Friday, December 30, 2016

A Final Story for 2016

I was invited by Eleseren Brianna (Donna Kantaris) way back in September to write a companion story to her own "The Curio," composed to accompany her 3-D artwork creation in Second Life ®.  I was immediately inspired, did a MESS of research, reading, and took a raft of notes.  Then the story sat as the rest of life intervened, asserting itself over the necessities of fiction.

But, miraculously here the story is! It seems appropriate to be sharing it as 2016 draws to its thankful, inevitable conclusion. Enjoy, and please accept my wishes for a fresh and delight-filled New Year.

Many Blessings to you all,

~ Judy
Image by Inara Pey, of "The Curio" 3-D Artwork by Eleseren Brianna

Eternity's Test

by Judith Cullen

The sun was warm on his armor.


Just as it would be cool by moonlight, again.  So long had his form been bent in this fashion that heat and cold no longer mattered. It was another unimportant detail of occasional, casual notice.  "Oh, it is cold once more."  It was no different from noting the green of the grass, the iridescent glow of snowfall, or the perpetual motion of tiny creatures all around him.  He had long since ceased noting the constants, but waited for the one inconstant to reveal itself.  He bent, hoping for resolution, praying to once more have the power to move and act.

Poised over his tiny scrap of rock and sand, the voice would come to him every now and again.  Just when he believed that he was forgotten, it would murmur in his head, "Wait.  Not yet.  They are not ready."

He would have jumped, had he the ability to move.  No, instead the sound of the voice awakened his memory and sent it back to where this had all begun - a time when that voice had been a familiar part of every moment - a focal point for his existence.

He had been a messenger, a soldier of communiqués. He was enkeli, ängil, ἄγγελος, angel.  Dispatches had been his purpose and task.  He brought glad tidings, ominous warnings, obscure illusions delivered from the celestial sphere to the child-like race inhabiting the terrestrial plane.

The Creator had woven a spell throughout the universe, coaxing the natural elements to form and reform, and then form yet again. Always guiding, encouraging creation to make natural connections and reactions.  If things got out of hand, and the reactions became too destructive, the Creator stepped in with a swift firmness that little resembled the former benign guidance; patient and tolerant one moment, full of wrath when need be.  The child-like race had become the Creator's special project. "I have invested more of myself in these creatures than in any other of my creations," still sounded in the Enkeli's memory.  That was when it all began.

"These creatures are held in higher regard than even the most accomplished among us," one of his comrades had whispered - an angel of no little note among the ranks.  "Look at the care and diligence bestowed upon them, while we higher beings are sent to toil on their behalf."

The Enkeli had to admit the aptness of the point.  These children of the Creator were rash, bumbling, quick to anger, selfish, and ignorant of their place in the universe.  Yet, he found them fascinating.  They were so energetic, even when misdirected, so inquisitive and full of living.

He lingered one morning, perched high in the vast canopy of trees, his assigned task completed. One of the child-beings was trying to build a shelter out of sticks it had gathered.  It subjected itself to all manner of awkward mishap: smashed fingers, slivers under the skin, nearly poked its eye out.  Yet it continued on.  As the Enkeli watched from his leafy seat, the being abused itself less. Its shelter stopped tumbling down at the slightest touch.  Eventually, it brought others of its kind to the place, and they curled up to rest in the now sturdy shelter.

How remarkable: the determination of the creature.  Difficult though it was, it learned and grew in its understanding right before his eyes. The Enkeli was conscious that angels did not seem to grow and learn. Their purpose was the serve or observe, sometimes in aid, sometimes in judgment, never on their own initiative.  Angels did not make mistakes, and no angel would consider not fulfilling his task.  I just was not a part of their serene make up - except for one.

Perhaps there had been something in the Enkeli's expression when he had returned that time - the day the first house was built by mankind.  His comrade had cornered him, questioned him. 

