This is an odd sort of story and it feels unfinished to me, but I’m still recovering from the workweeks from hell, so this is all I have. It’s a continuation in the theme of Soul Keepers and the Presence, which I’ve written about before. In this one, however, I wanted to explore the downside of an involuntary spiritual awakening.
I wanted the character to struggle with the differences in perception between doing what’s right and doing what appears right. So, this story is a little dark, unforgiving, and unresolved.
The bad dreams and the exhaustion they led me into were over, thanks in large part to Lin, the Silent Witness I had met on the bus that day when I came out of hospital. Looking back, it was the luckiest day of my life. Without Lin there to guide me in the days and months that followed I think I’d have thought there was an illness brewing in my mind.
After Lin and I parted at the bus stop I didn’t think I’d ever see her again, and part of me was relieved by that. I felt embarrassed, I suppose, by all the recent events that had brought me to where I was. Walking home, I was still a little shaky and it made me anxious. What if I fainted again, here in the middle of the street? It was the fifth day of winter and the air had turned cold. If I fainted, would that cold seep into me and kill me? Probably not. It wasn’t that cold, but the anxiety was building violent storm clouds in my mind and pushing me to see the exaggerated worst in everything.
I stopped a few times to lean against light poles and fences, feeling dizzy and scared. Fear was making my breathing shallow, the logical part of my mind told me, but the subconscious part was reminding me of dire times when I was sick and feeling helpless. That was it; I felt helpless.
I barely made it home. Walking in, I immediately knew there were things to do. A slightly sour smell of garbage reminded me the housework had stopped as soon as I had, and there were bound to be a few unpleasant surprises in the fridge, too. I was thankful, I suppose, that I’d left my balcony door slightly ajar, otherwise the place would’ve smelled a lot worse. That open door had, however, allowed the cold in and I shivered with it and with fatigue.
My mind was muddled. I didn’t know whether to shower first or clean; both needed to happen but really, I just wanted to go to bed and sleep. That scared me, too. What if the dreams came again? I had sleeping pills given to me at the hospital, but I’ve never liked or trusted drugs. Maybe they’d put me into a sleep that was populated by nightmares but from which I couldn’t wake up.
The deep tiredness in me won, reaching up to pull me down into it, and I barely made it to my bed. I slept, ate dry crackers, and slept again over another two days. I woke after that, scratching at the uncomfortable beard growth on my face, and I showered to wake myself up. My phone had once again come close to melting down, and once again it could wait. I needed physical activity, even as weak as I was, so I pushed myself to clean my home, taking out a few bags of garbage, most of which were food spoiled in my fridge. Shaving with a trembling hand, I nicked myself more than a few times but it felt good to feel my face without stubble. I showered, and that revived me more than I’d expected. Soon, I’d have to deal with the world, making phone calls and shopping for food.
While I’d slept I’d dreamed again, but this time they were different. Instead of snippets, and being tossed uncontrollably from scene to dreaded scene, there was more flow and progression. It was almost like watching a movie, but one I didn’t enjoy and couldn’t comprehend the meaning of. Lin was in a few scenes, shouting something at me, but the bleak high wind between us tore her words away.
My home was still very uncomfortably cold, so with a hot drink and a blanket thrown over my lap, I sat on my sofa to begin the list-making process. Still tired and shaky, I think I must have fallen into a light slumber again. I saw the devastation once more; the carnage caused by humans to humans, and I was once again back in a world I hated. I awoke with a start.
I looked around. I was most certainly alone, but I heard that word spoken by a voice other than mine. It was, to say the least, somewhat disturbing. I sat up, unsure what to make of this. From an empty space in the centre of my lounge room, the voice came again.
“You are a Soul Keeper.”
I woke up again an hour later with a splitting headache and an unanswered question. ‘What had just happened?’
I returned a few necessary calls, letting my boss know I’d been in hospital. I think he was relieved; it explained a lot that had happened recently. That good man gave me two weeks’ off, saying I’d earned it. For all its pain and misery, the world also has its good spots and many people who keep them alive and active.
I had to shop. My home was as empty of food as it was of company. I admit it, I was fearful of leaving in case I fell again. I went to a different mall, unwilling to face the embarrassment I’d feel if someone in ‘Fainting Mall’ recognised me. I felt shaky and weak, until a small hand laid itself on my arm and a sort of light-energy shot through me. That was when the blonde woman who’d lost a child spoke to me, and when Lin appeared once more in my life. It signalled the end of the life I had known, and it ushered in a new one I had to shape myself into.
I am a Soul Keeper, one of many. I don’t know for sure, but I think we’re lower than the Angels and slightly higher than humans. We have bodies and lives, and there’s nothing physically remarkable about us. What makes us special is what’s inside us, and what we can do with it.
Making the transition from who I thought I was to who I really am was difficult. It’s not all about being nice and heroic in dreams; every part of my life was impacted in some way, and some of those ways proved challenging.
