Tuesday, October 10, 2017



In high school, Eric was an atheist. He exulted in his Nietzschean emancipation. A member of the honor society, Eric's IQ was definitely above average, but well short of brilliant. Yet he viewed himself as a superior being compared to his benighted classmates. He had particular contempt for a special ed student–as well as Josh, an openly Christian classmate. Eric regarded Christianity as a crutch for the weak. He disdained its "slave morality". He used to quote Mark Twain's adage, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Although Eric derived momentary satisfaction from looking down on others, and contriving clever putdowns, he felt empty and bitter. That attitude ate away at him.


One weekend, some students organized a hike up the mountain. There were two small teams. Josh was in the first team, ahead of the second team, which Eric was in. When they began their ascent at the crack of dawn, it was a clear, chilly day. But further up the trail, it became overcast. At that point Eric removed his sunglasses. About an hour later, Eric's vision became blurry and painful. Despite the cloud cover, unfiltered UV rays from the thin air in combination with reflected light from snow-blanketed hillsides, induced snowblindness. 

The first team reached the summit, then began their descent, crossing paths with the second team, on the way up. By the time his team was approaching the summit, Eric could no longer see well enough to continue. He had to sit down. He told his classmates he was losing his vision. But they left him there while they made it to the summit, to take in the spectacular view. 

On the way back down, they walked past Eric. He was hoping, expecting, counting on one of them to lead him back down the trail, since he couldn't see well enough to navigate the trail on his own. But his classmates were worried that he'd slow them down. They needed to make it back to base camp before sundown, since they couldn't see the trail in the dark and temperatures plummeted after dark. So they left him behind to fend for himself.

Eric cursed them out leaving him behind, to die from exposure, but they quoted back to him one of his fond Nietzschean aphorisms: "The great majority of men have no right to existence, but are a misfortune to higher men."


So Eric sat by himself, desperately pondering what to do next. Although he could barely see, he tried to text-message Josh to come rescue him. 

At first he didn't remember Josh's number. Then, for the first time in his life, he prayed. A moment later, he remembered the number. 

He wasn't sure his message was intelligible, since he couldn't see the keypad properly, and he wasn't sure Josh even got the message, because reception was spotty on the trail. In fact, he wasn't sure if he had the right number. 

So he sat by himself in lonely silence and fading light. Fading, not because it was getting dark outside, but because his eyesight was fading. Minutes later, he was totally blind. 

Eric sat there for what seemed like hours. He realized that he was terrified of death. He didn't really believe Twain's adage. All along, he was playacting, having cast himself in a flattering role. He used to love quoting Nietzsche's death-defying maxims, but he only wanted to live dangerously if it wasn't really dangerous. 

So he sat and sobbed. He swore at God, if there was a God, for letting him die on the mountain side. 


Having lost hope, and having lost track of time, Eric was surprised and startled when he heard Josh call to him. Josh gave him a hug, and Eric cried. Josh waited for Eric to regain his composure, before putting eyedrops in his sunburned eyes, then winding a bandage around his eyes to keep him from blinking. 

Then Josh took him by the hand and began to lead him down the trail. When the trail was rough, Josh put Eric's arm around his shoulder to guide and steady him. 

It was too late to make base camp before dark, so they had to find a place on the trail, below the timberline, to camp out overnight. Josh gathered wood for a fire. Eric was utterly helpless. Josh fed him rations–spooning the spam out of the tin can with his finger. They snuggled for warmth during the frigid night.

Next day they continued their descent. After arriving at base camp, they spent another day and night in one of the cabins until Eric regained his sight. 


After that, Josh and Eric were best friends. Eric began to read the Bible, asking Josh questions about the Bible. He attended church with Eric. Befriended the special ed student. In college, Josh suffered a crisis of faith, and it was Eric to prayed for him. 

Decades later, Josh predeceased him. On his deathbed, Eric reflected on his brush with death as a teenager. Once again, he was facing death, yet the contrast made all the difference. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Déjà vécu


When Jayden awoke, he found himself in a hospital room. He didn't remember how he got there. He wasn't in pain. Wasn't injured. Had no surgical incisions. The hospital was eerily quiet. He walked down the hallway, but the hospital was deserted. He went outside, but the streets were deserted. He didn't remember what happened after that.


Jayden found himself hiking with his son Xavier. He didn't remember what happened before then. They were climbing a hill. When they reached the summit, there was a was a mountain range in the distance. They started down the hill, towards a stream. He didn't remember what happened after that.


