Islands of the Mind - Opening pages



Islands of the Mind

Morgan’s Knot – A Serial Fantasy

Episode VI

By

Eric T. Stiller, Jr.

Adrian was mesmerized by the serene intensity smoldering in the ancient seer’s eyes. Orana’s words echoed around the stonewalls of the cave like thunder rippling through the darkness, the tones and syllables reverberating in a strange hypnotic rhythm in his mind, “It is good that you believe in yourself and have a strong spirit, you will need it.”

The young seer bowed his head, accepting the inadequacy of his powers. In spite of the lessons that allowed him to survive, he was acutely aware that he was a student sitting at the Master’s knee. There was little doubt that the imminent instruction would push him beyond the challenges he encountered on his short but furious journey into the secrets and the Powers, including his skirmishes with Zepallo. Visions of dark caverns and evil creatures crept through his imagination and he struggled to push those terrors back into the shadows.

It was not that he was frightened of imminent nightmares, rather, the anticipation primed him to reach into that well of inner strength that loosed a rush of adrenaline coursing through his system. The hairs on the back of his neck bristled and his muscles tensed, his body ready to spring. All of his senses were open, prepared to collect information, aware of everything around him…the trickling of running water, the emblem on the wall, the echo of birds singing softly, the rhythm of his own breathing and the thumping of his heart beating in his chest, the quiet crackle of the fire, the beam of light streaming through wispy pinion smoke, the glowing pink aura, a bloated feather boa surrounding Orana’s diminutive frame, and wise passion in her emerald eyes.

He could feel her energy swaddling him in a warm embrace but her spirit was burrowing into his soul and he knew there was nothing he could hide from this woman.

“Ah, you feel it, don’t you?”

Adrian raised his head and met her stare.

“You feel those chemicals churning through your body. Every sense is primed to take in everything around you…sounds, smells, temperature, the movement of the air across your skin, the taste of the tea that lingers on the palette, the texture and rhythm of the energies, and the slivers of light flowing into this dark chamber. If there was movement anywhere close by, you would know instantly whether it was a threat or incidental. Your heart is beating rapidly and your mind is totally in tune with your surroundings. You can feel our auras exploring each other, yet, although we are the only people in this cave, you’re uncomfortable.”

“It isn’t so much that I’m frightened, it’s more a sense of anticipation of the unknown, because I have no idea of what’s coming next,” replied Adrian, quietly.

“The object of your instruction is to multiply these sensations by an infinite scale, touching not only your immediate surroundings but the entire world through all the planes, and then to teach you to synthesize your conclusions to produce something useful. Some of the situations you’ll encounter will be frightening but understand that the only enemies that you’ll have to defeat are the demons already living inside your soul. I understand that you were raised to be a nice young man but I also know that, given the choice between fight or flight, your instinct is to stand up for what you believe in and your gift is that you will always see the steps before you…even blindfolded and bound, you will find the path.” She paused, “Consider the next few days as your opportunity to take a grand spiritual voyage, making excursions to various islands of your mind.

I had the advantage of knowing that I was a seer from the moment I was born. You, on the other hand, wasted the formative years of your life, through no fault of your own, but we’ll have to go back to the beginning to teach you things you should already know!”

Before Adrian could reply, Orana melted and the cave disappeared. He found himself sitting crossed-legged on a smooth, open plain and he was completely naked.

The young seer gazed around a white world sweeping into the horizon, merging into the sky and the source of the brilliant light radiating from all directions. There were no sounds, no smells, no taste, and nothing to touch. The warm air was not moving and there was nothing that might offer a sense of scale or direction. Even the ground beneath him had no texture. It was simply flat.

Resting his hands on his knees, palms up, he drifted into the meditative state that he learned from Simian. He opened his inner senses, exploring his surroundings, and recognized that he was truly alone in a world that had yet to be created. Perhaps the first lesson was to fashion his surroundings with the things that were most dear, the world as he might design it.

Before he could concentrate on that single thought, his entire life flashed across the white sky like a spiraling coil of film, each frame a scene, a moment, and it was all happening in reverse. He saw his friends, his fellow seers, the animals and their plane, the battle on the island, Ponte’s library and the Golden Crystal, the House of the Four Seasons, the inside of the lairs of the Dark Forces and the pulsing red orb that had held his spirit captive, the Wailing Wall and the Basilica in Rome, the Island of the Children and the world under the sea, and all of his challenges and adventures from the first day he arrived on the Morgan’s Knot. Farther back, his memories roamed through his home on the bay, the children who attended his school, the sensation of piloting a sailboat, his father’s strength, and his mother’s warm embrace.

