Look Inside

 

hardbackfront_800x1200 (1)

SAMPLE CHAPTERS

INTRODUCTION

“Visionary Fiction speaks the language of the soul.
It offers a vision of humanity as we dream it could be.”

Jodine Turner

In 1995 I self-published the original version of this visionary fiction story called Children of Light. I was going to sell it out of the trunk of my car, but instead I had a baby! And since I had no idea how to market books, I solved my problem (5,000 books stored in my garage) by giving them away to a variety of charitable organizations – all in one week!

Over the years, I wanted to create an updated e-reader version of Children of Light and while I was at it, I wanted to weave in some information passed down by a remarkable woman from Russia named Anastasia. Her teachings have been recorded in a series of books called the Ringing Cedars of Russia and I wanted to make the ideas more accessible by framing them in a fictional story.

I’ve tried to do this twice and each time the book morphed into something I wasn’t expecting! I called the first version Parallel Worlds and you’re about to read my second attempted rewrite!

So, depending upon your perspective, this book is either a rewrite of Children of Light or a rewrite of Parallel Worlds – or, it’s a combination of both storylines from a brand new perspective!

Luckily for me, it’s now the wild, wild west of publishing! I don’t have an editor or a publisher to tell me that I can’t mix-and-match and put together a new storyline (and that totally thrills the renegade in me!)

For those of you who have already read Children of Light or Parallel Worlds I hope this version will take you on an even more thrilling adventure! (I also hope that you, too, will become a renegade by the time you’re done reading!) Below are the original endorsements. ~ Heather Noël

 

“Heather Noël represents a welcomed new addition
to the great storytellers of the human spirit.”

~ DEEPAK CHOPRA, M.D.

“… a thrilling fantasy-adventure that opens the heart and mind,
and takes the reader on a journey of infinite possibilities.”

~ JACK CANFIELD

“… powerfully enlightens us on universal truths: God’s
consciousness as the ultimate reality; Love – its essence;
and Forgiveness the pathway. A masterpiece!”

~ BRUNO CORTIS, M.D.

“… a parable of the evolution of consciousness. If you let it,
it can profoundly transform your life.”

~ LEONARD LASKOW, M.D.

“I have just feasted on Heather Noël’s adventure of light, darkness and
finding your truth. You and your children deserve this rare and special gift.”

~ HAROLD BLOOMFIELD, M.D.

 

 

“All the proofs, all the truths of the Universe are
preserved forever in every human soul.”

Anastasia

Chapter One

 

How strange it was to be seventeen and facing death. The tranquility of the desert night with its vast array of glittering stars and the merest crescent moon belied the imminent danger of hypothermia. There was little comfort in the fact Amelia wouldn’t be dying alone. She barely knew the boy sitting by her side. Matthew had been chosen as her hiking partner by their geology teacher, but they’d never really spoken until that day.

It started as a weekend camping trip to Canyonlands National Park with eleven other high school seniors. They had left Friday at noon, and after three hours on paved roads and another bumpy hour down a dirt path, their old yellow school bus rumbled into their campsite spewing noxious black clouds of exhaust that quickly dissipated into the crystal clear evening sky of southern Utah.

Amelia never would have considered herself lucky to be the least experienced hiker in the group until the next morning when their geology teacher, Mrs. Caldwell said, “Amelia I understand this is your first time hiking in the desert. Matthew will be your hiking partner since he’s the most experienced and knows the terrain well.”

Though she didn’t know Matthew, Amelia had noticed him at school on her first day. He was tall and athletic with dark hair, ruddy cheeks and grayish-blue eyes. Despite his obvious popularity he was a bit shy and unassuming as well – she thought that was the nicest thing about him. Amelia tried not to look overly thrilled, but inside she was jumping up and down. On principle, she typically ignored guys who were too good looking, and that went double for guys whose families had lots of money. But since he was her assigned partner, she considered it more of a God’s-will-type-of-thing, so a small inner-celebration was in order.

Mrs. Caldwell then looked directly at Matthew and in a strong, authoritarian voice she added, “Be sure you’re back on time,” which seemed to imply that he had the tendency to show up late and she would be holding him personally responsible for Amelia’s well-being.

By mid-day it was seventy degrees, the sky was clear, deep blue and so incredibly immense. They hiked through fields of coarse grass, sage, and prickly pear, and along dried stream beds gathering rock samples for their class. They’d scrambled up and down over rugged outcrops that looked like megalithic statues; frozen waves, rising and subsiding in the vastness of the high desert – an indelible reminder that this had once been an ocean floor.

The trail wove through the desert disappearing into a jumble of cliffs and ravines then reappeared in the massive presence of red sandstone walls laddered with cool crevices and fissures. As they emerged from the dark interior of the canyon labyrinth and sat down just a few feet apart, Matthew took off his sunglasses as he slumped down onto the warm red rock surface to rest. It was the first time Amelia had seen him up close.

Though it made no sense at all (and she wouldn’t admit it in a million years) when he looked at her she felt as if she had known him forever. Matthew smiled and Amelia suddenly realized she’d been staring.

