The Alien Revelation Saga
Book One: The Appearing
Copyright © 2014-2015 by C.W. Crowe
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, 2014
Comments? Questions? Movie Deals?
Other Books in The Alien Revelation Saga series:
Book Two: The Connection
Book Three: The Combining
Book Four: The Celebration
Book Five: The Invitation
To Debra, who is my Jane.
Chapter One 8
Chapter Two 12
Chapter Three 16
Chapter Four 19
Chapter Five 25
Chapter Seven 30
Chapter Eight 33
Chapter Nine 35
Chapter Ten 38
Chapter Eleven 41
Chapter Twelve 44
Chapter Thirteen 49
Chapter Fourteen 52
Chapter Fifteen 59
Chapter Sixteen 63
Chapter Seventeen 68
Chapter Eighteen 75
Chapter Nineteen 77
Chapter Twenty 81
Chapter Twenty One 87
Chapter Twenty Two 89
Chapter Twenty Three 94
Chapter Twenty Four 98
Chapter Twenty Five 101
Chapter Twenty Six 110
Chapter Twenty Seven 114
Chapter Twenty Eight 119
Also Available: 127
Excerpt from Book Two: The Connection 128
Exactly 14 Billion Years Ago Tomorrow
The entire universe was made up of only one thing and that thing had a name. It was called Singularity because it was singular, the one and only.
Singularity was almost infinitely small. Not quite all the way to infinity itself, but as close as anything has ever come or ever will come.
It had been busy for many billions of years, attracting at first the star systems and space dust that were nearby. But as it grew, so did its gravitational pull. Little by little it began to absorb stars by the thousands, then whole galaxies, then whole galaxies by the thousands.
It did this until there was nothing left to absorb and the universe was empty of everything.
At that point, the only thing left was for Singularity to squeeze itself into a smaller and smaller area. A force strong enough to cause the heavens to move now was focused on Singularity. It became smaller and smaller; more and more dense.
Something had to give. An explosion was imminent.
Watchers peered at Singularity even though they were not in the universe. They looked from another universe, one teaming with curiosity about the strange event which was about to occur.
The energy of a thousand suns was used to create a portal – a place where the inhabitants of the other universe could study Singularity. It allowed them to see and take measurements and learn about what was happening. They were almost in two universes at once.
But not quite because Singularity was alone. It had to be or the resulting explosion would be affected.
When the moment came, The Watchers realized they had made a mistake. It was a tiny one, on the order of one part in trillions. But the energy released by Singularity was so massive that this error was enough.
At the speed of light, Singularity exploded into the void, destined to again fill the universe. Some of it became matter.
Some of it was energy.
That was the problem.
3.8 Billion Year Ago
The small planet was just starting to form. It had only been a world for 200 million years, but already the land areas were mostly solid, the volcanos allowing the pressure underneath to be released into the cooler air.
The oceans shone blue from space. A single Watcher, necessarily alone, scanned the foreboding surface for a spot that could accept what he/she/it had to offer.
A suitable place was found almost right away, in less than a hundred million years. The Watcher lowered himself into the cavern, onto the warm floor below. The surface was moist with water, seeping through the rocks above. Chemicals gathered in a small pool at the bottom of an indentation. Lightning flashed almost constantly.
At just the right time, the Watcher touched the pool.
Sometime Right About Now
It was a beautiful night, totally clear but without a single star visible. That’s the way it normally is in New York.
I glanced at my new smart watch as I walked back towards my apartment. It was close to midnight and I had to work tomorrow. I’d been to a Mets game. It had been a good one with the Mets coming from behind, but I only saw about half the game. I found myself talking to a girl from the Fashion Mart for quite a while and she gave me her number.
I’d hoped that my best friend, Jane Mitchell, might want to go with me, but she sounded really bitchy when I called her. She listened to my invitation and then said just three words before hanging up on me. She could be that way sometimes.
Still, it was a good evening and, with any luck, I’d have a good day tomorrow. I liked my job. It gave me plenty of time to surf the net and study the box scores. Jane said I was lazy, but I think she was just pulling my leg. At least I hoped so.
I hit the hay about one and was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow. Everything was as normal as it could be.
I don’t normally remember my dreams, but I woke up in the middle of the night remembering one perfectly. It wasn’t like a regular dream, it was a full on nightmare.
I’d been talking to someone at work. I didn’t recognize the person, but she knew me. I was confused and frightened because her lips were moving, but no speech was coming out. She sensed my uncertainty and put both of her hands on my head – one over each ear. Now when she talked I could hear and it was deafening. I shouted for her to talk quieter when her hands pressed against my ears with such force they disappeared inside my head. I could feel that she wanted to talk to me and tell me something.
That’s when I woke up. I was shaking.
I got up, got a glass of water from my tiny apartment kitchen and drank it in the bathroom as I stared at myself in the mirror. My watch said it was almost four.
Well, damn. I’ve got to get up in the morning. I turned off the lights and got back into bed. It took a bit longer than normal, but I was again soon asleep.
Until I had that dream again. Not exactly the same dream, but close. This time, I was here, at home. I was in bed. Some kind of glowing ball hovered over me. I saw my body lying there and smelled the ball. It had the scent of fire. Like before, I knew it wanted to tell me something.
The thing moved closer and closer to my body until it engulfed my head. That’s when I heard the voice. It said, “Can you tell me what two things make up the universe?”
In my dream state, the glowing ball around my head looked completely real, like some fire monster had decided to eat me. I became very, very frightened.
But that didn’t last long. For some reason, I felt myself relax. I could feel a line of spit drip out the corner of my mouth, but I didn’t have the energy to wipe it away. I felt like I couldn’t control my emotions, that one moment I was petrified and the next almost catatonic.
In my dream, I started to laugh.
I howled until the scene changed abruptly. I was no longer seeing my body from above. Now, I was in it and it was in my bed.
That was all normal, but what wasn’t normal was that I could feel something inside my head, something that actually spoke to me.
“My name is Brian A. Pearlmitter and I would like to reveal some things to you. Do not be afraid. What two things make up the universe? Think of my question and I will discuss it with you soon.”
The next thing I knew, my watch was beeping at me to get up and go to work.
I spent a good part of the day going through the motions at my job and talking to myself.
I don’t normally spend a lot of time talking to myself, but it was that kind of day. At one moment, I was sure that all that had happened last night was just part of one of my strange dreams, and in the next moment my sore chest made me wonder why a dream would make me laugh until my sides hurt.
And what about the question that Brian A. Pearlmitter had asked me – that stuff about what the universe is made of? At first, I refused to think about it. It was a dream – not worthy of a lot of thought. Best to let it fade from memory as dreams do.
But this dream didn’t seem like the fading type. I had a vision of myself thirty years later, still remembering the dream as clearly as if it had just happened last night.
I stared at my computer screen and determined that I would focus totally on my job that day. That wasn’t normal for me, but after all, the company was paying me to do my job, not research what the universe was made of.
I was a worker drone for a successful technology company that sold millions of products a year. I was a Spreadsheet Maker. That wasn’t my real job title, of course, but it’s what I did. At the entrance to my little cubicle was a name plaque that said ‘Roger Seaton, Financial Analyst.’ I’d studied finance in college, but since I graduated and started with the company two years ago, I’d done almost nothing but make spreadsheets – and surf the web for the latest ball scores, celebrity gossip, and answers to questions like what the universe was made of.
And there I went again. All during the morning and afternoon, I tried to concentrate on creating my assigned spreadsheet. I had one to do today that compared payroll costs at one of our foreign factories in Asia, to our factory in Indiana. It was a bit more complicated than most I did, and several times I had to delete whole columns of figures because my thoughts kept returning to the events of the night before. So, either through fatigue or just resignation, I finally gave in. To heck with the company – I had a universe to study.
A search for “what is the universe made of” made me quickly realize that this was the wrong question. Brian A. Pearlmitter had specifically asked “What two things make up the universe?” That’s a different question and the answers I found made a lot more sense. I should have remembered this from school. The answer was matter and energy. It was so simple. Everything in the universe could be classified as either a type of one or the other.
So now I had the answer, but I also had a feeling that something was missing. Why would I dream a question that I hadn’t thought about since high school physics? Why would the question be so easy to answer? After all, my internet search found it as the correct answer in hundreds of places on the web. If it’s on the web, you have to think that it’s true, right?
The rest of the day dragged by. I knew something was bothering me. It took a while, but eventually I realized I was worried about BP visiting me in my dreams again. In a few hours, I’d go to bed and I really, really didn’t want to dream about BP. And yes, I had started calling him that. His name was just too long and too much of a tongue twister. And what kind of name was Brian A. Pearlmitter anyway? BP would have to do.
By the time the train dropped me off and I made it to my apartment, I had a plan. I opened the cabinet above the sink in my kitchen and took out a bottle of scotch. It was about half full. I was pretty sure an ounce or two or three would help me sleep.
My normal 11 p.m. bedtime came and went, but there were some very interesting news programs on TV and then I had to watch a monologue on one of the late shows. I told myself I wasn’t really avoiding going to bed; rather I was just letting myself get more tired so I’d sleep like a baby. And that’s what I did.
Until 4:13 that is. I woke up, rolled over to look at the clock and was just about to fall back asleep when I heard:
“I am sorry about last night. The first time I spoke, you were mostly wide awake, and I know I gave you quite a fright. The next time, I arranged for you to be more relaxed and almost asleep, but I overdid it and you were just giddy. How do you feel now?”
I felt scared but not hysterical; relaxed but with no desire to move. No words would come out.
“My name is Brian A. Pearlmitter, and I would like to reveal some things to you. I am not going to hurt you. You are safe. I just want to talk, and I want you to take my message and write it down.”
I could feel his grip on me loosen. This did two things – it allowed me to move a bit so that I could speak, and it increased my fear greatly. Whatever type of calming trick he was using apparently had to be calibrated just so – too much and I was a laughing idiot; too little and I was petrified and in danger of a heart attack.
I struggled to speak but mostly got out nonsense.
“Slow down and take your time. I will not hurt you. Can you tell me what two things make up the universe?”
All at once, I regained control of my vocal chords and was able to answer, “Matter and energy!” I don’t know why, but it felt good to get that out. I started to lose just a tiny bit of my fright. I could actually talk and I could answer a simple question. I didn’t seem to be in any physical danger.
Except he wasn’t exactly satisfied with my answer. He said, “That is correct as far as you and your science know. But have you ever wondered why science so often offers such unfulfilling answers? This answer may appear to be true, but it still leaves a lot of questions, doesn’t it?
“I will provide you a different answer. It is the basis for knowing why the universe is the way it is. It is the basis for knowing why you are here and why things are as they are. It is the starting point from which you will see the real reason for everything.”
My fear was barely under control when I started to feel a bit annoyed. Who was this guy disturbing my perfectly normal sleep with his ravings about sharing a secret that would explain everything there is? And why me? Wasn’t there some other person out there who might want this type of information – perhaps someone in a mental institution somewhere?
My feeling of annoyance gave me courage. “Please get the hell out of my apartment and leave me alone. I don’t want you here. I may be going insane, but even if I am, I still don’t want you here.”
Silence reigned for at least a minute. It may have been much longer as I was motionless and couldn’t muster the will to move my head and look at the clock. He still seemed to have me under some kind of control.
“I am sorry. I can see I should have prepared you for the task ahead in a different manner. I underestimated your independent streak, and so I shall change my approach. You do not understand this yet, but I cannot predict exactly what you will do, and that is one of your most useful characteristics. So, I may make a mistake in our relationship now and then. Feel free to correct me.”
Now I was getting more than annoyed. “Relationship? We don’t have any relationship. I’m able to make up my own mind and do what I want, and I know for sure I don’t want you here. I don’t want to have these dreams when I should be sleep and, oh by the way, Mr. BP, I will not write down the things you say.” I had up a head of steam and saw no reason to hold anything back. “Now please get out of my apartment and my dreams and my life and leave me alone!”
In all the hours and nights that came after this one, BP seldom displayed any overt emotion in his voice except for an occasional twinge of sadness or a bit of self-important smugness that really rubbed me the wrong way. However, I swear that his voice had a jolly sound to it when he replied:
“You really are perfect. I certainly started out on the wrong foot with you, but I did choose wisely when I picked you for this task. Now let us see if I can enlist your voluntary cooperation.
“I come to you on a very important mission. It is the most important mission in the history of the universe, destined to change mankind, to help it mature, and to realize its destiny. My Revelation will explain all this and more besides.
“All I ask of you is to listen to what I have to impart for a few minutes at a time. I guarantee you will find it at first interesting, and then later challenging. Yes, I would like you to write down what I tell you, but I should not have been so bold and thoughtless as to order you around – I should have asked. You have an independent soul, so I can understand your aversion to taking what may seem like an order. But you are also intelligent, so I should have simply assumed you would write it down. I think you will, but it must be because you decide to do it.”
I could feel my anger deflating, “So why me?”
“Well, why not you? You meet my requirements and I believe you will be able to act on what I tell you. The most important thing is that we seem to be able to communicate easily. You see, I do not belong here. In fact, I cannot live here for very much longer. I have to find someone to impart this knowledge to who can receive it, and I have to accomplish that before my time is up. I can feel that time approaching, so while there may be others who perhaps could accept this Revelation, you are the one I have found, and you are the one I must use. No . . . I should have said that you are the one I hope to work with.
“So here is what I propose: I will answer the question as to what two things make up the universe, and we shall be done for tonight. You think about the answer tomorrow along with the rest of our discussion, and then I’ll re-engage you soon. If you will spend a few more moments with me, I will start telling you what I need to reveal. However, if you want me to move on, I will attempt to find another person who has your ability to receive my Revelation and will trouble you no more.”
I could feel his grip loosening. At this point, my fright and aggravation were both on the wane. Now I felt a twinge of curiosity.
I paused again and then said, “Okay. So what is the answer to the question if it’s not matter and energy? What else could it possibly be?”
He said with absolutely no emotion in his voice,
“The universe is made up of two things – life and non-life.”
The next day promised to be really crappy. I woke up tired from my session with BP – or from my latest hallucination – and hit the snooze button a few times, so I was late and had to rush. I hate that.
I think I was still in a daze as I took the train across town. I had hoped to think about things during the trip, but my mind seemed to be running at half speed from worry about what was happening to me. In the light of day, my dreams with BP seemed less real and more like symptoms of insanity. On top of that, the train was a bit late and that made me even later for work. The crappy elevator was slow and crowded as usual, and the entrance to my crappy cubicle was blocked by one of my crappy colleagues reminding me I had to go to a crappy meeting even before I could get some of the crappy office coffee. It really was starting out to be a craptastic day.
In the meeting, some skinny redhead from the HR department droned on for 30 minutes about “wellness.” She demonstrated how you could do a full set of exercises right at your desk without needing to leave the building or even go to a gym. I zoned out and didn’t listen to a word she said, but I did notice that she had good legs. I was watching them when she looked at me and smiled. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a waste of time after all. I thought about looking her up one day to ask her to lunch.
Even with that smile, I became more than a bit impatient. She made us do a couple of the exercises and they did at least clear my head a bit, so that I finally could start to consider the problem at hand. After what seemed like an eternity, she did her finale with a couple of deep knee bends aimed in my direction and at last I was free to enter my cubicle.
I usually didn’t mind my little space. I had a filing cabinet, a decent desk, and a fairly modern computer that wasn’t monitored by anyone in the IT department. At least, I’d never heard any feedback about the websites I visited—and I visited a lot of them. Normally, it would take me a couple of hours to create some spreadsheet detailing some activity in the company. The company thought this should take a day, and so as far as they knew, it did. That gave me plenty of time to “expand my mind” as I called it. I’d read all the news sites, check out some pages in an e-book, watch an episode of X-Files and generally flit here and there on the net.
Really, I considered it a good tradeoff. The company wanted some meaningless task done and I wanted to see what was happening on some of my favorite sites. I just did their task quicker than required, leaving me time to do my mind expansion. Today, though, that episode of X-Files would just have to watch itself, as I was preoccupied with the universe.
But first I had to earn my keep. I dashed off a spreadsheet comparing the costs of three different shipping methods based on both weight and value of the products being shipped. It was a good analysis. It looked good, it was accurate, and it was totally meaningless in that no one would change their way of doing things because of it. Some mid-level boss would read it and pass it on to his boss, who would send an email back congratulating him on his insightful study. Both would forget the whole thing by tomorrow.
I did it in record time. Normally, I would have asked my friend Jane to double check it for me, but she was off for a couple of days. It didn’t matter.
Finally, I could concentrate on the things revealed by BP. I was in no way convinced that he was real, but somehow that prospect appealed to me more than the alternative – that I was suffering from some type of serious psychosis. I felt a shot of fear enter my bloodstream and I had a vision of myself mumbling incoherently while drool ran down my chin. I forced my attention back to the net.
I pulled the keyboard to me and did a search for “The universe is made up of two things life and non-life.”
I like to think of the internet as the “Magic Answer Box,” since you can find out just about anything and answer just about any question – all you have to do is know how to ask. In this case, my search came up with nothing relevant. Oh, it came up with lots of stuff, but nothing that directly addressed the concept of seeing all things in the universe as being either life or non-life. Was it possible that no scientist, philosopher or religious leader had ever explored and discussed this concept? If one had, I couldn’t find it.
And if no one had explored this concept, it might mean that the concept was so alien and likely so wrong as to not merit any serious discussion. After all, the concept assumed that life and non-life were different things, but I knew that wasn’t true. Creatures, whether they are tiny bacteria or humans, are made up of a series of chemicals that are themselves not alive. A human body, for example, is mostly made of water. That’s a lot of hydrogen and oxygen, but those elements aren’t alive. Water is water, whether it is in the ocean or in arteries. Just to be sure, a quick check of the net sh owed that blood is about 50% water. Ha! I was right. Life was made up of non-life and, therefore, the two were very much the same.
Even though my conclusion could be stated in just a few words, it took me most of the rest of that day to come up with it. I did quite a bit of reading on life and its origins, and my brain meandered all over the place looking at various possibilities – mostly as to how I would present my conclusions to BP.
As the day wore on, I became more concerned that he would return tonight and disturb my sleep again. I wanted to believe that last night was the last time that I’d have that kind of dream and that I was now “cured.” But if not, at least this time I’d be prepared to participate in a real discussion.
That night, even though I was tired, I had trouble falling asleep. It seemed that having a heavy philosophical discussion with an unknown entity that speaks to you in your mind can throw you off your normal routine.
Eventually, I did fall asleep. The last time I looked at the clock it said 11:56, so I must have dropped off sometime after that. When I awoke, the clock read 5:14. I laid there waiting for BP to speak, but nothing happened.
“Hello,” I said. I tried saying it out loud and also in my mind. “Are you there?”
I felt a bit relieved, but also let down. I had been prepared to discuss life and non-life, and now it looked like that wouldn’t be necessary. As crazy as it seems, I realized I was looking forward to having another little talk with BP – one in which I was able to participate.
But for whatever reason, it didn’t appear that was going to happen. Maybe he was too busy today. Or perhaps he had someone else to torment. It was also possible that it was just a dream all along, or that I was indeed going nuts. Any of those explanations might be true.
I sighed and got up. My sleep ration had been whittled down quite a bit over the last few days, but I was still too keyed up to drop back off.
I fixed my first cup of coffee and started to drink it while I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror. I was trying to work up enough will to shave when I heard, “Hello. You have to write it down every day.”
I must have jumped a foot in the air. The coffee spilled all over my chest. And it was hot.
I toweled off and waited a moment for the pain to subside. “What do you mean, write it down?”
BP had a low rich voice, without any hint of an accent. He never raised or lowered his volume, but he would vary his pace so that he could show exasperation, impatience and sometimes even approval. Now he spoke slowly, so that even I would be able to understand. “We discussed this before. You need to write down what was said after each of our sessions so you will not forget them. You should try to write the words of my Revelation verbatim, but you can also write what it means and the effect it has on you – along with whatever else you think is important.”
I was feeling a bit cross now. “It already has had the effect of making me lose lots of sleep and burn myself. I don’t think I’ll forget that soon.”
He continued in a condescending voice, “You are not really burned, and we have discussed almost nothing so far. I doubt that the one single fact I have revealed to you would tax even your memory. But we will soon move into much more crowded airspace, and it will be necessary for you to write it down before we move on. It’s necessary for you do that now so that you get into the habit of doing so while it is still fresh in your memory.”
Now he was telling me what habits I needed to develop. I had to give it to him; he was one pushy voice-in-my-head.
BP could be annoying at times, and this was one of them. I felt a flash of anger at being ordered around like a servant. “And what if I don’t develop the ‘habits’ you think are so necessary? I might jot some notes down and I might not.
“And by the way, I’m not even sure you’re real. You’ve got me wondering if I ought to drop by the company clinic and see if I can get a referral to a psychiatrist. Before you start ordering me around and before I consider cooperating with you, prove to me that you aren’t just a symptom of some weird type of mental illness. Do that and I’ll be more inclined to cooperate.” It felt good to push back on him a little bit. “And make sure your proof is airtight.”
I had come up with this idea last night. Either I was going insane or he was real. I couldn’t think of any other possibility. I had a couple of ideas as to how he might prove himself to me, but I didn’t need them.
He made a sound that resembled a sigh. “Is there a ballgame in Miami tonight?” he asked. It was a crazy question, but there was a game tonight. It was Braves vs. Marlins. I told him so. “What time?” he said.
I had no idea where this could possibly be heading, but I played along. “They start at 7:10 down there on weekdays,” I said.
He paused as if he were thinking, “Very well. At approximately 9:15, the game should enter the 7th inning. At that time, the official attendance for the game will be calculated and announced. I will be in the room where they make the calculation and will speak to you as soon as I know that number. It will be before they announce it publicly and long before the box score with it is published after the game. When I speak the number to you, write it down and then check it against the actual number later. It will be the same.”
Now that would be quite a trick. The Marlins had a big new stadium, but they were in last place, so their crowds could easily range from small to big and anywhere in between. If he came up with the exact attendance number before I could possibly have seen it, that would indeed be some powerful evidence that he was actually down there snooping – and thus he was real and not just a symptom of some serious mental illness.
“I accept your offer. If you can come up with that number, you must be real since there’s no way I could ever guess it on my own. I can’t see any other option.”
“Very well,” he continued, “I will do this for you, but please understand; if you will not cooperate in this endeavor, then I’ll have to do my best to find someone else. As I said before, if I cannot persuade you to write what is needed, then I must find someone who will.
“You do not understand this yet, but this is your destiny, and it is your burden to bring my Revelation to the world. When you do that, it must be done the right way and with the right words, otherwise you could do more harm than good. You will understand as we go along, but for now you need to simply do it the way I request or else we cannot proceed.”
And with that, my head was again empty. At least it was empty of his voice.
It must have also been empty of common sense because as soon as I arrived at work, I started to write down what had happened so far. I had decided to cooperate – at least until after tonight’s game.
It really didn’t take that long because it was all still fresh in my mind and also there wasn’t that much to write down. Aside from my fears and other reactions, BP hadn’t said all that many words and for some reason I could remember them perfectly. I typed it up as best I could. I was surprised to realize that it actually felt good to write it all down. After my stubbornness with BP, I hadn’t expected to find this chore pleasurable, but as it turned out, it was.
The rest of my workday was normal. I did a little company work and contemplated the universe.
That night, I had a date with Meredith MacFadden. She was an admin assistant to one of the VPs on an upper floor. She was a cute girl, and I’d flirted with her a few times on the train to work, but I was surprised when she called and asked if I’d like to meet for drinks tonight. I was pleased and told her I’d be glad to. Since we lived only about three blocks from each other, we agreed to meet at a little pub near our apartments.
I always left work about five, so I had plenty of time to take the train home, shower and put on fresh clothes before we were supposed to meet at seven. All the time I was going through this routine, my mind kept returning to BP and his Revelation.
It wasn’t really the content of it; I had spent enough company time in research to feel pretty confident that I could argue against this life/non-life way of thinking. It was the whole thing – having this voice appear and claim I was in some way special. Having it promise to reveal the purpose of life in the universe. And having him agree to prove that it was all real.
That last part was what was really weighing on my mind. If I was just imagining BP, then I had problems, and they were likely serious problems. But they would affect mostly me. If BP proved he was real, that meant that something seriously strange was going on that could affect lots of other people. I had a momentary mental image of large numbers of people reading BP’s Revelation and acting on it. I discarded that thought immediately; it was too silly to even think about. It was scary, too.
When I left to walk to the pub, I tried to force myself to think of Meredith, but thoughts of BP kept intruding. Was he in Florida right now waiting for the game to start? Could he actually look over the shoulder of whoever did the final attendance count and fly back to me and whisper that number to me in just a few seconds? I felt a rush of worry hit my stomach. I wondered if he could give me an ulcer.
It was a weekday, so the pub wasn’t too crowded, and I found a table with no problem. One side of the table had a couple of chairs and the other side had a long curved padded booth that was shared with several other tables. I sat on the booth seat. It gave me a good view of the bar and of the TV screens that were above it. Most had ballgames on, but none had the Marlins. All of them had a crawl at the bottom of the screen with scores, so at least I’d know when they got to the later innings.
At 7:08 Meredith showed up, so she was right on time. She saw me and walked over with a smile on her face. The weather was warm outside and she’d changed into a summer dress with a belt around her waist and sandals. It showed off her figure. She had always been pretty when I’d seen her on the train or at work, but she looked better tonight. Her blond hair was pulled back on both side sides with a French braid. It fell to her shoulders. She had a thin face and a longish nose. She’d used more makeup than she did for work and it worked for her.
She slid into the booth beside me. “You look great,” I said. It was the truth.
She laughed, “Yeah, I must. Some construction guys at the park whistled at me.” She paused, “Then they also whistled at a mother with a baby carriage, and at a lady cop, and at a grandmother with a walker. But I’ll take your word for it.”
So she had a good sense of humor. About that time a waitress came by. She ordered a Lemon Gingertini and I got a scotch. I could smell her perfume now.
“What’s a Lemon Gingertini? I’ve never heard of it.” I asked.
“Oh, it’s just some ginger syrup, lemon and gin. It tastes so good, and it’s got a kick. All my friends love them.”
I glanced up at the screen and saw that the game had started. There was no score.
The moment threatened to turn awkward with silence, so I asked her about work. “I know you work for one of the VPs way up in the clouds, but what does your office do?” It would at least get us talking.
“We’re in charge of compliance.” I looked puzzled and so she explained. “It’s just what it means. We make sure the company files all the reports and does everything that is required of us by one law or another. Did you know that our building has exactly 144 exit signs? And that each has a battery inside to light it up? And that each of these has to be tested every six months and each battery replaced every couple of years? And that we have to fill out a form for each one certifying that we checked it?”
I didn’t know that at all and told her so. “Well that’s what we do. We have a database of all the things that we have to comply with and we make sure we, well, comply. And don’t think my boss is special because he’s a VP. The company is overrun with them.”
Our drinks arrived and we continued our office gossip. It was what we had in common after all. But by the end of the fourth inning and our second drink, the conversation was flowing much smoother.
