Friday, May 8, 2020


Rodrick's boyhood was literally hellish. His parents were obsessed with sorcery and Satanism. That had a dire affect on Rodrick. It had the fringe benefit of giving him firsthand awareness of the supernatural, and making the dark side repellent to him. He was plagued by horrific nightmares. And during the day he felt that he was always shadowed by a malevolent presence. He couldn't shake it off. Like he was under round-the-clock surveillance. Rodrick desperately wanted to escape the life imposed on him by his infernal parents, but he seemed to be trapped.

Then in junior high he met a Christian classmate who had the gift for discerning spirits (1 Co 12:10). Ed was a kind of budding exorcist by vocation. Not just about casting out demons, but combating witchcraft and evil spirits in general.                                                                                                                 
Ed's parents were divorced. His dad had custody, but his dad was scientist of international renown scientist who frequently traveled to conferences, so Ed often lived alone when his dad was away from home. His dad never understood his son's interest in Christianity, but he let it slide. 

When Ed first met Rodrick, he instantly sensed an aura about Rodrick. Not that Rodrick was possessed or evil. Indeed, Rodrick seemed to be good natured. But he was surrounded by invisible evil. Choked by evil. Especially at night he often felt the suffocating prevalence of evil spirits. 

Ed offered to let Rodrick move in with him. In one sense that intensified the evil. Ed and Rodrick could actually catch a glimpse of the evil spirit following them. It was enraged by Ed taking Rodrick away from the coven.

Sharing a bedroom with a Christian, especially a Christian with Ed's particular gift, was a novel and liberating experience for Rodrick. To be in Ed's presence was like a buffer that shielded Rodrick from psychological invasion by the evil spirits. The ubiquitous, smothering sensation was gone. The spirits were unable to penetrate the screen of godliness. It was like an electric shock. 

He sometimes had bad dreams that began as hellish nightmares, but then Ed would pop into Rodrick's dreams and keep the monsters at bay.

Ed introduced Rodrick to the Bible. Taught him the Bible. Taught him Christian prayer. Taught him Christian hymns. 

Coming at it from the other side, Rodrick also had the antennae to detect evil spirits, but now he had the resources to fight back. Ed and Roderick formed a lifelong team.  

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Iron curtain

Max and Axel were brothers, 7 and 9 years apart. On August 11, 1961, Max took a street car to East Berlin to visit his aunt and uncle for the weekend. On Sunday, the army partitioned the city, setting up barbed wired fences, concrete blocks, and tearing up through streets between East and West Berlin. 

Max and Axel were now cut off for the foreseeable future. They missed each other inconsolably, but Axel was too young to do anything about it.

Years later, after he became a teenager, Axel devised a plot to rescue his brother. He got forged papers to make him pass as an East German citizen. Crossing over, he went in search of his brother. 

This was a dangerous operation on two grounds: his actions might be monitored by the Stasi, running the risk that he'd be arrested and imprisoned.

In addition, there was the danger that his brother Max might by this time have been brainwashed to be a loyal Communist. It's possible that even if Axel discovered his brother and invited him to escape, Max would turn Axel into the authorities. In East Berlin you never knew who you could trust. Everyone spied on each other. Your "best" friend might rat you out to the authorities. There were snitches everywhere. If detected, there was the risk to Max that he'd be fingered as a collaborator. 

However, because everyone was on the take, due to corruption and desperation, it was possible to get inside help–for a price.

When Axel finally tracked him down, Max as conflicted. Incredulous, overjoyed, but with a sense of divided allegiance. It took a while for Max to warm up to Alex. At first it seemed too good to be real. There was the initial shock of not having seen each other for 7 years, and the physical changes. 

Having made elaborate advance preparations, Axel arranged for them to be smuggled through Checkpoint Charlie. It was tense, but the plan succeeded. 

Prior to their separation, Max and Axel had been fairly close, but due to the extended separation and Axel's hazardous rescue operation, they were now inseparable. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The plague-bearer

In 2023 a bioengineered pathogen escaped from a military laboratory. It was highly contagious and virulent. Humans had no resistance to the pathogen. If infected, the fatality rate was 100%. 

Civil authorities resorted to ruthless, desperate quarantine measures. Anyone suspected of contracting the disease was burned alive by soldiers and police armed with flamethrowers. Major population centers were nuked with neutron bombs. But it was a losing battle. The human race was facing imminent extinction. 

Yet years before the existential threat emerged, there was a young man by the name of Josh. As a teenager, he discovered that if he laid hands on sick family member, he could extract and absorb the illness. By transferring the illness to himself, he destroyed it.

This was, however, a closely-guarded family secret. If Josh's abilities as a healer became well-known, he'd never have a moment's rest. His reputation would curse him to be inundated by countless desperately sick men and women, or parents bringing their hopelessly sick children. It was far too much for one man to handle. 

