A Charm That Supersedes Logic.
Music, This Chapter: Adoro Te Devote – Juliano Ravanello – Gregorian Chants.
Liz McNeil opened her eyes with some difficulty, and for several reasons. Firstly she had been sure just a minute before that she had been, as well as should have been – and effectively was -, quite dead. There had been darkness; cool, sweet, quiet, calm, peaceful darkness. And respite.
Respite from the pain. Not physical pain but the deepest possible sustained, relentless emotional and spiritual pain. The world she knew had totally let her down; there was nothing in it that had provided either a safe harbour or that had proven helpful or caring or trustworthy in a substantial way at all. Sure there were a few slender exceptions. Then there was the depth of the human betrayal. Not just happenstance and perhaps accidental human personal failure – but there was so much deliberate betrayal. The pathetic, disgusting shamelessness of the cowards and the ego-centric, vile low spiritually impoverished nonentities that ‘life’ had somehow catapulted quite unrighteously to obscene material power over her in every way imaginable. Creatures. They were nothing more than creatures; not men, not women.
So rather than feed this any more, she had closed her eyes, and tuned out of ‘life.’ With some lethal chemicals.
After the soft numbness, there had been sleep; loss of relevant consciousness. But then quickly a flicker of some consciousness, but then, too – also darkness.
Consciousness inside darkness.
This must be death.
So naturally you cannot ‘open your eyes’ when you are dead!
Although it seemed to her as if she did have eyes, still -, though...
And now she could hear music too, and a voice singing, an unusual male voice, trembling like silver -, but a melody that seemed sort of familiar. The music made her feel very calm. And then a choir of male voices broke in, and then one single solitary female voice over the top of them.
Certainly it seemed like she could direct instructions of will to the usual place where her eyes always had been. And still were, apparently, because there were muscles there that she could feel, trying to force the eyelids open. She was not paralysed. She found she was not paralysed. And there was no sensation of pain anywhere. In fact, she was pretty sure she was breathing, regularly, cleanly, easily, even she could say – comfortably. And the spiritual pain? She was unsure about that because of the new situation unfolding.
What was this? She had taken enough of a toxic chemical cocktail to kill a horse. And yet, there was a wan glow ‘out there,’ each time her eyelids flickered. And she was not feeling any sensation of tiredness at all. Her fingertips were touching the sides of her thighs, she was quite sure of that. And her body felt warm. There was no sensation of cold at the extremities. There was warmth.
What she did feel though, that was different - that was also not ‘usual?’ It was some kind of substance, a gel, slightly wet, but also solid and pliant, not like water.
As full sensation returned to her conscious brain, she became aware that her whole body, clothing included, was entirely covered in some kind of light, gel. Not particularly thick, nor particularly sticky as such – more like a dense cloud of something that was covering her, cosseting her, albeit quite moistly, completely. And it was covering her face, and it was all over her eyelids. And that was the second reason it was difficult to just easily open her eyes wide and keep them open in order to focus on something. Could she lift her hand and try to wipe it all away from her face and eyes? Yes. She was able to do that.
Someone was holding out a warm damp towelette towards her, proffering it into her raised hand that had been trying to wipe her eyes, her face...
She took that and used it to wipe over her whole face, removing the cloudy weird gel-like stuff that had been there. The other person’s hand came back down to her own hand and took the towelette and finished the job delicately and carefully.
The music went away.
There was no pain, there was no discomfort, there was no paralysis, there was no real difficulty with anything, really – even though initially it was at least, ever so briefly something of an unexpected matter to try and, firstly open her eyes at all since she had thought that was never ever going to happen again -, and then next to deal with the goop that was everywhere all over her face.
She knew she was lying on a large reclining couch affair, something like an LC4 Corbussier/Perriand chaise longue. ...That was a woman that designed that, she knew. Now what was her name -?
A voice spoke nearby her head: “Charlotte Perriand.”
Now what kind of strange accent was that...? She thought.
“It’s my accent. Do you not like it?”
The singing voices had all completely gone away now.