Jayden found himself on the football field of his old high school. He was coaching a player named Xavier. It was a crisp autumn day, with colorful trees surrounding the field, as well as leaves littering the track. He didn't recall what happened after that.


Jayden found himself in a barbershop. He didn't recall how he got there. Ava, a middle-aged beautician, was cutting his hair. He felt like he'd known her for a long time. 


Jayden found himself at a Thanksgiving meal at his mother's home. His mother Ava was busy in the kitchen, while he was talking to his brother Jordan in the front yard, facing the river. The sun was low on the horizon. He didn't remember driving there.


Jayden was driving on the expressway. He didn't recall where the trip began. The expressway was lined with familiar motels and exits he'd seen so many times before along that stretch of highway. He felt that he was heading home, although, as he thought about it, he didn't recollect where home was. He was driving back by force of habit–like he'd done this many times before. In the passenger seat was his wife Debbie. 


Jayden woke up in the bedroom of his college dorm. His roommate, Jordan, was seated upright in bed, typing on his laptop. Jordan was his best friend from high school. Jayden was pondering what to do next, but he didn't remember what happened after that. 


Jayden found himself sitting in a pizzeria, talking to a pretty waitress named Debbie. He sensed having had this conversation before. He had a foreboding that this would slip away as abruptly as it began. 


Jayden found himself sitting in an empty church. One of those churches that's open during weekdays so that people can visit the sanctuary to pray and mediate. He was flipping through the hymnal. 

Jayden couldn't shake the feeling of déjà vécu, like he was trapped inside a recurring dream, or circuit of dreams. Only he never really woke up. Every time, he woke up in the dream rather than waking up from the dream. A merry-go-round of dreams, where he kept reliving the same episodes, in no particular order. He could remember just enough to recall having done it all before, but he couldn't remember when it began–or if it began. He kept meeting the same people–or were they the same people? They had the same names. Same faces. Like a parallel universe. 

What was real? What was happening to him? Was he losing his mind? Or tripping out on LSD? Perhaps he suffered traumatic brain trauma from an accident. This was his delirium, as he frantically struggled to become fully lucid. Like a diver swimming towards the sunlight, but every time he's just about to surface, he sinks back. 

It had been going on for much too long to be a dream. He remembered it happening over and over again. Or did he? Maybe his memories were part of the hallucination–if that's what it was. The fact that he kept encountering the same people suggested that he knew them in the real world–whatever that was. He felt like an amnesiac groping to piece his life together, hoping to tap into some association that would suddenly bring it all back. Maybe in the real world, his body was sedated, with simulated imagery feeding into his mind through a neurointerface. 

He looked again at the hymnal in his hands. He knew this scene would vanish. He'd been there before. He'd been there again, sitting in the same spot, holding the hymnal open to the same page. 

He hadn't been very pious when all this began, assuming it had a beginning. Maybe it was like a Möbius strip, forever circling back on itself, without a starting-point or destination. But in his maddening ordeal, the only thing that kept him centered was the dawning realization that even if nothing else was real, God had to be real. If it was a recurring dream, that existed in God's reality. If it was an acid trip, that existed in God's reality. If it was a parallel universe, that existed in God's reality. If it was a computer simulation, that existed in God's reality. 

Only God could penetrate his experience. God was the only thing outside his experience that was able to reach into his experience. So God was the only realty he could reach from inside the illusion. And only God could connect him to his loved ones, whom he kept meeting and losing, meeting had losing. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Eternal Return


It had been 50 years since Nick used to see Dominique. At the time he was living on a small ranch just up the street. Dominique’s family used to stable their horses at his parent’s place.

Dominique’s family had a sprawling estate on gently slopping grounds, with orchards, gardens, and a stream–leading down to the shore. The property was bounded on either side by wild ravines, with a lake forming the other boundary. A triangular plot, like a gated garden, but with natural barriers walling or fencing them in.

The property was long-since abandoned. The orchards and gardens a thicket. The ruins of the white stone house overgrown with vines from the neglected grape arbor. The woods tenaciously reclaiming the boathouse, bathhouse, greenhouse, gazebo. The swimming pool caked with dead leaves. The weedy tennis court. Squirrels nesting in the chimenea.

Nick had returned for the funeral. Her funeral. Afterwards he went back to the old estate for a final good-bye.

