Beyond the Island
by John W. Steele
Young Brian Mudd is proud of his ability to travel in the astral realms — until he encounters Lord Nagual, who prefers to be called “Max.” Brian becomes Max’s apprentice and finds him a harsh, even cruel master but nonetheless an effective instructor. Meanwhile, Brian is taken with Karen Frost, with whom he feels he has a karmic link. And Brian’s karma is trouble.
It was in the fall of ’97 I had my first encounter with the terror, and the memory still sends chills down my spine. I was wandering in an astral realm of surreal magnificence and I stopped to rest in the shade of a massive boulder that stood on the shores of a vibrant sugar sand beach.
In front of me was an endless body of water the color of turquoise. The waves had the texture of quicksilver and flowed in slow motion. A cloudless opalescent sky shone like mother of pearl and its velvet radiance stretched into a pulsating unfathomable void. To the west stood a chain of snow-capped mountains that shone with ivory jade luster. As I marveled in the rapture of this place, something unnatural near the horizon caught my eye.
Far out on the ocean a wisp of smoke rose up from the water. The pillar of mist began to flash, and cobalt lightning erupted around it. In the beat of a heart, the anomaly morphed into what looked like a giant mushroom cloud that towered far into the sky. Flashes of colored light imbued it with glory, and its crown was brighter than the sun. The phenomenon sped towards me with astonishing rapidity.
I wanted to run, but my body was paralyzed, and I couldn’t stand. The waterspout engulfed me in its vortex. I choked and gagged in the icy thrust of its power. I felt sure I was about to die and I fell into a swoon. When I awoke, I was sitting on a barren summit on one of the far peaks.
In my peripheral vision, I could see what appeared to be the outline of a large egg-shaped pattern of energy. I dared not look directly at the phenomenon for fear it would annihilate me. I could determine that the image had no definite form but seemed to be subdued within the borders of the egg.
A violet aura emanated from the form like an ethereal shadow. Inside the shell was a multi-dimensional void, a vibrating emptiness that flowed like the hues of an oil slick on a puddle of crystalline water. Colors I had never seen were expressed in ever changing combinations, like the patterns of a psychedelic kaleidoscope. The intensity of this thing was maddening, and yet I’d never seen anything quite so beautiful.
The entity was surrounded by an incredible force field. Its energy felt like the tension produced when the like poles of two dynamic magnets are held together. The domain of power pulsed on my body with varying degrees of intensity. The force grew in strength until it nearly crushed my chest and it was difficult to draw air into my lungs, then subsided, until it was a gentle tingle on the surface of my skin. I sensed the thing was toying with me like a cat plays with a mouse before devouring it.
Though I was terrified, I could not fix my attention on anything but this overwhelming monstrosity. The aura of its glory was spellbinding. It seemed as if this thing was unencumbered by the confines of reason or the boundaries of physical laws, and existed independent of mind or matter. A suchness surrounded the shell, something primal and untamed like a force in nature. The totality of its presence was maddening, and I wondered if it was a deity or a demon.
For a long time we remained silent. When the egg finally spoke, its voice was like the rumble of a giant waterfall. Its sound was horrendous and caused a feeling of nausea in the pit of my stomach. The voice reverberated in my head, and I trembled.
“I’ve been waiting for what you would call an eternity. I see at last you’ve gathered enough personal power to approach me.”
I dared not speak. My throat was in spasm and my mouth was dry.
“Speak!” it cried in a demanding tone. “I have no desire to harm you.”
I felt the pressure on my body ease, and my spine began to tingle. The scent of sandalwood drifted in the air.
“What are you?” I asked timidly.
“I am a reflection... a mind-created imagining. I am a portal to all that is possible and impossible.”
“An imagining? You’re more real than I am.”
The avatar laughed and the mountains rumbled.
“You and I exist in a symbiotic relationship. I am the totality of your senses, thoughts and emotions. Without the faculty of your consciousness, I would exist as force tormented by the thirst for evolution.
“And without the wonder of my unfathomable perfection, your mind would be empty of reason or will, and you would have no ideal or discontent. If not for the script programmed in your mind, we would not be separated, and all would be as one. You cannot exist without me. Without you I am impotent, and our evolution is infeasible.
“I am your root, the embodiment of original cause. I dwell beyond your island at the very borders of Id. I thirst for knowledge beyond the insanities of conditioning and rote infestation of fairy tales and mythology.