She turned her head to look directly at the figure that was right there nearby her, and up at its face, towards her left about three feet away from Elizabeth McNeil. She took a sudden jolting start at what she was looking at, and sat quickly upright pressing her arms downwards hard to assist herself up. Because it was quite frightening what she was looking at: piercing crystal blue iris eyes, dusky blond straight-across eyebrows very long all the way to the sides above those long broad almond-shaped blue eyes, definite upwards pointy ears, severe unsmiling sharp chiselled facial features, and quite long and flowing blond hair with an ombre balayage running through it. But this was a male person, she thought; surely. It seemed like... And slightly familiar too -, something about ‘his’ actual individual face that she had seen somewhere before.
“Where am I? What is going on?”
“You killed yourself.”
It didn’t say ‘tried to’ kill herself -, she noted. And the voice continued: ’...First, we have to take care of the aero-gel.” It continued dryly. “Don’t be afraid. I am going to use a device to clear away all of the aero-gel and also to dry you down.”
The tone was very matter-of-fact, almost sightly bored sounding frankly, Liz McNeil thought.
An overhead articulated highly-engineered mechanical joist ‘arm’ appeared across from behind her, and positioned itself over her head and she heard a soft mechanical hum start up and then felt a slight vacuum pressure as the end-piece of the overhead ‘arm’ moved from the top of her head downwards over the length of her body, sucking away the cloudy ‘aero-gel’ which is what it was called, evidently. And then once it had reached the base of her feet, it moved back upwards, this time blowing a hot, dry, and very drying ‘blade’ of air over her, accompanied by an orange-coloured powerful directional light, also emitted from some element of the end-piece.
The overhead ‘arm’ backed away and the hum went off.
A sudden new thought struck her in that express moment as complete quietness came to the room. But this all changed everything! ...That was the thought in a nutshell. This experience she was having had altered simply everything. This whole thing was never a part of reality before, certainly not her reality in any way. Whether this was a life-resembling, though actually ‘death phase hallucination,’ kind of something, or not – it changed everything. Because in the first place it was real. In the second place she was having a pretty straightforward, down-to-earth dialogue with some strange creature hitherto unknown to her as even ever existing at all – so it was perfectly obvious now, that there was more. There was more to life than she had previously been aware of - in any realistic, objective way.
The person standing there spoke to her again: “We know why you chose to kill yourself. And I am not going to allow you to litigate your decision to me, and I am not going to litigate the matter back to you in any case.”
She heard him but she wasn’t fully engaged in listening – she was taking in his attire consciously now. Was it all-black? No, very dark blue, midnight blue. The shoes seemed just like ordinary, if modern, well - those Nike stretchy netting things, those slip-on ‘free running’ kinds of sports shoes. ...His actual clothing was tight to the body. And his body was lean and tallish but extremely muscular in that enviable sinuous kind of way that some people’s natural physiques are gifted with from birth, but then which they also augmented and accentuated in their maturity with regular training and consistent very good food and hydration. ...A lithe, parkour-style, extreme body.
“I was completely alone.” She offered, in her own defence. “I didn’t hate myself.” She added. “Nobody helped me.”
“And you were getting old.” The young man added. He was quite young, perhaps twenty-eight, that kind of age of years...
Liz McNeil thought to look at her hands just then, and she immediately noticed they were younger looking too. Well she was sure that the last time she ‘knew,’ about herself - she was seventy!
“I thought I was being kind to myself. What else was I supposed to do in the circumstances?” She didn’t expand at all on those circumstances because she suspected this person knew what those had been, and she was in no hurry to re-visit the sadness of all of it herself.
She looked hard at him now -, looked up at his face, at his eyes, trying to look into them. But there was no emotion in them. Not even any humour in them. He wasn’t even looking at her, really. His eyes seemed to be looking at something she couldn’t see. And moving, as though looking at a running script in the air. And even looking up and down and away from time to time.
Ah, now she thought she knew what it was – there was something else going on in there; he was somehow in touch with other people, and his eyes were ‘there,’ with them, out there in some distant ‘hyper-reality’ with a whole bunch of other people who were communicating with him into his head or something and his eyes were following that ‘conversation’ and not actually directly one hundred percent exclusively engaged just with a simple two-way communication with her. She was almost like a side-issue! ...Even though she was the only actual other person in the room. Apart from him. It was a ‘him,’ she felt certain.
It wasn’t a very large room. Thirty feet this way, thirty-five feet that way.
Impassively he said: “You killed yourself and you have one day and an evening to do something for us successfully, otherwise I will blot you out of existence – just as you wished originally.”
