Waiting At the Gates of Heaven

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Chapter 5

Several days had passed since Uriah first discovered the manuscript. And now he was facing another difficult trial. Cutting all human ties and turning his back to the life he was accustomed to, was definitely not an easy thing to do. He kept analysing the issue over and over again, regretting not having spent more time talking about it with his father. Questions like “Will I succeed?” or “Am I on the right track?” haunted him day and night. Soon he could no longer sleep. He would only lie on his bed, with his eyes shut, pretending to rest, when in fact he avoided falling asleep. However, running away from his dreams while sleeping meant thinking about them while being awake. And this situation went on and on.

Sleep didn’t come to Uriah the night before his departure, and neither peace kissed his brow. An unfathomable restlessness ran through his veins, and filled his soul with awe. He couldn’t understand why he had that dream where the beautiful unknown woman was an Ethiopian princess and he was his slave. Everything felt so real, so vivid; even when he had plunged into her dream, he had accurately experienced her emotions, as if he had access to her thoughts or as if they shared the same soul… He even had the impression that if he suddenly closed his eyes, the reality he knew would disappear and he would only wake up to a completely different existence. Uriah shuddered. No, he shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. He was just tired and he needed a break, a fresh new start. Besides, it was just a dream, and he had urgent matters on his head. If he couldn’t sleep anymore, he’d better occupy his time. He got up and turned on his lamp. A diffuse and yellowish light fell from the bed table on the floor. He checked the time. It was half past two a.m. Time was fast slipping away. He recalled the objects he was taking along, lest he forgot something. No, he had taken great care to have everything ready for the following day.

When he had finished packing, the clock was already pointing past midnight. And he wasn’t asleep. Like an automaton, he had put on his pajamas and gone to bed. But he had tossed and tossed like a fish on the dry land of insomnia until he gave up. Not that he was afraid. No. He had been waiting all his life for such an opportunity of change. He had dreamt and longed for adventure, for escaping into the great unknown. Not finding the thrill of excitement in reality, he had searched for it in books. But that did not seem real enough for his physical senses. A book satisfies only the imagination, but doesn’t fill all the roomy and endless spaces of the soul. And the prolonged suffering, the manner he tormented himself with the decoding of his father’s manuscript... And he succeeded. The secrets of God’s creation are only one step away from his reach. And he would be the one who saved mankind. Of course, after sacrificing himself, he would no longer be Uriah Reed. He would only be a vessel, but his being, filled with memories and feeling, would suddenly fall asleep, never to awake. But the saddest part of all was that no one would ever miss him. Well, perhaps Gabriel Archer would miss him, but nevertheless, he would not be missed and longed for as he would have been had he got a family of his own.

No, now is not the time to regret my marital status. He got up from his bed, put on his slippers and went into the dining room where his father’s portrait

hung suspended above the fireplace. The dark profile and haughty gaze of the man who had once been his father filled Uriah with an indescribable pride. He was the son of the man who envisioned God’s presence in the world of men.

The eyes of the flesh and blood man met with the painted eyes of the man from the canvas. One was alive; the other was just a representation. Nevertheless, they recognized each other. The son was meeting with his father across the boundaries of life.

“I’ve done it, father”, Uriah slowly whispered, trying to find the right words. “I am ready to become the Vessel. Tomorrow, at dawn, I am leaving for Palestine. I will get there to the Garden of Eden.”

The man on the canvas seemed to glow with pride, as if one last sparkle had lighted up in his painted frame. The son shuddered, and looked around the room, secretly expecting to see Mr. James Reed entering the room. Nothing happened, and the silence of the night was only outrun by the violent shaking of the branches whose shadows fell like sharp claws over the closed windows.

Uriah shrugged and once again looked at his father’s portrait.

“I only wonder if Eden is on earth, isn’t only right to assume that Hell is also here on Earth? Perhaps, I am destined to find them both. What if the space I am about to enter is a passageway to Hell? The serpent lived in the biblical Eden and he was evil. I wonder what else is still living there; and more precisely, whether it is good or evil.”