"Doesn't it seem odd," he said, "that we who reign above are not allotted the free will that these low creatures are encouraged to exercise?"

"They are just children.  They hardly know what they are doing."

"Yet, to be afforded such liberty!" His comrade regarded him, his gaze drilling deep.  "You find them interesting, don't you?"

"They are comical creatures, artless, abusing themselves mightily. Yet there is a kind of magic about them as they discover and grow.  It ennobles them, and makes me wonder what the Creator is trying to achieve with them."

"Whatever it is, we will never know of it.  The Creator feels no necessity of illuminating us with the great vision.  We must simply go and do, fetch and carry.  Why cannot we also be free to make our own choices as these scrabbling mortals are?"

The Enkeli could not help but see his point, and yet there was something missing from the argument that he could not quite identify.  It had the feeling of incompleteness about it, a false logic. He saw his comrade move on to others as they returned from their terrestrial tasks, his eyes always darting about, his voice pitched low so that only the speaker heard his words.  Yet, the Enkeli was sure of what was being said, and wondered if he had been the first to hear these mutterings of revolt. 

Another day, another message delivered and the Enkeli tucked himself into a cluster of mossy rocks while yet another child-being stood thigh high in a chilly stream and learned how to fish.  There was a lot of splashing and flailing of arms.  Many a grunt and cry was heard before the creature learned to be still, quiet, with hands open under the surging surface of the water, waiting for the fish to swim into its grasp.

The creatures face exploded with triumphant joy as it held aloft the squirming silver trout, the very first caught by its own hands.  The Enkeli wondered what it would be like to feel that kind of excitement, to experience that kind of victory.  How unfathomable the Creators purpose for these beings was!  A few days later he saw this same child with a crudely fashioned wooden spear, catching another fish.  Not only did the human-being learn, but it kept on learning - never satisfied with just one accomplishment.

The heavens were moody, and uncharacteristically dark the day it happened.  The day that one angel stood out from the rest and accused the Creator of cheating the celestial host of freedom, enslaving them, and denying them the right to determine their own course.  There had been confusion and anger.  The Enkeli had found himself next to his rebellious comrade, reaching out a hand and entreating him, "There has to be another way, another path ..."  He'd never gotten the chance to finish that sentence.  Suddenly he, and a third of the host were tumbling head long from the celestial sphere, following Satan in a free fall that seemed to go on, and on, and on.  A great fire seemed to erupt in their path and he saw his fellows disappear one by one into the smoke and flames, following their cast down leader.

Then the fiery pit was gone and the Enkeli collided with terrestrial ground.  Landing on his hands and knees he felt the jolt, like a great clap of thunder, through his entire being.  He blinked slowly, trying to rise and found he could not.  His sinews had frozen into a humble posture even as the cold of the bed rock seeped into his body.  He was in a wilderness somewhere.  He could not move his head to look around. What little he saw, plus sounds and smells told him all he needed to know. 

Why had he not fallen into the fire like the others?  Satan had been cast out, and all their stars had fallen with his.  He should have stood up to the Accuser, he knew it now.  He had been silent, and had not questioned.  He had stayed out of it, and had become guilty by omission.  He probably deserved worse of the Creator, and yet why was he here and not with the others?

A voice answered his thoughts, one that he knew well.  "I do not miss the details.  Creation is all about little things which sum to a whole of glory.  I heard your words and I know your heart.  You did not entirely align yourself with the Accuser, nor did you oppose him.  There will be a time when all my design will come together, and then I will need you angel. Thus, you are. Here to wait."

"But why?" the Enkeli tried to ask, but the voice had blown away, leaving only a slightly warm breeze in its wake. 