‘What?!’ Her mind recoiled. “Hey hey just wait on a minute! Hold on just a moment there. Originally, before – you were not around. There was only me and nothing else. Nothing else but that miserable place. How can you say this to me? You need to tell me who you are and where I am. At least you have to tell me that. You have to tell me what this is all about, what this all does now, to the way things are, really...”
“Have to tell you?”
“Well please can you tell me, then?”
“Yes I can tell you. What you mean is perhaps this will change the calculus of things in your mind.”
‘The calculus of things,’ she almost laughed sardonically at him quietly. She was in no position to laugh, certainly. Must have been she was being a touch hysterical...
Still somehow though, there was a change within her. And she felt it readily, too. She in no way at all felt depressed any more, for one good thing.
“How long your days and night were sometimes...” He mused, softly, although including her too in his elliptical expression using these now actually ‘sounded out’ thoughtful words about her -, as well of course as they were inclusive in their sentimentality too, and real intimacy, all of a sudden. And she felt included. Somehow he was expressing many things to her. Right into her feelings. In quite the pivot of his manner towards her too, she thought. Suddenly -, he seemed as if he were being quite human and warm towards her.
He continued: “Humans are gone in a day. You are ephemeral in the scheme of all things. You are butterflies.” And then he stopped speaking. And looked her literally up and down, or that is, more across and back because she was still torso-upright and leaning slightly to the left side on one arm, but with the rest of her body stretched out horizontally on the chaise.
“There is someone we want you to steer away from the same path and the course that you eventually took. That person does not know they are on that path that you went down, but they are on that path nonetheless. You have one day to effect the necessary change. You will have unlimited resources to achieve it, you can manipulate whomever along the way that you require, unlike in your own previous life situation - although these resources are not for you now, you should appreciate - they are for you to achieve the goals of your given task. And there is a condition.”
Her mouth was working quite as fast as the reactive thoughts that flashed across her mind. “How can I do anything like that in one day? That’s perfectly unreasonable.”
“I will show you how. But it isn’t your main problem.”
My ‘main problem?’ She repeated it back in her head, and added: I had all the problems in my world, I thought I had put an end to them all and in an absolute way too -, now I have a ‘main problem?’
So she asked: “What is that?”
“You have to do something in a way, in such a way, in such a new way - that the mind of God itself has never seen or heard of before. You have to entertain us. And God knows all of the future, so you should bear that in mind.”
“What?! ‘Us;’ what do you mean ‘us?’ Are you God? I killed myself or thought I had, and now I am meeting God and conversing with God and you tell me, you, God, say to me - here, have this impossible task or else I am going to really kill you.”
“No, I am not God. I am a messenger. All of us here share one mind alongside our own personal minds. And we do not any of us step out of the closest harmony with what we think is the real mind of the Universe anyway - as it makes itself known to us - and so we shall certainly be made privy to ‘if’ or ‘when’ you surprise with some especially entertaining enterprise that is uniquely new.”
She found herself falling back down in the chaise. So – ‘God’ is a deranged cold sadistic, if a very beautiful, thing - she reasoned, looking at the creature there.
...Who is behind all of this, who is really making all these decisions and conditions, she wondered. That’s the person I really need to be talking to, she decided.
“But how... How can I possibly do such a thing at all?!”
“But it’s easy for you. You are an artist. You create. You are a creator. And life is all about creation. So if you create, if you really are able to do that, we will let you live of course, certainly -, we shall; necessarily - for life itself is creation and creation is life. But if you cannot then you must die, that is the rule. So now go, go and create a Mise en abyme that is entirely new and unique and never before seen or known of, anywhere by anyone else at all.” His knowledge of vocabulary was superb, if his accent, and his diction - were rather strange.
“It’s impossible. Don’t be ridiculous. Such a thing is bound to be impossible. How will I even know if I am even close to doing something (she made air quotes) ‘never before seen by God?’ It’s ridiculous.” At that moment she suddenly realised she was a seventy year old, with seventy year old person thinking – in a what, fifty five-year old person’s body? Maybe even younger...
“No, it’s possible and you can do it. And I will send with you, to accompany you, a person who is an emanation of God, a real god, a divine being, not like us, but someone who is actually a god.”
“There is more than one God?”
“There are a few of them, around the place. But they are all the same at heart.