Blinking, she returned his smile a bit awkwardly, drew in a deep breath and looked up at the sky, “It’s so beautiful,” she said, hoping Matthew would follow her skyward gaze rather than watch her cheeks turn blazing red.

“Yeah I love it here,” he said warmly.

Amelia pulled her knees close to her chest. Ironically, her backpack had the initials YOLO (You Only Live Once) displayed across the front but something about the last few minutes was bringing that concept into question. What if people actually live more than once? And if she was somehow remembering the feeling of Matthew – could he remember her as well?

After a few moments of reflecting on the fact that her day just kept getting better and better, Amelia opened her eyes and turned her head to see Matthew smiling at her as he handed her a bottle of water.

“We need to get going,” he said and though she nodded in agreement, and admittedly was an inexperienced hiker, it seemed unnecessary to rush. Matthew pointed to a trail in the canyon below and said, “That’s a much nicer trail than the one we’re supposed to be on. Do you want to take that one instead?”

“Sure,” said Amelia, enjoying the fact that he had asked her opinion since she wouldn’t have known the difference between one trail and another.

As they descended into a deep canyon labyrinth, time seemed to stand still. Surrounded by earthen walls, Amelia could only see the vibrant sapphire sky overhead with no indication of the sun’s proximity to the horizon. Emerging from the enclosed space, a profound and hypnotic beauty appeared before them, the sun falling slowly toward the horizon, washing deep oranges and fiery reds over the land.

They stood staring for a moment and then as if awakening from a trance Amelia said in a slight panic, “Matthew will we make it back on time?”

“Don’t worry I know this trail really well. We’ll make it!” Matthew sounded confident but Amelia noticed a certain urgency in his walk.

Wherever the land was fairly flat they ran instead of walking. They scrambled over boulder fields in their gradual ascent to the top of a high mesa where red rock canyons rose majestically above the desert floor. Slanted rays drenched blazing red rock walls with golden light and shadows lengthened across the canyon skating along the desert floor. The air was slightly cooler now, but didn’t breathe what was yet to come.

As it grew darker Matthew stopped and said, “Hold on a sec,” as he dug through his pack. “Shit! I forgot my glasses!”

“I can lead, do you have a flashlight?” said Amelia nervously.

A guilty look passed over Matthew’s face. “I don’t. I was thinking this would just be a day hike, I didn’t think to pack one.”

“It’s ok,” said Amelia, “let’s just keep going.”

Until this point Amelia felt confident that Matthew would take care of everything, and if there was an emergency he was a really fast runner and could have made it to the camp for help. But now it was up to her to get them safely back. Anxiety blooming in her chest and flowing into every cell of her body, she took the lead, running from one rock cairn to the next. With iron legs she climbed steep cliffs, the muscles in her thighs shaking with the effort. She tried jogging through the fields but could manage no more than a fast walk.

The sky was now dark purple, the evening clouds were brushed over with shimmering gold, but there was just enough light to see the cairns up ahead. Despite exhaustion Amelia tried to run as fast as she could from one cairn to the next. Then suddenly the horizon turned a soft sable bringing to light three glittering stars and a new moon dangling by an invisible thread at the edge of the horizon. In moments the sky and land had become one. It was too dark to safely go any further.

Amelia’s heart was frantically rushing in her chest and roaring in her ears as a roiling, swirling feeling made her too dizzy to walk. Sitting side by side, she and Matthew silently watched more and more stars float out of the velvety darkness. As the temperature quickly dropped, Amelia pulled on her sweater. It was oversized, warm and cozy, and though she knew the warmth wouldn’t last for long she immediately felt better.

Digging through her pack, she handed Matthew half of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“Thanks. I’m starving,” he whispered gratefully.

Within minutes the soft evening breeze was edged with a hard chill.

“How cold do you think it’s going to get tonight?” said Amelia, as she emptied out her backpack then fumbled with different ways to fold it.

“It’ll probably drop below freezing.” Matthew paused then added slowly, “Do you know what that means?”

Amelia knew the answer but she was desperately hoping Matthew might have something in mind a little less drastic than death-by-stupidity – the leading cause of death between the ages of 14 and 24, a statistic regularly quoted to her by her father. Of course she had ignored him as he was just being her dad. But now she was beginning to realize how easy it was to become a statistic.

“We could die from hypothermia,” said Matthew his voice low and apologetic.

Amelia involuntarily gasped a stuttering breath as tears silently streamed down her cheeks. “Don’t you think they’ll look for us?”

Matthew moved closer and put his arm around her.

“I’m sure they will,” Matthew said. “They’ll drive into town or wherever they can get a cell connection and call my dad. He’ll fly down in his helicopter and use the search light, but they’ll be looking at Canyon Rim which is nowhere near here.”

“Wow, your dad flies his own helicopter?” asked Amelia lightly, hoping to change the topic.

“Yep,” said Matthew in an exhausted tone making it clear he didn’t particularly like his father. “He learned to fly in Africa. I call him the great white hunter because he goes on safaris every year and now we have the heads of dead animals hanging all over the walls of his study.”

“Oh,” said Amelia, not really sure what else to say.