I ordered another round and a plate of appetizers. Meredith slipped closer to me because it was easier to share the plate that way.
She must have felt more comfortable because she said, “Roger, you’re a good looking guy. You’ve got great eyes and a great smile. You’re smart and fit, you’ve got a good job and you aren’t gay. Do you have a girlfriend?”
I wondered if she was applying for the position. I wasn’t expecting this. The TV showed the game had reached the top of the 6th.
“Err . . . well . . . actually no. I don’t have a girlfriend right now.” I didn’t say it, but I wasn’t looking for one either. The last time I’d been attached had made me appreciate unattachment.
“I thought you and that Jane Mitchell had something going on. I see you hanging out with her at lunch all the time.”
I was surprised that Meredith knew who she was. Jane was my best friend from work, but she was in the Finance department with me. I didn’t think she had much contact with Compliance. “We’re just good friends, that’s all.” I might do just about anything in the world for her if Jane needed me to, but she wasn’t my girlfriend.
Meredith continued, “My boss used to think she was hot, but now he doesn’t like her. He used to have something to do with Finance, so that’s how they knew each other. Ever since he took over the Compliance Department, he wants nothing to do with her.”
I wondered what had happened. “Jane can be a bit, well, headstrong. Not everyone will dig that I guess.”
She giggled then and excused herself to visit the ladies room. If she aspired to the position of girlfriend, I guessed she thought the coast was clear.
It was the top of the seventh. I felt the familiar sensation of BP entering my head. “Write this down,” he said. “18,239.”
I had a pen ready and wrote the number on a napkin and put it in my pocket. I felt anticipation, tinged with a hint of dread. I felt him leave me alone.
When Meredith returned, we finished our drinks with no further talk of girlfriends. Then the conversation wound down, and it was time to go. I stood and took her hand to help her up. I would walk her home as it wouldn’t be right for me to let her walk unescorted through the night in the city. We lived in a safe neighborhood, but I wasn’t stupid.
She put her arm through mine and we talked about this and that as we walked to her place. I had enjoyed myself and normally would have been glad to have a repeat performance in the future, but that girlfriend talk had put me off a bit. I’d have to think about it.
At her door, I gave her a kiss that was sweet and medium long. She gave me a hug and then turned around and went inside. I watched her and thought that I had really enjoyed that hug.
I took out the napkin from my pocket and wiped my lips with it. Some lipstick came off. I walked to the corner and pulled out my phone and brought up the box score for the game. It had ended a short while ago. It had lasted two hours twenty six minutes and the temperature was seventy nine degrees with no wind and the attendance was 18,239.
I walked back to my place with no thought of Meredith. BP was all that was on my mind.
After his quick visit with the attendance number, BP left me alone the rest of the night. I still had a restless time however, because while I now felt at least somewhat confident that I wasn’t going stark raving mad, I still had a disembodied voice talking to me.
I got to the office a few minutes early the next morning planning to write up what had happened last night. I had written my notes about the challenge itself yesterday, but now I covered how it all turned out. Like before, it felt therapeutic to get the words on the computer screen. I wrote it all down, starting with my date with Meredith, to when BP gave me the attendance number, to how it felt when I found it to be correct.
I was just finishing up when Jane Jackie Mitchell walked into my cubicle. She liked to be called Jane (not Jackie, and certainly not Janie). “Someone is a busy bee,” she said. “What’cha up to?” She’d been off for a few days and I’d missed her.
She knew my habits and knew that it was not normal for me to actually start doing anything until after 11 a.m. or so. She outranked me at the company since she was a Senior Financial Analyst, yet she had the cubicle next to mine – though hers was slightly bigger. We would often proofread each other’s “work product” to make sure we didn’t make any typos, and also to chuckle at what the brain trust up the line thought was good work. She would be the one to notice that I was busy typing when I would normally be digesting the news, checking the ball scores, and generally jumping from here to there on the web.
“Ah…nothing,” I stuttered. I was the world’s worst liar and she knew it.
My answer would not do. It would not do at all. She looked down on me since she was standing and I was seated. She was tall to begin with, but now she towered over me. My screen was at least partially visible to her, but I didn’t think she was reading it. Instead, her eyes narrowed as she stared directly at me, waiting for me to come to my senses and tell her what she wanted to know. She put her hands on her hips. That meant she was prepared to wait until I stopped being “cute.”
I felt a twinge of nervousness that grew by the second as she just stood there, staring. My mind struggled with what to do. I could tell her a lie, but I didn’t want to do that. She’d see through it anyway.
I could tell her I was just surfing for some stuff on the web, but the word processor document was clearly visible. I could tell her I was working on some work stuff, but I’d just written the part about kissing Meredith and wasn’t anxious to have her read that portion of my “work product.”
Instead, I decided to tell her the truth – or at least part of it. I clicked the minimize button and swiveled in my chair to face her head on.
“Now I don’t want you to spend your entire day busting on me, but I’m writing a book.” She hadn’t seen that coming and her eyes now went to my screen, but it was too late. My “book” was no longer visible.
So actually, it was quite easy. I ended up telling her that the book was going to be a real revelation, and that she could read it when I was done. She wasn’t against work itself, just useless company work. My burst of creative energy actually raised my rep in her eyes a bit as I was instantly promoted from Ambitionless Slug, to Up and Coming Author. For the rest of the day, she was no longer suspicious if she heard me typing something, but now she was curious as to what I was writing. Since this Revelation was meant for Mankind, I thought that likely meant her too, so I figured one day I’d let her read some of it.
I felt like I had dodged a bullet because she only asked me about the book a few times the rest of the day. I held firm – I told her it was too early and that I’d tell her more when I was ready. Since she was higher up the food chain, she had to attend many more meetings than I did, so thankfully she was gone most of the afternoon.
Still, the day dragged on slowly. I thought it likely that I’d hear from BP tonight and I felt a mixture of anticipation and dread at the prospect.
Finally the clock read almost five and it was time to leave. Luckily, Jane hadn’t returned from her meetings and I could escape further interrogation, at least for this evening. My luck continued on my way home, I caught a train right away and even found a seat. The elevator was waiting with an open door in my lobby and I went right up to my apartment. That didn’t happen often.
When I arrived, I filled up a glass with ice, poured a couple of ounces of scotch and dropped down into my easy chair. I had a sip or two when I was jolted by the sensation of BP entering my head.
“Thank you for writing down your thoughts. In the future, it will be important for your words to be accurately remembered. Are you ready to discuss my first Revelation?”
So this was it. I now knew that the voice in my head was probably real, so it was time to hear what it had to say. But not before I pointed out the problem with what he had told me earlier. If he wanted to reveal stuff to me, it had better be something good. I had built this moment up in my mind until it seemed like a contest between BP and me. And I intended to win.
“According to your Revelation, everything in the universe is either life or non-life. That was an interesting concept to consider, and I did consider it, but it’s lacking in one very fundamental way – life is not something separate from non-life. It is made up of non-life. I have water in me, for example. My blood is brimming with water, and water is not alive.
“Therefore, and without question, life cannot be something separate from non-life, and they can’t be the two different things that make up the universe.”
Just like that, with only eighty seven words, I had blown his whole “Revelation” out of the water. I waited for him to concede my point.
He didn’t concede, however, and instead answered, “Yes, it’s true. You have quite a lot of water in you, and water is not alive. In the same way, you have calcium, salt, and hundreds of organic chemicals that make up your body. They are not alive either. But you are alive, are you not?”
“Yes…” I said. I admit I had to think about it for a second since I didn’t expect that question.
But he wasn’t done. “So, if all your parts are non-life, then what makes you alive? What causes us to think of, for example, a lowly amoeba as being alive? It’s also made up of non-life.”
He didn’t wait for my answer. “We can take it even further. Suppose we take our little amoeba, the simplest single cell organism that is certainly alive. Suppose you disassemble it. You take apart all the pieces that make up the living amoeba and stack them to one side. Once you have torn it to non-living bits, I think you’ll agree it’s no longer alive, correct?”
I didn’t have to think long about this one. “Sure, if you take it apart, it won’t be alive.”
He was ready for me. “So, here is my next question for you. Which part contained the life?”
Now, I’ve got to admit, I didn’t expect that question, but I did think of a darn good answer. At least, it seemed like one.
“Life is not a thing that is separate from its non-living building blocks. It’s simply a combination of the right materials that come together in just the right way. That’s the way life started on Earth, after all.”
“I see,” he answered in a smug voice that I would later learn to dread. “Let’s return to our pile of amoeba parts. All the parts are there. According to you, these parts are all that is necessary to make a living amoeba. In fact, until you took it apart just a few moments ago, these parts did make up a living amoeba.”
He paused for effect, damn him.
“So, here are all the necessary parts. Make one.”
If I had been fully in control of myself, my jaw would have dropped. “Make one? It doesn’t work that way. You can’t just take some pieces of a creature and stick them together and have it be alive. Life can only come from life.”
BP didn’t hesitate now. “You may be on to something there. But how about the first bit of life on Earth?”
I was getting flustered, but I did the best I could. “Well, the universe is about 14 billion years old. The Earth is about 4 billion years old and the earliest life sprung up on Earth almost immediately. It didn’t take long for life to get started.”
“So you say. Tell me how it happened.”
“No one knows for sure, of course.” I was feeling a bit more in control since I had spent a good part of a workday reading all about this stuff on the Magic Answer Box. That’s why I knew those numbers off the top of my head. “But scientists have studied this extensively, and it seems logical that the combination of temperature, moisture, and chemicals were all just right on the early Earth for life to form. They know that lightning probably played a part in it as well.”
“Just like it did with Frankenstein,” he said.
I knew he was making fun of me with that remark, but now my head had started to spin, and I couldn’t think of a good reply.
“Thus according to you and your scientists, life started with relative ease all by itself.”
I was starting to feel like my certain victory over BP was slipping away, but I managed to say, “Yes, that’s the current thinking.”
He didn’t hesitate at all, “Ok then, I have a few questions:
“If it is so easy for life to rise out of non-life, then why have there been no other instances on Earth where life appeared spontaneously? According to those same theories you cite, all life on Earth appears to have descended from a single ancestor.
“So, you and your scientists believe that life must be common on Earth because it will tend to just pop up whenever conditions are right. Yet you also believe that it happened only once on Earth.
“So then, why have we not we seen other eruptions of life on Earth that cannot be traced to a single ancestor? After all, we know the Earth is suitable for life. If it is almost destined to happen when all the right ingredients are handy, why hasn’t it happened many times on Earth? Why didn’t it happen spontaneously last week somewhere?
“And while we are at it, why have scientists spent the last fifty years confidently predicting that they will create life in the laboratory sometime soon, yet as much as they try to coax their beakers of non-living chemicals to come together and become life, they have failed.
“It is certainly not due to lack of effort. Hundreds of scientists have spent millions of dollars and dozens of years trying to perform the trick they claim will happen almost automatically if conditions are right.
“It appears we come down to two opposing beliefs: first, that life will appear whenever conditions are right and thus will be common, and second, that life only has sprung up one time on Earth – a spot where we certainly know for sure that conditions are right. This implies that life is rare and uncommon.
“I am feeling a bit confused, but perhaps you can help me with this – does it hurt to hold two opposing beliefs in your head at one time?”
By this point, my head was starting to hurt for sure and his sarcasm didn’t help. Now, I was the one who felt like he’d gone a few rounds with the champ; I was reeling. Was the spontaneous generation of life common or rare? Those seemed to be the only two choices.
Before I could stammer out some response, he said, “I think that is enough for now. But let me leave you with a summary of this Revelation. This will help as you write down your experience. You started by asserting that life was not special because it is made of non-life. That is not true. Life is special. The fact that an amoeba is made of non-living chemicals does not mean that those chemicals are alive, and yet our amoeba contains something else that does make it alive. Remember, life is special. It is one of the two things in the universe.”
And with that I became fully in control of myself again. This appeared to be a lengthy session but it only lasted a few minutes in real time. Just enough for the ice cubes in my scotch to melt.
Two days later, I rolled into the office around nine and brought up the ball scores for some serious study. BP had left me alone for a whole day, so I was a bit recharged and ready for work. I had a spreadsheet assigned to me that I planned on getting to around 3 p.m. Until them, I had plenty of personal stuff to do.
While I watching an episode of the X-files, Jane came over to get me for lunch.
“It’s time for the Office Buddy Corporate Meeting and Lunch Date,” she said. “Come on Rog, get your head out of your you-know-what and let’s go. I’m hungry.”
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, four of us would meet for lunch, usually at the company cafeteria. We called ourselves the “Office Buddies” and generally had a good time gossiping about company politics and laughing at those who played that game. I always enjoyed these lunches and didn’t mind how long they took since their ending meant the time of the day had arrived when I would probably have to do some company work.
We were lucky that the company was doing so well. Actually, the company was rolling in money; so much so, it hardly had any idea what to do with it all. It seemed to just pile up over time. I was in finance and wondered sometimes why they didn’t invest a bit more of their hoard, but if they had, it likely would have meant more work for me and less time to eat nice lunches. So really, I was okay with it.
I must admit that they were not shy about spending some serious money on the cafeteria. That’s a common name for a common place to eat, but this place was anything but common. Think of a trendy coffee shop inside a fancy steakhouse inside a high end produce market, and you would begin to get the idea. The place was huge and had just about everything.
There was a large area labeled “Organic” where they had salad stuff. Right next to it was “Salads,” which also had salad stuff that I guess wasn’t organic. I never knew why they had both.
Further along, you would find several entrees of the day including things like stuffed cabbage, Tikka Masala, steak with blue cheese topping and whatever else the several chefs dreamed up for that day. The head chef had a column in the company newsletter and often told us about the trials of finding just the right ingredients for his dishes. The average cost for a complete lunch was about $5, which along with the great food, explained why the place was so popular. Signs were all over the place from the HR department reminding us to “Eat Healthy Because Food Becomes You.”
I grabbed a burger and salad and looked around for my friends. I saw Jane sit down and headed over to join her and the other Office Buddies. We had our normal table for four. The other three had arrived before me. I didn’t like to be the last to arrive.
Jane was the leader of the group. Oh, we never had an election or anything, but she just was born to take charge. We all knew she was the leader and we were all comfortable with it. That was just the way things were. It was just as natural as the sun rising in the East and, for us, just as inevitable.
She had just turned thirty and grew up outside of Atlanta. She had thick, dark hair in a short stylish cut. She was actually pretty in a tomboy kind of way with a large mouth, a sharp nose, and expressive brown eyes. She was tall at 5’10” and was probably a bit thin, though she never seemed to be on a diet. I thought she looked fine. She had a southern accent that varied in intensity based on who she was talking to. With us, it was obvious and cute. In a meeting with some higher ups, it could be almost undetectable, but it was always there at some level. I think the prejudice that many Ivy League have against people from the south may have hurt her a bit in the company. She could have risen higher – and might yet – as she was also the smartest of our group. But she had a flaw. She saw the idiocy of many of those higher ups and it was hard for her to play the game and suck up to them. Still, I didn’t count her out and thought she’d be my boss’s boss one day at the least. I know she dated regularly, but at last report, she said she was “between beaus.”
As I took my seat, I saw that Matt Shively was sitting behind a tray sparsely filled with yogurt, fruit and some applewood bacon chicken salad. Matt didn’t say a word, and we didn’t expect him to. Instead he closed his eyes, bowed his head and said a short silent prayer. When he opened his eyes, he smiled. Matt was religious and didn’t mind talking about his faith at all, but he seldom was the one to bring it up. He was very comfortable with us though and didn’t hesitate to pray with us there. We all liked him.
He was in his early forties, was thin and had one of those beards that was supposed to be close cropped, but in his case was just sparse. His hair was also starting to thin a bit at the top, and we often teased him about that. It was otherwise long and he normally wore it in a ponytail. Matt could be a lot of fun and had the smarts since he was a programmer, but there was often a hint of an almost nervous sadness about him. He wasn’t really happy at this job and it seemed to have affected his marriage. He and his wife were getting counseling from their pastor, and we all wished them well.
To Matt’s right sat Allen Olman. Allen was “over sixty” and that made him one of the oldest people in the room – heck, probably in the company. This led to his nickname of Old Man. A high tech company like ours was full of thirty year old wunderkinds; older folks didn’t get hired all that often. Just an oversight, I’m sure. Allen had a grown daughter, but he didn’t talk much about her.
He had picked out the steak lunch today. That cost a bit more, but he could likely afford it since I’m sure he made more than any of the rest of us. He was in sales, and I didn’t begrudge him a cent. If you made your numbers in sales, you were treated like a king and were handsomely rewarded. But those numbers went up every year, and every year it got harder to get over the top. Finance people much senior to me created spreadsheet after spreadsheet that really did matter - they predicted exactly how many sales a guy like Allen would make if he worked himself to exhaustion for sixty hours a week. And then they added on 10% just to make sure. If sales were below the expectations of these financial wizards, he would be treated not like a king, but like the king’s slow stepson; still taken care of, but not respected. If sales were too much below the numbers on that spreadsheet, he’d be treated like he had betrayed the king and would be beheaded. Actually, he’d be “let go.” His name would appear on the list of “Hellos and Goodbyes” in the company newsletter and after that it would be like he’d never existed. I think Allen enjoyed our Office Buddy lunches because he could relax and not have to act like a highly paid high tech salesman. Also, this year had not been a good one for him, so he was glad to have friends that didn’t measure his worth by how many sales he brought in. My guess was that he had descended to stepson territory in the company - surely not a fun place to be.
Arriving last, I sat beside Jane. They all looked up and smiled at me without words. A formal greeting wasn’t necessary since I was with my best friends and we were close enough not to have to fill every sliver of silence with chatter.
As for me, I was getting ready to enjoy a burger with my friends, and lately I had been hearing the voice of an unknown entity who was giving me his Revelation.
But I still had a life to lead, so I took a bite of that burger. As usual, it was great.
Allen might have been a bit behind quota, but he was still a salesman, so you can understand why the first thing that was said at our Office Buddy lunch was, “So how’s the book coming?” Leave it to him to say whatever was on his mind.
And leave it to Jane to blab my secret to my friends. I shot her a look that must have surprised her in its intensity because she looked away. I hadn’t asked her specifically to keep my fling with writing to herself, so of course she’d told Matt and Allen all about what had happened.
“Well, I see Janie has been filling you all in on our office pillow talk.” She hated to be called Janie.
Matt snickered and Jane even smiled sheepishly. Matt said, “You should know you can’t keep a secret from our friend Janie here. She’s got the eye of an eagle and the ear of a deer.”
“And the tongue of a rattler,” I added.
That tongue went to work, ignoring my dig, “You can stop being cute. Now come on Rog, tell us what it’s about. We’re dying to know.”
“Yeah,” Allen chimed in. “Is it a bold and sexy story of office intrigue in an ultra successful high tech company?”
“Wait,” said Matt. “I’ll bet it’s the story of a lowly junior financial analyst who claws his way to the top by engaging in office intrigue in an ultra successful high tech company.”
They really were comedians. Or so they fancied themselves.
They were all grinning at me, so it seemed like it was my turn. “Ok, smartasses, so you know what I’m doing. I’m doing it because I’m sure that most people dream about writing a book and I’m just the one of us who is skilled, motivated and determined enough to get it done.”
Jane was the first to leap for this bone, “Uh huh, so what’s the real reason?” She stared at me and continued, “And you didn’t tell us what it’s about.” Now they were all staring at me.
I should have shut them down right there with a gentle “mind your own business” approach and said no more, but I instead blurted out something that would later lead to some serious complications for me. “Look. I can’t tell you much about it right now. It’s complicated and I’m not sure exactly where it’s going, but I think I do have this book in me and if you want – and when I’m ready – I’d like all of you to read parts and make suggestions.”
At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal. My notes were piling up and BP promised to keep the Revelations coming; so it seemed reasonable to get some help from my friends if they were willing to give it. Since I didn’t know the nature of the coming Revelations, I couldn’t have known what effect they would later have on all of us.
We finished another Office Buddy lunch on a pleasant note after they extracted a promise that I would at least update them on my progress at each of our meetings. They were all anxious to get some pages to start reading so they could make snarky comments – at least that’s what they thought.
I was actually pleased. Knowing about BP all by myself was a burden and the prospect of being able to share a bit of what I was being told was at least slightly comforting.
I had thought about this ever since I’d confessed to Jane that I was writing a book. I knew my friends would be very curious and I wasn’t planning on outing myself as a nut. I fully intended to write any notes I shared with them in such a way as to make it clear that BP was just a literary device and not the voice inside my head that he actually was.
After our lunch I returned to my cubicle and congratulated myself on how I’d handled this. I thought I had things under control. I didn’t know how wrong I was.
The weather was warm that evening and after I returned from work I decided to visit the park across the street before going to my apartment building. After our lunch meeting, I’d been thinking more about BP and what he was revealing. On top of that, I’d been wondering about a sensation I was having inside my head near the spot where I heard BP. It was hard to describe – it wasn’t a pain like a headache, or even a physical feeling at all as far as I could tell. I was just, well, aware of that spot inside my head.
I had gone through a fitness phase a year or so ago when I was going to a gym. For some reason that was not at all clear to me now, I had wanted a pair of six pack abs. So four times a week, I paid a trainer to help me with my ab exercises. She charted my progress and make comments about how much better I looked. I wasn’t sure I was really getting my six pack, so I lost interest and quit after a month or so. I did date her a few times though and that was nice.
My head felt a little like my stomach did after one of those sessions. My ab muscles weren’t sore, nor were they even particularly tired, but I could just feel them down there. It was like they were now more sensitive.
And that’s a good description of the feeling I was having inside my head. It wasn’t much – just a general sensitivity that I was barely aware of. I wasn’t even totally sure it was there. It could have been my imagination or it could be something more. I thought once again about hearing voices and wondered if I might have a tumor of some kind. That could also explain the feeling inside my head, but that explanation didn’t seem likely since I was young and healthy, and BP had proven to me that he was real.
I was thinking about all this while I walked aimlessly around the park. I must have been really thinking hard because when I stopped walking, I was staring at a little girl playing in a sandbox. I hadn’t even noticed the other people who were enjoying the nice weather.
“You can sit if you want. You look like you’re lost in thought and you might trip over a baby or something.” I turned to see a nun sitting on the park bench grinning at me. She was obviously watching the little girl who was digging holes in the sand. There was a church right around the corner and there must have been a school in it, because I saw nuns herding kids in my neighborhood all the time. I’d never talked to one though.
“Thanks. I will. Sorry, but I was zoned out thinking about work today.” I was a little embarrassed for walking around like a zombie.
“I’ve done the same thing many times,” she said as she smiled at me. She had a pretty smile that lit up her full face. She was young – probably about my age. She wore a nun’s habit with a black vest, a white shirt and a longish black skirt along with the headgear that covered her hair and ears – I didn’t know what that was called. She had sandals on her bare feet.
I looked at the little girl. She was still digging in the sand, intent on her own work. “That’s Adelle. I’m her teacher. She’s autistic and part of our program is to get these kids out so that they can interact with other people. You can tell her hello.”
I reached out my hand to her and said, “Hello Adelle. How are you?” She seemed to take no notice of me and continued digging. When one hole reached hard ground below the sand, she’d start another.
“There are various types of autism. With Adelle, she lives in her own world inside her head. She knows I’m here, and if she needs me, she’ll come to me or ask for help. She doesn’t know you and probably takes no notice of you – it’s kind of like the traffic noise. It’s there, but we learn to tune it out and not even notice it.”
The thought of that sweet little girl being trapped inside a closed world seemed very sad to me. “Can you help her?” I asked.
She sensed my concern and smiled at me again. “Maybe. Sometimes they just grow out of it and slowly start to interact in our world until they live in it full time just like we do. I really don’t know how much our therapy helps – no one does – but regardless, sometimes they get better.
“I’m worried about Adelle though. She’s nine, and usually if they are going to get better they start about now. I don’t see many hopeful signs in her, but I’ll keep trying.”
And I had been worried about a silly phantom feeling in my head. She must have sensed what I felt because she changed the subject. “I’m Sister Mary Celeste.”
“I’m Roger Seaton. I’m glad to meet you Sister.”
“Oh, you can just call me Celeste. We modern nuns aren’t too picky about titles.”
I watched Adelle as she started to fill in the holes that she had dug. I felt small compared to this young nun. At twenty five, I’d done almost nothing with my life and here she was working to help sick kids. I looked at her in admiration and asked what was on my mind. “Why did you become a nun?”
Her eyes sparkled with laughter. “Roger, you must be a fun date. You just ask a girl the most personal questions. Most people I meet probably wonder that same thing, but they are afraid to ask. I’m glad you’re not.
“It’s simple really. I became a nun because God called me. Now, he didn’t shout at me or talk to me directly, but ever since I was a teenager, I just felt Him and knew what He wanted me to do. Maybe that’s the same as talking to me, I don’t know. As soon as I was old enough, I went through the process to take my vows. I’ve only been a nun for about a year, but I love it and I love working with these kids that need us.”
It was a beautiful story and I told her so. We talked for another few minutes about me, but our conversation always returned to her kids.
Soon, it was time for her to go. “Please come to the church sometime, Roger. Even if you just sit in the pews all by yourself, it’s worth it. It’s a beautiful building. I’ll say ‘Hi’ if I see you there.”
She stood as I looked down at little Adelle again and put out my hand to say goodbye. She had been filling in the holes, but this time when I looked at her my sight was clouded. There was a pale, almost gauze-like haze that was obscuring my vision – I could see my hand clearly, but everything beyond it was cloudy and indistinct. I wondered if some type of city pollution had gotten in my eyes.
I blinked and willed my vision to clear and it did. I could see Adelle clearly now. She turned to me and put her little hand in mine.
“Oh my!” exclaimed Celeste. “You really do have a way with the girls, Roger! I’ve never seen her reach out to a stranger that way. It took two weeks before she’d interact with me at all!”
She pulled Adelle to her and gave her a big hug. “I love you,” Sister Mary Celeste said.
Adelle responded with what sounded like, “Too.”
Celeste smiled at me with a dazzling smile and walked off, holding Adelle by the hand. I could hear her sandals flipping and flopping. “Bye bye, Roger Seaton. I hope to see you again.”
I hoped to see her one day too. As I walked to my apartment, I realized that the feeling in my head was more pronounced.
When the weather was good like it was tonight, I had a habit of sitting on my little balcony on the sixteenth floor. No one would think my little one bedroom apartment was anything special, and the balcony was just large enough to hold a couple of lawn chairs – I’d sit on one and put my feet up on the other.
Even though it was small, I really enjoyed the view as it overlooked the park across the street. It was the same park where I’d just met Celeste and Adelle. At least I could see a good bit of the park – about a third of it was hidden behind another hive-like apartment building across the street.
On that Friday night, I was sitting there listening to the traffic sounds, looking at the bench where I’d sat with Sister Mary Celeste and enjoying an after work scotch. I had worked like a dog after lunch. I had two meetings and spent about forty minutes on a spreadsheet that predicted how much costs would go up on one of our products if the price of plastics went up. It was straightforward and took about ten minutes to create and thirty more to make it look impressive. Jane thought it was fine and when I sent it up the line I received an “atta boy” email from my boss. Anyone could see why I would be bushed.