Time on earth, something the Enkeli had never fully experienced before, stretched out before him as he remained cowering over rock and sand.  Once a body of suppleness and heavenly elegance, he was now frozen just as he had landed.  His cells all converted to terrestrial matter, cold and unmoving.  The animals and tiny creatures came to know him, and showed him reverence.  He did not age, yet as time passed he became more and more at one with the place of his landing.  He ceased to mark time by heat or cold, by the perpetual cycles of life around him.  He became solid: a sleepy, contemplative colossus in the wilderness.

The voice returned to him from time to time.  Sometimes answering a burning thought that had slowly simmered in the Enkeli's consciousness. Sometimes for no reason at all.  The visits of the voice were his only real company over the millenia.

"My angel, you always had free will as you understand it.  Freedom always comes with responsibilities and consequences.  The Accuser desired a liberty to choose, one that he already possessed.  He chose, as I chose."

It occurred to the Enkeli that Satan had really taken the complicated path to get what he wanted, something which the Creator claimed already existed. Perhaps he had misunderstood.

"You were raised on obedience, my angel.  You knew nothing of choice, and yet you did choose in accordance with the way of your kind. The Accuser has more in common with my earth children than he knows, and that is why he will use them against me."

The Enkeli was perplexed again, and just forming the thought of a question when the warm wind announced the voice had moved on.

Image by Eleseren Brianna
Once again his mind returned from memory to the conscious marking of the sun and the clarity of the day.  The Enkeli heard the faint splash of oars long before he sensed the beating of several hearts: child-beings, humans.  In these later years they had sometimes sought him out.  They stared, poked at his islet, rapped on his body, treated him as the curiosity that he suspected he must be - A stone and metal angel in the middle of nowhere.  He felt them drawn to him, for reasons he could not fathom, as if he were pulling them to him, though he had not willed them so.

They never stayed long. It was as if they only came to observe and conjecture.  Then they returned to other places in this existence - places teeming with life.

"They still have much to learn," the voice had whispered one day, when it chanced to speak during one of the human visits. "The time has not yet come. They are not ready."

This visit several creatures very thoroughly inspected him, as others had before.  When they left, a heartbeat of time had passed before these same humans returned.  They seemed intent on studying him in greater detail.  How much had these remarkable beings learned since those ancient days of catching fish and building shelters. What could they possibly learn from him?

He felt their energy seep into him, still familiar from the previous visit.  Would they stay?  The concept of having company was something the Enkeli had never considered.  Was this part of his destiny - what the Creator had meant for him?  Was this what he was waiting for?

In a blink, the visitors were back again, and in greater number and variety than before.  They came with all manner of objects and seemed intent on staying.  They set out places to sit and brought food to share among them.  The younger ones careened all over his islet, setting up a squealing ruckus and filling the air with the vibrations of their play. They even used an apparatus to climb onto his back and head. The sensation was intoxicating. It had been so long since he had experienced life, real living: piquant, vibrant, loud, and ecstatic. A small ember of hope began to warm the Enkeli from within.  Perhaps the time had finally come and his waiting was over.  Perhaps now he would understand.

The daylight dimmed, one dusk among thousands, and the children of the Creator packed up and left the little place of sand and rock, taking all their exuberant living energy with them. The Enkeli had never felt so cold.  His ember of hope shattered in icy disappointment.  He was alone again.  For all the humans might have learned from him, he knew no more than he had when he first fell to this place.

The Enkeli felt something new clutch deep within him, and a desire fed by an eternity of yearning welled up inside.  He felt the memory of all that life scrambling all around him, filling him as he could not remember ever being filled. The lack of it was a piercing pain which only dulled down to a thrumming ache as the night succeeded.

In the darkness after midnight he focused all his consciousness, in sheer desperation, on one task in one place.  He tried to move his hand.  Surely the Creator could not have intended this torment - feeling the incredible joy of life, only to remove it from him. He wanted that delight again, to be near the children as they learned and grew, and filled the world with the magic of their discovery, the beauty of their wonderment. 

So intent was he in his desire that he did not notice the soundless movement of his metal gloved hand, leaving furrows in the rock, until he was surrounded by a swirling warm breeze and the voice spoke to him in soothing tones.