“Yeah,” said Matthew with a slight laugh. Then he drew Amelia closer and said, “I’m sorry. It’s my fault,” his voice guilt-ridden. “I never should have taken you off the trail.”

Amelia knew he must be as frightened as she was; feeling worse even, because he felt responsible for her.

“It’s okay,” she said squeezing his hand, “it was my choice too.”

As the night grew colder the stars appeared razor sharp. Amelia’s body, tingling and numb, began shaking uncontrollably as the freezing air penetrated her bones, a fierce, constant pain drawing out the little warmth left in her body. And though Matthew moved to sit behind her, wrapping his arms tightly around her, she felt herself sinking into the blackness of the night sky, drowning in stars as numerous and cold as falling snow, her body encased in ice, eyes wide open staring. Nothing seemed to exist but infinite galaxies of light and color blooming in her mind, pulling her forward with greater and greater intensity into an empty void of nothingness.

Suddenly, enveloped in darkness and with all the air squeezed out of her lungs, Amelia traveled at lightning speed down a long tube composed of dense grey light. With a whipping jolt she found herself sitting in a dimly lit room on a cold linoleum floor, gasping for breath.

As her vision cleared various shapes gradually began to emerge – a thin, flimsy mattress coupled with a faded, grey wool blanket, and a well-used pillow, all of which were lying in a neat pile on a cheap plastic bed frame screwed tightly into the floor. A piece of reflective metal was embedded in the wall above a small, rust-stained sink and next to it sat a toilet with no lid. A gloomy light was cast by a single bulb in the ceiling encased in a metal cage. High in a corner a solitary security camera swiveled slowly back and forth systematically scanning the room. That was it… there was nothing else. No pictures, no windows, just white-washed cement walls.

After frantically pulling on the handle and beating on the door, it was obvious no one was coming to help her. She tried yelling and waving her arms at the camera, and though she was certain she was being watched no one responded as she anxiously paced back and forth like a caged animal. Finally, Amelia gave up, sat down on the decrepit little bed, crossed her legs and slowly leaned back against the cold wall.

Taking a deep breath she closed her eyes and began to vividly imagine herself outside of this strange room. Instantly she felt her essence completely pull away from her body until she was floating close to the ceiling. From this vantage point she could see herself below sitting motionless on the bed wearing green scrubs.

Amelia floated along the ceiling, then through the wall and further on into a brightly lit hallway lined with doors that looked just like hers. She continued on and soon found herself in a large community room. The television seemed fairly new, but the couches, tables and chairs appeared to be at least twenty or thirty years old. As she drifted through the open doors leading to the Intensive Care Unit she immediately saw Matthew lying in a hospital bed, unconscious and on life-support. She gently floated in to see him, but quickly realized he was in a coma and unaware of her presence.

Unconcerned, she floated back out of the ICU and returned to the community room. This time she noticed a middle-aged woman with deep brown eyes and black, curly hair streaked with grey, dressed in green scrubs and fluffy, pink slippers. There was a deck of cards sitting on the table in front of her and as Amelia floated closer the woman looked directly at her.

“Sit down my dear, I’m Itzel. I’ve been expecting you,” she said hooking a chair with her foot and pushing it away from the table.

Amelia sat down. Without a word Itzel shuffled the deck and spread the cards out face down in a perfect arc on the table.

“Do you know you’re playing a game? Do you remember asking me to do this for you a long, long time ago before you were even born?”

Shaking her head Amelia said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“It’s alright,” said Itzel, “Just remember it’s all a game. Now go ahead and pick three cards, one at a time.”

Amelia obediently pointed to a card and Itzel flipped over the Death card. The picture showed Death himself portrayed as a skeleton wearing armor and holding a black flag with the Roman numerals XIII in white. His horse was carefully stepping over a dead man, woman and child, all lying on the ground in that order. Standing in front of the horse and rider was a bishop dressed in yellow paying homage to Death.

With an inexplicable, penetrating look Itzel said, “You cannot resist Death nor conquer it. The white horse is a symbol that Death is the ultimate purifier like the sun that dies at night and is reborn every morning. It means you can die and be reborn fresh and new.

“But notice this card is upside down so the meaning is also reversed. Sudden, unexpected change is coming and you must know that everything within you will resist that change. Death always includes transformation, but if you refuse to change you will be trapped, stuck in limbo. Do you understand?”

Amelia looked at her blankly. Some hazy, distant part of her did understand, but she said nothing.

“Pick another card, darling.”

Amelia pointed to The Hermit which was also turned upside down. The card depicted an old man with a flowing white beard and shoulder-length white hair dressed in a long, grey cloak standing alone on a snowy mountaintop with a dark, bluish-grey sky in the background. He carried a staff in his left hand and held aloft a lantern with a glowing six-pointed star in the center.

“As you can see this card is reversed, but in the upright position it is a symbol of wisdom and the sharing of knowledge with others. More than anything it represents a deep awareness of yourself – an awareness that can only be gained through isolation.