He could see every detail of his bedroom, his favorite toys, his books, and his teddy bear lying on his red bedspread. The salt air blowing in from the bay billowed the curtains like the veils of angels, as his mother used to whisper as she cradled him in the rocking chair, and the morning sun created long feathers of gold that crept across the blue carpet on the floor. Suddenly, he was an infant with no cares in the world other than being safe, warm, and well fed.

He opened his eyes and took in the endless white plain, bare to the horizon in every direction, except, in the distance, he could see a small dark lump. He stood and began to walk to it, realizing that his powers went missing along with his clothes, when he landed in this desolate landscape. With nothing against which he might gauge distance, walking across the white plane seemed slow and futile, so he started to trot and then to run as fast as his legs would carry him.

Finally, breathlessly, he approached the object of his fascination, fell to his knees, and realized that it was moving. It was a baby. He knew that face from the pictures his mother kept in a frame by her bed!

Adrian stopped and stared at the tiny child lying on his back, smiling, and gurgling with baby sounds. The infant sat up and then stood, as it matured into a toddler wandering around in circles, flapping his arms like an infant bird learning to fly, while singing a lullaby that he heard his mother sing, and continuing to grow.

Within minutes, the child became the mirror image of Adrian and he stared into his own blue eyes with curiosity and wonder. His other self giggled, as he continued to develop into a young man with long blond hair that slowly turned gray. Tiny creases formed around his eyes and mouth but his body remained strong and firm.

He noticed the scars on his right leg, as the other Adrian slowly became an old man, who stooped slightly and moved with some difficulty, favoring his injured limb. A mane of white hair tumbled down his back and a long beard appeared on his wrinkled face. His blue eyes still sparkled but they looked tired, sad, and wise.

“Am I you?” inquired Adrian.

The old man gazed at the boy with a glare that affirmed his impatience with the question, “You already know the answer. I am you as you are me.”

Adrian smiled, “So, we live to be old?”

The old seer grunted, “Growing old isn’t what it’s cracked up to be!” He brushed back his hair to reveal scars on his forehead and behind his ear, turned his back to expose more, and lifted battered arms to bare numerous wounds on either side of his chest. “We have paid dearly for the privilege!”

“I would assume that my battles are not finished.”

“You’ve only survived the initiation!”

“Zepallo?” asked the young seer.

“And others…as you will learn, the Dark Forces are layered like an onion, as deep as the sea, and more sinister and evil than you might ever imagine. Their tentacles reach into places that will truly astonish you. You’ll learn the necessary lessons at Orana’s hand but they’re merely preparation for all the challenges we face in the future. Even she can’t teach you everything that you’ll need to know. A lot of it will come to you at the moment when you see the real challenge and the true path to understanding the reality behind the commotion. There are no rules that apply to the things we must do and no one ever gave us a guide book!”

Adrian paused, “Is there joy in our life?”

The old man smiled sadly, “Life is filled with joy and wonder. It’s everywhere and in everything. It’s in every child’s smile, every animal that you will encounter, every day that ends without a battle, and every calm moment that you enjoy. Looking back on it all, I’d say that you should be thankful for every normal day. Days when nothing happens, when you could be bored, when things are confined to everyday routines, those are most precious.

We all take life for granted. New days arrive with every sunrise. Used up days disappear and are replaced. We just assume that this pattern will go on forever and we don’t pay enough attention to the little things that are the very reason for our struggles. Take the time to enjoy the most simple moments in life. That’s what it’s all about.”

“I notice a great sadness in your eyes,” whispered the young seer.

“We’ve paid a heavy price for our beliefs,” replied the old man, quietly.

“Was it worth it?”

The old seer pressed a crooked finger to his lips for a moment, as he thought about the question, then burst out laughing, which took a while to ripple through his system, “I honestly don’t know the answer to your question. We’re not finished yet!”

“You know what I mean!”

“I know, I know. I’ll tell you this much, we succeed. Whether the price that we’ve paid for insuring the survival of the Powers was worth it…yes, I guess it was. There’s something else that you must know and that is that you should take the time to really know the people you love and show them how you feel. When you get to be my age, they’ll all be gone.”

The old man made no attempt conceal the grief in his eyes. Adrian focused on his family, his friends, and all of the people and animals who inhabited his world. He could not imagine outliving all of them, let alone surviving to be this ancient person standing before him.

“How old are you?”