"It is not time, my angel.  They have not yet learned the most important lesson of all."

The Enkeli's essence cried out in agony, his frustration and despair vibrating his every atom, causing the sands of his island to shake, the rocks to shift, and silencing the voices of the night creatures in his wilderness home.

"The have not learned how simple life is.  They still complicate their thoughts with desires for what they think they want, ignoring the riches they already posses.  They have not yet thrown off the influence of the fallen one, the Accuser, who sought a freedom he already had and only managed to imprisoning himself." 

The Enkeli's soul groaned within him. 

"My child, you said 'there has to be another way, another path.' You knew the fundamental truth of this all those eons ago."

"Know?  What did I know?" the great stone and metal angel begged.

The warm wind wrapped itself around him and strangely, the Enkeli began to feel that warmth on the inside for the first time.

"You had the seed of true wisdom, that everything that is essential to your being comes from within."

The angel's eyes flared with a spark of hope once more.

"You see, my child, the creation of humankind is a test.  A great and important test I set for myself to see if I am truly worthy of omnipotence.  Could I create a being in my own image, with the spark of my own consciousness within, yet mortal?  Could that being eventually come to an understanding of the simplicity of creation: hope, kindness, truth, and love?  You see, Satan is so very much like these child creatures which he eternally influences against themselves and me. He sees only complication, and to resolve the inequity of it he searches beyond himself.  Humankind has generally followed his brutish lead all these many millennia, seeking to elevate themselves to happiness in increasing complexities that they then must struggle to control and repair."

How different, the Enkeli thought, had been his recent visitors from the child-beings he had watched so many ages ago, when this earth was still new.

"Yet hope remains, my angel.  Not all humans fall prey to this delusion of stolen happiness.  Slowly they have come to understand more and more of that which I placed within them at creation.  They begin to understand their power, and their responsibility.  I believe most will achieve grace in time."

The wind whipped ecstatically around the colossus of the island, "and when that day comes, I will need you.  That will be the day that my test will either fail or succeed.  Humanity is the key, and they are not yet ready.  Mankind must continue to try and fail; to experience anger, pain, intolerance, loss, frustration and fear until it finally learns and understands. It is not yet time."

The wind receded and whispered as its warmth died away, "you must wait."

Image by Eleseren Brianna
In the morning, the mist curled its cool tendrils over the water. The Enkeli solidly stared at the sands
below him with a new understanding. As he continued to ponder, one of his human visitors stumbled into his sight.  The great being was surprised, and would have started if he could.  He had been so lost in thought that he had not felt the creature's return. The man seemed shocked as well, staring into the Enkeli's eyes in amazement and just a hint of fear.

As the man looked about at the changes to the island wrought by the Enkeli in its nocturnal despair, the angel felt compassion for this creature.  It did not understand what had happened here.  How could it?  The great giant wished he could speak, wished he could explain; but smiled within knowing that humankind was not yet ready to comprehend the vastness of the Creator's great test. 

In this moment, the Enkeli felt something new for the creature and for all its kind.  The great angel cast from heaven into the terrestrial wilds, turned to stone and metal, waiting through all eternity felt love for the creature among the jagged rocks, and for all humanity.

As the man got into his boat, and rowed away with a bewildered alacrity, the Enkeli let his love for the children of the Creator embrace him in the eerie dawn air, and it satisfied him.  He settled down on his solitary patch of earth, his consciousness at peace, and the Enkeli resumed his wait.

"It is not time.  They are not yet ready."

"The Curio" 3-D Artwork and Image by Eleseren Brianna 
NOTE:  For those interested in Eles' story, we are hoping to present them in Second Life ® sometime in the New Year, and it is possible that they might appear together elsewhere in print.  I'll keep you posted.  The two stories compliment each other, and "The Curio" creation, quite well, I think.


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