“But the meaning is reversed, which means you will not choose to be alone or go within, your isolation will be unwelcome, forced upon you. There will be a separation from someone you care for deeply and it will bring you overwhelming emptiness and pain if you resist. But notice The Hermit wears the grey cloak of invisibility and in this very moment you are invisible to everyone but me, so there is potential here IF you don’t resist what is now happening.”

Without being asked Amelia pointed to a third card and was immediately relieved to see that finally one of the cards was upright, until she saw it was The Devil. The card portrayed a Satyr, an unappealing creature part man, part goat with large horns sprouting out from his head and gigantic vampire bat wings emerging from his back. From his feet protruded bat claws rather than the typical toes or hooves and he was perched high above a man and woman – both naked with tiny goat horns sprouting from their heads and goat-like tails as well. They were chained to the podium where the Devil sat and also chained to each other.

“This doesn’t look good,” said Amelia shaking her head.

With a sigh Itzel said, “Yes, this one is challenging, no doubt.”

“This IS just a game, right?” said Amelia uncertainly.

“Yes, my dear, you are playing a game,” said Itzel reassuringly.

“Okay – go ahead and tell me what it means,” Amelia sighed.

“This card represents an actual person who, like a bat, sucks the life out of his prey. But in this case it’s not blood, but energy. He takes the life-force of others, believing that the end somehow justifies the means. There is something about him that is irresistible, almost hypnotic. He may actually use hypnosis to get what he wants and those that come near him are easily held within his power. The inverted pentagram above his head signifies dark intent and black magic.”

“Is there anything good about any of this?” asked Amelia doubtfully.

Itzel raised an eyebrow and said, “Well, look here at the man and woman. It appears they’re being held captive against their will, but if you look more closely you can see the chains around their necks are loose and could easily be removed. This means they’re voluntarily in bondage.”

“This is the good news?” said Amelia impatiently.

“It means you have a choice. This is actually the most important card for you to understand. On the one hand you’ll meet a man who embodies these things, but unlike the repulsive picture on this card you may feel strangely drawn to him, he may be ultra-charismatic, he may have certain characteristics that are much like your own. In other words he won’t look like a devil. But he will mirror to you all your hopes and fears.

“It will be easy to feel like his victim, easy to blame him for what happens to you. But if you believe that to be true, you will fall completely under his control. You’ll transfer your energy over to him and he will become more powerful while your energy becomes more and more depleted.”

“But I thought you said we’re playing a game,” said Amelia, feeling frightened and confused. “This doesn’t sound like any fun at all.”

“The trick to this game is to remember it’s all YOUR game. And you have a choice; you can play it according to someone else’s rules or play by your own rules. You can get caught up in their version of reality or you can choose to remain in your own.”

“Have we done this before?” said Amelia blinking. “I’ve dreamt of you before haven’t I?”

Amelia’s body began shaking uncontrollably then suddenly, both Itzel and the room dissolved into complete darkness.

 

Chapter Two

 

Startled back into awareness Amelia realized that Matthew was shaking her. Teeth chattering, his voice low and urgent he spoke in stuttering breaths. “Amelia our core temperatures are dropping, we have to find a way to make the most of our clothing and everything we have.”

Slowly Amelia began to process where she was and what was happening. She could no longer deny the facts. No one knew how to find them. No one would be coming to rescue them. They would either find a way to survive together or they would die.

This stark realization was accompanied by an electric jolt; suddenly Amelia’s mind was sharp, clear, and focused. A seemingly unrelated memory popped into her mind: Amelia was thirteen years old, giggling with her friends at her birthday slumber party on the subject of the Siberian Survival Method.

Amelia never knew whether it was just a joke or the truth, but it was the only thing she could think of, so setting aside any feelings of embarrassment and speaking as best she could despite her own chattering teeth, she said, “I think we need to be skin to skin. My sweater is huge – we can both fit into it. So you put it on, unbutton your shirt so my back will be against your chest and then wrap the sweater around me.”

“Okay,” said Matthew, “first let’s put our backpacks together so we can lie on our sides. It won’t be very comfortable, but it might help.”

They were so cold it was difficult to move let alone arrange their packs in the dark while trying to find a spot that was as level as possible. It felt like diving naked into an icy pond when Amelia took off her sweater. With completely numb fingers she unbuttoned her shirt and put it on backwards.

Matthew quickly put on her sweater, unbuttoned his own shirt and with a bit of awkward fumbling in the dark they managed to reposition themselves so they were skin-to-skin with Amelia’s sweater wrapped around them both. Had Amelia been on her own she would have felt the discomfort of the uneven, rocky ground, lumpy backpacks and the annoying zipper digging into her hip, but every ache and pain dissolved into the warmth of Matthew’s bare chest pressing solidly into her back, his strong arm wrapped tightly around her waist.

“Are you okay?” he whispered his voice deep, but shaky from the cold.

Amelia firmly placed her hand over his. “Yes,” she said nodding slightly.

Even with the needling cold pricking every part of her, Amelia was only aware of Matthew’s warm skin, his chest rhythmically rising and falling with each breath; his heart beating all the way through her body. She wanted to dissolve into that moment and float forever along the waves of light passing silently between them.