“You are my window to this dimension. I cannot see you until you see me. Together we seek the Absolute, that we may once again transcend original cause and return to our birthright: the all-powerful intelligence beyond Id.”
The hissing wind surrounding the force began to subside. Its colors softened and lost the fierceness of their intensity. The billowing dark clouds overhead evaporated and the sky shone resplendent. Birds of many species sailed in the gentle breezes and the ocean sighed in long, slow whispers.
The sapphire hue surrounding the egg changed to a hypnotic shade of azure. There was a long silence and time ceased to exist. I felt a sense of supreme tranquillity as if I’d been reunited with an ancient and noble friend.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“Throughout the ages I have been referred to by a number of different names in this dimension. In the course of this cycle I have been called Overself, Memnoch, Kadosh, Basmalla, Govinda, Krishna, and have been granted various other pseudonyms. But I exist beyond the prison of words and ideas. I am a direct descendent of the unimaginable authority known as the Unborn.
“I cannot be defined in sound energy or the hellish fantasies born of conceptual masturbation. Still, you must cling to a word to create me, so for now you may refer to me as Lord Nagual or, if you prefer, some of my apprentices in the lower vibrations call me Max.”
If I wasn’t in such awe of Max, I would have laughed, but now that my fear had subsided, I noticed a repulsive scent in the air and I realized I’d crapped in my astral pants.
Max must have smelled it too, because he laughed uproariously.
“Oh how I loathe the memory that I was once confined to a meat body such as yours. Even here in this paradise realm, you still cling to the security of your conditioning. You’re a disgusting mass of genetic recombinants, but you’ll have to do.”
I couldn’t argue with his reasoning. I’d often felt like I was imprisoned in a sack of meat and I sometimes wondered how mankind ever ended up in such a sorry state.
“I suppose you need to be changed,” Max said, “And of course there’s no one but me here to do it.” A flash of light pulsated from the egg and the wet spot in my pants disappeared. I felt clean, and my skin tingled. The air grew sweet with the fragrance of honeysuckle. “That’s a despicable task. Now, where were we?”
“What do you want from me?” I asked.
The patterns on the egg swirled, and it throbbed gently. “It is you that wallows in a sea of desire, pork chop. I can give you anything.”
I didn’t like the thought of accepting anything from him or his ilk. I’d learned long ago you don’t get something for nothing from anyone, especially deities.
“You have nothing I want. If you’re going to kill me, please do it quickly. I’m tired of all the struggle the meat body must endure anyway, and I want to be freed from it.”
Max snorted, and I heard a thunder resound inside the egg, like a giant gurgle emanating from deep in its celestial bowels.
“Don’t surrender your life so easily, fool. It’s far more precious than your puny ‘I, me, mine’ mentality can comprehend right now.”
I remained baffled and wondered why this supernatural freak show hadn’t squashed me like a fly. “What could something like you possibly want from something like me?” I asked.
Max rocked back and forth gently and his colors grew mellow and flickering like a masterpiece by Monet. The hypnotic swirls and geometric designs beguiled me and connected with a primal longing deep inside that I had forgotten about. He’d awakened a spirit of adoration within and I was moved to tears by the intensity of the emotion.
It was as if this impossible thing understood all my flaws and weakness, and was the part of me that existed just outside the borders of my mind. He radiated mercy and compassion, and my eyes followed the cadence of his graceful sway. His voice chimed with a melodic resonance, and he spoke to me as if I were a beloved pet.
“I’m going to try and explain to you how you may be of service to us. If you try and understand, you won’t. So just listen for now.
“You are an island of pure energy surrounded by an inconceivable and ever-expanding ocean of eternity. Your island and everything on it is mind-created and doesn’t exist other than as an illusion in the priceless gift of your consciousness.
‘You are confined to this island until you connect once again with your true nature and see that your island and its imaginings are phantasms... merely shadows of what lies beyond your Id.”
The words flowed into my head but I scarcely believed them. I’d been fooled by the power of mystics before. He must have read my mind.
“I told you not to try and grasp it, ham-hock, just listen. Nothing exists independently of the Unborn. You are merely a fragment of the original mind that has devolved into a painful state of illusion. Your island has no more significance than a hair floating in the vastness of space.”
My head swirled. My thoughts were broken and lost their continuity. The linear progression of my understanding came to an abrupt halt like a derailed freight train.
“Are you saying that I and my world don’t exist?” I asked dolefully.
Max stopped rocking, and the colors in his patterns intensified. It dawned on me that Lord Nagual had little patience and was easily annoyed.