And then a treacherous thought crossed his mind, torturing his reason because of the possibility of it being true.

“What if the serpent is the Vessel?”

Whether it was the fancy of Uriah’s exalted mind or not, but the portrait seemed to have fallen into a deep thought. It no longer glowed with pride. Mr. James Reed seemed to have retreated into the distant sphere of the universal consciousness.

“No, father…The serpent could not have been the Vessel. God would never entrust His soul to evil. I just have to search the right places. Soon… very soon I will know.”

Uriah stopped talking and blinked hardly, then rubbed his eyes. His fancy was again taking control. It must have been a figment of his imagination due to his sleepless prolonged activity. However, he did see something or, better said, thought he saw. The figure of a woman had passed like a shadow over the canvas, but the portrait of his father didn’t stir from its immobility. Uriah was startled; and the more he thought about it, the more he envisioned that night’s dream.

“Who is she?” he asked himself.

He had seen her crossing the street. By the time he managed to visualize all her features, she had disappeared in the crowd. And then the strange dream he had…In the dream her face was clearly outlined. Even if he closed his eyes, he could still have recalled each contour, each feature, or facial mood. Uriah’s heart gave a violent throb and then a grave silence fell over the room. Only the dark painted figure seemed to tremble in the blue light of the moon whose rays had penetrated through the window. But Uriah sighed deeply. He wished he were a boy again, a youth full of hope, and not an old bachelor who like an harlequin of fate started on a quest only fit for younger souls. Would he prove himself worthy of being God’s Vessel?But then he was not that old, he tried to comfort himself. Only 37…There might still be a place for him where he could find hope. Or maybe everything is a lie, a game of chances and hazard.

Turning away from the portrait, he seated himself in an armchair, pensive and silent. From the following day on his life would change. At least he would not be alone as he was taking Gabriel Archer along. They have been friends for so many years. It is only normal they join their forces into one last adventure. Nevertheless, Uriah couldn’t restrain a treacherous thought. Is it wise? Can Eternity be revealed to man? But what does Eternity mean? What does await them in Palestine? Is it falsehood, deception or immensurable bliss? Has the Garden of Eden truly existed? Will he find God or will he find the Devil instead?

And the night passed silently like a cat on a hot roof, giving no answer, no solace. And the sun drove again his chariot of fire over the horizon, while the moon in her gauzy dress glided on the sky until she faded away, and light followed darkness. And everything came into place, although nothing was ever going to be the same again.

When Mr. Archer arrived at his friend’s house, Uriah was already dressed and ready. He opened the door and greeted his friend in a polite manner. There was nothing in Uriah Reed that recalled the frantic state of his last condition of spirit. Sober, in a perfect order of body and soul, Uriah showed neither excitement, nor enthusiasm. Gabriel was not surprised at all by this sudden change, because for Mr. Archer that was not practically a change but a restoration of facts. Now Uriah was behaving just like himself.

They didn’t exchange too many words, just small chat. Helped by Gabriel, Uriah carried his luggage to Mr. Archer’s car. Everything was neatly polished from boot to leather. The car looked old and shaggy like a heap of metallic rubbish, but Mr. Archer loved his roaring baby, and for no car in the world would he have exchanged it. Old attachments are hard to break. Uriah also loved that car and jestingly he had dubbed it ‘Queeny’, thus bestowing upon it a majestic and endearing light.

The two men stepped inside the vehicle, and Queeny’s doors split the air like a shriek cry of a stray cuckoo fallen from its nest. The engine roared hoarsely, coughing thick circles of black smoke, but the car sprang forth venturing into the chillness of the morning. As they passed by the library where Uriah and Gabriel both worked, the former librarian woke up in Uriah who cast back a mournful glance towards what it had been his sanctuary. He was feeling sorry for the books he had left in the custody of the new librarian. But he couldn’t have done otherwise.