I got into kind of a mellow mood and wondered if this would be a good time for BP to make his next appearance. He might or might not come tonight, so I just watched the people in the park far below. I was studying a girl jogger when I felt BP enter my head.
“Do you have any questions from our last session, or should I move on?”
BP sounded like he was all business this evening. I was thankfully no longer fearful, but I always got a start when he popped into my head.
I’d been prepared for this moment. “You ended our last session,” I replied, “by claiming that life couldn’t easily have just started on Earth. But what if the recipe for life is so complex that it’s only happened once? It might be so convoluted that scientists might not find the recipe even after years of trying. Let’s go on from there.”
He answered, “All right, we shall. Have you ever cooked a turkey dinner?”
Oh boy. Here he went again with the crazy questions. I thought about taking a gulp of scotch, but decided to wait until BP left. “No, can’t say as I have.” If he had a point, I wished he’d just make it.
Finally he started, “Let’s see if we can agree on the basics of your argument. You believe life started on Earth spontaneously; that once the correct recipe of materials, temperatures and procedures all came together in just the right way, life just started. In effect, it self-assembled.
“And we have not seen it start again in such a way, either naturally or in the laboratory, because this recipe is complex and can’t be easily duplicated. Therefore, the more complex the recipe, the less likely it is to be discovered and thus scientists, though diligently trying, can’t be faulted for failing to prove their theory of the creation of life. Is that about it?”
I studied his statement from a couple of angles and could find no problems with it. “I agree. That’s a good summary.”
He continued, “So let us consider a different kind of recipe. Have you ever heard of Thompson’s Turkey?
I searched my memory, but came up empty. “No, I don’t think I have.”
“The recipe for Thompson’s Turkey will, if followed correctly, result in what I understand to be a roasted turkey unmatched for its deliciousness.
“But this meal is not often made because it has so many ingredients, and its instructions are time consuming and exacting. Besides a twenty pound turkey, you need oil and salt and black pepper. You will also have to have on hand some bay leaves, paprika, ground coriander, garlic, and salt.
“And you are just getting started. Next, you will need an apple, an orange, crushed pineapple, a lemon, drained water chestnuts, ginger, mustard, and of course, caraway, poppy and celery seeds.
“Add to this oregano, mace, parsley, garlic, cloves, turmeric, several onions, a lot of celery, marjoram leaves, savory, thyme, sage, bread crumbs, ground veal, ground pork, butter, 12 egg yolks, onion juice, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, flour, cider, water and, of course, heat.
“Once you have assembled all the ingredients, you are ready to begin. First, you make the dressing which requires four separate bowls; each filled with just the right ingredients, in just the right proportions and added in just the right order.
“Those four bowls need to be mixed to make the dressing – again in just the right way – and now you are ready to prepare the turkey. This, of course, requires several exacting steps as well. Once all this is done, your turkey needs to be cooked at three different temperatures during different phases of its preparation.
I listened in amazement and before I could stammer out an objection, BP continued, “As you can see, I have described an example of a complex recipe.”
Actually, he had described the most insanely complex recipe I’d ever heard of.
“But consider that Thompson’s Turkey has a grand total of forty five different ingredients and requires processes that could be accomplished in your own little kitchen. Our tiny single celled amoeba has at least 209 billion DNA base pairs along with untold number of other chemicals that make up the creature.
“Compared to what it takes to make a living amoeba, the Thompson Turkey recipe is beyond childlike in its simplicity. Remember, you agreed that the more complex the recipe, the less likely it would assemble itself without outside help.
“So, if the Thomson Turkey recipe is millions of times simpler than one for a living creature, and since you believe the much more complex amoeba sprung forth by self assembly, then why do we not see this meal make itself now and again?”
I opened my mouth to object, but realized I had nothing to say. I was struck speechless.
But that didn’t stop him from continuing, “Know this: the only way our Thompson Turkey recipe gets made is if humans will it to happen through their actions. And now here is the next part of my Revelation. Life and non-life are the two things that make up the universe. They are NOT the same thing. Life is very, very different from non-life, as you will shortly learn.
“And life did not spontaneously appear on the Earth. It was put here and it was put here for a reason.
“I know because I am the one who put it here.”
And with that I returned to full awareness. It had gotten cool outside and the sun was down. I was quiet and somber the remainder of the evening as I tried to come to grips with this latest part of the Revelation. I finally fell into bed, and when I awoke at the normal time in the morning, I had kicked all the covers off the bed and was cold. This type of nighttime thrashing was not normal for me. If I had been dreaming, I didn’t remember a thing.
After I typed up my notes over the weekend from our last encounter, I actually found that Thompson’s Turkey recipe on the internet. BP had certainly described it accurately – this was the most complex recipe I’d ever seen. I started to understand his point that the recipe for life was far more complex than even this crazy turkey recipe.
BP was claiming that life didn’t start by itself on Earth. Today, that sounded kind of quaint, but I was pretty sure that this would have been a very common belief a hundred years ago. In comparison, the theory that life could start when all the right pieces lined up in just the right way was a pretty new concept.
Regardless of its origins, there was wide agreement about what happened after life started. It grew and expanded and, yes, evolved into what it is today. I knew about the controversy related to evolution, and thought I’d ask BP about it one day.
The rest of the weekend, I deliberately kept my mind off this new part of the Revelation. I had thought about it until I had nothing but new questions and no new answers, so I just put it aside until BP chose to return. Besides, I had a date on Saturday night and didn’t want to spend my time thinking about aliens when I should have been paying attention to the new blonde receptionist I’d asked out.
Sunday morning I woke up early, as was my habit. I got up, trudged downstairs and bought the Sunday paper and then returned to make breakfast. While reading and eating, I thought fleetingly about making a Thompson Turkey and inviting Jane over for Sunday dinner, but quickly came to my senses and thrust that idea aside. I texted her a few times until she told me to cut it out.
At about 1 p.m., I turned on the radio to listen to the ballgame. I waited for the pre-game commercials to be over so the game could begin – but I didn’t hear the beginning of the game at all because BP chose that moment to return. I had my normal startled reaction to his presence. “Thank you for putting down my Revelation accurately. I think we have completed the first part. Let’s move on.”
He paused for a half second as I resigned myself to missing some or all of the game. He jumped right in like he had something else to do. “If we think of your universe as being made up of life and non-life, it should lead us to think of the ramifications of this way of looking at things. This is where the true power of the concept lies.
“Take the Earth itself, for example. It certainly has a lot of life in many forms. But even here, there is far more non-life than there is life.”
I must have looked puzzled, probably because I was. “I don’t get that. The Earth is crawling with life.”
“Is it? There are vast stretches of the Earth – the poles, the deserts, deep in the oceans, where life is not abundant. Go down even a few dozen feet inside the Earth, and it’s very rare.
“But let us not focus on those places. Instead, let us examine a place where life literally teams – an anthill. I think you will agree it has life in abundance. But if we uproot the anthill and carefully separate the living ants from the non-life dirt, we will find the dirt far outweighs the ants. Even in an anthill, non-life is the biggest part.
“So it is with the entire Earth; we find that non-life is far more common than life. It certainly seems that if our universe is made up of life and non-life, then non-life is very common and life is exceedingly rare.”
I transcribed his points in an unbroken way because that was how they made the most sense. During the session, I did interrupt and object a few times. Most were not of any importance, but I did manage to ask one good question, “How can you dismiss life on other planets? There are so many stars and planets. There must be life out there. The odds say it almost has to happen. Life could be a lot more common than you think.”
His voice sounded smug. I felt myself get irritated. “I had planned on dealing with life on other planets later, but you seem fixated on this point, so let us do it now.”
He started by asking a question. “How long has there been radio broadcasts on Earth?”
By now I had almost gotten used to this annoying habit of his. In any case, it would have made no difference to have rolled my eyes and objected to it since my objection would have been ignored. Like a good pupil, I just answered the question the best I could, “I don’t know, maybe a hundred years or so.”
“Close,” he said, “
“Radio waves travel at about the speed of light, so if life is common in the universe, you would think that other planets would receive our broadcasts and we would receive theirs.”
I jumped in, “It would almost have to be common given the fact that it happened here and that there are billions and billions of other stars and planets out there.”
He didn’t hesitate. “You made this point before, and it was just as wrong then as it is now. I will deal with it in time, but first let’s finish with the silence from the stars.
“There are about 2000 stars within fifty light years from Earth that could have received your signals and then had time too reply. Your people have been listening diligently for many years for those replies.
“And yet, all that has been received is silence. Every day that you receive nothing means that more and more stars are now within range of your signals, and more and more potential alien civilizations would have had time for their replies to reach Earth. In the next one hundred years, there will be 15,000 star systems that could be responding to what they hear from Earth.
“But remember, these planets teeming with life don’t have to transmit just because people from Earth do. Any life on them would presumably be going about their own business on their own planets. Radio waves are a natural phenomenon and would behave exactly the same way on another planet as they do here. And they would have just as many uses there as here. Therefore, if there were a large number of planets filled with large amounts of advanced life, why haven’t their signals been received?
“A recent report came out that concluded that there might be as many as 17 billion roughly Earth sized planets in the galaxy alone. One might guess from these numbers that the galaxy would be teeming with life, and that there should be many civilizations that have been pouring radio signals into the sky far longer than your own pitiful one hundred years. How many have been transmitting for a thousand years; for ten thousand, for a million or more?
“Yet, no one on Earth has heard a single thing from any of them.”
BP paused then to let this sink in, and then he asked, “Why do you think this is?”
I wasn’t expecting this question. I started to answer and came out with, “Well, ah, I mean, you know.” As I was flailing for a reply, one came to me. “Maybe those planets are full of life, but just not advanced civilizations.”
“That would indeed explain a lot, wouldn’t it?” He said. “It would also be wrong.”
And with that, I felt him leave my head, and I became fully awake again. I thought of space and all those suns and all those planets. I had a vision of an antenna I’d seen once in a documentary that was 1000 feet in diameter and was being used to listen for signals from outer space. The scientists in the show seemed certain that they would pick up signals from some far away alien civilization at any time.
That was years ago and I hadn’t heard about any signals being received. I briefly considered the possibility that some government agency might know about such signals, but was keeping it secret – like they might do in an X-Files episode. I quickly discarded that possibility; scientists who received signals from space would trample each other in an attempt to be first to the microphone to make the announcement. No, I was convinced that nothing had been heard from space and that made me kind of sad.
The next day was a Monday and I left for work a full hour early. I still had some notes to write and I didn’t want Jane hovering around and watching over my shoulder as I wrote about life – or the lack of it – in the universe. Also, I didn’t have a printer at my apartment and I wanted a hard copy of what I’d written since it was getting to be quite a document. When I needed something on paper, I just took it into the office and used their machines. I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded, even if they had known.
Jane made her appearance at 8:30, so she was in early too. I wondered for a minute if she often came in that early. There was no way for me to know since, before now, I’d always made sure I was there at nine and not a moment earlier. Yet, here I was in my cubicle, busily typing with a half-full cup of coffee.
I heard her drop her purse on her desk, and in a flash she appeared at my cubicle, hands on hips, her face set on scowl. Her eyes were slits and those slits stared at me, unblinking. For a moment she didn’t say anything; she just stared as if she was trying to decide if I was crazy or just a fool. I guess crazy won.
“Are you crazy?” she said. “Coming in so obviously early and pretending to be hard at work might get you noticed, but it’s far more likely that your long suffering co-workers will get noticed for NOT coming in early and working like eager beavers.”
She had a point, of course. As long as all the drones showed up at the same time and behaved the same way, we were practically invisible. But let one of the drones get out of step by seeming to show too much ambition and the whole comfortable apple cart was in danger of racing downhill, out of control.
Besides, if there was a drone that was going to be promoted to Queen Bee, it was going to be her and it was most certainly not going to be me.
Her eyes bored into mine. “Roger, please tell me you are working on your book and not company stuff.” Company stuff can be, and often was, counted. Thus, if production of one useless spreadsheet per day was considered a good day’s work, a crazy fool like me turning out two a day might get noticed and that might become the new norm. She wanted to make sure my fling with hard work was for my own personal amusement, and not the benefit of the company.
“Okay,” I said. “Don’t get your panties in a knot.” She hated it when I said that. “I’m just finishing up some notes for my book and then I’m going to print them out. If that’s okay with you, that is.” I couldn’t help myself, so I added, “Your highness.”
She realized I had not taken leave of my senses after all. She smiled and went back to her cubicle to get ready for her day’s labor. I heard her typing and received an Instant Message from her. “Don’t forget our Office Buddy meeting at 12:30 and our Diversity Training at two.”
Oh good Lord. I’d rather eat a bug than attend one of those touchy-feely training sessions where they try to get you to spill your guts in front of your co-workers. But that’s what they paid me for, so I knew I’d have to go. I would not sit near Jane though, because I knew she would make a face at me and then I’d smile and then the instructor would notice me and then I’d get called on to answer some deeply personal, completely embarrassing question. No, thank you. Wherever she sat, I’d find a seat far away.
Soon, I was done with the notes. It was a pretty long document. I clicked print and then brought up yesterday’s baseball box scores on my monitor for some detailed study. I deserved a bit of a break.
A few minutes later, I strolled down to the printer room and picked up my papers. They were collated and had my name on a cover sheet. These expensive office printers sure were able to do great things. I guessed that’s why they got their own room and we lowly drones had to labor away in cubicles.
By this time, it was getting close to lunch and I hadn’t turned out any work product for the company. I really wasn’t in the mood to work on any of the spreadsheets they wanted from scratch, though I did have a couple of assignments in my inbox. None of them were due today, so I decided that I’d get to them when I felt a bit more motivated.
I stood up and stretched and went to Jane’s cubicle to see if she was ready for lunch, but she wasn’t there. I figured she’d gone on ahead, so I took the elevator up to the cafeteria. I was ready for a burger.
When I got there, I saw Jane was already sitting at a table. Allen and Matt were near the end of the line with their entrees. I hated being last because that meant the first jokes would be at my expense.
I made my lunch choice and walked across the room to greet my Office Buddies. Knowing Jane the way I did, it was almost a certainty that she would have told them about my labors with the book this morning.
“So, Hemingway, ready to tell us all about the book?” I hadn’t even sat down and Allen was already at it. I really did know them.
“Yeah,” said Matt. “What’s up with all the science stuff? Are you becoming an author and a nerd at the same time?”
Science stuff? I may not have been at my sharpest since it was lunchtime, but I immediately knew what had happened. Jane had heard me print out my notes and had gone to the printer room to sneak a peek while I was busy studying baseball scores on the Magic Answer Box. I glared at her.
“Now hold on,” she said, “it wasn’t like that at all.” She knew exactly what I was thinking. “I happened to be in the printer room waiting for my own document and yours came out. I couldn’t help but see it.
“And I didn’t read it all, though I must admit I’m impressed with how much you have written. I really couldn’t help but look a bit here and there. After all, you said you would share it with us since you wanted our help. It appears to be fairly raw notes and there is a lot of science stuff in there. So I have two questions.”
When she was on a roll, interrupting her was out of the question, so I just listened patiently.
“Do you really think you can make an interesting story out of this science stuff? And who is Brian A. Pearlmitter?
“And, oh yes, I actually have a third question – what kind of revelation are you writing about?”
That was so like her. I should have been furious, but she was almost certainly telling the truth about being in the printer room when my printout started. After all, how would she know when I hit the print button?
So she “kind of” accidentally saw the document. There would be no apology to me, of course. Instead she had the audacity to share what she saw with the others, and then proceed to grill me on the merits of my approach to writing what she thought was a novel. I stared at her in silent wonder. She sure had a pair.
I hadn’t expected this at all, so I took a few seconds to collect my wits.
I think Matt was afraid that my silence meant that I was seriously angry, so he spoke up first with a sheepish, “We’re just interested, you know.”
His words brought me back to my senses. I realized I’d been frowning and I made myself relax. “Look, I should be mad at you three, but I was the one who said I would share it with you at some point. I just didn’t plan on that point being now. I guess Calamity Janie here couldn’t control her curiosity and I am collecting quite a lot of notes, so maybe you could, if you want to, help me out a bit.”
With that, the tension eased and everyone discovered that they had a lunch in front of them. They all had smiles on their faces as things returned to normal. We ate and talked.
Matt spoke up, “Jane asked about it and I’m curious too. What is this Revelation all about? What will you reveal?”
I was sure that Matt had read the Book of Revelation in the Bible many times and had pondered the mysteries that it contained, so I wasn’t at all surprised by his focus on that as a first point of discussion.
The truthful answer was, of course, that I had no idea what the Revelation would be, but Matt didn’t know that. To him, I was an author in charge of a story and should have been able to will it to go where ever I wanted. That’s what I had to keep him believing, since the alternative – that I was basically a transcriptionist for an unknown, powerful and hopefully helpful being – would not be as easy to explain.
I thought of a response that I hoped would get me off this hot seat, “I have an idea of what it will be, but I might change my mind as I go along. I hope it will be something big to end the book with. The way it will work is that there will be a series of smaller Revelations, until I’m ready to announce the big, earth shattering one. That’s why the science stuff is in there – it will help explain the Revelations as they come along. I hope this will keep the readers guessing and interested.”
Jane piped up. “And this BP character?”
I was ready for this. “He’s a literary device; an all knowing, all seeing wise man who will guide us on our journey toward the ultimate Revelation. Since Jane is the only one to have actually read any of my notes, BP comes to me in a trance state and toys with me, while revealing pieces of the puzzle that will lead to the Revelation that will challenge mankind.”
Allen whistled. “Nothing like starting out big,” he said in his most sarcastic voice. “Why lower yourself to writing about stuff you know something about? Are you sure you don’t want to start over with a novel about a handsome high tech salesman who powers his way to the top of the ladder through guile and irresistible sexiness?”
I rolled my eyes, “Thanks, but I think I’ll stick to my plan.”
“Just trying to help,” he said with a wide grin.
Jane stared into the distance. This meant she was thinking hard. We’d all seen her do this before, so we waited until she was done.
It only took a few seconds. “So,” she said, “you print out three more copies of the whole thing this afternoon, and I’ll see they are distributed to the team.”
I hadn’t planned for this; but neither had I planned on having this conversation. I thought about it for a moment and felt that I had set things up well enough so that they wouldn’t think I was totally nuts and might even be helpful as the Revelations continued.
Jane stood up to leave. “Good. I’ll host our first Office Buddies Author’s Assistance meeting at my apartment. How about Thursday night at seven?”
That’s Jane for you: Ms. Take-Charge. We often did things together like take in a ballgame or meet for drinks, so this wasn’t too much out of the ordinary. Everyone said they would be there and that was it.
At least part of my secret was no more and BP was no longer a burden that I had to bear alone. I left the group with a sense of hope.
The next couple of days went by without any major problems at work and without any visits from BP. We had our normally scheduled Office Buddy lunch, but agreed to hold off discussing the book until our Thursday night meeting at Jane’s place. Now that they had seen my notes, I suspected that they weren’t quite as enthused as they had been when the subject of my manuscript was a mystery. It was certainly possible that no one would want to help with a book about the origins of life by someone who, by all rights, should know nothing about it. I figured I’d find out on Thursday.
I wasn’t really worried about the absence of BP. He’d taken up a lot of my weekend with all his revealing and all my note taking, so I needed a break. I wondered, though, if he knew that there were now three more people who were aware of his Revelation. Did he keep an eye on me when I was going about my daily business? That idea felt kind of creepy, but I guessed that if I could get used to him entering my consciousness whenever the mood struck him, I could get used to that too.
I didn’t have to wait long before he was in the mood. That night, just as I was going to bed, I felt his presence. It was like before – I could see my bedroom in the dim light of night and could read the time on my clock, but I was relaxed and receptive to the voice in my head. I felt no fear.
I wanted to talk to him about the fact that Jane, Allen and Matt had read the first part of his Revelation, but he beat me to it by saying that he approved of me letting my friends read my notes. “I’m especially impressed at how you were able to construct a story to explain your writings that didn’t reveal that I am as real in the story as you are. You’ll have to tell them that at some point, of course, but it wouldn’t be wise to do it this early.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “They’d probably think that I’ve gone nuts.” I paused a moment, “I haven’t, have I?”
He hesitated just for a second as if he were searching for the right words. “Just the opposite. You are one of the sanest people I have studied. Your almost total lack of artificiality and reflexive honesty are necessary traits for the task we have before us.”
Before my reflexes could come up with a suitably honest comment, he went on. “Do you have any other questions or comments about life, or the lack of life, outside the Earth?”
“I sure do.” I had been waiting for this. “I understand your points about radio signals in space. We have sent them out for a hundred years and, as far as we can tell, no one has replied. If there were millions of civilizations out there, you’d think we would have picked up some type of transmission from them.
“I admit this is strange, but the real reason to believe that there’s lots of life in the universe is based on the numbers. There are so many untold billions upon billions upon billions of stars and planets that the odds would indicate there has to be life out there and it’s probably quite common. Most renowned scientists make this argument; Carl Sagan made it many times. You really can’t argue with the numbers. So what do you have to say about that?”
Even though I wasn’t really talking with my voice, my mind added a nice smug air to that last sentence. “Gotcha,” I thought.
This time there was no hesitation at all. “So what are the odds?”
“What?” I said. I didn’t get it.
I think at that moment, he thought that I not only lacked artificiality, but also brains. He continued, “You said that since there were untold billions and billions of stars, the odds say there has to be life out there. I understand your point. If we know the number of star systems, and we know the odds that any one will have life, then we can easily calculate how many life bearing systems likely exist out there. As you said, you can’t argue with the numbers. But my question remains – what are the odds?”
He might have doubted it, but I knew I had a brain. I knew I had one because it was starting to hurt. I began to stutter again, “Well, I . . . I don’t know for sure. But I do know for sure that life came into existence at least once.”
He took this time to toss out another of his crazy questions. “Have you ever played the lottery? I mean the one where they have ping pong balls in a big container being blown all around.”
There was no reason to not answer truthfully. “Sure”, I said.
“Then imagine one of these machines with a hundred balls all being randomly blown around. What are the odds that the next ball out will be number eighty seven?”
I was no math whiz, but I could do this simple problem. “The odds are one in a hundred.”
He pounced, “How do you know that? I did not say the balls were numbered one to a hundred. They could all be blank. Or they could have letters on them. Or they might have every even number between 648 and 848. Or they could be evenly split between 86’s and 88’s.”
“Or, consider this. Perhaps they were numbered from one to a hundred, but at some point the lottery operator opened the top of the machine and removed number eighty seven. What are the chances it would come up then?”
“It would never come up,” I sighed.
“That’s 100% correct”, he said. “If the owner of the machine manually removed number eighty seven, it will never come up, regardless of how many times you let the machine spit out a ball.”
I understood what he said, but I didn’t really believe I got the point he was trying to make. It just seemed too fantastic. I said, “So, are you claiming that life doesn’t exist out there? That its appearance isn’t even a matter of chance? That the fact that there are billions of stars makes no difference?”
He seemed to be pleased with my summary, “Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Using probabilities to suggest there has to be life out in space can’t be done unless the odds are known. By the way, even Carl Sagan came to this conclusion near the end of his life.”
I was reeling by this point. Was he really implying that there was no life out there at all? We are all alone? I felt a bit of depression begin to form when he finished up this session with, “I am now prepared to provide the next part of my Revelation.”
“There is no life in the universe away from Earth. There never has been. Except for the small amount of life on Earth, all the rest of everything is non-life. Life on Earth is alone in this universe.”
And with that, he left me alone too.
Jane snuck out of work a few minutes early to go “prepare The JanePad for company.” She was the only person I knew who named her apartment like it was Tara outside of old Atlanta. I’d been to her place a few times before for card parties or dinners, so I knew she’d be a good hostess.
As I left work, I was a bit apprehensive about how things would go that night. On the one hand, I wanted to talk about this whole crazy BP thing with my friends. Carrying this burden alone had certainly become tiresome. On the other hand, I knew I’d have to keep my wits about me since I hadn’t told them the whole truth. Writing a book is one thing; receiving a Revelation on the future of man from a disembodied entity is something else altogether.
And on third hand, there was a bit of fear. I realized that I was afraid my friends might think my story was too crazy to be taken seriously and that they were only going through with this meeting so as not to hurt my feelings. I imagined them ending the evening with a group hug and some gentle but heartfelt advice to find other outlets for my creative side. God, I hoped that wouldn’t happen.
I made my way downstairs and fought the crowd of drones leaving the building until I exited into fresh air. I hit the sidewalk and decided to walk to Jane’s place. It was almost a two mile walk, but the weather was still nice and I wanted to use the time to try and clear my head. I had typed up the notes from last night’s Revelation and had passed them out to the members of the team that afternoon. So by now they would know about the latest part of the Revelation. I was sure it would come up tonight.
As I walked, I thought about how BP had known about Jane telling our group about the Revelation. I wondered if he was hovering around and affecting me even when he was not invading my mind directly. For some reason, I had a vision of BP as an invisible parrot sitting on my shoulder, whispering words into my ear.
“Yarr, ye still don’t get it, do ye?” I imagined he said. “Ye just wait and all will be clear in time, Yarrr.” My parrot had a pirate accent.
I shook my head to clear it and I wondered yet again if I was really just going nuts. I rejected that notion again, but my rejection wasn’t quite as firm as before.
By the time I arrived at Jane’s, I had dispensed with my musings, parrots and worries about my sanity as they were replaced with a vague feeling of anticipation; maybe something would come of this after all. Just as I opened the door to the lobby of her apartment building, Matt and Allen came walking up and so we all arrived at Jane’s door at the same time. No one said much during the elevator ride. Allen rang the bell and within two seconds Jane opened the door and said, “Ya’ll come on in”. So it was going to be a southern belle night. I took that as a good sign; she must have felt comfortable enough with this meeting to let her guard down among her friends.
She didn’t look like a southern belle though. She was barefoot and was wearing Yoga pants and a T-shirt. I was pretty sure she had never done a single yoga movement, so this must be her casual but stylish look. Her apartment was small with a combined living room and dining area that was neat as a pin and had a faint smell of springtime. I have never known how girls do this, but their places always seem to have a nice smell without visible use of candles or other smelly things.
“Grab a drink my friends,” she said and we all headed to the counter that separated the living room and kitchen. She had a little bar set up with glasses, ice and a variety of bottles. Allen and I floated a few ice cubes in scotch, Matt had a club soda and Jane opened a beer. After we sat down, it was time to get to work. I admit I was a bit nervous about their reactions to what they had read over the last few days.
To my surprise, it was Matt who jumped in with a very direct question, “I would still like to know exactly where this Revelation is heading. I mean, you are really bashing scientists and rejecting many of their most precious theories which attempt to explain the beginnings of life on Earth. So what is the rest of the Revelation?”
