Excerpt from The Godspeak
by Frank Mosca
The main character, an ex CIA operative in mid-life crisis, has been hired to retrieve some extremely important scientific material with enormous power for the construction or destruction of human kind. He is only slowly putting together pieces of the puzzle at this point early in the novel. After meeting a young woman, Amy, who is working as psychic locator for a firm that used to do this for the government [such firms are an actual fact by the way] our hero is revealing some of his past during pillow talk after lovemaking. What follows is his waking and dreaming sequence describing his harrowing and mysteriously uplifting experience.
"Look, Amy that 'vision' as you call it was part of a nightmare for me." He rolled over on his back and looked at the ceiling, sighed and began his tale. After rigorous training he was sent into Cambodia to collect information on prisoners of war. The war was coming to an end and the powers that be at the time wanted to know how many people where being held 'off site' that is not on North Vietnamese territory but in neighboring countries, Laos, Cambodia. They wanted to see if there was any possibility of rescuing those individuals before the final negotiations were set. Now, the truth is, he was just a liaison person. He was supposed to stay in relatively secure areas and help collate operative and electronic data for NSA consumption. It was a voluntary mission and he was filled with a 'gung ho' sense of wanting to know where his limits were, while at the same time he didn't really want to be in any imminent danger. It was just dilettantish of him and part of his desire to look good and make some gains in the Agency so he could get ahead. That was still part of his way of looking at things at the time.
So they were coptered in, he and some Agency and Green Beret guys. At first it was just a titillating lark, set up on the edge of the jungle in what he was told was a safe zone, while the heavy duty army guys went off in search of the operatives with more proximate information on POW locations. Emboldened by the apparent quiet of it all, he prevailed on one of the group leaders, a Sgt. Twinings, all piss and vinegar, muscled and taut from Tennessee, to take him out on a near mission, one that would only take them five miles or so from the primary campsite. He was beginning to feel foolish sitting on his ass drinking coke and munching rations. It wouldn't look good on the 'resume' not to have at least nibbled on the meat of the mission.
They left at dawn on a Monday morning, just two days before they were supposed to close down and lift off. It was sunny, hot, but seemed nothing more than an exotic hike at taxpayers expense. He felt bold and Ramboish, all geared up with automatic weapon, canteen, the whole inventory of aggression. They marched along like schoolboys, himself, the Sgt. and a local tribesman, from a group which had been recruited into special units, by their side over. The rendezvous site was some place where x crossed y in the middle of nowhere, an invisible singularity reflected on a map, known only to their native guide, a place like anyplace that is simply decreed to have significance, a reflection of the arbitrary geometry of meaning that underlies every rendezvous between birth and death. They had just crossed a small stream and moved from the openness of its passage through the jungle and were mounting up to a grove that was told to them to be the meeting place. Indeed, waiting for them about 30 feet up the bank were four figures, three men and a woman, all quite young, all armed. Their guide, Tongleen, God, he really didn't remember his name; guess he was just another one of 'them' to Dan, like the plants and flowers, just part of the landscape. Anyway, Tongleen, gestured toward them in greeting and said a few words. He then told Dan and Twinings that these were Laotian defectors who had news of some Americans being held in their part of Laos.
He didn't know if the Tennessean had some soldier's sense that all was not well, but he turned his palm behind his back and sort of gestured to Dan to move behind him. Dan was a bit slow to comprehend and asked what was the matter, while at the same time stopping so that he trailed the other two by about 8 to ten feet. At that moment, one of the figures shouted something sharp to Tongleen, who reared back in amazement and in the same sweeping gesture of his arm brought his weapon to the ready. It was the girl, yes he distinctly remembered it was the girl who had already steadied her weapon and the first loud reports from her automatic rifle broke the idyllic silence of still early morning. Tongleen was thrown back toward Twinings, while getting off a short misdirected burst of fire. Twinings sort of used Tongleen as a cover as he reflexively dropped to the ground while firing his weapon and cursing back over his shoulder to Dan: "It's fucking VC Danny, waste them!" In that instant, he felt his limbs freeze and his bowels turn to jelly. The few seconds of his immobility were enough for other figures to launch into motion. They began firing at Twinings through the body of Tongleen. Both of them rapidly became a pulpy mass of blood, fabric and bone. Twinings had killed one of the four, but the other three then turned their attention on Dan, as he stood like an impotent Atlas holding up the vasty regions of the air with his frozen limbs and his body set in the configuration of a breathing question mark. In a flash he was surrounded and one of the three remaining told him in very broken English to drop his weapon. Obviously, they wanted him for some purpose; he guessed he was not the only one trolling the area for information. They gestured him toward the bank and it was only the butt of a rifle that finally broke his trance of terror. He lurched into motion nearly falling over the two bodies of Twinings and Tongleen, melded together in a nearly indistinguishable stew of gore and smoking flesh. As he passed he could swear he saw the fingers on Twinings hands still twitching in the last throes of neurological groping. Movement without purpose, just the raw force of life asserting its final act of vitality before it broke down into the threshold elements of organicity. The climb became steep for about 30 feet to the point where the ground seemed to level out and the treeline began. Thoughts careened wildly in his brain, like a torrent of water just unleashed by a broken dam. Where there had been tranquility and order ringed by the concrete of rationality, now 'reason had fled to brutish beasts,' and there was nothing but terror and the white water of unleashed turbulence. While floundering, drowning in that flood, something happened akin to a large piece of wood floating by, a piece of splintered self-organization coming within arms reach.