This was the second funeral he’d attended for her family. The first was for her brother Albert, who died of TB in his teens. Dominique never got over his death. When she inherited the estate, she couldn’t bring herself to either live there or sell it. The physical association was both unbreakable and unbearable. So it fell into a state of decay. A cemetery for a lost brother. For a lost childhood. For a lost future.


Nick met Debbie in junior high, just up the hill–on the summit. Dominique attended private school. Debbie was more down-to-earth than Dominique. A middle-class girl who lived in a rambler over on the next hill. Nick would often walk her home after school–then double back to his own house. Sometimes he’d pick up her kid brother at the neighboring grade school, a few blocks away, and walk him home–if she was busy with her figure skating.

Debbie was everything Nick was not. So sweet, gentle, feminine. Features like fine china. And just the right size. When he held her close, her contours fit snuggly into his contours. A perfect matching pair.

So Nick was torn between two girls. Dominique was unobtainable. Indeed, that was part of her charm. It wasn’t social class that kept them apart. In a way, Dominique loved Nick more fiercely than he loved her. He loved her, but he also loved Debbie–whereas she only had a heart for Nick.

He could have been happy with either girl, though happier with Debbie. Debbie was steady.

Yet she remained aloof. By turns affectionate and distant, passionate and diffident. He couldn’t figure her out. Was she just a tease?

She hurt him deeply when he found out that she was having an affair with Jeff, his best friend from high school. They were football teammates in junior high and high school. Nick trusted Jeff implicitly, which turned out to be a mistake. Yet he couldn’t quite blame Jeff for responding to Dominique’s advances. What guy in his right mind wouldn’t jump at the opportunity?

No, he blamed Dominique. Not so much out of anger, but puzzlement. If she loved him wholeheartedly, why didn’t she give herself to him? He was available for the asking.

Mind you, that would force him to choose between Debbie and Dominique. And in hindsight, who’s to say how that would have turned out? Each fork in the road might be equally fulfilling in its own way. The road not taken might be just as good, in a different way. But he could only make a life with one woman.

Dominique knew about Debbie, and Debbie knew about Dominique. When he was with one, he’d sometimes mention the other. He hadn’t made up his mind. Still testing the waters.

Dominique confided to Jeff, who confided to Nick. Dominique loved Nick too much to marry him.

The funeral for Albert had been a grim affair. Not just because it was a funeral. Not just because it was for her only brother. But because it was so hopeless. Dominique’s mother and dad were irreligious. This life was it. When you died, that was the end.

She could never again invest her heart in a man. For she couldn’t bear to bring herself to give herself to what she’d someday give away in death. To lose herself in what she couldn’t keep.

Beginning with Jeff, she carried on affairs with other men. When she felt she was becoming attached to a man, she broke it off and started anew with a stranger. The less she gave, the less she had to lose.

She and Nick continued to correspond all their lives, until she become too ill to write. She traveled the world, never putting down roots–for fear of being uprooted.

She willed the estate to Nick and Debbie, with the proviso that she be buried there, beside her brother Albert.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


In 2141, the global climate control system was beginning to fail, due to computer malfunction. The GCCS had been installed in 2103 to forestall natural disasters, filter airborne pathogens, screen out cosmic radiation, and make many hitherto inhospitable regions habitable. A planetary botanical garden with many ecozones and microclimates, as well as urban centers.

While this enhanced the quality of life, one downside is that humans were now so adapted to the GCCS that their immune systems were compromised. Their melanogenetic function was also impaired. Simply put, the human race couldn’t survive without the GCCS.

So the computer needed to be repaired–at all cost. But there was a problem. The man who designed the firewall was dead. He was a polymath, with a side interest in comparative mythology. He designed the firewall as a videogame, combining plants, animals, characters, buildings, landscapes, plot motifs, type scenes, and riddles from the Pentateuch, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, John, and Revelation.

The firewall was part wargame, stealth game, and 4X. Before you could fix the computer, you had to hack the firewall. To hack the firewall, you had to win the videogame.

But this was complicated by the fact that the Commissariat outlawed Christianity in 2117. The Bible was banned.

Classified copies were stored in the archives of the Commissariat, to which only high-ranking commissars had access.

The Commissariat regulated all aspects of social life, beginning with population control. Reprogenetics. Mandatory sterilization. The state awarded one child per couple, from Eugenix.

There was, however, an underground church. Knowledge of Scripture was preserved by word-of-mouth as well as encrypted copies of Scripture. The underground church included Christian hackers who attempted to disable the police-state apparatus.