Thinking back, I should not have been surprised that Matt asked basically the same question that he had before in the cafeteria. If the scientists were correct in their theories of how life started, and if they were correct that life was common in the universe and not at all special, then his most prized religious beliefs were put at risk. But my Revelation (he still thought I was creating this stuff), was much closer to something he could get on board with. Science said life was common, I said it was rare and special. Science said life just appeared on its own, while I said life was put on this planet for a purpose. Science said that there is no purpose to the rise of man, just a continuation of evolution. And I said that man was here for a reason and I would reveal that reason in my Revelation. My Revelation seemed to hold out hope that his beliefs might be found to be correct and the beliefs of scientists found to be wanting. I could see why he was so anxious to hear the rest of it.
But I couldn’t reveal it to him for a very simple reason; I had no idea where BP was taking me. It seemed like he was doling out his Revelation a bit at a time and in an order that would make the whole thing clear – at least it would make things clear eventually. Anyway, that’s what I assumed he was doing. But regardless of BP’s plan, I only knew what I knew and they had already read all of that in my notes.
Ever since Jane had suggested this meeting, I had assumed that some circumstance would arise during the evening where I would have to explain why I couldn’t provide any information beyond what was in my notes. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see this coming. After all, an author should know his story before he sits down to put in on paper, shouldn’t he? I just didn’t expect it to come from Matt and I didn’t expect it would be the very first issue that came up.
Still, I had thought it through and so I had an answer ready.
I took a swallow of scotch and said, “Look, I’m new to this book thing and for all I know I might be going about it in totally the wrong way. I don’t want to mislead you by making you think I have some grand master plan I’m working from. Really, I’m just playing it by ear. This book is kind of writing itself. It is just coming to me in fits and starts, and while I have thought quite a bit about where it’s going, I can’t be totally sure so I’d rather not focus on that right now. It could certainly go a number of ways and I’ll know when I know.”
For someone known for his reflexive honesty, I thought this was pretty good. It was the truth after all, but didn’t reveal what I wanted to keep secret.
Matt pursed his lips and frowned. I could tell he wasn’t satisfied with my answer, but what could he do? Allen had a concerned look on his face, but said nothing. As the silence stretched on for ten seconds, everyone turned to look at Jane. We waited to hear what she had to say.
“Okay,” she said. “I’m just trying to figure out exactly how we can help you. You’ve got this little green man who is whispering all these secrets and you’ve got all this scientific stuff and I’ll admit it’s kind of thought provoking, but . . .,” she paused, looking for the right word.
“But it won’t sell worth a damn,” said Allen. Leave it to the salesman to jump to the heart of the matter. I guessed he was picturing himself trying to sell this idea to a publisher, knowing he was going to fail.
I thought that would be the end right there. We’d finish our drinks and be on our way and I’d work on the book alone until I either finished it, or was committed.
But Jane wasn’t done, bless her. “Let start fresh and from the top. In the story, some unknown green man called Brian A. Pearlmitter appears and begins to give you a Revelation for humanity.”
“Close,” I responded. “He just enters my head and seems to speak to me. I’ve never seen him. I doubt that he’s green. He may not even have a body.”
“I see,” she continued. “But he makes some giant promises, doesn’t he? He says his Revelation will explain the meaning of life and why we are here on this planet. He goes about it by tearing apart scientific theories which are believed by just about every scientist. He then demands that you transcribe these sessions so that his Revelation will be, well, revealed to the world – presumably in your book. And it’s that book we are trying to help you with. Is that about it?”
Put that way, it didn’t sound all that good, but I’d known it sounded crazy from the beginning.
She wisely didn’t wait for me to answer, “So what is this book going to be? Is it science fiction? Or philosophy? Or religion?”
I added in my own mind, “Or nonfiction.”
“I’ve got it.” Allen’s face lit up. “He’s trying to start a new religion like that L. Ron Hubbard guy with Scientology. This is certainly no crazier than that, and look at the big bucks that has raked in.” He was getting excited and I thought he might now be picturing himself selling mountains of books and collecting mountains of fees from a growing horde of converts in exchange for additional crumbs of the Revelation.
Jane and I both looked over at Matt because we knew him. This whole idea of setting up a religion just to make money was not one which he would be interested in at all.
Before he could say anything, I jumped in to reassure him, “No, It’s not that way in any manner, shape or form. I just want to tell a good story. We’ll let the readers decide what kind of book it is.”
I hoped this would satisfy Matt, but in truth, I had no idea what kind of book it would end up being. For all I knew, Allen may have been right and BP may have had an L. Ron Hubbard-style plan in store for me all along.
But Matt wasn’t totally ready to move on, so he returned to the Revelation. “As long as we have gone back to the beginning, let’s do the same thing for the Revelation. From what I read, here is a summary of what has been revealed so far.” He handed out a sheet to all of us that he had prepared and printed.
The universe is made up of life and non-life
These are very different things
Non-life is far more common, but life is rare
Life did not start by itself, but was put on Earth by a Creator
The Creator has not created life on other planets, so we are alone
As we read, he recited the five points from memory, speaking each number and pointing to his fingers as he counted.
“Yep,” I said. “That summarizes it nicely except I didn’t say life arrived via a Creator. I said life did not spontaneously appear.” I saw a frown start to form on his face and quickly added, “BP claims he put life here, but we’ll have to see if that claim is justified later.”
This appeared to satisfy him; at least for the moment.
Jane took charge again, “So Matt, what do you think? Are you interested enough in the story to want to find out more? Allen, how about you?”
Matt answered, “Sure. I want to see where this is heading. I just hope it’s somewhere good.” That could mean a number of things, of course.
Now it was Allen’s turn. “Yeah, I like the parts where BP logically destroys widely held scientific beliefs. Like the part about where there are far, far fewer ingredients in that insane turkey recipe than there are in the simplest cell and if those can all come together by themselves to make a cell, why don’t we get turkey dinners making themselves as well? That really is cool. Sure, you can count me in.”
Jane continued, “I feel the same way. There are some very interesting things here. The problem is that they are just a series of events listing the time and place where Roger gets probed by this little green man and then writes his notes. The book needs something to tie it all together in a readable way.”
She got that far away, dreamy look on her face that meant she was thinking hard. I wanted to correct her again that BP was not a little green man and that I had most certainly not been probed in the way that alien abductees reported. No sir – I was sure I had totally not been probed. In any way.
But since she was hard at work, I had the good sense to keep my mouth shut. I’d seen her do this a few times at work when we needed a creative solution to a problem that really did have some importance. It didn’t happen often since most of our days were spent on useless trivia, but it did happen occasionally. I had learned that when she got that far away look, she was exploring every possibility she could conceive of in search of a solution. And I had discovered that she often came up with an idea that had never occurred to anyone else working on the problem. All three of us waited patiently for her to rejoin us back on Planet Earth.
It only took almost a full minute. That was about average in my experience with her “gift.”
She gave us each a look, took a long swallow of beer, and said, “The idea here is write a book, right? But you don’t have any part of a real book. You have a bunch of notes that are detailed, but what you don’t have is a narrative. You don’t have anything to tie it all together into a whole; to make the overall story readable and interesting. So let’s start the actual book.
“Why not put yourself deeper into the story? Explain how it felt the first time the little green man came to probe you. Interweave his Revelations with your personal story and show how one affects the other. Put us in the story too. Have me discover your manuscript in the printer at work and describe our meeting after that happened. Write about doubting yourself – is this real, or am I going crazy?
“But mostly write like this is all really happening. Write it from an autobiographical perspective – it’s all real and you’re just telling the story as it actually happened. I think that would make it more interesting and also help to frame the Revelation in the context of the life of a normal man. At least he was normal until this all started. So, what do ya’ll think?”
I looked down at my glass. It was still almost full of scotch. That must have been why my mind instantly realized the great gift she had just given me. From now on, I could do exactly as she said and that would allow me to freely write about and discuss BP and his sessions with my friends. They would think it was just part of my book, and I wouldn’t have to worry about what parts to talk about and what to withhold for fear of them learning the truth – which was that I really was in contact with a little green man. Now she had me doing it.
“I like it,” said Matt. “It ties everything together and has the potential to turn these notes into an interesting story.”
Allen jumped in, “Me too. If Rog here can pull it off, that is. A writer needs imagination and writing skills. So far we’ve seen the imagination, but Jane is right – now let’s see the writing.”
So it was my turn and they all looked at me. “I think it’s perfect,” I said. Truer words had never been spoken. It did seem to be perfect. “I think I can write the story that way. After all I’m living it.”
Opps. A slip up. “I mean, I think I can make it seem like I’m living it.”
The others smiled happily and reached for their drinks. Jane had been sitting on her feet on the couch, but now she uncoiled and put them on the floor and leaned forward slightly as she stared at me, unblinking, for at least five seconds. I wondered what she was thinking.
The rest of the evening was pretty stress free as we spent the time refilling our glasses and figuring out exactly how they would help on an ongoing basis. Eventually we decided that I would dictate my sessions with BP into the audio recorder app on my phone and then email that file to everyone. They would split up the task of transcribing the notes, leaving me free to concentrate on “telling the story” as they put it.
Matt volunteered to do some internet research on the “science stuff” to make sure I was getting it right. I couldn’t very well say no to his offer since he was a technically oriented programmer and I was a scientifically illiterate junior finance guy. I told him I’d let him know when I could use some help. Actually, BP would come when he wanted, and I really had no idea when that would be, so I had to be vague. Also, I didn’t really need to know anything much about science since BP would explain it in his own way as part of his Revelation.
But I couldn’t tell Matt that. I just thanked them all and we all thanked Jane for being a good host and we left.
The three of us split up when we got down to the street. Matt and Allen went to get a cab while I had to go in the other direction to hop a train back to my place. I had only taken a few steps when my phone rang. The display showed it was a call from Jane. What could she be calling for now?
“Yo,” I answered. She didn’t like it when I answered her calls that way. Normally she’d have some caustic remark for me, but not this time. “Can you come back up here? I want to talk to you about something and I didn’t want it broadcast all over.”
Something was up. If she wanted a private meeting with me, she would normally have told Allen and Matt to leave. Allen could be a bit of a blabbermouth, though. For some reason, she didn’t want them to know about this visit at all. It was strange.
But it was Jane asking, so I said, “Sure, be there in a jiff.” She didn’t like that expression either, so I worked it in whenever I could just to be funny.
I took the elevator back up and when I stepped out, she was waiting at her door for me. She opened it to let me in and told me to sit on the couch. I started to do as I was told. “Not there,” she said, “in the middle.”
I sat and she came over and handed me a fresh scotch. I’d had a couple, but one more wouldn’t hurt. I could see she wanted to say something, but was struggling to get it out. That was definitely not like her. I had an idea. “Why don’t you have one too?”
She looked at the little bar she’d set up and said, “Maybe I will.” She went over and made herself a drink with a healthy amount of scotch and came and sat on the couch with her back against the end so that she was facing me. She put her bare feet on my thighs. Her legs were long, so she had to bend her knees. Her nails were bright red.
She saw my puzzled expression. “This way, if you try to be cute with me, I can give you a kick.” She took a sip of her drink and must have found it acceptable. She took another, bigger one.
I guess it helped, because when she started to speak, it was without hesitation. “Next week, my girlfriend from back home is coming to the city to visit her fiancé. She wants to meet for dinner. I need someone to go with me. I thought I’d ask you.”
This was a first. I’d known Jane for two years. Initially, I thought she was too brash, too quick to criticize, too fast with a scathing comment. She was intimidating. But I toiled next to her every day and soon I realized that I really liked her. If I had a problem, she made me spill it and she often had good advice. It seemed like she could talk to me easily too.
But we had never dated. I’d never kissed her. She was attractive, but she seemed to like older guys and I was happy to have her as a friend – really, as my best friend.
So having her ask me out was strange. I would say “yes” of course, but I wondered why she would ask me.
She saw that in my face and knew what I was thinking. We often knew what the other was going to say. “I thought about asking some of the other guys I know, but they aren’t really right for this – this occasion.”
She paused and I let her decide what to say next. “I was good friends with Cynthia as we grew up. I’ve kept in touch with her via Facebook and I guess we’re still friends, but I haven’t seen her since I was home for Christmas. The problem is that her mom and my mom are close, so anything that happens when I see her immediately gets reported to my mom.”
That didn’t seem to be much of a problem. I told her so.
“You don’t know my mother. Some people think I’m a bit pushy, but she’s on a whole other level. She’s one of a very few female equine veterinarians – horse doctors. But that wasn’t exclusive enough for her. She’s the only female horse vet that specializes in breeding of high end purebred racing horses. To do what she’s does requires a lot of will and a lot of talent. She’s got a lot of both.
“We’re close, but I worry that she’s a bit disappointed in me. She didn’t have me until she was in her thirties and she initially had hopes that I’d be the first or only female something or other. That runs in our family. But I was born too late. By the time I was ready to go to college, women were doing everything. There were no jobs left where I could break ground and be the first. Women were flying planes and designing buildings and breeding horses. She was disappointed, but I was glad to have lots of choices. I never felt the desire to be ‘first.’
“So I went into the business world. I was interested in it, but it’s hard to stand out in a big company. There are lots of smart and hard working people and many times success doesn’t come to those people – instead it goes to those who play the game. Anyway, Mom was very happy when I became the youngest senior financial analyst in the company right before you started. But now she wonders why I’m not CEO or at least VP or something.
“So she’s already on my case about my poor career performance and now she’s going to get a full report on the type of men I hang out with. I really don’t want to have that discussion with her – at least not if Cynthia is doing the reporting. Her fiancé is an intern at some hospital in the city and I understand he’s quite handsome. Mom even likes him – for a man.
“I can’t ask any of the guys I’ve dated. Every one of them is either too shallow or too dumb or too self centered or too something. That’s always been my problem with men – I can’t be around them for more than a few days before I start noticing their faults. Then I try to correct them and, all of a sudden, I’m not around them anymore. Either they break it off, or I do. I admit that I do the breaking more often than not.”
I was feeling a bit uncomfortable. This was bordering on too much information. “But you’ve known me for two years and we’re still good friends.”
She nodded her head in agreement. “That’s the point right there. We’re good friends and that’s it. I can say mean things to you and it doesn’t bruise your male ego in the way it would if I was your girlfriend. I know I can’t always manage to keep my tongue under control, but you know me and I know you, and things just work between us.”
I was puzzled at this logic and she saw it. “Take the other night. You called me to ask if I wanted to go to the game with you. What did I tell you?”
“You said, ‘Like I would’ in a nasty tone and then you hung up on me.”
“See? That’s a great example. I was just getting out of the shower and I had to hurry to get to my phone. I was standing there soaking wet without a stitch on and you wanted to know if I wanted to go to a stupid game. I know I should have been polite, but that’s not me when I’m provoked that way.”
“But the next time I saw you, you treated me totally normally. You weren’t mad or offended or pouting. You knew me. And I wasn’t surprised that you weren’t mad because I knew you. Trust me, if we were lovers, it wouldn’t work that way.
“That’s why I want you to come, Rog. It’s because I know I can trust you. You won’t embarrass yourself or me at dinner by trying to prove how manly and virile you are. You won’t blab what I’ve told you to anyone else. You look like you could be a good catch, so Cynthia will tell my mother that at least I’m not dating Neanderthals. Mom will like it that you’re a bit younger than me. So will you go with me?”
She was trying her best to be polite. She knew my answer, but she did me the courtesy of asking. I smiled at her, “If you’re asking me to step out with you, I guess you’ll be paying.”
That got me a kick. It was gentle and didn’t hurt so I kept it up. “And after this alleged date, whose place shall we go to, yours or mine? I like to get that straight right up front with all my women.”
This time she pulled back both feet for a double kick. Before she could do it, I grabbed her ankles and pulled. She slid until her head was on the seat of the couch.
She laughed and sat up beside me. I put my arm around her. “Sure Jane, I’ll be glad to go with you. And I promise I won’t be dumb and I won’t be vain and I won’t embarrass you. I may steal Cynthia from her future husband, but that’s me. I can’t help it.”
She again laughed at my joke. So I was feeling pretty good as I left. She must have been too, because she gave me a hug and I hugged her back.
BP didn’t show up again for several more days. This wasn’t an unprecedented absence, but it was somewhat unusual. I wondered if he knew about what we had agreed to at Jane’s and had thus been monitoring me.
I was surprised to realize that I was also starting to wonder about when BP would return. Normally, I was happy to have a break from him, but this one was stretching out a bit. My friends were wondering what was going on as well. They were waiting for more Revelations and since I was pretty much caught up, I was waiting for more too. They thought I could come up with the next part whenever I wanted and, of course, I couldn’t. I told them I was so busy with writing the full narrative that I just didn’t have anything more to offer right now. This satisfied them and had the added bonus of being the truth.
Even though I was hoping he’d make an appearance I was still startled when BP finally did show up.
That’s because I was on the train heading to work when I felt him enter my brain. I had a fleeting thought about Jane’s comment that I was being probed. I guess in some way I was.
Before he could say a word, I jumped in with my question, “Do you know how my meeting went with my friends?” If he did know, that meant he’d been watching me like that invisible parrot on my shoulder.
“You organized things in a very clever way so that they would help you create a record of my Revelation without them knowing the truth of my existence.” His voice betrayed no emotion.
“I don’t think I like the idea that you are hovering around or sitting on my shoulder and watching everything that I do. Are you spying on me all the time or just some of the time?” My voice did betray some emotion – annoyance.
His response was almost instantaneous, “It is necessary that I know something of your activities. For example, are you writing my Revelation correctly? Are you spending sufficient time on it? Are your friends helping or hindering the effort?
“But I have no interest in the finer details of your life apart from our joint work on the Revelation. During your average day, I may fleetingly glance in your direction a few times, but I do not have you under any kind of continuous watch. If you call out to me, I may hear you and respond.”
I was searching for a comment that would let him know that I didn’t appreciate being watched this way, but before I could get one out, he came up with his own suggestion, “However, I can see now that you are disturbed about this. It never occurred to me that you would object to such a mild degree of oversight, but now that I know it makes you uncomfortable, let me propose a solution.
“From now on, if I am monitoring you, I’ll create a small pressure on the top of your left shoulder. This will be your signal that I’m there and am monitoring your activities. I can’t actually press you shoulder, of course, but I can make you feel like I am.” He stopped and waited.
That damn parrot. I should have known that idea hadn’t just popped into my head.
I was caught though. This whole thing was so crazy that it seemed reasonable to me that he’d have to keep an eye on me from time to time. I just didn’t want that eye to be staring at me, unblinking, for twenty four hours out of each day.
“Okay, I’ll accept that with this addition; if I raise my right hand and scratch that pressure spot on my shoulder, you’ll instantly stop watching.”
“I agree,” he said and then, this minor crisis averted, he went back to his main purpose. “Now, on to the next part of the Revelation. What do you think it should be about?”
Matt had brought this up to me. I answered BP’s question. “So far you have revealed the beginnings of life on Earth, but how about how it grew here? Did evolution work the way Darwin theorized?”
BP sounded pleased. “Excellent. Your friends are providing some useful support. One day I shall have to thank them personally.”
Now that was something to look forward to.
He continued. “What was the first type of life on the Earth?”
The first answer that came to my mind was dinosaurs, but I quickly discarded that. “Was it some type of sea creature?”
He let out what sounded like a disappointed sigh. I guess I was wearing the dunce cap today.
“No, it was not any sort of creature. The first type of life on Earth was a single cell that quickly evolved into a simple type of plant life. Can you guess why?”
I didn’t feel any pressure on my shoulder, but I did feel the weight of the dunce cap. I liked his Revelations better when he just revealed. This game of twenty questions made my head hurt.
Still, I had to try. “It does make sense that plant life would have been first. I guess that was because it was so simple compared to other life.”
“No life is simple.” He stated. “But you are right; plant life is simpler than other kinds of life.
“But that is not the answer. Plant life was first on Earth because the purpose of plants is to convert non-life into life.”
He didn’t even pause to let me try to come to grips with this concept. “Consider an early Earth that has ten sunflower plants on it. Those plants need to grow tall and they need to reproduce to make other plants. A just sprouted sunflower will only be an inch tall and will weigh an ounce or so. A full grown one can weigh ten pounds and be ten feet tall. The “stuff” needed for this plant to grow is all non-life. It needs air, water, minerals and sunlight.
“So, every morning our sunflower plant receives energy from the sun. It then combines this energy with water and minerals from the ground along with gasses in the air so that these non-life materials are converted into a growing amount of living sunflower. In effect, the plant is a little life creating factory that consumes non-life and converts it into life.”
Now I’ll admit I had never thought of plants this way before, but it really did make sense. For one of the first times, I wondered if I was really starting to buy into his Revelation.
“It is the nature of plants to take non-life and convert it to life. It is the nature of plants to use this process in order to grow and reproduce to make more plants. These natural activities of plants occur because they are directed to do this by their genetic material. They are commanded to be life factories.”
Just when I thought I had found an easy concept to believe in, he clouded it up again. “So does that mean Darwin was right? That our DNA determines who or what we will be and that small differences show up over time which, in turn, makes new and different creatures?”
“Not creatures,” he answered. “But within plants, the answer is yes. Given enough time, they do change and over those long periods, many new types have appeared in nature.”
“My friend Matt won’t be glad to hear this.” I said. “He was very much hoping that you would say that Darwin was wrong.”
“Darwin was wrong in several important ways.” He answered. “We’ll get to that at some point, but he was not wrong in noticing that plants tended to change which led to new types appearing. Have you ever been to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?”
Just when we were in the middle of a serious discussion he took a hard left into Nutville again. What in the world would a dog show have to do with early plants on Earth? I started to object, but realized what was going to happen; somehow he would make this relevant. So I just resigned myself to the inevitable and answered, “No.”
I thought I detected a chuckle in his voice when he continued. I guess he was happy to have me trained like one of the dogs. “This dog show normally has around 175 breeds that are shown. There are all kinds of dogs – big ones, small ones, hairy ones, dogs with floppy ears and dogs with ears that stand up. Dogs that have long tails and dogs that don’t. You get the idea, right?”
“Sure,” I said, “I’ve seen these shows on TV.”
“But what they don’t say on TV is that of those 175 breeds, the majority came into existence within the last two hundred years. Many didn’t exist on this planet until less than fifty years ago and new types are appearing all the time.” He paused then as if he expected a question.
I obliged him. “That’s not really news. Dogs have been crossbred for a long time. I know someone with a Labradoodle, which is a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle. So why is this important?”
“Because of the pace of the change and the agent of that change.” He started to roll now, “Most people think of the evolution of life as a glacially slow process, taking literally billions of years to create the diversity of life on this planet. But under the roof of Madison Square Garden during that dog show, you see an example of evolution running at hyper speed. New characteristics, new breeds, new types of dog life are created at a dizzying pace. The exact same thing has happened with cats; there are new types showing up all the time. And it has happened with cattle, turkeys, chickens, rabbits and any number of other creatures. New types have appeared just in the last hundred years that are bigger and meatier; grow faster and are resistant to many diseases. These types of life simply didn’t exist a very short time ago.
“So here is a question for you. Why have dogs, cats and many other creatures all experienced hyper speed evolutionary changes in the last few hundred years? And why didn’t those changes take a few million years?”
He paused now, expecting an answer. I had put two and two together and knew that he was showing how evolution can happen quickly, but I really hadn’t thought about the reason for it until now. In fact, I hadn’t even considered that there was a discoverable reason until now. This part of the Revelation rolled over me like a wave as, for once, I got it.
“Because man has made it happen.” I stammered.
“Yes!” I thought I detected a note of excitement. “That is exactly right. The evolution of these plants and animals has occurred in the way that it has because it has been directed by humans. Humans wanted different types of dogs and bigger turkeys. Thus, they used their knowledge of life to cause them to evolve into being. That Labradoodle your friend has is a result of the willful acts of humans. There are thousands of new plants and animals in existence today, simply because Man directed that it be so.”
This was certainly a new line of thought for me, but I couldn’t find any obvious fault with it. Still, it couldn’t explain the entire subject of evolution, could it? I asked the next question not in a challenging manner, but simply out of a spirit of curiosity.
“Human intervention only explains a tiny part of evolution. No human can create an animal from a plant. Or an apple tree from a corn plant. Or a human from a monkey. Yet we know animals and apple trees and humans exist. How did these things happen?”
He answered, “An excellent question. But I think we have done enough work for this session. There is quite a lot for you to think about and compile into your opus.”
And with that I could feel that he was gone. For the first time, I really was disappointed for one of these sessions to end. I can see now that I was starting to become interested in his Revelation in a more than academic way – I think I was starting to believe it.
The latest part of BP’s Revelation also left me late for work. Once I returned to my normal self, I realized I had passed the station where I needed to get off to go to the office. I had to wait until the next stop, cross to the other side of the line and catch yet another train to where I should have been thirty minutes ago.
Being late for work was normally not a big deal. The company was not a stickler for watching the time clock. Of course, for many hard workers, this simply meant that there was no clock to tell them to stop working and thus many people ending up putting in some extra time. I wasn’t one of them as I usually arrived promptly at nine and flew out of there at five. Heck, on many days I could have come in at eleven, had a nice lunch at noon and left by two – having done all my required work somewhere along the way.
No one even noticed I was late as I slipped into my cubicle and fired up the Magic Answer Box for another day of writing, web surfing and probably a bit of company business.
No one, that is, except for the all seeing girl next door.
She stuck her head into my cubicle as she walked by, “I’ll be out all morning. Lunch meeting with the group today at 1:15. Be there and do not be late.” She said those last words slowly and distinctly so that even a late arriver like me would know to be on time.
Her voice also had that really abrasive tone that told me that today she would be her evil alter ego, Ms. Bitchy. She got like that every so often as the chore of suffering fools became more than she could civilly bear. Probably some supervisor had asked for some changes in one of her reports or, even worse, someone had questioned one of her numbers. That would make Ms. Bitchy appear every time. She was probably going to be busy proving to some higher up how right she was and, oh yes by the way, how wrong he was. Lunch was likely to be an interesting experience today.
But, even with the prospect of having to deal with Madam B, I had to get focused and get to work – personal work, of course.
I put on a headset with a microphone and spent the next half hour dictating and describing what had happened this morning in my latest session with BP. I had quickly become comfortable with this manner of documenting our “conversations” and found I had an ability to reproduce the words of both BP and myself in an almost verbatim manner. Of all the gifts I could have received, the ability to accurately repeat a conversation was not one I had even known I had. Nor had I ever desired it.
But there it was. I could parrot my conversations with BP very, very well. I wondered if this ability had been in me, unused, all my life, or if BP had some hand in providing this “gift.”
I guess it really didn’t matter since the fact was that doing this audio recording was much easier and quicker than my previous method of writing down notes – especially since the members of my “team” were transcribing them for me. Those written notes also made it much easier for me to write what I thought of as the “full narrative version.”
I sent the audio file via email to Jane, Matt and Allen.
I suspected that they would all listen to the file before our lunch meeting if they had time. Not everyone in the company could spend their mornings dictating Revelations from unknown creatures or catching up on X-Files episodes. Luckily, I could.