“How old are we?” corrected the elder Adrian. “Well, I guess I’m approaching three-hundred years. We have great-great-great-great-great grandchildren. There are hundreds and I have to confess that I only know a few of them. You’ll find two things that inhibit your ability to move about the world. The first is that this body will eventually tire, small wonder after all the punishment we put it through, and the thought of spending time alone becomes more appealing. The second is that we become infamous. Everywhere I go, I’m mobbed by people who want to touch me or to be touched by me. They seem to think that we have some magical power that will save their lives or cure their illnesses or make them rich. We don’t.”

The young seer knew the feeling, as he was always unnerved by the notoriety that resulted from his missions. He could not imagine having to deal with it for the rest of a very long life, “We are shy, aren’t we?”

The old man snickered, “That’s a nice way to put it. Yes, I still don’t like being recognized. The things that we’ve accomplished had nothing to do with chasing fame or fortune. As you already know, we did it because it was the right thing to do. As you have so often said, ‘There is no other choice’.”

Adrian nodded, “If there was only one thing that you could tell me, one thing that might help me through the hard parts that lie ahead, what would it be?”

The ancient seer sat down on the white ground and crossed his legs, “Listen to your heart, it won’t lead you astray. Give love but don’t expect it in return. True love is found in the act of giving from your soul and you will know great love in your life.”

The old face suddenly crinkled into a mischievous grin, “You already have the love of your life. You just haven’t realized it yet but you will.”

Adrian was stunned. He was certainly attracted to Morgan. She was beautiful and one of the few people that he felt completely comfortable with…and there was Alius, who was more like a sister and a partner than a girlfriend. He thought about all of the girls and young women in his life and really had no idea who he would choose, if that decision had to be made in this moment.

The old man watched the subtle changes in the expressions on Adrian’s face, as he worked through the problem, “Don’t waste your time on this, you’re a bit young to be considering these things. Just know that, throughout your life, the women hold the key to your happiness and your success…and your survival, for that matter. Love them with all your heart and, when the time comes, the answer to this puzzle will become painfully obvious.”

“I’m confused. I thought that Orana said I was going to learn all of the things that I missed as a child?” inquired Adrian, sitting to face his older self.

“All the things that you missed are already inside you. They’ve always been there and you’ve been smart enough to follow your instincts, your hunches, that feeling in your gut. You had no reason to develop your talents until you reached Morgan’s Knot, because our dear mother neglected to inform us of these wonderful gifts, but we always knew there was something different about us, didn’t we?” The old man’s face eased into a knowing smile, “You’ve done well but it will get harder as you go.

I think the lesson that you’re supposed to learn from our conversation is that all of those powers course through your system but no one has ever given you any instruction about what to do with the talents that you’ve already discovered, let alone those you have yet to learn. You just need to let your energy flow out into the world around you. It will move like ripples on a pond, flowing out to touch everything and everyone in your field of focus, and those vibrations will return with information that your senses can interpret.

Our battle with Zepallo is a good example. We knew he couldn’t win before the first blow was struck but you also knew that he would survive.”

“So, Zepallo is not truly defeated?”

“No, he will rise again and he’ll become more powerful and frightening than your last encounter. Those, who held him in check, went down in that submarine our friends destroyed. There’s no one to keep him from pursuing his dreams of world domination. He’s a wild child sowing seeds of destruction without restraint and there will be none, other than you.”

“I guess I knew that when he saluted me, after our battle on the island.”

“That salute was his way of saying that you’ll duel again. He showed respect for your powers but rest assured, he’s not finished with you. There’s more to all of this but I’m afraid that we’ll have to learn it as time goes by.”

Adrian started to protest but the old man smiled and patted him on the knee, “Rules of the game and all that!” He paused to gaze around at the infinite whiteness, “I’m sure the reason that we are having this little chat at the beginning of your instruction is that you must understand that you, and you alone, are the sole sentinel who stands in the way of the Darkness. Certainly, you will have help to win many battles and you’ll drive them deeper underground but I’m not sure that we ever actually win the war.

You’ll lead the World to long periods of peace and the people and animals will recognize you as a savior. Don’t let it go to your head. It means nothing. See your triumphs for what they are…momentary pauses in an ongoing campaign. Enjoy those times…and use them to renew your strength, to expand your talents, and to be with those you love. After all, they are the reason that we do the things we do. You should also know that each battle will demand more of you than the last. As you grow, learn, and develop your strengths, so do your adversaries.”

“So, what’s the key?”

“The key is something that Master Chi has already revealed to you, ‘If you truly believe in the Power of the Light…if you truly believe in yourself, you’ll never be defeated.’ That’s what makes us different, we really do believe.”

“Will that belief be tested?”