“Of course you exist, tenderloin, just as a shadow exists. But a shadow has no real substance: it is merely an effect created by a cause far greater than itself. You’re rooted in something inconceivable that is beyond the scope of awareness and the limited perceptions that create your island.”
I was growing weary. I felt the Nagual had drained all my energy and my anxiety began to increase. Although the idea that the island was an illusion appealed to me, I felt it was preposterous. I wanted to get away from him and return to the earthly security of my discriminating mind and tangible sensations.
“You still haven’t answered my question. What do you want with me?” I asked in a defiant tone.
The pale blue hue around the egg changed into an indignant shade of scarlet. The Nagual began to vibrate, and I knew for some reason I’d pissed Max off. In a booming voice that shook the ground he cried, “You dare defy me, you insignificant little wiener? The benevolent Lord Nagual has every intention of satisfying your mind. But first a miniscule display of what awaits those who reject me. Behold!”
The vibrations of the egg grew stronger and fissures appeared on its surface. A crack formed at its apex, and a giant Cobra uncoiled from inside the cavernous shell. The viper’s ruby red eyes glowed with an electrifying intensity, and slivers of lightning darted from inside them.
The serpent stood as tall as an oak tree, and its hood inflated like a giant balloon. Its forked tongue darted back and forth, and its gaping mouth exposed two wicked fangs dripping with venom. The snake reared back its head and prepared to strike. Max had become the face of horror. I fell to my knees and buried my head in my arms. In a voice quaking with terror I cried, “No, Max, don’t do this, please! Forgive me.”
The serpent hissed, “Do you wish to serve as my apprentice?”
I felt as if I was thinking with my entire body. The answer to his question required no deliberation. I knew his proposal was the window I’d been searching for all my life.
“Yes, Lord Nagual, allow me to serve as your apprentice.”
“As my apprentice, much will be required of you. Many are called but few endure... There is no evolution without combat.
“I have forsaken the world. I am a stranger in that place and I no longer belong there. The world cannot be made better because it cannot be real. The minds of men are sometimes lower than those of animals. The heart of the world is raging insanity and I can no longer tolerate the sufferings of the realm that has ensnared me.”
A cold aura of energy flowed from the serpent’s trunk and probed my spine with ice-like tendrils. The nerves in my body burned as if they’d been doused with acid. I struggled to contain my anguish.
“You will be forced to examine what is most difficult to fathom: the security of your programming. I cannot promise you will find what you seek for; it is not mine to give. What is yours can never be mine. You will be tested and your will stressed to its limits. Unless your motive is impeccable, you cannot survive.”
I clenched my fists and held them to my chest. I buried my forehead in the sand, and in a voice I did not know, I cried, “I don’t care. I died to the world a long time ago. It is only my body that exists there. I would sooner cast my life into the pitiful ocean of oblivion. It would be more merciful than to be shackled forever in the mirrored prison of illusions.”
When I looked up, the serpent was gazing into the distance, as if absorbed in contemplation. Its eyes sparkled like stars and its reptilian features shined resplendent with a golden hue.
“We shall see, my dear son,” the viper hissed. “The knowledge you seek cannot be found in words or the ramblings of wizards. It lies in the secret places where only those broken beyond repair can enter.”
The viper looked down upon me, its eyes two oval slits of luminosity. I began to rise into the sky. A freedom I’d never known flooded through me, and the universe dissolved like a particle of snow beneath the rays of a scorching sun. From the depths of the firmament, my island emerged, rising mighty and defiant like the peak of Mt. Sumeru.
When I awoke, I wasn’t sure where I was but I sensed I was alive. Slowly, the borders of my reality established themselves like the shards of a broken mirror reassembling. My mind grew cohesive and defined. I was safe and secure in the mausoleum of my discrimination and the bosom of my personal history.
Thoughts flowed into memories. Concepts, emotions, and perceptions fell into their allotted compartments. The power of Id cradled me in its almighty embrace, and I was reborn into the realm of good and evil.
For a long time, I stared up at the ceiling and thought about my confrontation with the terror. I knew there was nowhere I could hide from this power, and that I had made a vow from which there was no escape. I prayed it was only a dream, but my insides smoldered like lava and I knew it was the curse.
I began to weep. I knew I had set foot on a path from which there was no turning back. A chill pulsed through my nerves. I now understood why primitive man developed ritual and sacrifice. How else could they deal with characters like Max?
To be continued...
Copyright © 2009 by John W. Steele