How well I recall the first time I had been deliberately disobedient to the will of the Presence, and while I’ve learned not to do it, I’m still not sorry I did. I had, for nearly a year, learned my lessons well, which came to me in dreams, both sleeping and waking, and through Lin. In fact, my loyalty to Lin had grown in proportion to my respect for her knowledge, and in a way it resulted in my first downfall.
In her worldly life she loved to meet people, and one was a woman who was a vile, manipulative piece of shit. That woman loved to play the self-righteous, hard-done-by victim. Her strategy was to at first be nice, to befriend, and then to start sniping and undermining the confidence of her ‘friend’ – all in the name of ‘helping’. When her venom had taken her a fang too far she went quiet for a week, reemerged as ‘nice’ for a few days, and she then once again began showing her true colours. Some people are shit because it’s in their interest; some, because it’s in their nature. She won on both counts.
Fortunately, she died, and soon history would recall her, if at all, as nothing more than a small, dried shit stain on the used toilet paper of life, unlamented and unmissed. I sensed her death and I was relieved. It came as a surprise to me that I was called upon to Keep her soul, and I resisted. She’d never displayed having one. I felt urged by the Presence to go to her, and that was where I was disobedient. I allowed her soul to find its true level, and it disintegrated into negative dust. Placing such a vile energy into a newborn child was a task I was not prepared to do, not even for the Presence.
There were consequences, but I was willing to bear them. Mostly, they came by way of lessons given and learned. I believe I have learned them but in the interests of honesty and integrity I still can’t say I’m sorry for what I allowed to happen. Lin helped me enormously in the weeks after my disobedience, and here’s what she imparted to me.
The Constant Challenge.
It’s overcoming the desire to interfere. It builds artificial barriers. Interference may prolong the time it takes before the next stage of the Purpose is revealed, and it can form a pattern of wallowing in old negatives. Take a breath and trust. Take another breath and trust. Keep breathing out negative patterns and breathe in trust even, and especially, when situations are not as you’d like them to be. Don’t concentrate on what’s happening; breathe into your Purpose.
As I came to understand it, my quest is not to know ‘how’ a thing will happen, but to keep following the trail my Purpose lays down. The ‘how’ will reveal itself, often in ways I would never have imagined or even suspected. Occasionally, the intelligence behind my Purpose will transmit flashes of insight into the future, not as a temptation or prompt, but as a checkpoint where I can have an ‘Aha!’ moment and confirm I am on Purpose.
My logical mind found two glaring flaws with all this, however, and being who I am means that a thing must make some sort of sense to me or I rebel against it. “So, Lin,” I said, “trying to get in the way of Purpose is easy to know, because it feels wrong, right?” I grinned, trying to tie her up in word logic. “Right,” she said, ignoring my joke. “Well, then,” I continued, “the Presence wanted me to Keep the soul of MiseryLovesCompany, and as we know, I didn’t, but I don’t feel bad about it. In fact, I think I did the right thing by that child who was being born,” I said.
Just as she was about to answer, I spoke again. “Now, the second thing is all this stuff about the unexamined life not being worth living. I agree, but only to a point. If all I’m doing is examining my life then, really, I’m not living it. Fixating on yesterday wastes today and how is that going to improve tomorrow?”
Our discussions continued, and they still do, but I have something of a blind spot when it comes to unlimited compassion. I believe I acted compassionately in not allowing the foul stench of an awful soul to inhabit the body and life of a newborn. My evidence is that the soul disintegrated into negative dust, so there couldn’t have been much good in it anyway. “People can change,” Lin said, hopefully. “Indeed they can,” I replied, “and when they do I’ll change my perception of them, but until they do, I won’t. As I understand it, even negative dust can redeem itself over time, if it wants to.”
Some people love to create tension and drama; they feel most alive when they’re harming others, especially if they can wheel out an ‘explanation’ that’s self-serving and gives them a free kick at others. Hell, some of them even convince themselves they’re these amazing if misunderstood saints. Right. Here’s my theory. Those types love manipulating because they have something damaged or missing inside of them. If they can’t have it, no one can, and so they go on search and destroy missions. What they hate is other people’s happiness; the thought of it causes them pain.
My theory is HRT: Heart Rate Variation. Doctors measure it as a snapshot: energy driving function, and for their purposes that’s often enough. However, if you measure it over a longer period other patterns emerge. Pressure creates chaos between the heart and the brain, transmitted up the nerve channels. Some people who love to imagine and inflict artificial drama can cause an overload, super chaos, in their own system. This leads to ill health, sure, but it also leads to cortical inhibition. Yep, science says they shut down their own frontal lobe, where personality and concern for others lives. In essence, they self-lobotomise. It explains a lot, but it doesn’t forgive it.
Lin is much more compassionate than me. I think she also has a much greater sense of the Presence than I do. I said this to her and, somewhat cryptically, she replied: “The Presence is always showing the way, except when you get in it.”
Being a Soul Keeper is like being Shrodinger’s Cat: neither dead nor alive. At least it’s a hundred steps up from being Shrodinger’s Douchebag, and I’m still not sorry she’s negative dust.