“Nothing can be excluded from life. It is all one thing.”
The Golden Door
There was a rent in the fabric of the universe, and Duncan, broad-faced and half-sobbing, stood at the very threshold. His physical body had never entered this realm before and he braced his mind for its reaction to the Infinite. Without hesitating, he ripped the membrane open, bent low, and entered the other world.
As he stood upright, his body convulsed from lack of oxygen. He calmed himself -- focused his will on his breathing -- adjusted his perception. His inner being persuaded his brain that this was breathable air; his brain told his lungs, and his lungs, finally agreeing, took a deep breath of ether.
Dawn approached, sharp and chill, as Duncan scanned the oblique landscape. The stars blew about, unrestricted and whirling in the endlessness above; the planets dangled by strings, reminding him of a childhood mobile that had once hung in his bedroom. Looking at the geodesic panorama, he tried to adapt his vision to the irregularity of the fourth dimension.
Moon-eyed, he followed the growth line of some tubular vegetation that weaved in and out of a maddening, florescent-blue river. He floated just inches above the rolling grass, the strength of his will grasping at a pinpoint of light in the distance -- directing his body toward it.
His mind registered his surroundings as Limbo -- the world in between the worlds. One could easily get lost here, staring into the ever-changing void forever -- to become a shadow of shadows. He ignored the vast stretches of distance and time as only an illusion and concentrated on his goal.
He knew the entrance to the paradisiacal heavens would be well protected. What form the Guardian would take, he did not know but was sure it would be ever-watchful -- never letting him pass. He prepared his mind for the inevitable battle ahead.
He came to a dead halt. A beautiful field of roses stood perfect before him and his mind was whisked away -- playing in the garden. Each flawless blossom would erupt as he passed nearby sending blood-red petals into the air. He grappled with the vision, felt what he saw was quite natural, understandable, even though it was a false reality.
He tried to focus on the task ahead as rose petals melted on contact with his skin and he could taste their sweetness through his flesh. As he marveled at how this could be happening, the vision disappeared as suddenly as it had come, and he found himself at the gateway to the heavens.
Evening light sent long shadows into the rose garden. The pseudo-perspective of the room had been chosen to produce surroundings of restful security, but Duncan knew it for what it really was -- a walled prison.
The door slid open, admitting the tall, bone-skinny project manager wearing the forked-lighting insignia of the PSI Branch. “Ah, there you are. I thought I might find you here.”
“It’s kind of hard to get lost in this place.” Duncan cringed at the thought of what the tech officer might have in store for him. “I come here often to escape the poking and prodding of your medical team. It is the only room left to me that isn’t filled with little cameras and hidden microphones.”
The head of the PSI Branch ignored his complaint. “It is beautiful here, isn’t it? The roses smell fantastic.”
“What do you want? I’ve never known you to take the time to stop and smell the roses before.”
“Uh...that’s true enough. It’s the doctors. They want to run a few more tests. They insist...”
Duncan paled. “Tests?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.”
“But that’s all you ever want! I just want to go home. I’m through with your tests.”
“Duncan...Duncan, look at me.” The man appeared birdlike with a long nose, pointed chin, and narrow mouth. His eyes made quick darting movements about the room. “Look, you know how important this is -- what it can mean for the entire world. If we succeed in breaking through into other dimensions -- other worlds, it will change the face of the planet forever! It will solve over-population, the world’s hunger problem, and make space propulsion obsolete.”
“It could also be used as a formidable weapon! Perhaps, if you could turn this enlightenment over to all the other nations. We could . . .”
“Now, now, now...we’ve been through this a hundred times. There are many enemies of our country that we would have to exclude from this type of knowledge.”
Duncan tried to swallow with a dry throat. An overriding awareness churned within him. “Nothing can be excluded from life, Brodrick. It is all one thing.”
“That is very astute, but does not apply to people who would like to see our country burned to ashes.” He plucked a rose, and handed it to Duncan. “Just so you know, we’ve put a new psi amplifier in the back of your neck. It will amplify your latent abilities -- enable you to better tap into your psi energies. You are probably already feeling the effects, but we need to test it.”
“It’s all about this 'psi focus' thing, isn’t it?”
“Well, yes, that’s what we call the phenomenon.” He quickly checked his watch. “There are certain creatures, including humans, who conceal such a focus within themselves. Just think, if you could walk into...into nothing and reappear light years away; jump from planet to planet, world to world, without ever using a ship; look at a man with an incurable disease, and the disease would be cured; read people’s minds...raise the dead.”
“You make it sound as if I could be 'all powerful'.”
“Yes! If you are the psi focus that we think you are, then you could be...well, a god.”
The Guardian stood twice as tall as a man. Shaped like a saw-tooth lizard with scaly yellow plates and stalked eyes swiveling left, then right. Duncan could smell the stink of the creature -- sickly sweet with overtones of soured cream and stagnant water. It took a step toward him with a taloned foot.
Behind the creature, he could see the heavy golden door built smoothly into a marbled wall of green. There was an ornate handle upon it cast in the form of a sunburst with long projecting rays.
Time slowed to a grinding, creeping pace for him; his every sense focused on the giant lizard. He tasted the terror in his mouth as the lizard twisted showing its narrow, birdlike head. Its beak mouth opened to reveal a forked black tongue, and he could smell the fetid swamp ooze upon its breath. The beast-stink of the thing overpowered his senses and forced him to close his burning eyes.