As they scrambled up the incline, the two men ahead of him, the girl to his rear, fate tossed him a line. The man in front slipped slightly and in losing his balance, he reached for the hand of the one in front to steady himself. At that instant, Dan noticed a 45 stuck in the man's belt that had dislodged itself partially, so that the grip was facing in his direction. Something inside him heaved as he reached for that piece of metaphorical driftwood. The fellow did not steady himself, but destabilized the lead person, so that they both began to tumble backwards. Dan grasped the weapon full in his hand, released the safety and lurched forward in a superhuman gesture, thereby just making the crest of the incline with one leg swung over. At that instant, the girl, taken off guard by the fall of her companions, turned upwards to him and moved her weapon into position with one hand. The look on her face was unforgettable, one of surprise and grim determination mixed. What could be motivating her at that moment, or all the previous moments of her life, he thought? But the moment of choice was upon him. Steadied by his place on the crest, he had the gun pointed directly at her as she continued to move upward until she was about a yard down, close enough to see her muscles move in her jaw as she shouted words incomprehensible to him. In that tiny space of time he suddenly congealed into a pitiless engine of destruction and with perfect aim and steady hand he fired off one round into that moving jaw and grimly determined eyes. She simply came to a screeching halt, her skull disappearing in a cloud of bone, brain matter and blood as she flew back, forever into the mothering earth from whence she had issued, what, some 14, 15 years ago. The sound of the shot seemed to linger in the air and echo endlessly in his ears.
But, just as instantaneously, the torrent of terror and turbulence broke about him again, as the other two righted themselves near the bottom of the riverbank, raised their weapons, shouting appropriate curses no doubt in guttural tones unknown to him, and began to fire. Meanwhile he had swung the rest of his body onto the crest, rolled away from it, stood up and began running. He imagined his face looking like a plastic version of Münch's "The Scream" as he tore through undergrowth and brush, directionless, simply an arrow of fugitive intensity carving an arc of unbounded 'awayness.' He never turned to see if he was being pursued until what must have been fifteen minutes of unbroken flight. Then he slowed down, looked around, took a sip from his canteen and checked his compass and the map that he had been carrying. He needed to go due South, cross the stream again and find open country. What he had been doing was going due West, more or less. So, while not hearing or catching sight of any pursuers, he tore off again, this time due south, heading for the stream. His body seemed to go into a trance, he could feel nothing, not his limbs moving, not his breathing, not the drenching sweat that poured off him in gobbets, nothing, just the sense of motion and the silent pressure of terror inside of him, throttling him with the injunction to flee, flee, everlastingly, to flee.
When he crashed through the underbrush and flew over the crest of the bank, tumbling headlong downward and rolling into the water, he still did not stop. Whatever damage he incurred from the fall, he seemed invulnerable to, as he righted himself and fled off into the level ground on the other side of the stream. He checked his compass again and saw that he was indeed moving in the right direction. Tiny flashes of hope began to crack the edges of the monolithic glacier of fear that gripped him. But about ten minutes into the jungle that hope was shattered by the sound of gunfire and the sound of bullets whizzing by him. He barely turned his head to look, but saw nothing, even as more bullets ripped the foliage close to his face. What reserves of strength he possessed he did not know, but the experience of hot pursuit drew them forth and he moved with frenzied intensity through the jungle, stumbling, falling, feeling himself ripped and torn by brambles and branches, but ever in motion, the motion of desperation, the fuel of a primitive will to live. He might have been Cro-Magnon man fleeing some hungry predator, a race run in countless cycles as life feeds on life, that often will not "go gently into that good night." From time to time bullets caught up with him to remind him that salvation was not yet at hand. Then more voices were to be heard, a larger fusillade of gunfire, his mind seemed to break and his body to crash and at that instant, time stopped!
"That's the point where this whole thing ceases for me when I think about it, Amy. Just when all comes crashing down and I go into a kind of freefall into absolute silence and find myself in front of what seems to be a Buddhist temple. I have never gotten any farther than that in my memory. I don't want to. Next I remember, I was hearing the sound of a chopper engine chugga chugging around me and I briefly glimpsed green uniforms and felt the motion of being airborne."
Amy had listened intently to his description, her head raised and resting on her elbow, her hand from time to time lightly touching parts of his body, as if almost to somehow ward off or at least soothe the wounds of memory. "Okay Danny, let it go for now. Let's get some rest and see what tomorrow brings."