But after the outbreak, he sacrificially volunteered to heal the sick. The task was overwhelming. When the military got wind of his gift, he was abducted and taken to a secure facility, where he was tested. After some experiments, they discovered that if his blood was infected with the pathogen, it developed antibodies that destroyed the pathogen. Transfusions of his blood cured the infected. And their blood developed the same antibodies. By replicating the antibodies, scientists devised an antidote. 

He saved the human race through his vicarious healing abilities. But his fame as a healer made his own life unendurable. He had no respite. He couldn't go into hiding because he was too recognizable. And too many eyes were tracking his every movement. Having a wife and kids was out of the question, and his freedom was constantly endangered by fanatics who sought to kidnap him for their own use. He felt like a hunted animal. He died at 23 when he was swept downriver attempting to elude pursuers. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Time's arrow

Astronomers on earth inferred a hospitable, earth-like planet in a parallel universe. So they mounted an expedition through the wormhole to explore the planet. 

The planet turned out to be a natural wilderness with settlements of Stone Age humanoids. At first, everything seemed normal. But on closer inspection, something was off. Take the cherry trees. When the astronauts landed, the trees had ripe cherries. But after a few weeks the cherries became cherry blossoms, then buds. 

When an astronaut accidentally cut himself, the wound healed up in a matter of minutes. And their hair began growing shorter rather than longer. When an astronaut dropped a glass, the shattered glass reassembled in moments. 

It's as if time's arrow was reversed. The next day was the day before. They went from March 15 to March 14. They remembered March 15 but had no recollection of March 14 because they hadn't experienced it yet. They remembered the future but not the past. 

Then they befriended the natives. The natives were highly intelligent but initially cautious about the astronauts. Yet the astronauts were eventually able to question the natives. Didn't they find it disconcerting to be living backwards?

But the natives has no other basis of comparison. For them, it was natural for dead things to come back to life. Indeed, for them, life began as adults, when their aging corpses came to life. That's when they became conscious. That's when their experience began. That's when their memories began. 

For them it was natural to see a melted snowman reconstitute. That was their only frame of reference. 

So they didn't view themselves as living backwards. It felt like they were living forwards. They couldn't tell the difference between moving from the past into the future or moving from the future into the past. For them there was a day behind and a day ahead. There was a certain predictability, even uniformity to nature, as things aged down. 

They found the descriptions of time's passage by the astronauts puzzling. It would be very disorienting to live in a world where dead things stayed dead. Where a campfire burned out, reducing the wood to ashes. In their experience, the wood was not consumed. The fire died out when the embers recombined as branches. At the end of the process was a pile of fresh firewood. It took a lot of imagination on their part to conceive the kind of world the astronauts came from. A world where meteors were falling stars. The natives were used to watching meteor showers rain upwards. So there didn't seem to be one right way to experience time's passage. Each world had its own now and then. 

When the astronauts tried to return to their home planet, they were unable to. In a sense, they'd done it already, but that lay in the past. At present, their "future" was in the parallel world–because that's where they were. So they couldn't get back. They had been back, but yesterday was like March 15 while today was like March 14 and tomorrow was like March 13. They could make plans and carry out their plans, but that was always a thing of the past, over and done with. The only way forward was backward. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Tomorrow never comes

For three years, with increasing alarm, astronomers had been tracking an astroid. From far out in space, the trajectory was indeterminate: would it be a near miss or direct hit? But as it got closer it became clear that this would be a cataclysmic event. Human life would become extinct.

Most folks planned to die with their families. But Xavier had an ace up his sleeve. That's because Xavier had a time machine. He could elude doomsday by escaping into the past. 

But that was complicated. For one thing, you couldn't travel back to a time before you existed. Your conception was the terminus ad quo for time travel. So the timeframe was limited to the span between your present and you personal past. 

Another problem was keeping the time machine a secret. Who could he trust to tell? People would kill for the time machine. If the authorities found out about it, the government would confiscate the machine. How could Xavier use the time machine to save himself and his loved ones from encroaching oblivion? 

If he told his parents or his brother Damien or his best friend, they'd tell their other loved ones, so that knowledge of the time machine would become widely known. But there was only one time machine. It had to be a closely-guarded secret for Xavier to use it. 

The question was who to leave behind to. They had no future. Only a past. And some of them didn't have much of a past to retreat into. His older brother Damien had little kids. Damien couldn't take them with him if he went too far back into his own past. His kids didn't exist when he was young. Xavier knew that Damien would rather die with them than leave them behind.

When you traveled from the present to the past, you aged down. Your age corresponded when you were alive. So you had to decide where you wanted to reset the lifecycle. Xavier didn't wish to be a little boy again. It would have to be when he was a teenager, maybe in junior high or high school.  