Amelia’s body began to feel a bit warmer, but it wasn’t yet midnight. With at least six or seven hours left to go she knew survival was impossible. What was it about time? It was so inconsistent – badly behaved, even. In the late afternoon time had moved so quickly, zipping by when they desperately needed it to slow down; and now it was moving agonizingly slow – heavy as stone. Time seemed more like an obstinate child: whatever she wanted from time, and the more she wanted it, time would do just the opposite.

Tomorrow the sun would continue shining, the world would go on just as it did every other day – night dissolving into day and back into night, endlessly cycling, seasons irresistibly recurring, but all of it would exist without them. How was that even possible? They were only in high school. Weren’t they allowed to make mistakes? How could life be so unfair?

With Matthew’s arm still wrapped tightly around her, his heart beating steady and slow, time dissolved into that moment. In fact, the entire world was dissolving into that moment. No one and nothing else existed – just the two of them. Amelia gently took Matthew’s hand from her waist, placed it over her heart and placed her hand over his.

Then suddenly, the ground beneath her disappeared as an electric charge pulsed through Amelia’s body and a blazing beam of golden white light drew her up into the sky. The world was frantically spinning, breaking apart into countless shining pieces as if stars were being flung into the heavens. It was so beautiful! Amelia could hardly breathe. How had she missed this?

Everything was vibrating. Every cell in her body, every atom on Earth, every star and galaxy, everything seen and unseen was pulsating – singing a song as ancient as time itself. As if she contained the sun, light radiated out from Amelia’s heart and from every cell in her body.

Matthew could feel it too and whispered, “What’s happening? You feel so warm.”

Electricity ran through Amelia’s body as she shook her head unable to speak. Trying to make sense of what she was experiencing she opened her eyes.

“Matthew,” she whispered urgently, “Look!”

Before them stood a golden-haired child; a little girl no more than ten years old with radiant skin, rosy cheeks, full red lips and vivid blue eyes. She was barefoot, wearing a simple white dress with a wreath of wildflowers in her hair. Though she carried no light, and certainly wasn’t glowing from within, they could see her clearly while still unable to see each other or anything else.

At that moment Amelia and Matthew both felt warm and comfortable as if the cold from only moments ago was nothing more than a dream. Though there was no apparent source of light, everything around them was lit by a soft, gentle glow that seemed like a combination of late dusk, pre-dawn, and a full moon all rolled together as one.

The child smiled sweetly and said, “I’m Äsha.” Then heading down the path she added, “Come on…this way!” as if she was about to lead them on some grand adventure.

Not only did she act as if nothing unusual had occurred she seemed completely oblivious to the fact that Matthew and Amelia were still lying on their sides cocooned together in Amelia’s sweater.

Blinking and looking around trying to make sense of everything, Amelia quickly unbuttoned the sweater they’d been sharing, wriggled out of it, then sat up and tried to get her bearings. Matthew sat up as well, pulled off the sweater and handed it back to her. Though she was not the least bit cold, Amelia hurriedly put on the sweater rather than try to figure out a way to gracefully turn her shirt back around and button it. Hastily, they both jumped to their feet, grabbed their backpacks and rushed to catch up with the curious little girl.

Barely able to feel her feet touching the ground, a strange tingling current flowed through Amelia’s body as if she was floating. And though she was bursting with questions nothing came out of her mouth as they followed the girl down the trail.

Finally Amelia found her voice. “Are you an angel?” But before the girl could answer she added breathlessly, “Are we dead?”

Äsha continued walking but turned her head to address Amelia. “I’m not an angel. And you’re not dead,” she said lightly.

“But it’s not cold anymore… and it’s still dark, but we can see. How’s that possible?” said Matthew incredulously.

“You’re both fine,” said Äsha reassuringly. “You’re just in another part of the program, what you might think of as a different dimension,” she added as if they knew exactly what she was talking about.

“What other dimension? What program are you talking about… the geology class we’re in?” Matthew asked, studying the girl intently as she turned to look at him.

“Oh my goodness,” said Äsha in a sweet, sympathetic voice, “I’m afraid I’ve gotten way ahead of you. This may be difficult to understand… well actually it’s not difficult to understand, it’s just that you obviously don’t remember anything and you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” She stopped walking and then surveying them both, she said, “What I have to tell you might be a bit shocking, so maybe we should sit down for a moment.”

“We don’t have time to sit down,” said Amelia urgently, “we have to get back to our camp. People are worried about us… they’re out searching for us!”

Kindly, yet pragmatically Matthew said, “Whatever it is you have to tell us… maybe we could just keep walking back.”

“Oh, I’m afraid you don’t quite understand. Maybe it would help if you were to think of this as a parallel world,” said the girl hopefully.

Matthew and Amelia looked at her blankly.

Asha thought for a moment. “In this parallel world that you’re now in it’s warm instead of cold… right? Well… your friends and the people searching for you are in the world where it’s cold,” she said, appearing rather pleased with herself.

“What are you saying?” said Matthew.

“I’m saying that if you went back to your campsite,” said Äsha slowly, “no one would be able to see you. No one would know you were there.”

They stared at her silently trying to assimilate the gravity of their situation.

“So we are dead,” said Matthew quietly.