“Theoterrorists,” as the Commissariat labeled them, were normally executed, but some of them had invaluable computer skills. These few were incarcerated at a supermax facility, where their troubleshooting skills were sometimes tapped.

It was a tight wire act. The hackers were both dangerous, yet indispensable to the state.

When the GCCS began to fail, the Commissariat turned to Peter Neureich for help. Peter was their most brilliant prisoner.

The Commissariat tried to limit his computer access to the GCCS firewall. But once inside, Peter hacked his way into other systems. He deleted the database for the Ministry of State Security. He fried the Eugenix mainframe. And he reprogrammed the GCCS to phase out over three generations, allowing the human race time to readjust.

All this led to a popular uprising. Civilization reverted to indigenous social and religious institutions.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Frederick Ducasse was a grasping old man. Before he became a grasping old man, Frederick was a grasping young man. This world was all there is, so he squeezed every last drop from the tangerine. He made his fortune through cunning and treachery. Making friends to betray friends. He was widely hated, but that didn’t bother him as long as he was rich. He had everything money could buy.

Yet there was one thing he couldn’t buy–immortality. He saw his body age. Felt his body age. Despite diet, exercise, and the best medical care, he was helpless to halt the advance of time.

And now he lay on his deathbed, gasping for every breath. On a ventilator. With a heart monitor. And a live-in physician. Once a man of the world, with a private jet, a gigayacht, and mansions in Newport, Bel Air, and the Côte d'Azur, his cosmopolitan existence had contracted to an antique royal bed in his cavernous, curtained bedroom. Big, empty, and dark–except for flashing, beeping monitors.

He clung to life with every effortful breath. Clung to the fading light. Clung to fading memories.

He felt a great weight pressing down on his chest. He tried to reach for the call button, but he was too weak.

He felt his soul slipping away. Exiting the shell. Hovering above his lifeless body. Then passing through the ceiling.

For a moment he saw this world for what it was–a shadowgram. A shadow cast by the shadower. A shadow foreshadowing the shadower.

His fond old world suddenly looked so flat and colorless. Now he longed for the shadower. For the world above. The world to come. He caught a glimpse of heaven. New Eden. New Jerusalem. Joy unspeakable.

Yet he felt his soul falling rather than rising. Heaven grew distant. The music faded. A receding speck of light as he continued his descent. The air grew darker and colder. Then silence.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Into Eden

Derek Apted was dying. Alone, in a hospital bed. In the final stages of a long degenerative illness. He was only 54.

During lucid moments he reviewed his life. So many regrets. So many lost opportunities. If only he knew then what he knew now. If only he could repeat his life with the benefit of hindsight.

Then an angel appeared to him in his hospital room. Or maybe it was just a hallucination. Hard to say in his often delirious state of mind.

The angel asked him if he wanted anything. Derek asked the angel for a chance to repeat his life, but with his memories intact.

In a flash, Derek found himself back in kindergarten. On the outside, a little boy. On the inside, a middle-aged man with a college degree and decades of experience.

He quickly established himself as a wunderkind. His teachers and parents were amazed at this precocious little boy. So mature for his years!

One of the first things Derek did was to talk his dad into making some prescient investments in some fledgling companies which would one day become Fortune 500 companies.

Derek wanted to be independently wealthy, not because he craved a rich man’s lifestyle, but because it would give him more control over his circumstances.

By the time he graduated from high school, and took ownership of his fortune, Derek was one of the world’s richest men. Yet only his tax attorneys and portfolio managers knew the extent of his fortune.

Outwardly, Derek maintained a fairly modest, middle class lifestyle. He never wanted much more than what he had. His problem lay in losing what he used to have. Derek had a happy boyhood and adolescence. He wanted to maintain as much of his past intact as possible. That’s where the money went.

Sure, there were a few indulgences along the way. Like a nice sports car in high school.

His friends were dimly aware of the fact that even though he wore what they wore, ate what they ate, he seemed to have bottomless pockets. Although he never worked a job, he could always afford whatever he needed or wanted. Always picked up the tab at the restaurant, or movies, or whatever.

Derek knew that his intellectual reputation was a perishable commodity. A 5-year-old with an adult IQ is a genius. And adult with an adult IQ is merely average. As he got older he had to coast on his reputation. Bluff his way through conversations with fellow students who were truly gifted.