The machine could be programmed to repeat one day from the past, or the same week, or the same month, or the same year. When it came to the end of programmed interval, it would repeat the process. Xavier had a happy childhood. He was raised on a ranch in Montana. He loved the out of doors. The seasons, fields and streams, mountain views, and horseback riding. That was his preference. It also gave him a chance to be reunited with his late grandparents. 

In a sense, his loved ones didn't have to use the time machine to avert the future. They'd die in the near-future, but exist in the past. If he didn't tell them, he wasn't really leaving them behind. He hadn't abandoned them. Because he'd find them in the past, as if they were waiting for him. They'd still be there, just like before. 

If you traveled from the present to the past, you remembered the future you came from. But if you didn't reenter the past from the future, you didn't know the future, since you hadn't experienced the future as of yet. Living in the past, you didn't exist in that future. 

In a way, Xavier couldn't save his loved ones from the future.  They had no future. It was sufficient for him alone to use the time machine. To program it for a particular period. To be repeated. That way they'd be reunited in the past. And only he'd remember the ill-fated future. He was conferring immortality on his loved ones through a temporal loop. And they wouldn't know the difference. Every time it reached the end, it would revert to the beginning. A process that reset their memories. Only Xavier would recollect the whole story. Not just the timeloop but the impact event. 

Yet there were tradeoffs. For his loved ones, it was always like experiencing that year for the very first time, no matter how often it repeated. But Xavier's memory transcended the temporal loop. He was consciously revisiting the same year every time, day after day. To stave off tedium, he didn't simply relive his past. He did different things. It gave him a chance to do a lot of reading and thinking. To explore. To spend more time with Damien and their grandparents. 

Xavier had never been very religious, but with so much time on his hands, and the need to do something new to stave off the deadening repetition, he began to read the Bible. That opened up a whole new world for him. A future beyond the future cataclysm. An afterlife beyond extinction. 

He began to wonder if, by delaying death indefinitely, he wasn't cheating death. Was he missing out on something better? Were his loved ones missing out on something better?

At first there was no sense of urgency. He was safe in the past. He couldn't die in the past. 

Or could he? Did the fact that he survived right up to the brink of doosmday mean he was immortal so long as he remained in the past? The fact that he originally made it that far meant he hadn't died in the past. 

But as he thought more about it, maybe he could die in the past. Originally, he lived to a certain age because he did certain things. He avoided fatal accidents. 

But by consciously returning to the past, over and over again, he wasn't simply retracing his steps. For the sake of variety, he was doing different things in the past than the first time around. He wasn't reliving his past, but revisiting an particular time and place. And he was free to vary his routine, to avoid tedium. Indeed, it became increasingly hard even to remember what his original past was like. It became a blur with each new iteration of the time-loop. 

So perhaps he could die in the past by doing something different. Suffer a fatal accident. Snakebite. Breaking his neck falling off a horse. Shot to death in a barroom brawl. His current past wasn't the same past that led up to his original future. Every time he did something different, that was a pathway to an alternate future–a future in which he didn't originally exist. That raised time-travel paradoxes, and he wasn't sure how seriously to take it. Too much to lose by finding out the hard way.

It's not as if he couldn't die no matter how recklessly he behaved. He wasn't indestructible. Not that he was reckless, but the prospect spooked him. Traveling back into the past, he initially lost his fear of death. But it now occurred to him that his confidence might be misplaced, because he was changing variables. 

And there were worse things than death. Damnation was incomparably worse than death. Of course, death was often portal to hell, but in his case that was self-fulfilling. He hadn't prepared himself for death. He thought he could keep it at bay indefinitely. So there was no pressing need to repent, to think about God, to be worshipful or engage in spiritual examination. Yet maybe he was just lucky up to this point, and his luck might run out. 

And not just for himself, but for his loved ones. Could he actually protect them by keeping them sequestered in the past? Because he did different things, they did different things in response. So maybe they, too, were now at risk. Were they heavenbound or hellbound? Having read the Bible so often during the timeloops, and attending church, he began to share the Gospel with his parents, grandparents, and brother. 

He then decided if he should destroy the time machine. If he did that, it would restore the status quo ante. They'd all die in the impact event. But maybe the solution was to move forward, not backward. Not hide in the past, but accept death as a portal to heaven and the world to come.   

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Nolan and Jordan were childhood friends. Best friends from preschool upwards. Came of age together. Now on the verge of high school graduation.

Nolan's dad as a highly successful, hard-driving businessman. Very competitive with his son. Nolan could never please his dad. It's like every day was a performance evaluation. Every day he had to prove himself to his father. And he never measured up. This instilled in him a deep sense of self-loathing. 