“No!” said Äsha throwing her head back laughing. “Okay, I’m just going to say it! There….Is….NO….Death! There never has been death and there never will be death. You will never die. Death only exists in the eyes of the beholder.

“Oh dear, I wasn’t really planning to start there,” said Äsha sheepishly rolling her eyes, “I was thinking I would break you both in a bit more slowly to that idea.

“Okay, listen… what I’m about to tell you is…well…it’s something that’s known throughout the universe, but it’s the biggest secret on Earth. It explains absolutely everything about so-called life and death, and it answers all unanswered questions and scientific anomalies…every senseless thing, every terrible act, even the deepest sadness – all of it will make perfect sense.

“But first, repeat after me – Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Silence.

“I don’t mean in your heads – say it out loud,” said the girl encouragingly.

Amelia and Matthew looked curiously at each other then back at Äsha.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” they repeated perfunctorily.

“Part two,” said Äsha. “No matter what I tell you…no matter how unbelievable it may seem, simply say to yourself, This is a possibility. You don’t have to believe what I am telling you, just give the idea some breathing room,” Äsha added taking a deep breath. “This is a possibility… Are you ready?”

Amelia nodded vigorously, hoping Äsha wouldn’t change her mind and suddenly decide it was time for breakfast, leaving them hanging.

“Here’s the big secret.”

Matthew and Amelia stared at her wide-eyed, mouths slightly open and breathless with anticipation.

“Earth and everything you experience here is a virtual reality.”

Äsha looked expectantly at the pair as they sat stunned, staring back at her blankly.

“In fact Earth was created to be the Ultimate Virtual Reality Game in the Universe, we just call it The Game,” said Äsha enthusiastically. “It’s the most challenging game ever created and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart!

“You’ve spent your entire life playing this game, but in reality, Earth isn’t your home. It’s simply a place where everyone goes to play and have experiences that they couldn’t have anywhere else in the Universe.

“Shall we sit down now?” said Äsha nodding.

In stunned silence Amelia and Matthew sat down next to each other facing Äsha.

Of all the things Amelia expected to hear in that moment, the idea that she was playing a game – that anyone could think of life on planet Earth as simply a game – was the most ludicrous thing she’d ever heard. It was one area where this is a possibility absolutely, positively did not apply. Not to mention the fact that something on the scale of planet Earth would be impossible, even for God. Well, maybe not for God, she thought, but why would God create a virtual reality game? Was it just to keep His creation entertained?

“There’s no way,” said Amelia skeptically, “if this was a computer program then everything in it, every blade of grass, every raindrop, snowflake, grain of sand, every sunrise and sunset, not to mention every human being and every event throughout history, would have to be programmed into the game.”

“Not only that,” said Äsha unflinchingly, “EVERY possibility… on every dimension, including parallel worlds and alternate realities, and things you’ve never even heard of before! And not only is EVERYTHING programmed, The Game has been around for billions of years and will continue for as long as people want to keep playing.

“Of course there are some cultures that understand your world better than others. For instance, in India they call life on Earth, The Maya… they see life as an illusion – which is true, but it’s not the whole picture. And the aboriginals in Australia call it The Dreamtime, which is also on the right track. But very few people have ever guessed that Earth and everything happening here is a game.

“If you think about it neither of you could have ever comprehended the idea of a virtual reality game if we were having this conversation a hundred years ago. So an illusion, or a dream, would be about as close as you could get.”

“But how could we be playing a game without knowing it?” asked Amelia.

“You’re born into the game. But before you’re born you choose your parents, your name, your date of birth, and of course your physical body, it’s your avatar,” said Äsha. “You agree to forget who you are, where you came from, as well as any previous games you’ve played and most importantly, the fact that you’re playing a game at all.

“Every game you’ve ever played is recorded and stored in your DNA, so occasionally people do remember portions of games they’ve played before… and I’m only telling you this because it can be a little confusing. Most people don’t have a visual memory of past games, but sometimes they have feelings that come up that can’t be explained.”

Amelia had the feeling Äsha was trying to tell them something, but she couldn’t begin to imagine what she was talking about. Despite that, Amelia decided to put logic aside and just play along, surely this was some kind of a made-up story typical of a ten year old.

“So just like with any game, I could decide to play anyone I choose and be born at any time in history,” she said. “I mean, I could be Benjamin Franklin or Cleopatra but then so could countless other people, right? How would that work? We can’t all be the same person?”

“Of course you can,” said Äsha, her eyes sparkling. “Think of it this way – no matter how many times you play a computer game, you never play exactly the same way, right? So every time you play it’s a new and different experience. Or think of it like a dream. Millions of people could dream they were Cleopatra or Ben Franklin and every dream would be unique – people wouldn’t be competing with each other to play the part.

“In the same way, each time you are born into The Game you create a new timeline. So there could be an infinite number of parallel versions of Cleopatra or Benjamin Franklin and each version creates its own unique history so to speak.

“Remember, EVERY possibility already exists. Every time someone plays they tap into a new version of reality that has never been played out before.”