The old man burst out laughing, “Of course it will be tested! You’ve already been challenged and you know the feeling we get just before going into battle. Your fear and your doubts will save your life. It is in those moments that you will truly see the course that you must follow, just as you did when you faced Zepallo over the eastern ridge of Morgan’s Knot. You knew he couldn’t defeat you and your whole being was focused on that evil smile on his face. Everything else disappeared and, in that instant, you both knew that he could not win.”

“That was strange. I wasn’t really afraid of what might happen because I already knew the outcome in my heart.”

“That’s it. You knew and you will always know. All of these other things, that you’ve learned or will come to understand, are inconsequential. They’re just tools that you’ll develop and use to your advantage. It’s our ability to see through the chaos that sets you apart.”

Adrian felt a sense of confidence flush through his body. He sat up straight and faced himself.

“Don’t get too full of yourself. There will be many times that you’ll doubt your own capacity, your judgments, and your powers…and there will be failures and setbacks. Our lifelong depression is debilitating but you’ll learn that your escape from that state is accepting the truth…when you truly see, you’ll find your focus. There will be times when you’ll wish to be just a normal person or that someone else would take on your responsibilities. You already know that you can’t be ‘normal’, you can only follow your path and do your best…and you will pay dearly, in spite of this knowledge.”

There was strength and determination in the old man’s face but, at the same time, a great sadness. Adrian stared into his old blue eyes and felt that strength flowing between them. He wanted details but knew that this conversation was being presented to guide him through the other lessons that he was about to endure.

“It’s strange, but I’m not afraid of facing our enemies. I’m more afraid of losing those who mean the most to us.”

“That’s as it should be and another reason that you’ll find success. You have to defend those who are special to you and, in the process, you’ll free the people of the world from the one thing they can’t escape, Fear.”

“Fear?”

“Yes, Fear…with a capital ‘F.’ Look around at the world that you’re living in…not Morgan’s Knot or the Island of the Children…but the real world. What drives everything? Fear! Fear of not having enough or accomplishing enough or not being enough. Fear that someone or some group will come along and take your possessions, your love, or your life. The governments, the religious institutions, and the giant corporations use fear to control, mobilize, and suppress the masses. It’s the driving force in this world and you must find a way to put an end to it. Believe me, it’s the best thing that we do, although…at the time, we don’t realize that our efforts will result in that freedom for everyone else. It just happens.”

Adrian was dumbfounded. How could he possibly affect the things that everyone else in the world felt? That’s impossible!

“I can see that you doubt what I’m saying. Don’t. It’s a waste of time and energy. Just understand that removing fear is one of the things that we have to accomplish in this battle between Light and Dark. It won’t happen because you plan it. It will happen because you’ll do what you feel is right and true. It’s as simple as that.”

“No pressure there!”

“There is no pressure in what I’m telling you. It’s simply the truth.”

“That’s been and will always be the motivation behind the things we do,” replied the young seer. “Our powers depend on that belief.”

“Now you’re seeing. Don’t get hung up on the eventual outcome or benefits of your efforts. Just do what you must.”

“What will you do now?”

The old seer paused and reflected on the question, “I don’t really know. I’m sure that we’re not finished with the things that must be attended to, the times change but hatred and evil still lurk just beneath the surface and rear their ugly heads when we least expect it. I’ll admit that I’m getting a bit tired. I’ve thought that I might move in with Orana and let some of the youngsters take on a more public role but I’m not sure that she would consent.”

“Orana’s still alive in your time?”

A sly smile crept across his lips, “We’re both taking lessons from her, aren’t we?”

Young Adrian was speechless. He stammered, “You’re taking lessons from Orana?”

“I guess you inspired me to reach a little further and, I have to say, there are some wonderful things that we never dreamed possible…but, then, you have enough to worry about for the moment!”

The boy stared into the old man’s eyes. There was so much there and yet, Adrian felt he was hiding parts of it, important parts, perhaps. “When I get to be you, will I be proud of our accomplishments?”

The old man sat up straight and looked directly into the young seer’s eyes, “Yes, you will be proud…but you’ll also be humbled…happy to have known love, sad to have outlived it…proud of the changes that will happen in the world during our lifetime but nostalgic for the…I don’t know, innocence and wonder of our initiation into the Powers and the Balance. Maybe that’s it, the Balance I mean. Life balances out. There’s more good than evil. There’s more love than hate. What you put into life is certainly returned many fold but there’s always a price to pay for the things that we hold most dear. I’ll leave it at that. Let’s try to leave the world in balance with itself before we go. Fair enough?”

With a wink, the old seer vaporized into a rainbow mist drifting across the plane in a dissipating cloud. Adrian was left alone in the white world to contemplate his future, pondering the question, “And how are we going to do that?”


rick stiller 2019