He didn't need any further prompting, but like someone drugged with a sweet potion, he found myself dropping off into a deep sleep and then in what seemed like a seamless transition, that feeling of falling merged with the free fall of over a decade ago, and once again he was vividly surrounded by that absolute silence, the contradiction of the Temple in a wide open space where thick jungle should have been, the wooden steps, which now he again began to negotiate, only this time he continued up the stairs and on to the wooden veranda that ringed the temple. He stepped into the cool darkness enveloping the interior of the temple and immediately was intoxicated by the aroma of incense, sandlewood and cedar, the soundless quiet of a deep murmur that he could not identify. He examined himself briefly to find his clothes in tatters, scratches and wounds on various parts of his body, evidently there was at least one flesh wound from a bullet creasing his right side; but none of this made any difference for he was full in the grip of the most profound peace and tranquility he had ever known. It seemed to inhabit every pore of his existence, so no matter where he turned his attention, all was the same, all was peace and ease.
He stepped deeper into the semidarkness, lit only by occasional tapers that cast shadows on wooden walls, brocade tapestries, and shimmering statues. He turned to his right to the core of the temple and saw a figure seated in the twilight of half shadow. It was a woman, or so it seemed, seated in the traditional lotus posture on a cushion, slightly elevated on a dais. Voicelessly the slim almost waif-like figure gestured him to another dais and cushion directly opposite her. As he took up his designated place, a voice resonant like the twinkling of bells or the sound of frozen leaves falling to the ground and resounding like chimes in an early frost came forth from the shadows:
"What troubles you my friend?"
He let the resonance of the voice reverberate in his mind before he answered: "At this moment, nothing seems to bother me and yet but an instant ago I was nothing but a quivering mass of terror, an animal at the cusp of being torn apart by pursuing hounds. What is this feeling? Why do I have it now?"
His question faded in the echo of the cavernous interior and blended with the deep bass murmur until it was indistinguishable from it. The figure responded:
"Would you rather not have the feelings you have right now?"
"No, no. Of course I want these feelings. They are so new, so strange, and yet they seem so fundamentally true. As if there were never any doubt about them, as if they were always here. And, yet I can never recall feeling this way, perhaps only longing to feel this way, but not even knowing what that would mean until just now."
"And is it okay with you to feel the way you feel right now?"
For an instant the smoking bodies of Twinings and Tongleen flashed before his eyes, as did the face of that unnamed young girl just at the moment her head began to disintegrate from his gun blast. The icy fingers of terror once again gripped his soul and he opened his arms in a gesture of puzzlement as he said: "What just happened, that and so much more....It seems, well, obscene to feel such deep ease in the face of such carnage."
The voice of the figure seemed to come not just from her, but from every corner of the large chamber: "What is it you fear, should you not be in such distress over what you have experienced?" The echoes trailed off into the upper reaches of the vaulted ceiling.
"What is it I fear?" he repeated the question several times until he spontaneously broke out with : "I fear the not fearing. It is the not fearing I fear. Such a void, should I pull the plug on the fear and yet it is the fear that imprisons me, paralyzes me, the fear, the fear..." And he looked at the figure as a shaft of light from the apex of the temple shot down and bisected the shadow in which the figure sat. Instead of revealing anything, where the light shone, there was nothing, nothing but transparent air behind which he could see the back of the temple. The voice replied in tones that seemed to break up and echo away as if coming from greater and greater distances: "And what if you were not afraid to be not afraid.........?"
More shafts of light created vectors of translucence through the figure until there was nothing but light and the deep murmuring that grew louder and more intense. Dan rose up slowly with great force of effort and moved toward the dais as it rapidly was emptying itself of form and as he stretched forward, he felt himself again in freefall and the temple and all its dimensions, tapestries, incense fading into shimmering luminescence as he moved forward into the empty air toward what now came clearly to be the ground of the jungle, a piercing pain in his shoulder propelling him in that direction. He had been hit and screamed out.
The screaming continued as Amy held him as tightly as she could, calling out to him in soothing tones: "Danny, it's okay, it's okay, you are here, I am here, all that is over and it's okay."
He gradually stopped screaming and shaking and was able to take stock of where he was and put together his normal awareness. In the stillness that followed, he whispered to Amy: "It's Mohammed's pitcher.'
"Yes, Dostoevsky talked about the moments just before he would go into an epileptic fit as having a grand aura of intense illumination and euphoria. In several of his novels, he likens it to the Islamic story of how God took Mohammed to all the heavens and showed him their glory, and all that took place in the time it took for a drop of water to fall from Mohammed's pitcher into a cup. That's what this experience was like Amy." He told her the content of the dream, only it was more than a dream because no dream had ever had the vivid presentness of that experience. When he was done Amy spoke reverentially:
"There is wisdom in what the figure had to say Danny. I believe it speaks to you in a way that will have the deepest significance. I sense that it is bound up with whatever you are getting into with this Moresby affair. You are on a path and the words of that figure are the key component for you personally in making sense of your life. Open yourself up to them and see where they may lead you."
by Frank Mosca
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