“You’re talking about infinite parallel realities,” said Matthew, his scientific mind finally letting go of what was or was not possible. “But what about Amelia and I for instance – is there another version of us that went back to the campsite before dark or a version that died?”

“Yes of course,” said Äsha. “All possibilities already exist. You can’t think of anything or come up with a scenario that isn’t already part of the program.”

“So you’re saying that of all the fictional books that have ever been written or ever will be written – all the stories are actually true in some alternate or parallel reality – and the author just tapped into that reality when writing the book?” asked Matthew shaking his head doubtfully.

Äsha smiled and nodded her head yes, vigorously.

Over and over Amelia said to herself ‘this is a possibility, you don’t have to believe any of it, it’s just a possibility,’ but everything in her wanted to rebel.

“I know this should be mind-expanding and all,” said Amelia, sighing heavily, “but it’s just confusing. I mean, if it’s all programmed how does it work?”

“Prior to being born, you program your gifts into your DNA. These are gifts you’ve earned or developed in previous games,” said Äsha. “You also program your challenges and the people you want to play with during the course of your life. Some people will be your challengers and others will be your supporters, but usually you are playing with people you’ve played with before in previous games – or what you might think of as previous lifetimes – and that’s why you sometimes feel you already know someone you’ve just met, for better or worse! You program everything you want to experience… even a few exit points where you can die out of the game if it just gets to be too much.”

Amelia glanced at Matthew wondering if he had recognized her the way she had recognized him, but he was intently focused on Äsha and didn’t look in her direction.

“Another reason you may feel that you recognize or remember someone you’ve never met is because your PFI, personal frequency-ID, remains the same through every game, whether you are male or female, a child or an adult,” said Äsha matter-of-factly. So even though your conscious memory is wiped clean, much like reformatting a computer hard drive, all frequencies of every player remain unique, but you can only identify each other through an intuitive sense or feeling – there will be no logical reason for what you feel.”

“But without a computer where does the program exist?” asked Amelia thoughtfully.

“Your human body isn’t just your avatar, it’s a living bio-computer. The program runs very much like a binary code that turns on and off, but rather than a computer that’s plugged into electricity, your bio-computer is plugged in to your feelings,” said Äsha.

“But if this is a virtual reality and my body is my avatar then are you saying that I’m not real?” said Amelia reaching up to tap both of her shoulders with her fingertips.

“I’m saying,” said Äsha slowly, “that YOU are NOT your body. If you were your body, every time you cut your hair or trimmed your fingernails, a part of you would be lost.”

Deep in thought Matthew suddenly held up his hand like a guard at a cross-walk. “Wait! Wait a second,” he said firmly. “You’re right, none of this makes sense… and in a strange way it’s also the only thing that does make sense. But the idea that this is a virtual reality game is a little too perfect. It explains away every conceivable anomaly because anything and everything is possible.”

Äsha nodded. “Well, that’s how the truth works. In your world every scientific theory gives way to new theories. Theories you believe today will all change in time. Truth is simple and unchanging. Anything that explains away every conceivable anomaly is the nature of Truth.”

“I still don’t understand the part about your feelings and the binary code,” said Matthew, somewhat perplexed.

“Well it’s a little more complex than you might imagine because it’s an interactive program,” said Äsha. “but in the simplest terms think of it this way – instead of ones and zeros turning the computer on or off – your feelings are your navigation system. On corresponds with positive emotion. Off corresponds with what you might call negative emotion or fear. Think of it like the feeling of yes or no or the feeling that you are safe or unsafe.

“If you think back to your hike there was most likely a moment when you felt unsafe, a niggling feeling that you should head back, but you talked yourself out of it.”

Amelia knew immediately what Äsha meant as she thought back to the exact spot on the trail when she started feeling unsafe. It was just the smallest hint of a feeling and it didn’t make sense at the time. If she had been alone she might have acted on the feeling, but she didn’t want to say anything to Matthew since he was an experienced hiker and she was not.

“So you’re saying that when the binary code is switching on or off you feel safe or unsafe,” said Matthew deliberately. “And if you don’t act on that feeling of being unsafe it just gets stronger and stronger until you do something about it?”

“That’s it exactly!” said Äsha genuinely pleased. “But it can also happen over longer periods of time – days, weeks, even years – it just depends on how important it is for you to respond quickly and how long it takes for you to get the message and take action.

“Of course sometimes there’s no warning at all, not even a whisper. And when there’s no warning, no feeling that you’re unsafe, that’s because the event is an important part of what you have programmed for your lifetime experience.”

Amelia shook her head. How could any of this possibly be true? What was this child playing at? Äsha was so convincing, maybe she was a pathological liar.

“Even if this is all true,” said Amelia, fearful she was being deceived, but still trying to be polite, “there are a lot of people looking for us right now and we really don’t have time to talk about this. We need to let someone know we’re alright.”

Äsha was quiet.

Amelia looked at her skeptically and said, “That is, of course, unless we really are dead.”

“You’re not dead,” said Äsha firmly, “you both programmed everything you’re experiencing now before you were born. This is just an opportunity to learn how to navigate The Game at a more advanced level.”