Matt could too, as I got an email from him less than an hour later that simply said, “I have GOT to talk to you about this.” I figured he would have a strong reaction to this discussion of evolution, so his message wasn’t much of a surprise.
The morning dragged on and as I got up to take a break from some web surfing, a message from The Old Man came up addressed to me, Matt and Jane.
It simply said, “I might not be at the lunch meeting. I think I’m going to get fired.”
Without even thinking, my hands picked up the phone and I speed dialed Allen.
He must have seen my name on his phone display as he didn’t bother with a greeting. “I guess you got my note,” he said. He sounded slightly weak, not like his usual outgoing self.
“What happened?” was all I could choke out.
“Jerkson called me into his office and told me that now might be a good time to consider retirement. He meant involuntary retirement, of course.”
The sales VP was named Jackson, but Allen thought he was a glad-handing, two faced, back-stabbing, abrasive SOB and always called him Jerkson.
I could tell he wanted to talk. “The thing is, I know my sales have been down this year, but most of my time has gone into three big deals that I just can’t get to close. Any of the three would put me back on track, and all of them want to buy, but they just won’t pull the trigger. There’s always some bean counter on their end who tells them they have to wait until the next quarter or until the moon turns blue or some such excuse. I think it’s simply because none of the finance people want to put their name on the purchase order.”
I knew what he meant. I had done a fair number of spreadsheets that proved we’d make money by not spending any. The bosses really, really liked that kind of analysis.
“So he gave me until the middle of the month to ‘consider my future with the company.’ I know how he works. This is just a counseling session so that the company can claim they bent over backwards to help a pitifully slow employee return to at least minimum levels of performance. But you and I know it’s just an excuse to ease me out the door. They did the same thing to Harman last year.”
Dave Harman “went on to pursue other opportunities” as the company newsletter had reported in the “Hellos and Goodbyes” section. Last I heard, he was working at Wal-Mart.
“Rog, my friend, it looks like this is the end. As much as I hate the idea of getting fired by a jerk like Jerkson, I hate the idea of my friends feeling sorry for me even more.”
And that was it, of course. Allen was a proud man. It wasn’t the money and he didn’t need accolades and sales awards at his age. He just wanted to be respected and to be able to leave on his own terms. I guessed it would take him a long, long time to get over this – if he ever did.
He paused and so did I. The silence hung in the air for several seconds. I stammered, “Allen, I don’t know what to tell you.”
I was at a total loss for words, but then an idea came to me. I told him I was being called away and that I would see him at lunch. I also told him not to worry, but I was sure he wouldn’t take that advice.
What ran through my head when I was talking to Allen wasn’t about him – it was about Jane. In her present mood, she’d go totally ballistic when she heard this news. If I knew her, she’d go to Jackson and ream him a new one. And then she’d likely call up the CEO and demand a meeting; and if that meeting didn’t go her way, there was about a 50/50 chance she’s ream him a new one too. The way this played out in my head was that I would have two friends out of work, not just one.
An uninvited thought floated by in my head, “If Allen and Jane were gone, who would help me with the Revelation?” I was ashamed of myself for such selfishness. I quickly discarded the thought and mentally slapped myself for thinking such a thing. My problems were unimportant now.
My first plan was to find Jane and calm her down before she did something that would get her fired too. I thought she said something about having a meeting all morning on the third floor, so the odds were pretty good she hadn’t seen Allen’s message yet. Still, I had to move fast.
I left my cubicle and found an open elevator. I was just about to push “3” when I had another idea. At first, it seemed ridiculous, but the more I considered it, the more I thought it was worth a try.
I needed a quiet and private place. That wasn’t an easy thing to find in the ant hill that I toiled in. The whole place had an open floor plan and even the supply closets were locked. Finally I decided to go to the gym. The company had more money than they knew what to do with, so in the interest of good employee health outcomes (that’s really the way they talked) we had a full gym that was stocked with many types of exercise equipment. There was also a sauna, and even private rooms with massage chairs in them. Sometimes the company offered massages to those who wanted them. Usually, they were offered early or late in the day when I wasn’t there. I was sure that some people stuck around late or came in early to get the free massage.
Today the massage rooms were empty. I closed the door on one of them and slipped into one of the chairs. These massage chairs were the kind where you put your knees on pads, and then sit down and lean forward so that you face is in this donut shaped pillow thing. The forward angle meant that your weight is on your bent knees and not so much on other parts.
I felt kind of silly in this position, but it would have to do as it was private and there was no place else to sit.
At first I spoke out loud, but softly, “Hello BP. Roger to BP. Come in BP. I need to talk to you. You said if I called you, you may hear. I’m calling now.”
I felt like a radio operator in a World War Two movie, but truthfully I had no idea what the protocol was to contact BP. I’d never done it before so I was just guessing. There I was, bent over on my knees, calling to some unknown entity to ask for his help.
I waited for what seemed like a long time, but in reality was probably about thirty seconds. Then I felt a slight pressure on my left shoulder. That was the signal that he was there! He entered my head in the normal way.
“I am here,” he said. “I can hear you as I always do. Why did you call me today?”
The fact that he didn’t know what had happened meant that he hadn’t been actively watching me. That provided a small level of comfort; it seemed he was probably telling the truth when he said he didn’t watch me all the time.
“Allen is about to get fired because his sales are low. He’s got accounts that are going to buy, but they just haven’t come through. I also think his boss has it in for him since he’s older.”
I figured I might as well lay it all out for him. “When Jane hears about this, she’ll try to help Allen in a way that might also get her fired. I need your help to keep this from happening.”
There was only a short period of silence, “If they are fired, will that have an effect on the publication of my Revelation?”
I felt my blood pressure spike instantly when he said this. The only thing he was concerned with was his master plan to get out his Revelation. Of course, I had thought almost the same thing, but at least I was ashamed of myself for it. My mental voice took on a sharp tone, “Yes it will. Without their help I don’t know if I can even do this. I don’t know if I’ll want to do this.” I added, “Please help me.”
This time his hesitation was much longer. It dragged on and on to the point where I wondered if I had lost the “connection.” However, I could still feel his presence in my head, so I guessed he was thinking about his response.
“I believe I can grant your request,” he said. And that was it. Before I could ask how he was going to accomplish this miracle, he was gone.
Even though I was totally in the dark as to what he was going to do, I felt a strong sense of calm and peace. It was centered on that spot in my head where I’d just heard him. I just knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that things would work out OK with Allen and Jane. I had no idea what actions he was going to take, but I had faith that they would save Allen and Jane – and me and Matt too.
I was the last one to arrive at the cafeteria for our Office Buddy date due to my impromptu session with BP. I skipped the food line altogether and walked over to them. Someone, probably Jane, had picked a table way over in the back so we could talk without being overheard.
As I approached, Allen looked up and smiled at me. It was a brave smile meant to reassure a worried friend that he would be alright. I will always remember that smile; it used all the right muscles in his face, but somehow missed his eyes.
Matt was not in a smiling mood. His lips were compressed and after a slight nod to me, his put his eyes down and stared at the table. He could have been praying. He probably was.
Jane was exactly as I expected. As I approached the group, Jane turned and glared directly at me. Her eyes were full of anger, her chin was set and she was sitting with a stick straight posture. Her glare was intimidating, but I knew the anger was not directed towards me, but towards a world that would let such a thing happen to her friend. I could feel waves of tension from her when I got to her side. She seemed ready to explode.
Instead of sitting, I put my hand on her shoulder and I said in a very calm voice, “It’s going to be alright.”
Jane was my closest friend and I knew her moods as well as anyone, but that touch resulted in some type of communication between us that was deeper and more meaningful that I had ever experienced. I felt her hurt and anger as if they were living things. I wanted to make her feel better, and so I shared my calm and confidence with her and willed her to feel them too.
At this point, I had no idea how it was going to be alright, but I was certain that would be the outcome. Even though my words were simple, she must have felt it too. Because as I willed it, I felt her anger and sadness subside. She was confused now, but no longer looking to get into a fight with company higher-ups.
I then walked around and put my hands on the shoulders of Allen and then Matt. I don’t know why I did this. I’m normally not a touchy/feely kind of guy, but I think the gesture also made them feel better as they also somehow felt my calm. Matt especially had a look of surprise on his face. I felt very close to all of them.
I took my seat and we all sat in silence. That should have been awkward, but it wasn’t. We waited for something to happen.
It didn’t take long at all. Within a couple of minutes, Allen’s phone emitted a tone to let him know he’d received a text message. He picked up the phone and looked at it. His eyes got big and this time they had life in them.
“It’s from Finance. We just got the Colgeran order. That’s one that I’ve been trying to land for over a year! They want to know if we can deliver right away!”
I looked at Jane and saw tears form in her eyes. She was normally too tough to cry, but this was an exception. She was about to say something when the text alert tone came again from Allen’s phone.
Allen read and he looked at us in surprise. “Now they just got both of the other orders I’ve been looking for. Both of them!! I just can’t believe it. It’s a miracle.”
He bowed his head either to collect himself or because it was suddenly spinning. When he looked up, I saw the happiest expression I’d ever seen on his face.
“I can’t believe it. I’ve got to get down there and make sure they handle all the details correctly. I really appreciate all your support, but it looks like you’ll have to put up with me for a while longer. I’ll talk to you later.”
With that he almost floated across the floor and out of the room. I watched him all the way until he was out of sight.
When I looked back at Jane and Matt, they were both staring at me.
Jane spoke first. She sounded confused. “How did that happen?” she asked while looking at me. I didn’t realize it at that moment, but her question implied that I might actually know how this had happened.
I didn’t get a chance to think or even answer before Matt spoke up with another question that was far more to the point and far more problematic.
He said, “What did you do?”
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was in deep trouble. Just moments ago my friends were in an emotional turmoil anticipating that Allen would be fired, and then I came strolling in to spread an air of calm and confidence that everything was going to work out. It was as if I had said, “Don’t worry. Things are under control,” and in spite of themselves, they paused in their sorrow and anger with the hope that I might be right.
And then the call came and Allen was off the hook and off it in a spectacular way. Not only did he get the sale he needed to save his job, but he got all three that he had been working on. I wouldn’t be surprised if this bounty made him the top individual salesman in the company.
This kind of thing just didn’t happen. Not in the real world.
Jane and Matt, being smart people, put two and two together and came to the conclusion that I must have had something to do with what had happened. After all, I seemed to know about it in advance.
My reflex at this time was to be anything but honest. I didn’t want to tell them that BP was real and that I had asked for his help – and that he had provided it. Actually, he had landed me in this position by going way overboard in his help. If Allen had received one sale, everyone would have celebrated his luck. But three? That was beyond luck – it was actually way beyond luck. I watched as they tried to come to grips with this turn of events. It was obvious from the way they were looking at me that they suspected I had a hand in making all this happen.
I was still running through this in my mind as Jane and Matt continued to stare at me, waiting for an answer, when I felt a small pressure on my left shoulder.
BP was here. “Tell them it was me”, he said in my mind. “Tell them I needed the team together and intact to get my Revelation out to mankind. Tell them I am watching over them.”
I couldn’t think of anything else to do so I did just as BP suggested. I sat down, looked them in the eye, and gave it to them just as BP had said in a very solemn way. When I was done, they thought about it for a few seconds and then Jane seemed to relax. She grinned at me and gave me a playful kick under the table. She said, “So Rog, how did you develop this imagination? First the book and now this. I swear, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you actually believed in that little green man.”
The spell was broken and things started to return to normal with smiles all around. The heightened sense of “something” that had been in the air since I arrived was gone.
Jane got up, “I guess I’ll go get ready for my next meeting. I don’t feel much like lunch right now.” And with that she was gone.
Matt didn’t rush to leave however. He and I both got our lunches and ate them in near silence. We were just two friends, comfortable enough with each other not to have to jabber every single second. But I could tell he had something to say and just as we were getting ready to leave, he did.
“Rog, when you came in we were all upset. Jane was angry enough to bite nails and was plotting what she would do to either save Allen or destroy Jackson or both. Allen was trying to console us and was pleading with Jane not to do anything that would damage her career.
“I did what I do – I prayed for all of us. I prayed that Allen would get his sale and if not, that he would not suffer the indignity of being fired. That was what he feared most, I think. I prayed that Jane wouldn’t hurt herself for no reason. She’s too talented to let these idiots get the best of her.
“And I prayed for you. I don’t know why, but I even prayed that things would work out so we could complete that silly book project of yours.
“So I shouldn’t have been all that surprised when Allen got his sales – after all I prayed for exactly that and I believe in the power of prayer. I understand why things worked out. I understand how the sales happened and how Jane was saved because of it.
“But there is one thing I don’t understand and I hope you can explain it to me. When you first arrived at the table, we were all in a state. Jane was about to blurt out something scathing at you for being the last one here. Then you put your hand on her shoulder and she seemed to shrink by about an inch. She immediately lost her anger and became more – well, rational. I felt it too when you touched me. What did you do to make that happen?”
The pressure on my shoulder was gone, so I didn’t have BP to help me with this answer, but I really didn’t need him. “Matt, I didn’t do anything but show concern for a friend. Jane needed to feel a human touch right then and somehow I knew it. I didn’t do anything other than try to reassure her.”
In reality, I also had a lot of questions about that incident. I hadn’t planned on providing a blanket of calm over my emotional friends, but there can be no doubt that I had done something along that line. Perhaps it was BP’s work or perhaps it was something he did through me. Either way, I felt uneasy about it.
Matt seemed to accept my explanation. What else could he do?
As we left the dining room, Matt said, “I’ll be thanking God tonight for this day.”
“That’s a good idea.” I said. It was all I could think of at the moment.
The rest of the day was a blur. I was relieved when it was ten minutes to five and it was time for me to leave. Well, it was a bit early, but I was emotionally drained. All I wanted to do all afternoon was think about what had happened, but I couldn’t even do that as some manager needed a worthless report right away. When I was done, I felt entitled to escape.
I saw Jane only a couple of times as she went from one meeting to another. When I did see her she smiled at me sweetly – which was definitely not normal. Apparently my touch had transformed her mood from Ms. Bitchy to Ms. Congeniality. I had the distinct impression that she was up to something, but I was too exhausted to even try and guess what it might be.
I was very relieved to find an empty seat on the train. I slumped into it and closed my eyes, planning to just veg out on the way home. I sighed and had a mental picture of that scotch bottle in the cabinet. I imagined putting ice in a glass.
I was just about to pour when BP entered my mind.
“Not two times in a day!” I mentally whined. “I’m too tired right now. Check with me tomorrow or next week or something. I may have an opening then.”
“I would think that a more appropriate greeting would be ‘thank you,” he said. His voice was like fingernails on chalkboard.
I saw what was up. I had asked for a favor that he granted and now he wanted me to be all humble and grateful. If that’s what he wanted, fine – anything to make him leave so that I didn’t miss my stop. That scotch bottle was waiting.
“Thank you,” I said. In spite of myself, it wasn’t said in the most gracious manner. In fact, it sounded a bit peevish because I was now in a peevish mood.
Actually, I could feel the amount of peev grow in me by the second. “Why in the world did you make all three companies place those orders? All Allen needed was one nice order and things would have been fine. Everyone would have been happy that Allen’s hard work had paid off and that would have been that. Because all three orders came in within five minutes of each other, my friends are suspicious that I somehow had something to do with getting them. It was just too much – these types of things just don’t happen naturally.”
I was on a roll now. “And that whole thing with me touching Jane and calming her down. She not only felt that, but the others did too. Lord knows where this little episode will lead. So, yeah, thanks. Thanks for putting me in a very uncomfortable position.”
His response was almost instantaneous, “First,” he said, “your point is taken. I admit I am not fully versed in the way these things happen. However, you asked that I get the orders and I did. Still, I should have gone over my intentions with you to make sure I was doing things in the best way. I will do that in the future.”
BP used his most insufferable voice, “As to your ‘uncomfortable position,’ you may as well get used to it. You are the one that has been chosen to bring my Revelation to the world. My words will be published under your name. Yes, it will be my Revelation, but you will be the one who will be the living embodiment of it. I imagine you will get some degree of notoriety. Surely you have thought of this.”
In truth, I hadn’t. I’d been so caught up in the ‘now’ of having BP present this information and my dealing with the trials of trying to actually get it down on paper, that I had never considered what my life would be like when that part ended and the Revelation was released to the world.
If I had thought about it at all, I guess I imagined my post-book life as one of a normal new author – attending a book party with my friends, looking up my name on Amazon to see if I was in the top million – that type of thing. As I considered it now though, I realized that I had envisioned my life post-book as pretty much the same as it was pre-book. After all, the words were BP’s, not mine.
But now he was telling me that my part was going to be a bit more prominent. I wasn’t sure if I wanted that to happen but it still seemed to be a long way off, so I filed that concern away for another day.
“Let us continue with where we left off on evolution,” he said. He really was thoughtless sometimes. Here I was on a train going home after one of the most trying days of my life, and now I had to listen to him lecture on how life on this planet got to where it is now.
I interrupted him, “I’m on my way home. The train ride is only 15 minutes and I don’t want to wake up and find myself way across town an hour from now.”
“Do not worry,” he said. “I will make sure that we are done before your stop, I promise.”
What else could I do? “Let’s get on with this session then,” I said with some resignation.
He started right in. “When we left off last time, I had revealed how plants were the most abundant type of early life on Earth. These plants mutated and evolved over time, which is entirely consistent with Darwin and modern scientific theories.”
“But scientists have a much harder time explaining how elephants, ants and fish evolved from plants. Remember, the prevailing theory is that all life on Earth has a common ancestor. Like many things in science, this is just a guess based on the available evidence filtered through the present level of knowledge. For example, scientists notice that fish and bacteria and plants are all made up of the same basic building blocks of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, so they conclude that all life on Earth sprung from a single source.”
In spite of myself, I was getting interested. Since he had started talking about evolution, I had wondered how he would explain how all the animals and other creatures had appeared over millions of years. My reading showed that scientists had no idea, but were nevertheless certain that they did, in fact, evolve from that single source.
I asked the question that had been on my mind. “So are you saying that science is wrong? That all life on Earth doesn’t have a single common ancestor?” This would be news that Matt would be interested in, for sure. Anything that cast doubt on the godless answers of science would be welcomed by him.
“Not at all,” he said. “In fact, in their belief that all life has a common ancestor on Earth, they are entirely right.”
Now I was confused. One moment he was saying Darwin and science were wrong, and now he was saying that they were right.
He sensed my confusion and asked a question, “What are the stages of growth for a tomato plant?”
I knew I really was tired because I started to actually think of them before I realized this was another one of his ‘off the wall’ questions. There was therefore no need for me to answer since he knew where he was heading and I had no idea.
“We start with a seed, do we not? A tomato seed is a very small, hard seed with one end being round and the other pointed. It’s thousands of times smaller than a tomato, is not red and if you didn’t know otherwise, you would have no idea it was a stage of a tomato.
“Plant our little seed and up comes a tomato seedling. This is a green leafy plant; however it looks nothing like a seed or a tomato. It is, however, the next stage in the life of the tomato.
“Once our plant has grown, we get flowers. These flowers look nothing like seeds or the green stems and leaves of the plant. But once again, they are part of the creation of the tomato.
“That brings us to the last stage, the formation of the tomato itself. These can weigh as much as a pound, have soft flesh and are a very useful fruit. If you didn’t already know, you’d never guess that beautiful red fruit came from a pretty flower, which came from a green, leafy stem, which came from a hard, pointed seed.”
He paused for a couple of seconds to let that sink in, “And that seed which starts the whole cycle, has built into it the instructions and capability to create the end product of its instructions – the tomato fruit.”
I thought I saw where this was going. I had to admit his crazy examples could sometimes explain things in a understandable way. “So you are saying that that first life on Earth actually did contain all the instructions and all the capability to evolve into the life forms that exist here today? That when the time was right, those first plants evolved into the first animals? And every other creature appeared based on the instructions built into that first living thing?”
And before he could answer, I came to the inevitable conclusion. “And that means science and Darwin are right that all life on the planet has evolved from a single beginning based on survival of the fittest.”
Things had been going well until this point.
His voice contained a hint of disappointment when he said, “No. That is not it at all. Let me give you the next part of my Revelation now in context with the earlier parts.”
“The universe is made up of two things – life and non-life
“Non-life is common, but life is rare
“Life exists only on the Earth.
“Life did not randomly appear on the Earth, but was put here for a reason
“Here is the next part: The initial seeding of life on Earth contained instructions that ensured the eventual creation of many different life forms, plant and animal.
“Those initial instructions were designed to eventually result in a species of self aware, sentient life forms – humans.”
I was stunned. “So you are saying that life was purposely put on this planet almost four billion years ago for the express purpose of creating humanity?”
“Yes, that is it exactly,” he said. “You will probably think of early life as being programmed to progress in a certain way – like our tomato plant. But that is not exactly correct since ‘being programmed’ implies that each step along the way is planned and executed in turn. A better way of thinking about what actually happened is to think of the evolution of life as being directed. It is sent off in the specific direction and we know it will eventually arrive at our desired destination, but we do not know exactly how it will get there. There are reasons for that uncertainty, as we will discuss later.”
And with that, the train stopped at my station, right on time. Suddenly free of BP, I got up and walked home. I was very, very tired since this had been one of the longest and most stressful days of my life. As I relaxed with my scotch, I thought of Allen and Jane and of Matt. I fell asleep in my chair thinking about Matt’s question – “What did you do?”
The next morning was hectic. I awoke a few minutes early from a dream about plants evolving into bunnies that were sentient and could talk. I had always had crazy dreams and it occurred to me that this one was not a whole lot crazier than my real life at the moment.
I spent my time before leaving for work drinking coffee and dictating the two parts of BP’s Revelations that I had experienced or better, endured, yesterday. I was sure the team would be surprised that I had suddenly become such a prolific writer – especially with everything else that had happened yesterday with Allen and yes, with me.
I was careful to limit my dictation only to the verbatim sayings of BP and me, along with my general comments and observations. I didn’t want to get into the other happenings of the day, such as how I had asked BP to help Allen. That would have opened up too many areas that I didn’t want to explore. I knew I’d had to deal with it at some point if I let my friends read the complete story of these events in the full narrative version that I was keeping to myself. But that point wasn’t now and I was glad to put it off until another day.
I also spent some time thinking about what BP had just revealed. It was two things really and both, if they were true, would be monumental.
First was this whole business of the implantation of life on Earth. While BP hadn’t used the word ‘implantation,’ it seemed appropriate. Given what he said, it appeared that one of the great mysteries of evolutionary science – exactly how did animals, for example, evolve from plants – had been explained. It seemed logical that the initial life that was put on Earth had the capability and was directed to change over time into all the major types of life that exist. Thus, when it was time, plants appeared and started to evolve and, when it was time, animals appeared and started their own evolutionary path. Just like, when the time was right, tomatoes appeared from flowers.
But one thing was clear – once an animal evolutionary line appeared on Earth, it could only evolve into new or different animals. It was simple and elegant and really did fill in the holes in evolution.
The second major part of the Revelation was far more shattering – that all this, the seeding of life and then almost four billion years of evolution was all directed. It was all designed to do one thing – to result in the creation of human beings.
Now, I knew for sure that Matt would be more than intrigued with this idea. It actually fit pretty closely with his beliefs; a creator puts life on Earth, and through various stages, manages the appearance of all forms of life culminating in the creation of Man.
However, this wasn’t the end of BP’s Revelation and I sensed that Matt’s happiness with it might not continue at such a high level as more was revealed. I had no idea how much more this was going to be, but I suspected there was quite a lot – including the big Revelation as to why all this happened. Strangely, I felt kind of eager.
Finally I was dressed and hit the street for the short walk to the train station.
I didn’t have dozens of people I would consider friends, but I had enough. Most were my age or thereabouts and, as far as I knew, I was the only one who liked to read a newspaper. I would usually pick one up at the newsstand at the entrance to the train station and read it on the ride in and finish it on my way home – at least I did when BP wasn’t around.
I gave the guy my two bucks and got seventy five cents in change. I was just about to drop the three quarters in my pocket when I spotted a blind beggar just off to the right, sitting in the shadows of the light that came from the entrance to the station. Without thinking, I walked over and dropped the coins in her cup along with a ten dollar bill I’d planned on using for lunch. I normally don’t give to beggars because many of them are working scams, but for some reason I knew this lady really was blind and in need of some help. What I gave her wasn’t much, but it was all I had to give.
She heard my footsteps and raised her head as she listened for the clink of the coins. She was missing a front tooth and her hair was very stringy. I noticed some healed scars on her wrist. “My Lord,” I thought.
She then smiled and said simply, “Bless you.”
I was startled at her words, and yet, right then, staring at this pitiful blind woman, I felt a rush of thanks for the sincere blessing she had just given me. Almost before I knew it, I put my hand on her shoulder and gave it a small squeeze of encouragement. I wouldn’t normally do such a thing, especially with strangers, but it seemed like the right thing at that moment and I think both of us felt at least a little better. I left her and walked toward my train.
By the time I arrived at the loading area, the train was waiting and I rushed to get on. I had forgotten all about my small display of generosity and was focused on the day ahead. As I entered the train, I heard a commotion from back at the entrance to the station. There seemed to be screams and crying. Oh well, it’s the city. You hear all kinds of things.
I arrived at the office not exactly bright eyed and bushy tailed, but at least mostly recovered from the incredibly stressful day I’d had yesterday. Yet, I still felt a bit, well, fragile is the word, I guess. That strange feeling in my head seemed just a bit more pronounced this morning too. The events of yesterday hadn’t helped it, for sure.
However, I was a generally optimistic person, and so was actually looking forward to getting a cup of free company coffee and then spending the entire morning surfing to whatever sites struck my fancy. It was a nice dream, but that’s all it was, since when I actually got to my cubicle, Jane was sitting at my desk.
Without a word of explanation or greeting, she said, “Matt called four times. He really, really, really wants to talk to you.”
I felt a squirt of ulcer juice hit my stomach. Matt could be a bit needy at times and he likely had a large number of questions about the latest part of the Revelation that I could not answer.
But she wasn’t done, “Did you hear about Jackson?”
Here I was standing, while she was sitting in my chair. I thought of a couple of things to say, but settled for “no.”
“It seems that he had told everyone at the top of the food chain that Allen could not possibly get those important sales and that he had to be shoved out so that Jackson could take over those accounts himself and – oh by the way – he would save the company a lot of money in commissions. Well, that was really stabbing Allen – and the other sales people too – in the back. As soon as Jackson’s scheme became known, a number of them felt free to tell the Big Bosses what they thought of Jackson. He was canned late yesterday. I understand it was quite a scene.”
That really was news. A guy like Jackson was a scheming hypocrite, but that type normally covered their tracks pretty well.
“I wonder how the other sales guys knew he was planning on stealing accounts from the sales force,” I said. I doubt the bosses would have said anything, since if Jackson’s scheme had worked, they would be the ones who would reap the benefit.