I promise not to fail in my duty.May all the knowledge pass on to the new librarian, and may he prove himself a better guardian!

Gabriel also sighed since he feared his own job would no longer await for him on his arrival. But be it God’s will! It is not time for regrets.

As the car drove swiftly, passing by drugstores and public houses, leaving behind hospitals and local schools, the two travelers felt a sense of estrangement. They were being uprooted from their home by their own personal will, and at that moment, nothing could have changed the situation.

Uriah opened one of his bags and pulled out a notebook and a pen. A second later, he was busy taking notes.

“What are you doing?” asked Gabriel with curiosity. “Are you making a will or something?”

Uriah laughed.

“Are you afraid I may not include you in it?” “Something like that.”

The reply came promptly.

“Don’t you worry, my friend, you’ll get everything.”

“Well, I was hoping to get you back with me, in London.” Gabriel sounded sadder.

“In a way I will come back. Look, I am keeping a journal of our voyage. I think it is important for the history of mankind to learn everything about the discovery of the hidden mysteries of this universe.”

“Why don’t you advertize our journey into the newspaper? It would ensure the quick discovery of what we are up to! And who knows, maybe others will volunteer to become Vessels too.”

“My friend, I am not shouting the truth to the world.”

“Why not? I guess everybody has the right to know, from the toddler who barely learns how to spell mama or dada to the grown up who sits in front of the TV with a can of beer in his lap. We’re all in this together, Uriah. It is only you who refuse to see that you are not alone.”

“Not everybody is a member of the Order of The Wooden Cross, Gabriel…”

“Give me a break. I am sick and tired of hearing about this order. We are all God’s children.”

Uriah gave Gabriel a sympathetic smile.

“I am also a Guardian of Knowledge. Even you must acknowledge that few are ready to take such a burden on them. And as we have already decided, it is important for the following Vessel to have access to my knowledge.”

Gabriel frowned. He was not so confident as his friend. Even now he feared they were going on a wild goose chase. But he didn’t say any other word of discouragement. He had chosen to believe not in the idea of Eternity on earth, a thought which he considered absurd and impossible, but in his friend’s dream. Yes, it was a beautiful dream, a noble dream, a phantasm that made his friend happy and gave a purpose to his life. And that was everything that Gabriel needed to know.

Uriah kept writing, while Gabriel was driving. He hadn’t mentioned a thing about that strange dream to his friend. Somehow, he felt the need to conceal it, even to forget it. That manner it would always be his, even if buried in the deep strata of the unconscious. His secret… the secret he had mastered and thrown into oblivion. A warm gust of wind blew in his face, and he realised it was not a typical London morning. It had not rained and humidity was not floating in the air. It was as if his own city wanted to look its best the day he was going away, surely never to return.

“I will always remember you, London, like this…” he whispered, softly smiling. “You have never been more beautiful than you are now.”

Lowering his gaze, he focused his attention on the notebook he was holding on his knees. He got a firm grip on the pen that had risen out of his fist like a sixth finger to his hand. Soon after, he was slowly writing. Slowly, as if he wanted his pen to linger on each word like a farewell kiss.

“October 18, 2016

Fortuna iuvat audacio…Fortune favours the bold; so at least the Latin saying goes. And I must muster up as much courage as I can find stored inside of me. I strongly believe in my origins. I am the last descendant of The Order of The Wooden Cross, and I am my father’s son who unlike me, he has been aware of his duty as a Guardian of Knowledge until he drew his final breath. Now, I am determined not to let anything stand in my way. Possessing the courage of wanting to change life on earth as we have known so far, I am armed with everything I need in order to succeed. I am one inch away from freedom, as I am on the verge of coming across the extraordinary. And I will not be alone when I arrive to the end of my road. The reason why I haven’t endeavoured to tackle my mission alone is because, just like Jesus Christ, I need a faithful companion to pass on my mission to you, my reader and the next Vessel.