The monster’s stalk eyes moved, centered on him.
Duncan opened his eyes. The young med-tech was placing a large metallic helmet upon his head. “Do not move suddenly or try to jerk away. The microfilament probes within this bowl will cause you great discomfort if you do.”
Duncan felt something touch his scalp in many places, a crawling and tickling sensation. “What is this thing?” he asked, his voice echoing oddly in his ears.
“This is a psi enhancer,” the tech said. “See that wall behind me?”
He stared straight ahead under the lip of the bowl and saw a gray, featureless wall. “Yeah, I see it.”
“We want you to focus on that wall and create something on it that we’ll be able to see.”
“Yeah, you know, like a miracle or something.” The tech finished adjusting the machine. “Good luck,” he said, tapping the helmet, then walked off.
Duncan heard the faint drone of the machinery as it was turned on. The hum became louder like a swarm of bees. The wall suddenly blinked alive and became a rich and glassy green. It began to crawl with iridescent purple lines. They wiggled and crawled over the wall like countless glowing worms. The worms became snakes -- hundreds of them.
He focused on the wall and watched one snake pull its head from the flat surface, tearing open the membrane that separated their worlds. It turned and looked at him with black eyes. Opening its mouth, it revealed rows of endless pin-shaped teeth dripping a liquid silvery substance off their sharp points. The snake flowed from the wall to the floor, came forward stopping at Duncan’s feet -- several more followed its path.
There was screaming, and he saw a med-tech run by -- one of the purple snakes attached to his inner thigh, writhing and twisting its body as it tore his flesh.
“Get out! Get out!” someone shouted. “My God, they're everywhere!”
Duncan concentrated on the wall. It began to shift into fantastic scenery from other dimensions. Like a window into another world, he watched a celestial body with three different colored moons; another with an azure forest stretched out across a glowing planet of red. The scenes flashed by, the images so stunningly beautiful to behold that he wept. He deliberately reached up and ripped the helmet from his head. Ignoring the horrible pain of the disconnecting microbes, he stood amidst a floor seething with purple snakes and approached the barrier.
His eyes stayed focused on the landscape filled with blood-red roses and a florescent-blue river. He realized that this was the way to the freedom he so desperately sought; the way out of this concrete pit of despair and insane power-hungry men. Without hesitating, he ripped the membrane open, bent low, and stepped into the wall. Like switching off a light, the snakes vanished, and the wall went completely blank.
The creature swung toward him, waddling forward on its four short legs. Duncan heard the scratching of its talons upon the marbled floor that partially covered the ground in front of the gateway. Now he saw the resemblance between the monster and Brodrick -- knew it would test him.
“No more tests!” he yelled at the giant lizard. He turned and majestically waved a hand. Somewhere, there was a great howling of non-sound, but he ignored it as a dancing sword of flame came into being next to his outstretched hand. The Brodrick/Lizard paused -- took a step backwards.
The monstrous face opened its beak and smelled him with its darting tongue. It finally spoke, “Life is a test. There’s always something more we need to know -- that’s the way it is in an infinite universe.” The creature's voice rasped heavily, “We live in an infinite system where anything can happen, a place of constant change. The one sure truth is: things change.”
“I have changed!” Duncan shouted. “You have changed me forever!”
The guardian roared, snapping its teeth inches from Duncan's face. Instinctively, he swung the sword at it, the tip grazing the monster's nose.
The beast screamed again, this time in pain, as dark purple blood oozed from its snout. Shaking its huge head, it backed up to the gate, its snake-like tongue gingerly plunging in and out of its wound. Duncan approached it.
The great lizard positioned itself flat upon the ground and laid its giant head between its front legs. Warily it eyed the sword -- finally spoke. “I can not let you enter. Only the psi energy of the dead may pass."
"What is this great power?"
The Brodrick/Lizard would not answer.
Duncan swung the sword again and saw the trail of flames it left behind. "Speak! I command it!"
The lizard flinched, tried to back further away, then realized it was trapped against the wall. "All of mankind acting together represents a great psi force," it said. "Like an energy system. Sometimes we call this force religion. Sometimes we give it an independent focus of action which we call God.”
Awareness erupted into him. “So that is the phenomenon you call psi focus. Tell me what happened to the first lonely human that tapped into this energy?”
“He was condemned as a sorcerer and burned alive. He did not have the knowledge to use the power.”
Duncan raised the flaming sword. “I have the knowledge.” He pointed the blade at the great lizard. “And I know how to use it!” With a sudden movement, he thrust the blade into the head of the monster, heard it moan softly, and then watched as its body began to dissipate. Its molecules separated and twisted around into small swarms of darkened spheres -- a three-dimensional shadow cast into a fourth-dimensional universe. The spheres flew about his head like maddened bees, then crashed into the golden door. Duncan watched as it silently swung open.
Stepping through the doorway, he came face to face and mind to mind with the infinite numbers of beings that had passed before him, had passed from the life of the physical, and entered into the center of this fourth dimension. In that instant he was with them, was part of them, fully understanding the connection between all objects along the universe and their relative power one over another. Projecting his will across those relationships, he moved across them faster than thought.
For a moment, he felt himself on a mountaintop, and there was a mountaintop beneath him. He blinked into existence at the office of the project manager, smiled as the startled Brodrick spilled hot coffee onto his lap, and then moved on.
The infinite universe lay at his fingertips.
It felt like home.