“Well,” Jane put on her brightest smile, “It appears that some executive type asked a Senior Financial Analyst to report on how much the company would save if these accounts were brought in house. I can only guess that the analyst may have let slip little parts of this plan to the sales people.” She paused for a moment. “Or maybe they just figured it out on their own. You never know.”
The smile told me everything. If you could pick an enemy in this company, you would not want to pick Jane Mitchell.
Thankfully, she was my friend and not my enemy, so I felt safe in asking, “Why are you in my cubicle?”
Again, she smiled at me in an unusually sweet way. I wondered if I should leave. “Because I want to talk to you. Sit down.”
That was easier said than done since she was in my chair. I had another chair in the cubicle, but I kept old reports piled on it so that bosses and other time wasters wouldn’t be tempted to sit and chat during the infrequent times they visited me.
Jane just sat there and waited, and since it appeared there was no other way, I moved the stacks of reports onto a new pile on the floor and sat down.
For the first time I noticed that she was wearing a skirt today. That was only slightly unusual for her. She could be quite stylish if she wanted to be and I guessed that today was one of those days. The skirt was not really all that short, but was certainly cut above the knee so that it showed off her tanned legs. Tanned? I didn’t know she did that. It felt a bit strange to think of Jane like that. I had always thought of her as a good friend – probably my best friend. I wasn’t used to thinking of her in any other way.
As I got seated she crossed her legs and the skirt rode up just a small amount. I had another twinge from my lizard brain suggesting that it might be a good time to flee. Something was up for sure.
“Roger,” she said. “We’ve been friends for a long time, haven’t we?”
That was not a good way to start most conversations. I knew things were likely to go downhill from here, but I couldn’t guess how. I waited for her to go on, but things had to be done her way, so I had to actually say something. I finally answered, “Sure.” It was all I could think to say.
“So will you be honest with me, as a friend? No cute stuff or anything?” Again she waited for an answer. Again, I wished she would just get on with it, but finally had to answer with, “Sure I will.”
“Okay,” she said as she uncrossed her legs and slid forward to get a bit closer to me so she could look me directly in the eye. The skirt rode up some more like it had a life of its own. I was worried that she would notice that I was noticing.
“There is something strange going on with you. First, you start writing this book and then we find out it’s about the meaning of life in the universe. I mean, come on, what kind of topic is that for a new writer?”
For once she wasn’t expecting an answer as she went on. “And what about this BP character? You created him so that not only does he provide the Revelation as you call it, but he does it in a way that actually makes some kind of weird sense. I’ve know you well enough to know that you’re no science wiz, and yet you write about it like you know a lot about it.
“And now you play some part in Allen having the biggest sales day for any salesperson in the history of the company when just hours before, he had one leg out the door. Don’t bother to deny it; I know you pulled some kind of rabbit out of your hat to make that happen. I don’t know how you did it, but I will find out. Trust me on that.”
At that moment, I did indeed trust her on that point. She would find out somehow; probably by making me tell her. I wanted to flee even more.
“But that’s not all. Yesterday, you came to lunch all mellow and confident and you managed to mellow us all out even before we knew that Allen had received his orders. I felt that and so did the others. I’ve been thinking a lot about it too. It was a very strange feeling.
“So tell me now. Tell me what is going on.”
She leaned back slightly and I took the opportunity to look away from her. Unfortunately my eyes fell again to the hem of her skirt which had something managed to move north by another small amount. She uncrossed her legs.
At that moment, I should have been furiously thinking of a way to deal with this. My mind should have been coming up with a strategy to maintain the even keel of my life and Jane’s too. I should have been considering whether it was possible to escape from this direct confrontation with lies, or deciding if half truths would do the trick.
But I did none of that. My mind seemed to have shut down from overload and contained what seemed like exactly nothing, as I couldn’t think of a single thing. I hadn’t realized it until that moment, but the strain of dealing with BP’s demands, and of juggling my cover stories so that my friends wouldn’t think I had totally lost my mind, had taken their toll on me. For quite a while, I had been able to handle this constant strain as background noise in my life, and at times had even been able to ignore it.
Up until now, that is. The combination of Jane’s confrontation, the events of yesterday with Allen, Matt’s calls, that damn skirt, and, yes, that moment when I did seem to calm my friends in some unexplainable way, all came together to push me over the edge. My mind had shut down and all I felt were raw emotions running together like I had devolved into some primitive pre-human creature. I felt sadness and anger and fear all at once. It was all too much and I then did something I hadn’t done in a long time.
Right there in front of Jane, near the opening to my cubicle where anyone could walk by at any time, I leaned forward so that I was knee to knee with her. I took Jane’s hands in mine and bowed my head so that my forehead was on her hands – and then I cried deeply and silently.
Bless her; she didn’t pull away in disgust. She didn’t move at all until I was done. It seemed like a long time, but it was actually less than a minute until I got myself under control. I felt my brain sputter to life as my ability to think returned. I raised my head, wondering if I would see disgust or embarrassment or pity on her face. I prayed right then that it wouldn’t be pity.
But as I looked at her, I didn’t see any of them. Instead, I saw a combination of compassion and wonder and perhaps even a bit of happiness.
She squeezed my hands and said the last thing I would have guessed, “This thing with BP. It’s real, isn’t it?”
Notice that Jane didn’t say, “You really think that thing with BP is real, don’t you?” or “I’m sure he seems real to you.” She could have easily done that and implied that my encounters with BP were just my imagination, or worse, symptoms of a mental illness. I wouldn’t have blamed her for that since I had worried about the same thing. But she had come to the conclusion that I was telling the truth about my encounters – there was no accusation of insanity, no hint of pity for me, no condescending pat on the head. Jane, good friend that she was, proved it that day by simply believing in me.
I hesitated for a moment. My mind was back on track, chugging along as well as it ever did, so I was able to realize that this was a turning point. I could try and make up yet another layer of a cover story to explain what was happening to me, or I could simply shrug off the burden and tell the truth – or as much of the truth as I knew.
It didn’t take long for me to make the decision. “Yes, it is true. I am being visited by BP. I am receiving information that he calls his Revelation. He does promise to explain why we are here and what it all means. BP is the one who makes all the arguments against what most people consider to be settled science. I’m just writing it all down so that others can know it as well. I’m doing it in the way you suggested; as a narrative story so that people can see just how it happened.”
Now that I had started, it felt good to simply tell the truth. “I haven’t been honest with you and Matt and Allen. I needed your help and support, but I was sure you would think I was totally nuts if I told the full truth, so I created this story that I was writing a fiction novel. I am writing a book, but it’s not fiction. It’s more like a diary with a record of my thoughts and actions combined with the Revelation. Maybe when this is all over, I’ll remove all the stuff about me and my life. I don’t know.”
I thought that I was about finished with my confession, but then I blurted out something that had been worrying me for a while. I realized that this worry tried to bubble up to my consciousness often, but that I had mostly managed to push it back down. Until now, that is. Now it just came out on its own.
“And I think something is happening to me. I just don’t feel the same as I did in some subtle way – in my head, I mean. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure it’s not my imagination. Maybe these sessions with BP are causing it, but all I know is that I feel different somehow.”
Once again, I thought I was done, but I had a few more words. “And I wouldn’t blame you or Matt or Allen if you never spoke to me again. I should have never involved you in this; especially without leveling with you. For that, I’m sorry.”
I still had Jane’s hands in mine, but I had made my confession with my eyes cast downward. I now realized that I was staring right at her thighs. I raised my head to look at her face.
She smiled and it was a wonderful sight.
Just at that time, a co-worker came by to drop off some papers and saw us sitting there, knee to knee, holding hands and just gazing at each other. He grinned and said, “Jez, get a room you two,” and left chuckling.
That broke the spell. I released her hands and sat back in my chair. Jane tugged her skirt down a fraction and backed up slightly. She smiled at me again and, in an instant, I knew she was pleased to have become a part of whatever BP was doing with his Revelation. From now on, I knew we’d be in this together.
“I realized that there was something more going on with you just this morning. That’s why I was in your office – so I could ask you about it and make you tell the truth. Thank you for confirming my suspicions.”
“It’s still so new to me and I need some time to think it through, but I’m almost sure what I want the next step to be.”
My brain no longer felt more than normally sluggish, but I struggled to comprehend what she had just said. Was she going to call a meeting with the others and make me come clean with them? Was she going to volunteer to become a part of the cover-up of what was really going on?
I realized I had no idea what she thought the next step would be and couldn’t even hazard a guess. That was fortunate because if I could have had one hundred guesses, I would not have predicted what she said next.
“I think I want to have a visit with that little green man, BP,” she said.
The rest of that day at work was a blur. Jane was off attending meetings and doing work stuff that I managed to avoid because I just wasn’t up to it. I sat and stared at my computer screen and mostly just played solitaire. I didn’t even feel like surfing to some of my favorite sites. I did call Matt back though. He had called four times and so I was prepared for him to be needy on the phone. He’s an emotional guy and obviously this whole BP thing was eating at him.
Well, “Join the club,” I thought. And unless something really unexpected happened, I was guessing that Matt was going to be even less happy with both me and with BP in the future.
He answered right away and started out just as I expected. “Rog, this book is creeping me out. I read all these “Revelations” again last night and I don’t know – I think you might want to come up with another idea for the book.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked. There was a hint of exasperation in my voice. I really didn’t need this right now.
“Because it’s just not right somehow. At first I thought you were just taking some swipes at scientific theories that I think make no sense. But I’m not sure where this thing is heading and I’m worried about this book being another cult thing like Allen said – you know, the Hubbard guy.
“I realize I asked you before, but I think I need to understand more about this – about where it’s heading, I mean. Can’t you just tell me the big, final Revelation? What are you going to say is the reason we are all here? I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’m worried. I don’t want to be a part of something that turns out to be blasphemous.”
Matt was careful to live his life based on the rules of his religion and I could see how he wouldn’t want to get into a situation where he would be thanked on the dedication page for a book that would belittle that religion. The problem was that I had no idea where BP was taking us with his Revelation, so how could I answer Matt’s question? The last time he had asked, I opted for the truth and told him I wasn’t sure what was going to be revealed. I implied that I hadn’t decided on it yet and Matt accepted my explanation. I didn’t think he’d be too accepting of another such mild brush off. I decided it was time for a bit more boldness.
“Matt, I really do appreciate all the help that you and Jane and Allen have been with this book, but I’m still not totally sure of what the ending will reveal. But I have come to one strong conclusion; I won’t talk about it with any of my friends, or with anyone else. I just need to finish writing the whole Revelation before I receive advice, and yes, criticism, for my writing. If you want to take a break or drop out at any time I’ll understand completely and you’ll still be one of my best buds, but I can’t have my ending up for discussion before I write it. That would make the writing of the book much, much more difficult for me. I just need to plow on and get it all down in order – the beginning first and then the middle and only then the end. After that, you and everyone can have their say.”
I had copped a bit of an artist’s attitude with him, but after the morning I had, I couldn’t really blame myself. I sure didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I wanted the call to be over so I could shut down my brain and play another hand of solitaire.
“OK,” he said. “I’ll hang in to see where it’s heading. It’s just on my mind, that’s all.” He paused and then used a brave voice, “You keep writing and I’ll keep reading.”
I was satisfied with how I had handled that mini crisis and so I was able to set aside my worries about Matt – for now at least. After another thirty games of solitaire it was finally five o’clock. I gathered my things and left in record time. The train was crowded and uncomfortable and people kept rubbing against me so that by the time I arrived home, I smelled like a mixture of booze and ladies perfume. What a perfect day this had been – perfectly awful that is.
So, I was in a bad mood when I poured myself a well deserved scotch. As the smoky liquid worked its magic, I was finally calm enough to think rationally about all that had happened with Allen and now Jane and Matt. The more I thought of the mess that was my life, the less relaxed I became and the more worked up I got. Damn that BP. He’s the one who was causing my comfortable little life to spin out of control. He’s the one who was making me the center of attention for my friends. I never wanted any of this.
Right at that moment, I wished he would come into my head. I wanted him there so I could talk to him. I knew just what I would say. I would resign. I’d tell him to take a hike; to find some other person to aggravate with his Revelation. After all, I had done darn well with my life before he ever showed up. I had a good job in a good company that let me do pretty much whatever I wanted for most of my day. How can you top that?
Now thanks to BP, I had to get up early and stay up late to work on a book about a subject that I know nothing about and wished I had never heard of. I didn’t ask to be the one to receive his Revelation. I didn’t ask to have my life turned upside down; to have my nerves shredded to the point where I broke down in tears while talking to my best friend. If I had known what I know now, I would never have agreed to start down this path. I would have told BP to buzz off and my simple and happy life would have continued uninterrupted. Why, oh why, had I been chosen to carry this burden?
“Because you are the best one to bring my Revelation to the world,” BP said. I had been so involved in my self pity party that I hadn’t noticed when he entered my head.
And by God, he had the nerve to show up now, right when the scotch was kicking in and I was feeling really sorry for myself.
“And because you are faithful and good to your friends and to me, and I suspect, even to all those who will learn of my Revelation through you. I am proud of you.”
I couldn’t think of another time when he had paid me such a simple and seemingly sincere compliment. My anger started to drain away so that all I was left with was my despair.
“You don’t know what I’ve been through the last few days – heck, ever since this whole thing started. My friends now think I’m some kind of freak. Matt thinks I’m starting a new religion, and today Jane told me she knows you are real and not just part of a story I’m writing. She wants to meet you in person.
“I don’t know how much more of this I can take, BP. Sure, I can remember and write down your words, but I don’t know if I can do that and continue to be a normal person, with a normal job and normal friends. Maybe I need to just move away to a forest somewhere and live in a tent until you are finished with me.”
I had never spent a night in a tent in my life, but somehow this seemed like a great idea. I had a vision where I saw myself coming out of my tent to watch the sunrise while wearing a long white robe. I was on a mountain. I saw myself writing down the latest parts of the Revelation while I was eating berries from a nearby bush. I was alone and no one thought I was strange. I was content and all my problems were behind me.
BP brought me back to reality. “I think it might be time for me to meet your friends. I did not anticipate that they would play such a direct role in our endeavor, but since they are, I suppose they should get to know me. I think that would reduce the burden on you since you would no longer have to conceal my reality from them. I will consider what to do and will let you know soon as to how I would like to proceed.”
Well, wasn’t that just great? He will deign to reveal himself so that his puppet, me, can do his work more efficiently. I didn’t know what else to say and he didn’t give me time to think of anything.
“Now,” he continued, “let us finish our conversation about evolution, shall we? Specifically, let us deal with our old friend, Mr. Darwin.”
So that was it? My life was spiraling out of control, and he gave it thirty seconds of attention and now we are back to his Revelation? My anger fought its way back and took the place of my despair.
“Hold on with the Darwin,” I said. “I had almost made up my mind to tell you to find another poor fool to receive your Revelation. I may be faithful and good as you say, but I’m also a wee bit selfish and by that I mean I don’t want to go crazy and totally disrupt my life. You’ve got to help me here. Why am I doing this? Where is it heading? Matt is worried about what I will reveal, but his worry is nothing compared to mine. You’re asking me to do so much based on nothing but faith, and so far I’ve gone along. But now I need to believe that turning my life upside down will lead to something that is important. If you will answer no other question, please at least tell me this – why should I go on?”
His pause was long enough that I started to wonder if he had left in disgust. I started to feel slightly ashamed and wondered if my whining had been too much for him. However, he hadn’t left and eventually he answered.
“You have a lot of questions and that is because there is so much you do not yet know. Please understand that I am revealing everything to you. In fact, I will reveal more than you can possibly dream about at this time. The problem is that my Revelation needs to be provided in a specific order as one piece will build upon another. You can look back and see how that has been the case already. I really cannot just ‘jump to the end’ as you might say. I must proceed in my own way. You will better understand that later.
“As to why you should go on; the reason is the Revelation itself. I am not giving you this information just so you can have some fun facts to know and tell. I am giving you this Revelation and I am asking that you write it down so that mankind will know why it is on this planet, will understand the meaning of it all, and will then hopefully act on that knowledge.
“That is why I am here and that is why you are receiving my Revelation. It is easy to get caught up in comparatively small issues when you do not yet see the big picture. Soon you will understand and so will some of your fellow humans. I give you my word on that.
“Until then, I can only ask that you trust in me. Trust that I am telling you the truth, for why should I lie? Man has a very special purpose in the universe and I am going to reveal to you what that purpose is. You have been the one chosen to receive this knowledge. You will then multiply this message a hundred times as it gets out into the world. That is why you should continue.”
My emotions threatened to overwhelm me, but I wrestled them under control. I felt better, more capable and less frightened. And certainly less angry – as a faithful and good person should be.
“OK,” I said. “I’ll continue at least for the moment.” After all, my sanity and life were small potatoes compared to what he promised to reveal, so I decided that I may as well get over my angst. At least that was what I thought he was implying. I shrugged and resigned myself to my fate. “I’m ready for Darwin now. Give it to me.”
And so he did.
He started right in. “Scientists who believe in Darwinism almost have it right. They believe that life started in a specific spot on Earth long ago. That is right. They believe that life, over long periods of time, changed and expanded into all the varieties we see today. That is also correct.
“But they believe that these changes are due to life’s need to adapt to changes in its environment so that it can survive. This is the Survival of the Fittest Theory put forth by Darwin and believed by the great majority of scientists. This theory, in reality, can explain only a small part of the changes that have occurred with life – perhaps the smallest part.
“Darwin got off on the wrong track when he speculated that living things evolved slowly in response to a changing environment – that they change gradually over millions of years. That is simply not right or at least not right in explaining why humans are here.
I felt myself being drawn into this argument. Volcanoes, meteors, droughts, floods and all kinds of events can cause very rapid environmental change. I still had a question, “But we know of creatures that have evolved with specific survival adaptations like the giraffe. His long neck allows him to eat from the tops of trees. Wouldn’t that be an example of Darwin’s survival of the fittest?”
“No it is not. If long necks were needed, how do young giraffes survive? How do all the other creatures without long necks continue to live?
“There are really two main things that determine whether various types of life survive. The first is that it should not have traits that are destructive to life and therefore get selected against. How many slow rabbits are there? If some slow rabbits are born, they would tend to get eaten first and thus the slow branch of the rabbit family tree would quickly become extinct. Long necks on giraffes make no survival difference at all and thus continue to exist.
“The second is that the survival of a certain type of life can often be simply a matter of chance. Lucky ones live and unlucky ones do not. Take the wooly mammoth for example. It survived for at least 250 centuries under all kinds of conditions and could easily live today, but it was unlucky enough to have its normal habitat turn cold. It was unlucky to make bad choices as to which direction to wander – choosing colder areas instead of warmer areas in search of food. And finally, it was unlucky that early humans found mammoths to be delicious.”
“I get all that. But how can you call that survival of the lucky? That makes no sense.”
His answer was not one I expected. “What is the luckiest type of life form on Earth?”
As always when he asked one of these ridiculous questions, my first reflex was to try and guess the answer. “Humans, I guess,” was what I said.
His voice had a smile in it when he spoke, “Actually, it is not lucky that humans exist. That was planned and is the result of directed but random evolutionary events. Luck played no part in it.
“No, humans are not here due to luck, but many other creatures are. Take the panda for example. Here is a creature that has evolved a whole series of traits that are not optimum for survival, and yet it survives. If Darwin were right, pandas would have been extinct long ago as they are some of the least fit creatures on the planet.
“First, every type of living thing has to get nourishment and a varied diet helps survival when some specific type of food is unavailable due to drought, for example. Pandas, however, eat only a certain type of bamboo which grows in a very small area of the world. Pandas are lucky that they are able to continue to find their bamboo and that some drought or bamboo virus has not wiped their only source of food – and them – off the face of the earth.
“But that is not all. This type of bamboo provides very little nourishment so they have to eat just about every waking hour in order to get enough nutrition to stay alive. Pandas are extremely lucky that mountain lions did not evolve a liking for the cover offered by this type of bamboo. If they had, pandas would have been resigned to history long ago.
“A panda would not stand much of a chance against a hungry mountain lion (or most other predators for that matter) because it is not a fierce fighter. In fact, if confronted, it will try to flee up a tree, but if that doesn’t work, pandas tend to put their paws up over their eyes so they cannot see the threat. I think you can see why they would have to be very lucky to survive this behavior.
“However, as long as pandas multiply, they can withstand a lot of bad behavior. But, they are not very good at that either. Female pandas are only fertile for about 2 days a year and the males are not always in the mood during those days. Thus, their fertility rate is very low and they are very lucky to still be around because of it.
“Finally, there is one very significant remaining reason why pandas are one of the luckiest creatures on the planet – they look cute to humans. With all they have going against them, pandas are very lucky that humans like them and will work hard to help them survive. While there are many people who believe that human behavior, especially in the distant past, is responsible for the precarious nature of the panda’s continued existence, think about this: Would pandas have been better off if they had been noticed and liked by humans or by wolves? I would say that they are very lucky that humans have taken an interest in them.”
Once again he was using the theme of humans taking care of things. I felt this was important in the context of why we were here, but couldn’t come up with the exact connection. I just didn’t know enough yet.
There was a time in most of our sessions where I knew I had just about had enough and we would normally end at about that time. It wasn’t physically demanding to have BP rooting around in my brain, but it was mentally fatiguing. I was starting to feel a bit weary, but just had to ask one more question.
“OK, I can see how pandas survived not by adapting, but by being lucky. I can see how Darwin didn’t grasp this. But I still don’t understand the actual mechanism of evolution. If it wasn’t survival of the fittest, what was it? And you keep saying that the purpose of evolution was to create mankind, but you also say that this creation happened in a random manner over billions of years. I just don’t understand how it could be both directed and random.”
As usual, BP had an answer ready.
“We will spend time on this subject in the future, but for now, consider a herd of goats.”
Twice in one session with the crazy non-sequiturs. This was a record.
“Let us say you have a field that is overgrown with grass and other plant life. You want to tidy up the field. You have a hand scythe that you can use to cut down all the brush, but it will take you many hours of hard work. Is there any other way?”
“The goats?” was all I said.
“Of course. You put goats in the field and then come back in a couple of days to find your field nicely cleaned up.
“But do you know exactly how the goats will clear the field? Do you know which goat will eat which plant? Do you know if they will stay together in a single bunch as they eat, or if they will scatter all over the field? You do not even know exactly how long they will take to clear the field; some may be energetic in their eating and others more content to just eat when they feel like it.
“No, you do not know any of this. You are simply depending on the fact that goats will act like goats and that they will clear the field. Do you understand how this works? You introduce goats into your field knowing that they will clear it, but the actual actions that result in the clearing of the field are totally unknown and random. It cannot be predicted, but the end result can be.
“That is what I am talking about with Evolution. Life was put on the planet. It was destined to evolve and eventually lead to the appearance of humans. The actual steps along the way were unknown and, in fact, unknowable, but the end result was certain.”
And with that he was gone. I was left to have another scotch and to contemplate how humans and goats were both parts of some mysterious master plan.
The next few days were thankfully uneventful as BP didn’t reappear. I really needed a break after all I had been through and I mostly got one, though I did have my “date” with Jane.
The dinner was set for a weeknight, so I saw her at work for most of the day. She seemed to go out of her way to be nice to me. She checked a spreadsheet I’d done and corrected a mistake I’d made without any kind of sarcastic comment. That was really very much unlike her. She was trying to control her tongue.
We agreed to meet at her place since the restaurant was only a few blocks from the JanePad. I arrived at 7:30 on the dot. Her door was propped open with a book. I took that to mean I was to enter and I did. I called out, “Hello my love. Your Romeo has arrived and your chariot awaits.”
I thought that was funny, but she leaned out of her bedroom and gave me a look. I could only see her face and neck, but her eyes were shooting darts. “You’d better not try any of that cute stuff at dinner. You do know how to act don’t you?”
She disappeared inside to, I guess, finish getting ready. I decided that I’d better keep my jokes to myself for tonight – even when it was just the two of us. I didn’t want to cause her any more stress.
The dinner reservations were at eight, so she had a few minutes to finish getting ready. I sat down and pulled out my phone and checked for any messages. There was an email from Allen telling me how much he liked the last part of the Revelation about evolution being designed to ensure the appearance of humans. He said he hadn’t seen that coming. He cc:’d the rest of the team and Matt had just replied with, “Yeah Roger. Keep that kind of thing coming. I can’t wait to talk to you about it.”
I was thinking of a reply when Jane appeared in her bedroom doorway. She stopped there, framed by the opening. I did a double take. I was used to seeing her in business attire and the occasional skirt, but tonight she had on a black dress. It was sleeveless but with a high neckline. It ended about an inch above her knees. She was a slim girl and not really all that curvy, but that dress showed off what she had and really accented her long legs. She had a single sparkling stone on a silver chain around her neck and one each dropping from her ears. She had a silver bracelet on her left wrist. She wore heels that would likely make her taller than me.
She looked fantastic. I must have hesitated too long, because she said, “Well, what do you think?”
Now this was a tricky question. I had learned the hard way that you shouldn’t compliment girls too much on their appearance. If you did, they were prone to think you weren’t taking them seriously as a fellow human being. On the other hand, if you were too stingy with your compliments, they tended to get moody. It required a fine balancing act.
But all that went out the window. “You look fantastic,” I said. I couldn’t help myself. She did.
I thought for a moment that she was going to make some snide comment, but she instead just said, “Thank you.” She wasn’t done yet. “I was going to give you a list of things not to do and remind you how to behave, but to heck with it. I asked you to go with me because I trust you. So let’s go.” She paused, “Just do not embarrass me.”
That was clear enough. I offered my arm and she slipped hers through mine and we walked to the elevator. Her heels clicked with every step until we got down to the street and found a cab. She told the driver the name of the restaurant and off we went.
The restaurant was a newish place. It was trendy because the head chef had won some type of cooking competition. It was probably expensive, but I didn’t eat at fancy places often, so I wasn’t worried about the cost. Not too worried, anyway.
We arrived right on time and met Cynthia Cromwell and her fiancé, Dr. Trent Scranton. They seemed like a nice couple. The hostess told us our table would be ready in a few minutes which, of course, meant a half hour or more. We went into the bar to wait. I scanned the scotch bottles behind the counter, but ordered a club soda. Jane smiled at me sweetly. I could read from the expression on her face that she approved of my self-restraint.
Cynthia was a good looking woman, but she wasn’t really my type. She was blonde, but that was obviously from a bottle. She had a round face with full lips and eyes set just a touch too close together. Those eyes were a very striking shade of blue that I suspected were the result of contacts. She was certainly full figured. I could tell because her blouse and skirt made that clear.
She and Jane talked like old friends. It took me a couple of minutes, but I realized they both were using subtle southern accents. They’d grown up together down south, after all.
I thought that things were going well. We talked about Trent’s medical training and he told some stories about being an intern. Cynthia told about how she and Jane had been on the volleyball team. She said she was 5’6” and could spike the ball and Jane confirmed it.
I told about meeting Jane for the first time and talked about my background a bit. It was just general chit-chat that wouldn’t embarrass anyone. Jane appeared to relax and seemed to be enjoying herself.
We ordered and ate dinner. It was expensive, but not outrageous. I had to admit it was very tasty.