Nolan was an only-child, and his mother walked out on the marriage, after she got fed up with a philandering husband. All the affection and attention came from Jordan. Their friendship was the only thing that kept Jordan from sliding into suicidal depression and drug addiction. But when he was at his dad's house he used to get drunk.

Indeed, their friendship is what probably kept him straight. With a dad like that he was a higher risk of becoming gay, but Jordan offset that risk factor.

Nolan's dad envied and resented their friendship. Resented the amount of time Nolan spent with Jordan. And the resentment showed. The more he resented the friendship, the more time Nolan spent with Jordan. He virtually moved in with Jordan.

But Nolan was always torn between his indispensable friendship with Jordan and his instinctive hunger for his father's approval. Nolan's dad sensed that and used that as a wedge. He plotted to break up the friendship.

Nolan's dad arranged to have Jordan framed for a crime he didn't commit. He offered to make Nolan a junior partner in his business–on condition that Noland testify against Jordan. At first, Nolan's dad treated his son the way Noland always longed to be treated. Praise. Demonstrative affection. Gone was the usual judgmentalism. He manipulated Nolan's vulnerability. And it worked. Nolan testified against Jordan. But he hated himself for doing it. It made him nauseous. And afterwards he was plagued by guilt. It plunged him into suicidal depression.

In addition, the charm offensive wore thin as the natural impatience of Nolan's dad resurfaced. He reverted to berating his son as a loser who could never do anything right. In his father's eye, Noland would always be a failure.

Nolan was in despair. He contemplated suicide. He lost his one indispensable friend through an unforgivable act of betrayal, and got nothing in return. What was he to do? The thought crossed his mind to recant his perjury, but he couldn't afford to lose both of them. He burned his bridges with Jordan when he falsely accused him on the stand. If he recanted his testimony, that would burn his bridges with his dad. And he had no guarantee that Jordan would take him back. A gamble he couldn't afford to lose.

He finally decided to do the right thing. He recanted his testimony. Jordan's expression was inscrutable.

Jordan understood the extenuating circumstances of the original perjury, but that didn't excuse it. Recanting his testimony was a mitigating factor. He redeemed himself on the stand. Jordan knew Nolan better than anyone. Knew how hard it was for Noland to do that. Knew the cost. It was the bravest thing Noland had ever done. Indeed, it was the only brave thing Nolan had ever done.   

By contrast, the expression on the face of Nolan's dad was anything but inscrutable. A sentence of banishment.

Jordan's lawyer motioned to have the charges dismissed. The judge agreed.

Nolan was still in unbearable suspense. But Jordan took him back. They never talked about the trial.

After high school graduation, they moved out of state together. Married girlfriends a few years later, and remained best of friends until Nolan died of liver cancer at 33. Nolan's dad always blamed Jordan. After Nolan died, his father shot himself.

A vine with two branches

Zach first met Jeremy during Zach's freshman year of junior high. Jeremy was a year ahead of him. They were complete strangers–or so it seemed. But they took a liking to each other and began to hang out a lot. There was a certain affinity that drew them to each other, even though they couldn't quite put their finger on it. It went deeper than natural rapport between best friends. The more time they spent together, the stronger the sense of affinity. They could anticipate each other's thoughts. They could anticipate what the other was going to say next. It was uncanny, as if they had overlapping minds. 

Zach always suspected that he was adopted, but he never asked his parents. A part of him didn't want to know that his own parents rejected him. 

But the dynamic with Jeremy made him wonder if they might be related. What were the odds? Under what circumstances could they have been separated? It seemed so far-fetched. And yet they appeared to have built-in bond. 

So Zach asked Jeremy if he thought they might be related. Jeremy didn't think that was possible. Still, when he got home, he posed the question. 

The expression on his mother's face was a dead giveaway. Turns out she had Zach and Jeremy out-of-wedlock by the same boyfriend, but at the time she couldn't afford to raise both as a single mom, so she put Zach up for adoption. They were too young to remember each other.

Jeremy was shocked. All these years he had a brother he never knew about. Never suspected the existence of a younger brother. He felt betrayed. All the lost years. 

So that explained it. Their minds were indeed linked. A part of each other, not just genetically but psychologically, like two branches of the same vine. 

It took Jeremy months to forgive his mother, and even then a part of him held it against her. As for Zach, when the situation was explained, he understood his mother's motivations. She was in a desperate situation at the time. It wasn't malicious. It wasn't intentional rejection. 

But he just couldn't get over it. He couldn't bring himself to meet her. It cut too deep. It was too awkward. How as he supposed to act? She both was and wasn't his mother. She hadn't raised him, so he didn't know how to act around her. 

He did track down his biological father, but out of curiosity, not reconciliation. After meeting his father, he could tell he didn't miss out on not having a father like that. 

However, Zach and Jeremy now had each other, and made up for lost time.