He was offered full scholarships to Harvard and MIT, but he turned them down. He didn’t need the Ivy League education. He didn’t need a college education. He already had one. And, in any case, he didn’t need a job to pay the bills. More to the point, he couldn’t sustain his intellectual reputation in that company.

Derek’s ambitions were very unambitious. Down to earth. Close to home. He wanted to preserve his past, and redeem some lost opportunities.

His home was a beach cabin on the lake. His parents bought the property for a modest sum, before the area became so gentrified. Later they were priced off the land by ever increasing property taxes.

Derek always resented that. He was hoping to inherit the property. To be cheated out of it by the taxman was galling.

And now, of course, that wasn’t a problem. In fact, he bought some other neighborhood homes. He lived in one while his parents lived in his old home.

He moved his grandmother and his elderly aunt into another home nearby. In her old age, his grandmother lived alone until a house-burglar broke into her home and attacked her. She never recovered from that incident.

But Derek, with an eye to the future, could now prevent that from happening. Indeed, that’s one of the reasons he was repeating his life. To protect his loved ones from harm.

He also knew that his aunt would come down with a degenerative illness. Indeed, it ran in the family. She spent her final years in a nursing home.

Derek regretted that. And now he could do better. When the disease began to take hold, he could keep her close by, in the house next door. Provide her with a live-in nurse. Whatever she needed.

And he took the opportunity to have all the conversations with his aunt and his grandmother that he thought about having after they died, when it was too late to ask.

As a boy, Derek had a dog. He loved his dog. Indeed, after the dog died, he never wanted another dog. He remembered the day he had to put her to sleep. And he never quite got over that. He still missed his own dog.

So this time around he was more attentive to her physical needs. Had her groomed regularly. Scheduled regular check-ups with the vet.

Derek was also sorry that he never tried out for the football team. He missed the camaraderie. The opportunity to befriend certain students. Maintain lifelong friendships.

And now he had a chance to make up for that. Even though he wasn’t very good at football, he made the team. The athletic dept. could always use more money for equipment. All it took was a private little chap with Coach O’Brien, and Derek had his jersey.

After they graduated from high school, Derek hired his friends to keep them close. Found jobs for them to keep them in the area. Rented out his houses to them for a nominal sum.

One of the best things about repeating the past was his opportunity to date a couple of girls he let slip away the last time around. At the time there were two girls in high school who caught his fancy. He wasn’t sure which one he preferred, for he never got around to dating either one. Now he could get to know them both, and decide which one to marry.

Life was better this time around. Much better. At least in some respects.

And yet he couldn’t shake a certain lingering sadness. It’s something of a curse to know the future unless you can also control the future, or change the future. A bit fatalistic, really.

He could use his wealth and foresight to extend the lives of his loved ones. Enhance their quality of life. But in the end, he couldn’t really save them. They’d still age, sicken, and die.

He could take a different route this time, but all routes had the same destination. You just got there sooner or later, that’s all.

Indeed, life was rather anticlimactic. He often knew just what to expect. Pleasures were less pleasant when you could see them coming a mile away.

And he was filled with foreboding. Instead of outliving loved ones once, he’d have to outlive them twice.

And then there was the nagging fear that his friends loved him for his money. The first time round, when all of them were hard up for money, and only had each other, wasn’t friendship more meaningful? What comes easily, goes easily.

Moreover, he could do nothing to prevent the onset of his own degenerative illness. Once again he felt the clockwork progression of the old familiar symptoms.

There was only so much this life had to offer. He needed something more. Something this autumnal world could never provide.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The brain-pickers

Jeff Bender was a psychic P.I. Technically, Jeff’s profession was illegal. Classified as a class B felony, colloquially known as “mind-rape.” Jeff was automatically banned from even stepping foot inside a casino.

However, there was a thriving black market for psychic P.I.’s, with a wide range of clients. They were handy in custody battles, where the ex-wife wanted the dirt on her no-good spouse. In competitive sports, where one player wanted to know the secret weakness of his opponent.

Although illegal, Jeff was a strictly off-the-books consultant to the Pentagon, where he could pick the brains of an enemy scientist.

Even though his profession was technically illegal, his crime was rarely enforced. The DA was afraid to prosecute a psychic P.I., since certain details concerning the DA’s youthful indiscretions or extracurricular interests might mysteriously find their way into the headlines a day after the indictment was handed down.