After the plates had been removed, Cynthia looked at me and said, “So how is it with you two? You look good together. You getting married, living together or what? Give us the scoop and don’t you dare hold anything back.” She grinned as she waited for an answer.
I saw Jane’s eyes become ever so slightly more slit-like. I knew she was trying to think of what to say since this next part was certain to get reported back home. Her right hand was on the table and I reached out and took it in mine. I gave it a squeeze so that everyone could see.
“Well Cynthia, a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell, but I can say this – on top of everything else, I think of Jane as my best friend. I know I’d do just about anything in the world for her.”
I looked at Jane with a smile and she relaxed and smiled back. I could tell she thought that what I had said was okay.
So did Cynthia apparently, “That’s about the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard. Jane, if I didn’t have my Trentie here, I’d be all over Roger. I think he’s quite a catch. You go girl.”
We all laughed at that and realized it was time to go. We walked together out to the street and told the doorman we needed two cabs. I shook Trent’s hand goodbye. Cynthia came up to me and I realized she was going to give me an air kiss. It turned out to be a double. She leaned into me and did first the right side and then the left. I think she pressed her chest into me a bit more than was needed, but that may have been my imagination.
She and Jane hugged and promised to keep in touch. A cab came and the two of them got inside. We waved as they drove off.
We stood there, shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk. Jane reached down and took my hand and held it. She said without looking at me, “Thank you, Roger.” Nothing more was needed.
That night, back in my apartment, I finally had a scotch. For the first time in a while, I didn’t think of BP at all.
When I got to work the next day, Jane had already arrived and been busy. I knew because there was a little box on my desk. It was nicely wrapped in foil paper and had a professionally done ribbon tied on it. I instinctively knew it was from her. I looked into her cubicle, but she wasn’t at her desk.
I was curious so I opened the box. Inside was a certificate that I could trade for two tickets to any Mets game. I looked again and realized I could get seats right behind home plate with these. It was quite a gift and had probably cost a pretty penny. Inside was a note, “If you ask me again, I’ll go with you anytime.”
For the rest of the day, Jane was super nice to me. I thought she was going to talk about her meeting with BP a couple of times, but I was relieved when she didn’t. I knew it would come up at some point, but I was just glad to not have to deal with it until later. In the meantime, she continued to help me with the transcripts as before. I couldn’t ask for much more.
I thought Matt would have a cow when he read the latest part of the Revelation about Darwin, but when I met him in the hallway he seemed very happy. He absolutely gushed about how life was created (which he believed) and how life was destined to create humanity (which he was content with) and, mostly, how Darwin was wrong (which was the icing on the cake for him). I really didn’t want to get into this discussion during a chance meeting, but I promised him we would talk more about it later and I told him again that I appreciated his input. He seemed, for once, content.
Things were, at least for the moment, on an even keel and I was able to get back to my comfortable habits at the office and even managed to watch a couple of episodes of X-Files while my co-workers were busily doing whatever it was they did. I loved the theme music from that show.
BP was leaving me alone for once and I was happy about that. I was pretty much resigned to my fate of having to deal with him, but I was glad to get a break.
I was just about ready to go get a coffee when my phone rang. I saw on the display that it was Allen. I hadn’t talked to him much since he got those big sales because he’d been so busy. I pushed the button so I could talk to him on my headset.
“Hi Allen,” I said.
He sounded too rushed for a greeting. “Can you come by Jackson’s old office for an hour or so? They are letting me use it while I’m trying to get all the things done for these new orders. I’ve been pretty busy.”
I hadn’t expected to have a meeting with Allen and knew of no reason why he would want to have one. Perhaps he wanted to thank me again. He had done that several times, but he really had no firm knowledge that I had anything to do with his good luck. I was pretty sure Jane put him up to it.
Of course I’d meet with him. I said, “It’s almost lunchtime. Do you want to just meet in the cafeteria?”
Something was up because he said, “No. If you don’t mind, I’d like to have the meeting here during lunchtime and I’d prefer it if you didn’t mention it to anyone else.”
By that he meant Jane. I guess I was intrigued because I told him I’d be there. Having the meeting at lunchtime meant that I wouldn’t have to explain my absence from my cubicle to Jane or anyone else. Something really was up.
When I left for “lunch,” I was glad to see that Jane wasn’t at her desk. I knew she’d ask what I was doing for lunch and I was glad I didn’t have to make something up. She had a way of seeing right through me when I tried to, as she said, “be cute” – which in this case simply meant that she knew there was something I wasn’t telling her.
So I was officially off the radar as I got to Jackson’s office. I wondered if I should knock, but since I had been invited I didn’t and just went right in like I’d done it a hundred times before. The office was nice but not large; just a desk, a couple of chairs and a little conference table that Allen was sitting at. There were some papers in front of him. He stood up and greeted me warmly as we shook hands. No one else was in the room. We sat at the conference table.
“Rog, thanks so much for coming. I’m sorry I haven’t been seeing you much, but ever since we got those orders I’ve been busier than two bees. Even though I’m working hard, my mind keeps going back to that moment when you arrived at lunch and told everyone that things would work out. I don’t know exactly why it helped so much, but it did and I want to thank you again. You gave me a lift just when I needed it.”
I started to say something, but he raised his hand. “And now I’m going to repay you by asking a big favor. Please hear me out on this.”
He paused to seemingly collect himself and then started. “You know that I got divorced some time ago. Actually, it’s been over 11 years. You also know that I have a daughter and may have wondered why I don’t talk about her much.”
I nodded my head in the affirmative. It was enough for him to go on.
“The divorce was messy. I was a few years older than my wife and we fell into a pattern of arguing and being nasty to each other after just a couple of years of marriage. For the last few years we raised our little girl and managed to put up with each other until it just became too much. I’m sure it was mostly my fault, but she developed a strong hatred for me – a total loathing. From the day I moved out, she filled my daughter’s head with stories about how awful I was and how she should never have anything to do with me. It was her way of paying me back.
“Bess, that’s my daughter, hasn’t had anything to do with me. I have always paid child support and sent her gifts for her birthday and Christmas, but when she turned twelve she wrote me a note saying she was old enough now to make up her own mind and asked me never to send her anything else again and to just leave her alone. I’m sure her mother helped her make that decision.” He paused for a good long moment. This was obviously hard for him.
“Anyway, so I haven’t had any contact with her for a long time. She just turned twenty one a couple of weeks ago and she’s getting ready to graduate from college soon. I get at least a little information on her from her mother’s sister who always liked me and still does. But the news is never good. My daughter has no desire to see me or hear from me. At this point, it may be better that way.”
He looked down at the table like there was something there that needed close study. After a while he looked up again.
“It hurts Roger – it hurts a lot, but I think I’m resigned to it now. I had my chance in life with her and I blew it and now I’ve got to pay the price. I guess I’ll never see her again.
“But I still remember feeding her when she was a baby. I remember changing her diapers and reading her stories. I remember her mother and I being so happy when she said her first word – which was ‘daddy’ – or at least something that I was sure sounded like that. I remember all these things and I remember that I love her. And I always will.”
Allen was staring off into the distance as he told this story, probably reliving those good times in his mind. I checked to see if his eyes were moist, but I couldn’t tell. Mine sure were.
“Rog, for most of my life I’ve made good money. And I’ve not spent a lot of it. After the divorce I just didn’t feel like having a big place, so I’ve lived in a cheap apartment all these years and threw myself into my work. I don’t even own a car. I just keep socking my money away.
“It has gone into an account for my daughter and there’s a lot in there. There will soon be more due to these unbelievable sales that just came through. I have a will that leaves it all to her, but I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should give her the money now – to help her get a good start in life, you know.
“That’s the favor I want to ask of you. I want to ask you to talk to her and tell her she can go claim the money whenever she wants. I’ve instructed my lawyers on that point, so when she walks into their office, she’ll leave with total control of a fairly large bank account.”
My first question was the same one I had asked BP, “Why me?” It seemed that unwanted tasks had suddenly started to seek me out.
“I had actually been planning for the lawyers to handle the whole thing, but a couple days ago I woke up with the idea of asking you, and it just seemed like the perfect thing to do. I really don’t know beyond that, but I absolutely believe that you’ll play a positive role in this whole thing and that you will help my daughter. Her full name is Bess, by the way, and not Elizabeth. We used to joke with each other about that as she thought we’d given her half a name.”
He eye lost focus for a second and I was sure he was reliving one of those happy moments with his little girl that fathers must really cherish. I waited until that moment passed and he returned his attention to me.
“Of course I’ll do it,” I said. What else could I do? He was my friend and he wanted my help. That was enough right there.
“But I do have a few questions. First, do you want me to tell her the money is from you?”
He seemed a bit surprised at the question. “You know, I always assumed that the lawyers would tell her it was from me, but you’re right. It doesn’t have to be that way does it? You could tell her it was an inheritance from a long lost uncle, or lottery winnings or just a gift from you.”
I didn’t like the sound of any of that. “Allen, don’t you think it’s better to simply tell her the truth? That you started an account for her when she was very little and added to it, bit by bit, as she grew into adulthood, and now that she’s ready to start her adult life, the account is hers with no other strings attached. Isn’t that better than trying to make up some story she’ll likely see through anyway? Beside, I’m a terrible liar and women seem to be able to see through me every time when I try.”
I was thinking of Jane, of course, but something told me Bess would have this skill too.
Allen nodded his head in agreement, “I guess you’re right; a lie wouldn’t work. I just don’t want her to be hurt or conflicted. Suppose she gets this money and then feels bad about not having a relationship with me. I don’t want her to feel any guilt since none of this is her fault.
“Or suppose her dislike of me is so strong she not only wants to have nothing to do with me, but refuses to take the money because it came from me? God Roger, I’d be crushed at that. I’ve always been comforted by the thought that even though I can’t play any active role in her life, I can make her life better with my simple gift. If she turned it down, that would mean – well, I guess it would mean I really am alone and everything I saved and hoped for was for nothing.”
In a flash of insight, I understood. Allen had been a lonely man for a very long time, living in his small apartment and being frugal. At that moment, I couldn’t remember any time where he had talked about going on a date or having dinner with someone, or really anything that showed he had a circle of human contact outside of his work. I knew instinctively that what he had were his friends at work, and the hope that his daughter would be helped by his actions. It was his way of being a father to her during all those years when he couldn’t be one directly. If she turned down his gift it would mean that he had truly and completely lost his little Bess. I had no idea how, but I didn’t intend to let that happen.
We both were quiet for a moment, searching for the next thing to say. I asked an obvious question, “So I’m going to tell her the truth – that the money came from you. But should I tell her ALL the truth? Should I tell her that you would love to be her father again?”
He must have thought this through ahead of time because he answered right away, “I’d love to be able to talk to her, offer her advice if she needs it, help her in her career, meet her friends, attend her wedding, play with my grandkids.” That last part was said in a very wistful manner. My vision blurred momentarily.
“But I absolutely do not want her to feel guilty. Nothing, and I mean nothing, that happened between her mother and me was her fault, and I will not saddle her with a feeling that somehow she did something wrong. She didn’t. I’d rather never see her again if it ended up causing her any more pain.”
Well, that was clear enough. I had to contact a complete stranger, tell her I had a gift for her from her long lost and despised Dad, make her believe me and then see if she would like to resume her relationship with her father while making sure I didn’t cause her any further pain. Okay, but other than picking up the phone and dialing her number, I had no idea how to do any of these things.
It was time to get practical, “Do you think I should meet her somewhere or call her?”
Allen seemed to have thought about this point too, “Call her. A face to face meeting could be very intimidating. Lord knows what she might think was going on. It would be better if you did it from here or from home.”
He picked up a paperweight that had been on the table and started playing with it while he stared into space, searching for the next words. It was from some place called the Centurion Club. I guessed that Jackson had been a member. It sounded like something he would be a part of.
“You know Roger, I’ve worked with a lot of powerful people in my career. I’ve made some big sales to some big companies and I’ve had a lot of co-workers. I’ve even run a sales team or two.
“When you do that, you develop a sixth sense about people; about what they want and what they are capable of. You asked me earlier why I want you to do this favor for me and I told you that I didn’t really know. But now I think I do know. It’s because I believe, without a doubt, that you can do this in the best possible way, a way no lawyer could ever duplicate. I have every faith in you. That’s the reason. There’s nothing more to it than that.”
I marveled at this of course. He did have a lot of experience just as he said. He obviously could read people since he was a successful salesman for so many years, and if he thought I was up to this task, then maybe I was. Actually, he seemed to think I was the one person he could trust with it.
My own self-assessment would not have been so generous, but his faith did give me a sort of strength – or perhaps it was just resignation, since I could see no way out of having to do this for him.
There was no reason to delay since I would just stew about it, so I told him I’d likely call Bess today and that I would let him know what happened. We shook hands and I left the meeting.
On my way back to my cubicle, I made the decision to call Bess right then. It was still officially my lunchtime and so it would be easy to go outside the building to one of the company ‘nature areas’ and call her on my cell. I knew I would have privacy since it was a very hot day and not many people would be outside.
The company nature areas were actually nice. They were basically little parks tucked into the nooks and crannies where the main building wasn’t just a flat wall. Each was about a quarter of an acre and they were nicely landscaped with trees and other plants. There was a walkway that connected them all that I guessed was close to a mile long as it encircled the main building. Just about every tree had a bench under it so that you could contemplate nature before going back inside to labor at spreading high tech gadgets throughout the known world.
I walked for a few minutes to get away from the main door. It was as I suspected; few people were out and I had no problem finding a private spot. I sat down and pulled out my phone and typed in the number that Allen had given me. Before I hit the “send” key, I felt a small pressure on my left shoulder. This was the signal that BP and I had agreed on. It meant that he was popping in to check on me to see if I was busy doing his bidding or if I was performing useless functions, which to him meant anything that was not directly related to doing his bidding.
I could have touched my shoulder, and if he was actually following our agreement, he would have left immediately, but I didn’t. He’s the one whose actions led me to having to call Bess by engineering those sales for Allen and doing it in such an unnatural and spectacular way. And thus, I was sitting here staring at Bess’s number. Let him stay and see what he’d caused.
I dialed the number. It started to ring on my end. Once, twice, three times it rang without an answer. I had a vision of Bess puzzling over the number shown on her display, trying to decide if she should answer.
“Hello,” she said. Her voice was totally neutral; just a greeting so I would know she was listening.
I realized at that point that I didn’t know for sure if this was Bess. I had to ask.
“Bess Olman please,” I said. That was not the most inspired thing I could have said and I was afraid she would hang up, but she didn’t.
“Speaking.” Again, the tone was neutral but this time it had just a hint of annoyance. She probably figured I was a salesman from some bank or, worse yet, someone trying to get a donation for ‘Cancer Awareness.’ What kind of person isn’t aware of cancer?
But at least she was still on the line, so I jumped right in. It was time to see if Allen’s faith in me was justified.
“My name is Roger Seaton. You don’t know me, but I work with and am good friends with your father, Allen. He’s asked me to call you to tell you that he set up a bank account for you many years ago and that you can claim this money – which is considerable – whenever you want. I have all the details on the account for you.”
I could never be a salesman. I was worried she would hang up so I just blurted it all out in one long burst of speech without even taking a breath.
At this point I just shut up and let it sink in on her end. Here was some stranger calling her on behalf of a father she really never knew, telling her she had a lot of money. It was a lot to take in and I was at least smart enough to give her time.
But when she started to talk, it wasn’t encouraging. She started to say, “You can just tell him” and at that moment I knew she was going to tell him to never contact her again. I could hear it in her voice. It was totally clear to me that she was becoming very angry. I forgot all about the fact that I was sitting on a bench. I forgot the sunshine and shade. I was so totally and completely focused on Bess that I knew nothing else. I had never experienced such an intimate connection to anyone before. It was like I could feel her presence. It was almost like she was here with me or I was there with her.
Somehow I knew what she was going to do. It was so clear that I could almost see her anger as well as hear it in her voice. Actually, I really could see her anger. My voice connection to her was through a common cell phone, but now the connection had changed into something far different. It was so strong emotionally as to be like a lightning strike. I could not only hear her, but actually sense her emotions in a way I had never experienced before. It was as if I could actually see her or better yet, see inside her at the things that really made her tick.
I was in something of a daze as her anger looked to me like a red mist and it was a swirling, boiling thing. I could actually see her emotion, but it didn’t seem strange to me; somehow it seemed natural.
The red mist that was her anger was just on the surface. I looked behind the mist and saw her as she was, a fine young woman with a good heart. I could see her generosity and her kindness and her caring nature. I also saw her pettiness, her jealously, her impatience. I saw a normal young woman whose positive traits far outnumbered her negative. I saw her as who she was.
But I could see something else too, a hard black thing that almost glowed with sickening, malevolent intensity. It looked like a hard piece of black coal, glinting with a cold shininess. It was irregular in shape with razor sharp spikes coming off it in all directions – spikes that could cause pain and even draw blood if they got too close to sensitive areas.
At once I knew that this horrid thing had been living inside her. It was a part of her that ebbed and flowed, sometimes causing great pain and other times living fairly quietly. Today I had agitated it by calling her about her father. This thing – this black awful thing – was her anger mixed with her guilt; and it was living inside her. I could tell it had been there a long time. Its purpose was to cause pain.
I was running totally on instinct at this point. I could instinctively see her emotions. I could instinctively look beyond them and see the thing that was causing this otherwise beautiful person such pain.
And I instinctively started to destroy it.
I just seemed to will it and cracks started to appear in the black disgusting object. Spikes fell off and as they did, they dissolved into nothingness. It seemed to pulse as it resisted my efforts. Its death throes were wild and almost like a living thing, lurching to and fro in an attempt to escape its fate, but eventually it fell apart and was gone.
As I returned to my normal state of consciousness, I didn’t really have time to marvel at what had just happened. I was just too shocked. I realized that I had looked deep into her psyche, or soul, or whatever it was that made her who she was, and had seen and destroyed that awful thing that had caused her so much pain for so long.
As my vision cleared and I returned to normal, I once again was just a junior financial analyst sitting under a tree talking on my phone to a friend’s daughter. There was silence on the other end of the phone. I wondered if she was still there. My phone showed I was still connected.
Finally, she tried to talk and it was all stuttering and nonsense. “I . . . I . . . who.” She had been all set to give me the brush-off and now she was struggling with stringing words together into a coherent sentence. I may have been back to normal, but I had an instinctive feeling that things would be better for her from now on. By some miracle, I thought I had actually helped her.
She finally put two words together. “My father?” she said as a question.
I knew what she meant and answered, “Yes, I’m calling for your father and my friend, Allen. He has set aside a great deal of money for you to have.”
These were the facts, but my instincts were still working and they told me to add something more. “And he has always loved you, but he wants you to know that he respects your decision and will not impose on you again if you don’t want him to.”
“Oh, my God,” was all she said. And then she broke down and cried into the phone. She cried great sobs that I somehow knew would wash out the remnants of that evil thing that had been inside her.
It went on for a long time.
Bess eventually got hold of herself enough to stammer that she had to go and hung up. It was abrupt, but she was in an emotional upheaval, so I understood completely.
Actually, I was in an emotional upheaval too. What in the world just happened here? I had called to tell her some important news and all of a sudden, out of the blue, I was looking deep into her soul and found some strange, ugly thing that looked like a hard knot of anger and I somehow removed it. Sure, she had a right to be emotional after what she had been through, but what about me? I had just seemed to do something that was – supernatural.
Suddenly I thought of BP and checked to see if I could still feel his presence on my shoulder. It wasn’t there, so he had flown the coop. But he had been there earlier, right when I was looking into Bess’s soul. That could explain a lot. He was doing this; using his “powers” to allow me to perform some type of psychic surgery on Bess.
This idea helped me to calm down and I began to think more clearly. So clearly, that I wanted to talk to BP. This was unusual since his visits were normally not something I asked for, but today was different. Boy was it.
“BP,” I thought in my head. There was no response, so I thought louder. “BP, are you there?” That didn’t seem to do anything either, so I looked around to see if I was alone and then said out loud in a soft but real voice, “BP, I need to talk to you.” When I had called him for help in saving Allen’s job, I’d spoken out loud. Maybe that was how it had to be done. I called for him again and waited.
And I felt him, not on my shoulder, but inside my head just like normal. My definition of normal had sure changed.
“Are you ready to continue with the Revelation?” he asked, innocent as a lamb.
I felt like my own black thing gave me a poke with one of its spikes. I wanted answers and I wanted them now. “No, I most certainly am not. What just happened here? What did I, I mean you, do to Bess? When you saved Allen, everyone thought I had something to do with it and now you actually have me looking inside someone’s soul or body or something – and you have me changing things around inside them. And what was that thing I saw? What happened to me and to her?”
I finally ran out of questions and just sat there in silence. BP didn’t keep me waiting long, “Let me answer that last question first; nothing bad has happened to you. You are just growing in the knowledge that I have imparted and in your experience with me. You are just a very empathetic person. I knew you were from the beginning. It is a trait that will come in handy as you share my Revelation with others.
“As you were talking to Bess, and when her initial response to your news was so negative, you had a flash of insight into what she was going to say and how she was going to react. I was monitoring you carefully and I must say I was impressed at how you almost instantly and instinctively saw her problem, which was, as you know, the pain caused by her anger directed at her father. Pain can be very long lasting and it can really warp someone.
“And I must confess that I entered your mind at that point so that I could better study this extraordinary thing that was happening. When I did that, your mind seemed to react to my presence by trying to make sense of what you were experiencing by showing you her pain as a real object.
“And somehow, you took away her pain. I do not know exactly how you did it. I just know it happened and I know it was your choice, not mine. Perhaps it was some unknown interaction between our two minds, however, it hardly matters. She’ll be better for the experience without that thing inside her.”
“Not good enough,” I said. “Not good enough at all. Something very strange just happened to me and I want to know what it was. Is this another one of your tricks?”
Actually, I couldn’t think of any tricks he had pulled, but something had sure happened to me and I was worried about it.
“Roger,” he started. I think that was the first time he ever called me by name. Maybe his sudden familiarity meant that he felt some remorse for digging around in my head.
“I really do not think you did this totally on your own,” he said. “I have thought about what happened and I believe that my close connection to you basically was projected into her. In other words, because the three of us were so close at that point, – me to you and you to her – you were able to direct some of my abilities based on your will. Thus, you used my power to remove that thing from her. It was a chance thing that caught us all off guard. It’s not likely to happen again.” And then he added, “Do not forget, too, that you almost certainly helped that girl.”
Well, there was that. In truth, I did feel like he was right about Bess. She would likely be better off based on what had just happened to her. After all, according to BP, I was just brimming over with empathy, so I should know.
But I never wanted such a thing to happen again.
And I told him that and got no reply. “BP?” I thought in my head. “BP, are you there.”
All I heard was silence. He was gone in an even more abrupt manner than normal. He didn’t even attempt to get me to hear more of his Revelation.
I had been concentrating so hard on my talk with BP that I had my eyes closed. I opened them and looked at the tree that was before me. I had never had one of our “sessions” in a park like setting and it was nice to see the trees and flowers and green grass and of course the stone wall that was our building. I felt a strange sense of contentment as I returned to normal.
A bird flew by and I turned to follow its path, but when I did I didn’t see the empty bench that I had been sitting on.
I saw Jane. She was sitting beside me. She’d had taken off her shoes and was wiggling her toes on the grass.
She saw my startled look and said, “Having a talk with that little green man again are we?” She had a mischievous glint in her eye. She didn’t have the slightest idea how stressful this whole thing was.
I was struck speechless from the surprise of seeing her there. It took me several seconds to finally get myself under control. Even then, I only managed to get out, “When did you get here?”
“Oh, just a little while ago. You know it really is just like in your book; you do go into kind of a trance when he comes a calling. You were frowning though. So tell me what happened.”
I wasn’t about to go into that with her at that time or at any time if I could help it.
“I was just resting my eyes, that’s all. I had a rough morning and just needed to relax. That’s all there is to it.” It was the best I could come up with at that moment, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t good enough.
“Sure it is.” She smiled again. I knew she could tell I wasn’t telling her all the truth. “I’m sure your little chore for Allen tuckered you all out.”
How in the world had she known about that?
“Well, you can tell me all about it later. It’s time to get back to the grindstone and I have to tell you something.”
Oh boy, what could cause her to track me down out here? For a moment, I wondered how she did it.
“I’ve got to go on a business trip down south in a couple of weeks. I’ll be running an audit team.” That was not really news that required her to track me down.
“The team consists of me,” she said, “and you.”
“And that’s when I want to meet that little green man, BP.”
I left work that evening feeling a sense of well being and even accomplishment. I hadn’t heard a word from Allen, but somehow I felt sure that I had done what I promised in my talk with Bess.
At least she now knew about the money and could contact either Allen or me to get it. I believed that things had gone well with her, so I was in a pretty good mood.
I poured a scotch and checked the refrigerator for something to cook for dinner. When I say “cook,” I normally mean “microwave,” but sometimes I get creative and actually make a real meal.
But not this time. I took out a frozen turkey dinner and put it in the oven. A meal heated with real heat was enough culinary creativity for this night.
The apartment was quiet and I realized I was bored. I decided that I may as well check my email and see what the ball scores were.
There was the normal load of crap in my email, but there was also one from Matt. He was keeping a running list of the Revelations and kept everyone updated with the latest. He listed each item and I fleetingly wondered if he was aiming to have his own list of ten commandments.
That was silly, of course. The Revelations weren’t commandments; they were just Revelations. After he got the latest transcript from me, he sent out the latest list to all of us.
The universe is made up of two things: life and non-life
These are very different things
Non-life is far more common. Life is rare
Life did not start by itself, but was placed on Earth by a Creator
In the universe, life exits only on the Earth. It is nowhere else
Life evolved on Earth, not driven by the concept of Survival of the Fittest, but was directed so as to create Man
I guess I was feeling particularly empathetic because I could readily imagine Matt writing down these items and being happy with them. After all, there was nothing there that directly contradicted his religious beliefs.
And I must admit that I was getting somewhat fascinated by the unfolding nature of the Revelation. I could actually see how it made sense. At least one thing seemed to lead to another. That didn’t make it true, of course; just internally consistent.
But there was one point I still didn’t understand and I wanted BP to appear so we could discuss it. I was surprised at this since his appearances normally were as welcome as a knock on the door from a Seventh Day Adventist.
So I called for him for the second time in a single day. This was unprecedented too and I wanted to keep it that way as much as I could. But curiosity got the better of me and I called out, “BP, are you there?”
I waited for a full minute and was about to try again when I felt his presence. I didn’t wait for him to say anything since this was my meeting and I was determined to run it.
“I have one more question about the process that you say was destined to create human life on Earth. We know that the development of life on Earth wasn’t a linear process; going in a straight line from the first bit of life to humanity. During that period there have been thousands or millions of different types of life that have existed – everything from an ant to an elephant to an orchid. Please tell me exactly how all this could spring from that single first living thing?”
BP answered and sounded very patient, “Why ask me that? This is one point that your scientists and I agree on fully – that life started with a single example and has blossomed into all the varied forms you see today.