What is a Vessel, maybe you are asking yourself? The Vessel, Carrier or the Container, is a sort of embryo where God has hidden a part of His soul in order to make the universe possible. Yes, without this fragment of divine essence, the world would perish and succumb to darkness. As you may already have figured it out, the Vessel is the most important thing in this world. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long. The Vessel may last centuries, if it’s strong enough, but in the end it self-destructs. Have you read Frazer’s The Golden Bough? Frazer talks about the law of Rex Nemorensis, i.e. the Immortal King, only that it is not so immortal. His immortality consists in a succession of human vessels; that is why the successor kills the actual king and seizes the power only to lose the power to another successor who follows the same path of destruction. This is also what happens in our case. When the time comes, if I self-destruct in your time of existence, you are to take my place and become a Vessel. It is very possible I may not self-destruct in your time; then, you have the duty to pass on the knowledge to the following human Vessel. Remember, the Vessel must always be a Man, and not a woman. The tradition requires this legacy to be passed from father to son. If you are asking why a woman shouldn’t be the Vessel, the explanation is quite simple. A woman is linked to her emotions, at least keener and more profound than a man is, and thus she can be easily influenced by evil, and you have seen it happened when the serpent first tempted Eve. A man will better know how to handle his emotions and never let them surface back. If there are other questions, my assistant or his descendant will provide the next Vessel with all the information required for his destiny. Now, let’s return to the day it all started.

The beginning…what a promising word, and yet it hides so many illusions, so much mystery, and tremendous truth…This is the first day of our life journey, me and Gabriel’s, and the day when everything began to unfold, like a mysterious thread, luring us towards our destiny. I am writing this for you, reader and carrier of secrets from a distant and unknown future. I have seen your face, and I have touched your frame. You are constantly in my mind and in my dreams. I know you as I know myself, because all human vessels are mysteriously linked to each other.

I bow before you, reaching to greet you from the mist of time. Perhaps, I’ll get to know you in person, if I self-destruct in your time. Who knows what lies ahead or what plans has divinity got in store for us? Who knows the secrets of this universe? Who knows?

I only know that one of the biggest secrets of the universe is the fascinating process of meeting someone for the first time. When the eyes meet and the hands shake, two souls align on the same plane of existence. Just like I am now beckoning you somewhere in time and space… How do you do? I wish to pay my respects to you, my immortal. I cherish and honour you as much as I love my books. Perhaps, better still, as you are a moving book with pictures in motion. Your heart is a constant reminder of the many lives you have experienced on this earth. I am positive that if I find the Garden of Eden then, I would solve the greatest riddle of our time, i.e. the meaning of life. Your consciousness, which acknowledges the destiny and story of a unique human being, will tell you that the logic of science is nothing but empirical evidence of organic metamorphosis. Nevertheless, science has failed to answer many questions.

Lend me your ear and journey with me through time and space. Before you were born, man had suffered from death. Now everything is about to change, and the beauty of all is that man knows it not. I can see how eager you are to be acquainted with your founding father. I also aspire to know God, to see His face or at least to understand Him. Perhaps, He cannot be seen. Perhaps He is like the air, never visible, but necessary. And I am a step away from Him. Still, I have to reach Him, to fight for mankind’s right to dwell on earth. Of course, there is also Gabriel Archer who will assist me on my journey. Regard it, reader, as an old uncle. Love him, cherish him, but never forget who gave birth to you. And that is I, Uriah Reed, son of James Reed. I alone have given birth to you, brought you into the existence of a human Vessel, God’s holy vessel.

You must also remember this day. Never forget it! Never! This is the day when all began, when I and Gabriel have started our journey to Palestine. Why Palestine, you may be wondering? The manuscript of my father, James Reed, dead before he got the chance to see his son succeed where he had failed, led me there like the red skein of fate. It was I who was destined to hold the key to the secret of eternal life, and not my father. Like you too, my immortal, who will stride further than I have endeavored, because thus it has always been and thus it shall ever be.