It took intense mental discipline to be a psychic P.I. You had to learn how to shut out the miscellaneous thoughts of all the men and women around you. And it was very disorienting to immerse yourself in someone else’s mind. Hard to maintain your personal identity. Your thoughts mingled with his, or hers.

After each case, it became harder to disengage your memories from the memories of the host. You needed time between cases to sort it out. Separate yourself from the entangling host.

To penetrate the mind of the host required one’s undivided attention. In his basement, Jeff had a soundproof room with a hospital bed, I.V. line, catheter, and so on, to keep his body under mild sedation and hydration for long hours while he tried to find his bearings inside the bewildering mind of the host.

Psychic detective work often involved a degree of serial mind-jumping. To extract a secret, you frequently had to approach the mind of the host through the mind of a trusted third party. Having that sympathetic connection made it easier to coax incriminating or embarrassing secrets from the mind of the host. After entering the mind of the host through the mind of a third party, you normally had to retrace your steps to regain consciousness.

In his current case, a mobster retained his services to pick the brains of a business rival. Jeff went through the mind of the businessman’s brother to reach into the mind of the host.

Unfortunately, this came with occupational hazards. While Jeff was successfully navigating the mind of the host, he suddenly felt a kickback, like a rifle recoiling. When he went back to check, he found out that his exit was gone. Where there had been a backdoor, there was now a wall.

As it turns out, the brother just died from a headshot in a gangland slaying. With his escape route cut off, that left Jeff trapped in the mind of the host.

So Jeff had to find another way out. In principle, it was possible to regain consciousness if he jumped into the mind of someone with whom he had an emotional bond. Someone who remembered him. A friend or relative. He could use that preexisting pathway to make the return trip.

However, his profession generated a bit if a dilemma in that regard. When you know what other people really think of you, it’s hard to maintain a friendship. As such, Jeff didn’t have any current friends. He wasn’t in a relationship. He gave up on girlfriends, for however understanding they were, he could always overhear their unspoken resentments. The things they thought of saying, wanted to say, but bit their tongue. The girl talk. What they said bout him when he wasn’t around.

And that applied to his other relationships, or lack thereof. His profession was a recipe for misanthrope. Had he know psychic detective work was so lonely, he would have chosen a different career. But it was too late now.

Was there anyone else he could use as a bridge to get back? He thought of classmates from junior high and high school. But that was so long ago. The emotional connections generally weakened over the years as you lost contact.

Still, he’d been to his 20th high school reunion last year, which gave him a chance, albeit brief, to renew his acquaintance with some students he knew way back when. But he was running out of time. His body could only survive untended for a few days while his mind played hooky. If his body died, he would be stuck in the head of this mobster for life. A distinctly unsavory prospect.

Jeff dipped into the minds of the classmates his chatted with at the reunion. But he didn’t mean that much to most of them, as he found out, trolling their minds.

However, there was one student who still cared about him. They had been good friends in junior high and high school. But that was before Brad got religion. Jeff couldn’t stand Christianity. It was incomprehensible to him how anyone could take the Bible seriously.

So they had a falling out shortly after Brad got saved. Not that Brad broke off the friendship. But Jeff lost all respect for Brad.

That was some twenty years ago. But now, ambling through the mind of his old school buddy, with whom he recently reconnoitered at their reunion, he discovered that Brad was the only one who continued to care about his long-long friend. Indeed, Brad had been praying for Jeff all these years.

But what is more, for the first time in his life, Jeff was seeing the Christian faith from the inside out. Through the eyes of his friend. He was privy to Brad’s inmost experience. And it suddenly fell into place. It suddenly made sense.

Of course, there was some sordid stuff in Brad’s mind. Not the sort of thing you’re proud of. Not the sort of thing you’d publicize.

But Jeff was used to that. Everybody had that sort of thing in the back of their minds. Often in the forefront. Whenever you mucked about in another man’s mind, you got your boots muddy. But Brad had something else. Something not of this world.

Jeff was able to use Brad’s mind as a catwalk to regain consciousness. He awakened, back in his body, lying on the hospital bed, with tubes and all.

He was the same, but not the same. For some of Brad’s memories were now a part of his memories. Memories of Brad’s conversion experience. Of answered prayer. Of God’s subtle, but fatherly providence in Brad’s life over the last twenty years or so. Passages of Scripture, committed to memory. Stanzas of hymns, inaudibly sung in the inner recesses of the mind.

Jeff couldn’t get that out of his head. It grew on him, like a vine.