“They don’t know exactly how a plant became an animal, for example, but they know it must have happened, since plants were here first and now we have animals too. I can disagree with scientists as to how that first living thing appeared on Earth, but all of us know that everything else came from that.
“As to exactly how it happened, we could discuss DNA and how 98% of all DNA has been thought to have no function at all. Your scientists have even called it “junk DNA.” But it is not junk. It is just that scientists do not know what it does, so they deem it junk. However, it contains instructions and methods that, over time, will result in many, many types of life and eventually will result in the appearance of human beings.
“That has now happened as it was destined to happen, and that’s why I am giving you my Revelation. Humanity is now ready to hear it.”
He was right, of course. Regardless of the method, all life on Earth came from that first living thing.
“Now,” he continued, “let me ask you a question.”
“Uh oh,” I thought. Here we go again.
But it wasn’t. It was a strange question, for sure, but one that deserved a serious answer.
“A thousand years from now, what will humanity have accomplished? Give me your best guess.”
I thought about it for a few seconds before speaking. “Well, first we have to actually be around and not have destroyed each other with some new super weapon.
“We could get hit with a giant asteroid that kills us all off. Or some new disease could pop up. We could get fried by global warming or drowned by rising sea levels. A giant solar flare could burn us to a crisp, or . . .”
I was on quite a roll when BP interrupted me. “That is not really what I had in mind, though your list is interesting. Let me ask the question in a more specific way. In one thousand years, will humans be able to stop that giant asteroid from hitting the Earth?”
I was sure of this answer. “Certainly. In a thousand years we’ll be flying all over outer space doing all kinds of things. Just look at all the progress we’ve made in space already.”
“I am familiar with your progress in space – or lack of it.”
I must have frowned because he continued before I could object. “Let’s consider distance for a moment. Specifically, the distance above the Earth that is considered to be ‘in space.’ There is actually a consensus as to exactly where space starts. It is a point 100 kilometers or 62 miles above sea level.
“Planes only fly about seven miles up. The highest flight from any jet engine powered plane that took off from the Earth is about 37 kilometers – only about a third of the way into space.
“So if space starts at sixty two miles up, would you consider that very far? After all, you can drive that distance in a car practically anytime you want in less than an hour while you listen to your baseball game and eat lunch. Also you can finance that trip yourself, using just your own resources. And you can do it at will, safely, and in comfort.
“But to go that same distance into space is an entirely different thing. It takes hundreds of active participants and many millions of dollars. It is risky as well. There have been about 530 humans who have been high enough to qualify as having been in space. There have also been eighteen deaths during flights and eleven more in preparation or training for space flights. Even if we count only the eighteen that happened during actual trips into space, that’s a fatality rate of about one in thirty. Can you imagine if one in thirty plane passengers died? Every flight would need a morgue on board.”
I didn’t like the mental image that came to me after he said that. I was sure his numbers were right, but they only meant that it was hard and dangerous to get into space. Everyone knew that, but humans often did hard and dangerous things. It was a human characteristic.
He waited for me to say something. I was struggling to figure out where this was heading, but it seemed like he was on the verge of putting down human achievements in space. This got my dander up a bit. “No, sixty two miles is certainly not all that far. But we can go lots further. The space station is higher and satellites are much higher. We’ve sent robots to Mars and we’ve studied all of the other planets, I think. I notice you forgot that we’ve actually had humans walk on the moon.”
I felt a bit of surprise that I was defending human accomplishments in space, but this was an area of pride for me, so I wasn’t quite finished. “And we’ve been flying in airplanes for about over one hundred years. We’ve been flying in space only about half that time.
“So, yes, I think we’ve done quite well in our advancement into space and only great things are ahead as we get better and better at it. And also yes, we will be able to stop one of these asteroids within 1,000 years. Lord knows how advanced we’ll be, but I know we’ll be able to do that.”
That was a long speech, but it was from the heart. I was something of a space buff and BP had to understand that I knew what I was talking about. Just last year I had toured the Space Shuttle that was on display in town.
BP used his smug voice which put my nerves on edge. “They will have to have advanced quite a lot because human improvements in space flight have been very slow and plodding.
He stopped at this point and I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to respond or not. That was fine because I didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t because I was plodding, but because I realized that he was right. I wanted him to be wrong. I wanted to explain to him what he had missed and prove to him that humans had made great strides in the short time we had been going into space. But those words wouldn’t come because we really hadn’t done much innovating in our spacecraft designs for many years. At least in ways that would truly make the leap into space quicker, safer, easier and cheaper.
So he was right in that human innovation in space flight seemed to have stalled. But that couldn’t be the whole story, could it?
“Now this is not to say that human achievements in space are tiny, they were at first significant but now they have stalled. I point this out so you will wonder why they have not been even greater.”
I was busy trying to think of a response when I realized that he was gone. I hated his habit of simply leaving without a word. I could feel he was gone, of course, but it was jolting to be left the way he did with no warning.
At first, I was bummed at his implication that humanity had done so poorly in its quest to get into space. But after a couple of scotches, it wandered to Bess. I wondered what she was doing right now, what she looked like.
I hoped that one day I’d get to meet her.
Even with all that had happened yesterday, I woke up right on time and seemingly none the worse for wear. My first thoughts were of the latest part of the Revelation and I felt a strong sense of foreboding – something was happening to me. It might have been triggered by BP, but I was the one who was feeling changed in some strange way.
I was about ready to leave for the salt mines when the doorbell rang.
I wondered who in the world that could be. I didn’t have people over to my small apartment all that often anyway and certainly not in the early morning. It was probably a neighbor wanting to borrow something.
But it wasn’t. When I opened the door a strikingly good looking girl was there. She was of medium height – and was young, but not adolescent. Her hair was kind of a blondish brown and fell just below her shoulders. The color looked natural.
But her face wasn’t medium at all. Her eyes, nose and mouth were in just the right places and in just the right proportions. Right now those eyes had a puzzled look in them.
“Are you Roger?” she said. And right then I knew I was talking to Bess. It could be that I recognized her voice, but in looking back I don’t think that was it. It wasn’t particularly strange that I knew her since I had been thinking about her that morning, but regardless, as soon as she opened her mouth to speak, I knew it was her.
“Yes,” I said and then there was an awkward silence. I finally came to my senses and asked her to come in. She didn’t bother to introduce herself and that didn’t seem strange to either of us.
“No,” she said. “I can’t right now. My father – Dad – is waiting downstairs. We’ve been talking and getting to know each other all night and he’s got to get to work and I’ve got to get back to my dorm.
“I made him bring me here this morning and asked him to wait downstairs so I could come up and see you alone for just a minute. Dad said I should wait until later, but I just couldn’t.”
I started to say something but she cut me off. “Please. Just let me say a couple of things and I’ll get out of your hair. First, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Dad told me how you helped him and I know you helped me as well. I had always hated my Dad and also hated myself because, as I got older, I knew I was being unfair to him. I thought about picking up the phone and calling him at least every week or so for the longest time. But I never did. And without your help, I almost certainly never would have.
“So I owe you one. A big one.” Her smile was dazzling as she said that.
“This is just the smallest part of our thanks to you. It’s from me and Dad.”
And she handed me a package. She waited expectantly, so I went ahead and opened it.
Inside was a bottle of Highland Park Single Malt Scotch. Holy cow – this stuff is thirty years old and costs about $400 for a single bottle. I knew Allen had put her up to this. I started to tell her that this was too nice a gift when she interrupted me again, this time before I could even get a word out. This was becoming a habit.
“Dad said you would enjoy that and like I said, it’s the smallest thing we could have done. But I said I wanted to cover a couple of things. The second thing is that I have a question to ask you and I hope you’ll give me a straight answer.”
Uh oh. I began to feel like I was on the hot seat again during one of BP’s grilling sessions. What could she want to ask me? I guessed that it might be something related to our call yesterday like, “How did you do to me what you so obviously did?” I didn’t want that question for sure.
It didn’t take long to find out the real question though. She tilted her head back, looked me right in the eye and took my free hand in both of hers and said in a slightly quivering voice, “I want to join your group. Will you let me?”
That was absolutely the last question that I would have expected from her. My mind seemed to shut down as it struggled with trying to think of an answer. It was then that I noticed she had green eyes. She waited for my answer.
“Well,” I said. This was a good way to start when you had no idea what was coming afterwards. “I don’t actually have a group. I mean, it’s not mine and really, it’s not even a real group in a real kind of way. You know what I mean.” I was sounding like an idiot. It occurred to me that she might want to withdraw her question right about now.
I finally got control of my mental processes as I felt the engine in my brain catch and come to life again. “What I really mean to say is that my friends are just helping me with a book project and it would be up to them to add another member. Of course, I’d have no objection, but it’s not really any fun, just some typing and organization stuff. And there’s likely to be no reward since it’s very possible no one will read my book – except my friends of course.”
I trailed off. It was not my best example of speaking off the cuff, but I was very much taken by surprise with her request.
She beamed. “Oh that’s grand. Just grand. I’ll see if I can ask them. I’ve got to go now, say goodbye to Dad, and take a run before I get back to my dorm. I’m sure I’ll see you soon and again, I so want to thank you.”
She was still holding my hand in hers and I hadn’t even noticed. She gave it a final squeeze and then she threw her arms around me and gave me a serious hug. She held it for at least three seconds and then, after an extra squeeze and a kiss on my cheek, she dropped her arms and turned around and walked away. As she left, I noticed she was indeed dressed for a run with leggings, running shoes and an oversized T shirt. On it was written, “Women Boxers Are Hard Hitting.” She was just a happy college girl getting ready for the next day in her life. As she disappeared into the elevator, I had a strong feeling that, for her, this morning was very different from many that had come before.
So that’s how my day started. I thought about it on my way to work and decided that it was a good way to start the day. Meeting Bess was a surprise, but not an unwelcome one for sure. I liked her instinctively and had certainly enjoyed that hug, but I wondered what Jane would say when she found out. All in all, I was glad to know her and I was sure glad to have that bottle. I decided I would crack it open tonight and have a couple of ounces. Or maybe I should bring it to the next team meeting and share it with everyone. That decision would require some thought.
I was in a pretty good mood when I got to my cubicle. Jane was not there yet as my train had been a couple of minutes early for once. I sat down and was deciding which site on the Magic Answer Box to explore when Matt came by. I had sent the recording of the latest part of the Revelation to all the team members this morning and so he had probably listened to it. He often came to work before anyone else.
He came into my cubicle and sat down in my visitor’s chair. I hadn’t replaced the pile of crap on it that was meant to keep this from happening. I wouldn’t forget again.
He didn’t waste any time. “Do you really think we’ve done that poorly in space?” He asked this in an intense way. As far as I could tell, this part of the Revelation should have had no impact on his religious beliefs, so I wasn’t expecting him to have such a strong reaction to it.
Of course, he believed that what I wrote came from me and so I was the one who had to answer for BP’s words. I had thought about this some since last night, so I just told him what I thought.
“I don’t think we’ve done poorly at all. It’s actually kind of amazing to be able to lift over three million pounds of stuff and get it into orbit. That’s the good part.
“But the bad part is that much of what we are lifting is just fuel that gets burned in order to take off. Take the Space Shuttle for example. It weighed about 165,000 pounds and could carry about 70,000 pounds of cargo. Now that’s a lot and it’s amazing we could shoot that thing into orbit. But just the fuel to get it up there – only about 200 miles into the sky – weighed about 3.8 MILLION pounds.”
The Magic Answer Box had come in handy again.
“I’m sure you’d agree that this is an area screaming for improvement. If we had different fuel or different propulsion systems that were radically more efficient or used some different method to get into space, we could lift more things and not have to lift so much fuel – which by the way, all gets burned in just getting us up there. There’s not even enough left to allow a powered landing back on Earth.”
I felt like I was BP talking to me. Matt played my part perfectly. “But we’ve only been doing this a short while. We’ll come up with something better. We have to.”
And just like BP, I asked a question designed to make him defend his last statement. “Okay, so what will it be? You are an engineer, a programmer. You know the state of the art in computers and many other technologies, so you should have some idea. In the early 1900s, humans built the best planes they could, but there were always new paths, new technologies, and new ways of building planes that were being explored. Eventually, planes were given multiple engines, they were made of metal, they became pressurized, jet engines were invented and so on. These were all big, big improvements and they came close together, one after another. All of these technologies were known to the scientific and engineering communities long before they were successfully built into new airplanes. All were being worked on by multiple groups of people. All became real.
“But in spacecraft, we have no idea how to lift things in a way that is significantly more efficient. There are no dreams of new propulsion systems that theory says will work and engineers just need to build. There are no teams building radically different rocket prototypes. All we are doing is creating small incremental improvements. We seem to have no ideas that would lead to a real breakthrough.
“Or maybe I’m just not clued in enough to know what is actually going on. So go ahead and answer my question; what new technology or process will change the status quo and allow humans to easily get into space?”
My question was really more of a challenge than I had meant it to be. Matt was my friend and here I was treating him the way BP treats me.
I immediately felt ashamed, but before I could say anything more, he spoke up. “Now that you put it that way, I guess I don’t know of any upcoming technologies that will make space travel easier, safer and cheaper. But isn’t our future up there? Don’t we have to find a way to explore space sooner or later whether it’s easy or hard?”
Now he was asking me questions that I certainly didn’t have answers to; but I suspected BP would provide an answer in his own time. He would not have opened this can of worms unless it was important in his Revelation.
I noticed Jane standing at the entrance to my cubicle listening. She smiled at me and I changed the tone of my voice in answering Matt. I didn’t want to sound so much like BP.
“I’m not to that point yet, so we’ll see as the Revelation unfolds. I guess I’m just trying to be provocative. I’ve always been a space buff too – always loved science fiction and all those stories in space where anything at all can happen. It makes for good storytelling, but we’re obviously stuck where we are in space exploration right now and I can’t see anything on the horizon to change that. I don’t know if it’s good or bad; it’s just the way I see things. And heck, it’s just a book from a guy who knows little about this stuff. It’s likely no one will pay attention anyway.”
I was trying to make him feel a bit better, but I didn’t know if it helped because in the ensuing silence Jane spoke up. “Well, well, well,” she said. “I always love starting my day with two manly men discussing rocket ships. It just makes me feel tingly all over.”
That certainly broke the spell because Matt was the one that came up with the retort. “Nah, that just means your girdle is on too tight.”
I doubt any woman had worn a girdle in the last fifty years, but that made it all the funnier and we all had a good laugh.
Matt stood up to leave and said to Jane, “Wait ‘till you hear what he’s come up with now. It wasn’t enough to take on the beginnings of life, and the science of evolution and Darwin himself, now he’s going after rocket scientists. What’s next – brain surgeons?”
We all chuckled but I had a distinct premonition that he might not be far off in this prediction.
Matt left, but Jane didn’t. She was still smiling like a cat that was about to play with a mouse. “So how was your little rendezvous with Bessie-Poo this morning?”
I swear that girl knew everything there was to know. I wondered once again if it was possible for me to have any secrets from her.
At first I felt a bit defensive, but then it turned to pique. What did I have to be defensive about? I had just done a favor for Allen and it didn’t have anything to do with her. It was Allen’s business and not mine to decide if he wanted to give her a report on what had happened, as he obviously had.
But so what? I hadn’t done anything wrong. In fact, I was glad to have helped Bess.
“It was not a rendezvous, thank you very much. She just came by because she was so happy and wanted to thank me for a tiny favor I did for her and her Dad. I’m sure Allen told you all about it.”
She answered, “Actually, no. I haven’t spoken to Allen since he told me what you were doing yesterday. I just got a call from Miss Bess herself telling me all about how you made her feel like she’s never felt before. How your words were so comforting and how you were able to help her see how her whole life had been a mistake until now. And she said you did all that in a twelve minute phone call. I’ve got to admit it; I’m impressed. You certainly do have a way with the ladies – some of them anyway.”
“Now wait a minute,” I started, but didn’t get to finish.
Jane was now smiling her biggest smile. “Don’t bust a gut, you big baby. I’m just ribbing you. I did talk to her and she seems to be nice. She wants to join our little literary guild and from the sounds of her voice, I was sure you’d approve. I’d be glad to have her on the team if the others are okay with it. I might even be able to get her a job here as an intern.”
Now what was the meaning of that remark about her voice? Sometimes Jane was way too deep for me.
This intern thing was certainly out of left field. “Ah, let’s see what the others say. And you should ask Allen before you go getting her a job.”
Without realizing it, I was making decisions for the group. That wasn’t like me at all. “You’re right, of course, “she said. “But I think Little Miss Bess will fit in quite well in our little group. Do you know what her major is?”
She knew that I didn’t or else she wouldn’t have had that grin on her face. “She’s taking Computer Science – now we’ll have two computer geeks on the team.”
And with that she whirled around and went to her own cubicle. I could smell the faint scent of flowers from her perfume. Had she always worn perfume to the office?
But before I could decide, she called out, “And don’t forget you have that travel preparation meeting today at three. Don’t be late.”
Damn. I had planned on doing some serious loafing this afternoon and now I remembered that I had this stupid training session with stupid Human Resources. After Jane told them I was going with her on our business trip, they scheduled me for “travel training.” If you had never traveled with the company before, you had to attend this training so you would know how to act and, I guess, dress. Probably there would be useful travel tips like, ‘don’t pick your nose in public’ or ‘don’t scratch your crotch in public’ or some such stupid stupidity. Taking a plane ride and checking into a hotel didn’t seem all that difficult, but I was stuck and had to go to the training. I wondered for a moment if I could get out of the trip by skipping the meeting, but quickly rejected that notion. Jane would kill me, and after she did, she’d make sure I lived in Hell. No, I had to go.
The day passed slowly after that and I got little done except for some pouting until I had to leave for the training session. I arrived at three on the dot. It’s better to slip in slightly late and take a seat in the back.
But when I went into the training room, there were only three rows of five seats and all were taken except for one right in the center of the front row. Great.
On top of that, right after I sat down, I felt the pressure on my left shoulder that meant that BP was checking in to see if his puppet was still dancing correctly. I started to touch my shoulder which would have sent him on his way, but I decided to leave him alone. If I had to sit through this crap, then he could too.
He made it almost exactly two minutes and then I felt him leave. For the first time, I envied him.
For the next two hours, I was called on five times, was embarrassed four times and almost fell asleep seven times. The training could have been summed up with two things:
Do Behave Yourself.
Don’t smoke, get drunk, stay out at parties all night, accept dates from non-company people you don’t know, solicit dates from non-company people you don’t know, eat too much, sleep too little, pick up the check for a group or forget to wash behind your ears.
As big a waste of time as this was, it did serve to make the upcoming trip real in my mind. In just a few days, Jane would be demanding to speak to BP and that was certainly a reason for worry. Lord knows what might happen on this trip.
I also remembered that I hadn’t told BP that Jane expected to have her own little session with him during the trip. I had been putting that off as long as I could, but BP would have to be told, and he’d have to be told soon. I had no idea what his reaction would be, but the idea of throwing him for an unexpected loop appealed to me.
As I rode home that night, I had a strong sense that bringing Jane into the sessions with BP would be a turning point for all of us – Jane, Matt, Allen, Bess, me and probably even BP. I thought once again about our trip and hoped that it would go quickly so that we could get back and finally find out what this Revelation was really about.
And I also felt like I was personally on the verge of something. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but something was different with some part of me and I could feel that part growing. Ever since the appearance of BP, I had felt this . . . this feeling. It was like I was changing or even evolving, but into what I didn’t know. I only knew that something was happening and the proof was my experience with Bess, and also with Allen. Normal human beings can’t calm with a touch or heal the emotional pain of a bright young woman – but I had done both of these things. And while everything seemed to have worked out fine so far, I worried about what lay ahead.
When I arrived back at my apartment building, I decided to take a walk in the park instead of going up to my little apartment. It was a warm evening and I wanted to think things through a bit more. I walked around the park once and realized I was looking for Sister Mary Celeste. She wasn’t around.
I kept walking with no destination in mind. At least, I didn’t have a conscious destination. But after a few minutes, I was in front of the church that Celeste worked and taught in. She had invited me to come by, so I went inside.
It was quiet and cool and fairly dim except for the late afternoon light streaming in through the stained glass windows. I sat at a pew in the back and studied the building. Like she said, it was quite beautiful. I was the only person in the nave.
I felt the weight of BP appear on my shoulder. For once, I didn’t mind. I was in a mellow mood. I knew that his future and mine were likely somehow intertwined, so it felt kind of appropriate for him to be there with me. He didn’t enter my head or speak at first, but he stayed with me the whole time I was in the church.
I sat there thinking about my life and what an amazing course it was on. At one moment, I was in awe of it all.
And in another, I broke out in a cold sweat from fear.
C.W. Crowe continues The Alien Revelation Saga as it progresses to its final shattering climax.
Why is Life on Earth? What is its purpose? What is its destiny?
Find out in The Revelation Saga – all volumes available now.
Other Books in The Alien Revelation Saga series:
Book Two: The Connection
Book Three: The Combining
Book Four: The Celebration
Book Five: The Invitation
The cafeteria was generally pretty full at lunch time even though it was a very big space. This made for a general buzz of noise in the air from all the ongoing conversations, the silverware clattering, and all the other sounds that come when a few hundred people are relaxing, eating and talking.
Just at that moment, however, the noise level dropped and dropped a lot. All of us noticed it and looked around to see the cause. The Security department had sent out memos over the last couple of years explaining what to do in case some loon came into the building with a gun. Basically, the instructions were to hide and cower in fear and hope you don’t get noticed, or else run like the wind.
It was strange, but my first thought was that something like this might have been happening, but then I saw the true cause. It wasn’t a loon. Instead, it was the founder and CEO of the company. His name was Evan Miller and he was a multi-billionaire. I understood that the bigwigs had an even more posh facility way upstairs in the clouds where they ate in peace with their own kind. It was unusual to see him walking into our facility, so people started talking in whispers and stared. Actually, it was really unusual. I’d never seen him in person before.
He started the company with an idea that would grow to be incredibly popular on the internet. He then got into one new business after another, either by starting them in house or by buying up little companies with great ideas. Some of his ideas failed, but not many. He just seemed to have the knack to know what new thing would be successful in the marketplace. A popular magazine ran a cover article on him with the headline, “The Man Who Could See the Future.” I read the article and he wasn’t even quoted in it. I remembered that the writer had made a big deal of how private he was; how at only 45 years old he’d achieved so much, but didn’t flaunt it the way some bigwigs do. He didn’t appear at museum openings and he didn’t get his name in the paper by donating to have a new wing named after him at some hospital. He never granted interviews with the press. His wife had died years ago in a car crash and he was raising his son, Jacob. I guessed Evan was protecting Jacob by keeping him out of the spotlight.
Public figure or not, he was a big deal, not only in the company but in business in general. And he was walking towards our table.
He walked right up to where Jane was sitting and bent over and gave her a kiss on the cheek and then whispered something into her ear. She laughed at whatever it was he said.
He then stood up and Jane introduced him to the rest of us at the table. She told him in a few words what each of us did for the Empire. He repeated our names as he shook our hands. He seemed to hold onto my hand just a fraction longer than normal. It was probably just my imagination.
“I just dropped by to say hello to a few people. I should get out and meet everyone more often, but the company is growing so fast it’s hard to keep up with it all. I want to thank you all for your hard work. Allen, those sales have been spectacular. I couldn’t be happier for you. Matt, that project you are working on is important and I’m glad you’re a part of it. Bess, I hope things work out for you here after your internship, but regardless I’m sure you’ll do some great things.”
He then looked directly at me. “Roger, I appreciate you taking a trip down south with Jane to help get our big bird in the air.” Maybe it was still my imagination, but I thought I felt a hint of sadness from him.
He addressed the whole table. “Did Jane ever tell you how we came to know each other?” This was the question we were all wondering about since Jane had never mentioned she knew him. We shook our heads.
“Well, one day about three years ago, I had an idea for a new business. It was risky, but I was sold on it. And when I’m sold, it takes a lot to get me unsold. I’ve been told I’m stubborn, but no one will ever convince me I am.”
We smiled at his little joke.
“Anyway, everyone I pitched the idea to told me how great it was – how it would really help people and make lots of money. I didn’t realize at the time that most of my advisors had become used to simply agreeing with whatever I said. That worked fine as long as I was right.
“So I ordered a financial analysis with projections. My CFO gave the job to our most senior analyst. He pushed it down to one of the analysts that worked for him. And then she sent it to Jane here via email. But she left all the CC’s from all the previous emails on it, including my email address since I originally asked for it.
“Jane didn’t notice all those return emails and just replied to all of us. So in a couple of days I got an email with the analysis showing my idea would lose mountains of money. There was also a comment that said ‘This is one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard of. Whoever thought of this one doesn’t have a clue.’ That clueless guy was me, but she didn’t know it.
“And then she went on to explain what was wrong with my plan. And you know, she was right. I saw immediately how this would be a failure. My eyes had been opened to what now seemed to be the obvious flaws in my plan that no one else had pointed out to me.
“So that’s how our Janie here really helped out the old man. Well, I’ve got to run and see some other folks. Thanks again to everyone and Jane, it was especially good to see you again.”
And off he went to sit with some people in lab coats at another table. They looked more like doctors than computer guys. We were all stunned at what had just happened. Since Jane was in tight with Evan Miller, I wondered if she could have saved Allen without any help from me. That might have helped keep my life from spinning out of control the way it had.
The rest of our lunch was spent pumping Jane for all the juicy details of her adventure with Evan Miller. We all called her Janie at least once. Bess asked the obvious question, “So why didn’t he promote you to the top floor?”
Jane smiled and said that she actually had been promoted to Senior Analyst and was the youngest one in the company at that time. But she also said she didn’t play well with a lot of what she called the “Gnats” that swarmed around Evan Miller, so she was happy to work at her present job, at least for now.
She also said that some of the Gnats had been canned or transferred to other jobs after this little episode and so they were wary of her. I could sure understand that. That also might explain how she was able to get things done around here – people were afraid to tell her “no.”
She also added one more item to the tale.
Evan Miller was wrong on one point. Jane had seen all those email addresses and knew exactly who was going to read her report.
Perfectly suited for reader of all ages! A G rated Sci-Fi Saga spanning five books! Roger Seaton is a typical millennial. He's quite social and has a circle of good friends. Girls like him. He works at a mega-corporation but isn't ambitious, preferring to spend his days surfing the web. He's a bit lazy, a bit selfish and more than a bit shocked to have a voice start talking to him in his head. That voice wants to provide a Revelation that will challenge mankind to its core, and explain its purpose. The story interweaves the unfolding Revelation with how it affects at first Roger, and then his growing circle of friends and followers. Their lives are turned upside down as Roger and his best friend, Jane, struggle to come to grips with what they are learning - and with the changes that seem to be happening to everyone who receives the Revelation. Rich in three dimensional, believable characters, and shocking in its twists, The Revelation series delivers just what it promises - and then some. Also look for the next book in the series, The Alien Revelation Saga Book Two: The Connection