Like all beginners and adventures, we have started our journey feeling very confident and proud to undergo such a noble task. We are travelling by car. You should see Queeny. Almost as shy and coy like a dairy maid, she is carrying us with pride, and I feel like riding a chariot of triumph. I know that Queeny shall have her share of fame and that no doubt she will become a very much appreciated artifact. And don’t worry. I am not writing and driving at the same time. Gabriel is at the wheel, sailing across the sea of pavement and dust as conscientious as possible, like an experienced sailor. And I am writing to you, my loved one… to you and only to you...

I feel the power rising within me, subduing my fears, and bestowing upon me the gifts of a cunning narrator and historian. I do not want to deceive you. I want to present to you the bare truth of our journey. The journal is undoubtedly the only reliable form of fiction as it only depicts the landscape of a man’s existence. This is the first scenery of my landscape, of our landscape, mine and yours as well, my immortal. I see you pulling the curtain of time and watching straight into the arena of the 21st century, on the eighteenth day of the month of October when the leaves bleed under the cruel scarlet tint. I bow before you, my dear one. I have so long waited to meet you. You don’t know how long is the waiting of one who loves alone with a heart of a giant. You don’t know, but I do.

The road is long, almost as long as my waiting for you, but the secret of life lies ahead, in front of us, beckoning to our hungry minds for knowledge and to our souls driven by the noble feeling of desiring a better faith for mankind. Soon, very soon, my beloved child, there would be no more wars, no more famine, no more disease. All misfortunes shall perish, shall crumble into dust like a heathen temple pulled down by the wrath of the true gods. A long period of peace shall ensue, at least as long as my powers as a Vessel are intact. When I get weaker, mankind will look just as it looks now, but at least I’ll keep the pairs of opposites balanced. Like the first children of this earth, we shall inhabit a paradise, and we shall remember how it feels to live in the presence of God and to be touched by His love. Soon, the history of mankind will be rewritten. We have enough atoned for our sins. It is time to recreate our home and to stop wandering from one cycle of existence to another. I am tired of wandering. But soon…soon everything will settle in one place and man’s wanderings on earth will come to a halt.

I have also come to a halt. My feet have taken me straight to the ajar door of a new beginning, and I am about to enter. At this very moment, London is left behind, disappearing like a speck of dust in the wind. New horizons overshadow the past sky lines, and I see you in the light of sunrise. My beloved child... My immortal… Oh, how much I love you….

Small drops of rain fall over the raw morning and beat against the car’s bonnet. One moment ago it was sunny, and now after leaving London, nature becomes a step-mother. I have never liked rain. I hate to see the serenity of the sky disfigured by a gray grim of angry clouds.

Boom…I hear something. No, not a thunder… Out of the bloom, a raven pierces the silence with a long and hoary voice.

Nevermore…Nevermore…

Nevermore, bird of Poe, nevermore shall I return to a world where God is forgotten and mankind wanders alone in the dark of civilization.

The car is speeding. The raven is no longer heard. It seems like Queeny is a winged stallion, galloping madly across time and space. I didn’t thought she could ride this way. Poor old Queeny…I can hear her hoofs of hot tire. She is crushing the gravel in her fury.Soon, she will find her rest. Unknown paths spread themselves into the distance, and the salty odour of the sea fills the air. The dock is nearby, and there our vessel awaits our arrival. We are going to travel by boat, as Queeny couldn’t have undertaken the journey with us had we travelled by plane. And we need a vehicle to safely and quickly move on an unknown territory where dangers lurk in the shadows, since I am well aware that from the moment I embraced my destiny, darkness has been informed. Evil must have sensed that God’s Vessel got weaker, and must have already planned a counterattack. But I am not afraid. I am in the company of Gabriel Archer, just like two spiritual brothers bowing before the future generations of God’s soul vessels.

SALVE FRATRE!

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