the marble patio as her companion, looking the same but taller bent over her smiling.
He saw Avar and Veedso already swimming. When surfaced near them he felt incredibly refreshed by the cool water. He told them he was ready to meet their organizations founder and leader, Onos and allow his mind to be used in what they called a shaping.
The next morning they were in a bat shaped air ship that Veedso told Tahril would do most of its traveling by folding the space around it.
Tahril anxiously followed their progress through a large side window. He soon saw a turquoise sea fade into a cream-colored cliff jutting into a green sky. On the cliff moved large lizard like animals with long wavy strands outlining their bodies as light from two distant blue shone between cinnamon colored clouds.
After seeing a myriad of such exotic scenes (including for a time, outer space) Tahril became aware they where slowly floating over an enormous city. He saw beautiful beaches and incredibly large an impossibly elongated buildings.
They gently landed on a small platform atop a silver hill.
Avar and Veedso exited the ship with Tahril but their stances made it clear that they would not be passing with Tahril through the enormous double silver doors directly in front of the small group.
Walking through the suddenly open doors Tahril passed through a shimmering rainbow colored corridor into what appeared to be the sun room of his own home.
There was a man seated to one side near where the room sloped to form a circular terrace.
The man wore green pants and shirt with a purple vest. His sitting position was relaxed but he projected a great feeling of tension and uneasiness. Though his clothes fit perfectly he somehow seemed about to explode so great was the tension he projected.
"Welcome Tahril, I'm Onos." Spoke Onos in an edgy voice. "Hello Onos answered Tahril in a flat emotionless tone.
"Everything is familiar here stated." Stated Tahril. "It should be, presently your senses are being manipulated. Much of what you see is taken from your mind to spare you anxiety…it's a surprisingly great strain," added Onos.
"Onos I was told you began as a time traveler. "
"Yes, I sent myself backward in time and gradually gathered increasing amounts of psychic energy. Eventually I decided to travel to the start of the universe and remake it but found myself recreating what I had left.
I found myself back where I started and discovered I had damaged my mind and could no longer manipulate others mental energies.
Luckily I found like minded individuals who made me first among equals and learned to search for others like yourself who can channel pools of mental energy."
"I really have no reason for agreeing to be part of this other then intuition." Spoke Tahril uncertainly.
"At times that's all you have."
"How long does the shaping last?
"That's a timely question as it's about to begin. Your answer is not long at all."
Abruptly the sun jumped from an eleven o'clock to a three o'clock position and for Tahril the temperature had dropped 20 degrees.
Apparently Tahril was seeing Onos as he truly appeared as in his place stood a plant like structure, which came to its apex four feet above Tahril's head. It had about ten branches but some sub-divided.
"We're here, all is in place for the shaping" Tahril heard the words voiced by a multitude he for some reason associated with the suddenly shifted sun.
At that instant Tahril saw himself in an impossibly large amphitheater surrounded by all manner of being.
Tahril's perceptions and awareness expanded and he became aware of the billions of different types of life forms feeding and directing their mental energies through his mind in an inverted pyramid of mental energy.
Tahril felt he had no body, he saw galaxies and felt compelled to flex a muscle and he saw star systems appear.
He had no mental of physical privacy his thoughts where open to all the participants of the shaping. Any expression he was compelled to make was manifested in ways he often did not begin to understand throughout the universe.
Eventually Tahril saw a white tree set before a blue sun and heard a mad cackle while a red glow covered everything.
Then suddenly his point of view was gliding past a wedding feast in a glen. He couldn't make out any features but heard voices singing "ring bells and sing".
Tahril next saw corridor of green fluttering leaves above him before he reappeared, whole in a suburb of Riaspa.
Once there, Tahril managed; to secure some long hidden funds, alter his looks and learn Sarella's location.
Tahril had learned that Sarella had sought to escape the growing commercial culture of Riaspa in the Northern forest on the island of Gallis.
Several weeks after his reappearance, Tahril tightened his cloak against the autumn wind as he neared Sarella's seaside home.
Tahril saw her gardening outside her home. Squinting into the sun he thought "Take the sunshine, take the day in shining rain" as he walked towards her.
He soon had described his experiences since the fall of the theocracy and his supposed death in the fighting.
His talk left Sarella with a dazed expression. She fiddled with the sleeves of her blue green jacket as she struggled to find words "Tahril, seeing you…it's so different."
"No Sarella, I'm developing I did what I did. It just came out, now I feel purged. Like my part in something that had to be done is over.
I'm something of a blank. I've been unconsciously preparing for something my whole life, now that the universe is moved ahead or sideways or whatever but my life must go on and I need you for that.
I've never really been involved in day-to-day life but I want to now. I need to build a life outside myself. I've done the ultimate you can with your mind but I need your help, your love to truly live.
Sarella looked for a time over the whitecaps, "We can try." She said slowly.
A chill rain had begun as Tahril and Sarella walked towards the shelter of her home.
At that moment Onos looked up from his view screen. "Hopefully a happy home life will provide many distractions, making it less likely he'll ever suspect that on an unconscious level the shaping lasts his whole life. The only problem I see is topping the super proliferation of his favorite color. I think you can do an auto suggest on that, get back to me on that ASAP please." He said as he casually input switch into Veedso's voicemail and paused to enjoy the last few moments of the day's light.