“But we mustn’t tarry. You have one day, and the time is already running. Actually no, perhaps I should not be so cruel. Let me ‘stop the clock,’ for you to have a cup of tea and some sandwiches and cake and gather your thoughts,” There he was, looking away somewhere into the empty space in front of him again. “Because I am certainly quite aware you have so many thoughts arising now, rushing through your mind. And we will spend some time in our small library here briefly, for you to look at the target prospects I have selected for you to capture into your scheme of affairs, that you will must needs, arrange, in order to work on your objective. And of course too, I must point that particular one out to you -, give you some file notes on them and so forth.”
“Oh... Oh thanks...” She rolled her eyes. It wasn’t a matter of a persisting lyric at all of what was left of some vestige sense of humour perhaps, or at least maybe just even of some sarcastic humour -, because in fact she had actually lost all of it somewhere along the way in her life. Even the sarcasm. She knew that she had. No, this was an ironic expression of futility. It was a statement of defeat.
His eyes looked away again then but seemed to sadden. But not over her.
“You know,” he said to her. “It is a commonly held idea around the place down there, that a truly advanced group coming into first contact with a relatively primitive civilisation by comparison, will appear like gods to the not-so-advanced ones. You may be embarrassed to say to anyone something else other than that -, that they will most likely not want to accept as being even remotely true.”
Suddenly Liz McNeil felt slightly better about everything. “But hey! How do I know you are not an ET Alien? You might be. How would I even know any better?”
“Oh I could show you.” He replied brusquely. “And then you would know.” But he was still being dismissive of her. “You are, in fact, all of you, hardly even ephemeral. All of you are just butterflies -, or maybe moths some of you.” He said, and quite deprecatingly, she thought.
“You don’t have to be so mean.”
“Why not? And yes I do. And what about you, you hypocrite?” Oh he seemed quite rude now, she thought, taken aback. “You should talk – you gave up on human life.”
“Well you don’t have to be so mean to me, then...”
“Ah. And you are so right there. But for right now you are still just a butterfly, although yes, a slightly pretty butterfly and with slightly pretty wings. ...So now we want you, dear little butterfly, to move your tiny wings. That’s all you have to do.”
“‘Move my wings?’ Why? What does that even mean?”
“Because -,” He folded his long arms into a strange kind of gesture, of one hand reaching up to a shoulder while the other one curled around an elbow. And he cocked his head to one side and it was like he was standing there in a stance like the Venus de Milo, except of course with complete arms and hands. She looked at him now with her own eyes become somewhat more accustomed to the sharp features and the cold clear blue eyes and strange ears and the virtually meme Alien eyebrows -, and the unsmiling superior attitude... He was just a young boy, really. And he was only ‘Platonically’ superior, not practically superior to a human being... That was the thought that flashed cheekily into her mind. Yes, he was no superior in the matter of the earthy, physical ways that humans have all to somehow, and as best they can, accommodate into the ‘acceptable social/moral life’ - with all of those mostly unfulfilled lusts and desires, never really reaching satisfaction and satiation. Ah now she knew who he looked like – he looked like a blond version of Juan Pablo Di Pace! That gorgeous Argentine dancer and singer and male model.
Oh yes yes he was very very beautiful this guy standing there when she really thought about it that way. He was very good-looking. But that basic ‘good-looking’ categorization turned into beauty when she considered the prospect that it - he - might indeed also simply be able to be corrupted by an intelligently sexual woman... And I wonder, she thought.
“I know what you are thinking.” He said, at last. “And I am a lot smarter than you. Presently, you are to go back down there, and move those tiny creative wings of yours, because -” The words would have seemed utterly conceited coming from such a youthful mouth, yet then when he suddenly lowered his head at that moment, his glittering blue eyes took on a cast as of an already disposed and completely authoritative decree of some sort, something as having been magisterially conjured by a real magistrate, concerning a destiny that was already set in rock and stone, and preserved on ‘some golden tablets in Heaven,’ and fully confirmed by all the powers of the Universe as they truly were (and not to mention also: ‘etched by some romantically besotted schoolgirl on Dover pier’).
Arms unfolded then and stretching out, he continued speaking: “Change one thing, change everything.” His right arm and hand, one finger pointing, inscribed an arc in the air on the word ‘everything.’