“Well, I find it hard to believe that I would program myself to be here – wherever here is – and that I’d want to learn about some unbelievable game that no one else has ever heard of and no one would even believe rather than just going back to our friends,” said Amelia, shaking her head. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

“It would make sense if you knew what was coming,” said Äsha knowingly.

“Well then tell us what’s coming,” said Matthew pragmatically.

“That’s not for me to say,” said Äsha quietly. “I’m only here to teach you how to navigate The Game more effectively. It’s your choice whether you stay and learn, or go back to your own dimension.”

“You mean we can go back right now?” said Amelia hopefully. “And it doesn’t matter that we supposedly programmed all of this?”

“You have free will, Amelia. No matter what you programmed prior to your birth, the prime directive of The Game is, Thy will be done,” said Äsha.

“Well then, it is my will to go back!” said Amelia with conviction.

“And so it is,” said Äsha softly.

Her body seemed to shimmer for a moment and then she disappeared.

 

 

Chapter Three

 

Instantly it was pitch dark and freezing cold again.

“Oh my God, what have I done?” said Amelia shaking and terrified.

“It’s okay,” said Matthew calmly. “Did you notice that Äsha led us down a trail that got us off of the plateau? We’re on level ground now. It will be slow going, but we can’t fall off a cliff, so we’ll make it. And even though it’s cold, my core temperature is warm now… is yours?” asked Matthew.

“Yes,” said Amelia, pulling her sweater tightly around herself.

“We’re really not that far away from our campsite, don’t worry,” said Matthew taking her hand. “Even if we don’t make it back before it’s light, at least this way we can keep moving. We’ll be alright… I promise.”

Matthew suddenly stopped and said, “Amelia, look!” He turned her slightly and she saw a bright white light appearing out of the darkness.

“Oh my God, it’s a helicopter!” said Amelia excitedly. “Is it your dad?”

“It must be,” said Matthew staring at the approaching lights.

“Do you think he’ll see us?” said Amelia breathlessly.

“Well, there are no trees nearby and my father knows how to do a sweep. We just have to stand here and wait,” said Matthew confidently.

As they stood patiently waiting the helicopter appeared brighter and sounded louder than Amelia would have expected, but then again she had never been rescued at night in the desert. Finally the light swept across them and a large helicopter landed on the flat, sandy ground about twenty feet from where they were standing. But instead of Matthew’s father emerging, two soldiers jumped out of the doorway dressed in standard military flight suits and helmets with boom mics.

“Are you both okay?” yelled one soldier over the tumultuous sound of the chopper blades.

Matthew and Amelia nodded vigorously.

“Come with us!” he yelled.

Ducking down Matthew and Amelia ran with the two men and were both helped inside. They climbed in between two rows, four seats in each row facing one another. Amelia and Matthew sat facing forward with both soldiers directly facing them. One of the soldiers, a man in his fifties with a square jaw and intense, dark eyes, indicated that they should put on the headsets which were hanging above their heads on their seats.

“You’re okay now,” he said confidently as he nodded his head.

“How did you find us?” said Matthew, speaking through the attached microphone.

“We just kept looking,” he said.

The helicopter rose swiftly into the air and then spun around nearly 180 degrees and began flying in the opposite direction.

“Are you taking us back to our campsite?” asked Matthew apprehensively.

“No, we have other instructions,” said the soldier loudly.

“What do you mean… other instructions?” asked Matthew still somewhat concerned.

“We’re headed back to the hanger… that’s all I know.” Then with a slight smile he added, “We’re just the rescue team!”

Relieved, Matthew said, “Is this a Black Hawk?”

The soldier smiled and nodded. “Yep… it’s a UH60.”

Amelia looked at Matthew and he smiled at her.

“I know a bit about helicopters,” he said shrugging.

“I’d say so,” said Amelia returning his smile.

In silence they flew for half an hour or so, but Amelia wasn’t really sure about the time because there was nothing to see except the interior lights reflecting off of the windows. Finally the helicopter dropped straight down as if it was about to land, but instead, it seemed to be flying slightly above the ground. Amelia still couldn’t see anything, but she noticed the sound seemed to be echoing back to them as if there were walls on either side of them.

She wanted to ask Matthew if he knew what was going on, but she felt self-conscious knowing that the soldiers could hear her as well. A few minutes later her questions were answered when they landed. As she climbed out, Amelia saw that they had flown directly through a massive manmade tunnel and were now in an underground hangar surrounded by walls reaching up at least fifty feet high.

“This way,” said the dark-eyed soldier as he and a couple of others accompanied them to an electric humvee.

Amelia looked anxiously at Matthew.

“Where are you taking us?” said Matthew cautiously.

“I don’t know, kid, this is just a hangar,” said the man. “You’ll be taken to someone who will explain everything.”

He then held the humvee door open for Amelia. Cautiously, she climbed in and looked uncertainly over her shoulder as Matthew followed and sat next to her. A driver was waiting along with two armed soldiers in the seat behind them, all were dressed in black jumpsuits and wearing headsets with microphones. The moment the door closed there was a clicking sound as it locked automatically. Amelia had an uncomfortable, claustrophobic feeling knowing they were now locked inside with no way out.