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Antiquity Calais Standing at Armageddon Chapter Three - No Secrets
Chapter Three: No Secrets
The pervasive darkness began to unnerve Antiquity, but oddly he felt a certain degree of comfort in the fact that he was able to feel unnerved. That meant that some higher mental functions were still operational, which left the door open that he may, in fact, not have been dead after all. If not, he wondered, where was he? As if a higher power were monitoring his thoughts, as soon as he wondered those words, the darkness gave way to light. After his eyes adjusted, he looked down and saw his body. But was it his body? "I haven't looked this good since I was 17!"
Years of aging had suddenly disappeared. He was just as tall as he had ever been, but the ever-expanding waistline that had developed as a result of four years worth of beer parties as an undergrad, followed by two more years of serious drinking in graduate school, followed by too many years to count of eating as a source of comfort during times of distress, suddenly vanished. It was as if his body had transformed to the condition it had been just before he developed all these bad habits.
"Life could be worse," Antiquity mused, before turning his sights away from his body. He could see he was standing on a small foothill, and there was a clearly defined path leading to its summit. Still mildly troubled by the nagging question of whether he was alive or dead, Antiquity set aside that issue, as his curiosity got the better of him, and he began climbing this path.
The hike to the summit was pretty simple, particularly with the body of a healthy 17 year old. When he reached the peak, however, he had cause to turn and look back from whence he came for the first time. Much to his dismay, Antiquity found that the path behind him had disappeared into the darkness, as if it had never existed. This left just one option, and it was not terribly appealing. He stood motionless for a few moments, gazing down the slope to the valley below. He presumed that there was a valley floor, but he could not say for sure, because as far as his eyes could see there was a veritable ocean of people. Like the sea, this ocean seemed to be in a constant state of motion, and waves of people were swept by, heading toward a shore that may or may not have existed.
Despite a rather firm belief that nothing good could come from it, Antiquity concluded his only option was to move down the slope and join the fray, hoping for the first time that he really was dead - if he were already dead, no harm could befall him once he joined the sea of people. Only time would tell, but Antiquity feared that time would pass far more quickly than he would have preferred.
Near the bottom, Antiquity found he was standing along a ridge that was much too treacherous to attempt to traverse. Looking along the ridge, Antiquity was surprised but pleased to see other people standing on the edge. To his amazement, some of these people were actually throwing care to the wind and leaping into the sea of people. Below, all he could see were people, but curiously, they seemed to be laughing and enjoying themselves. Momentarily buoyed by the thought that maybe this wasn't going to be so bad after all, he took a few steps toward the edge of the ridge, looked down, and feeling like he was 10 years old he did a cannon ball dive off the edge, yelling, "Look out below!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"Incoming!" Someone below screamed, and Antiquity landed with a thud on the ground. It was remarkably solid, considering that only moments previously he had questioned whether there was even a floor there to land upon. This realization that he could, in fact, feel pain, made him question the wisdom of having done such a bodacious dive from the ridge above. This thought brought renewed panic, because if it were possible for him to feel pain, it would be equally possible for him to feel considerably more pain, if people behind him should trample over him. Scrambling to his feet, Antiquity started running as fast as his legs would carry him. There was a woman who was running alongside him momentarily who yelled, "Are you OK?"
"Yeah, I think so! Where the Hell is this place?"
"Hopefully it's not there, but I'd put my money on Purgatory."
This was not the answer Antiquity had been hoping for, but somehow it seemed like it was the only answer that fit.
The duo ran alongside each other momentarily. This woman stood about 5'6", had predominantly red hair, with streaks of blond highlighting it ever so subtly. As she began to pull ahead of him, Antiquity wondered if she always had such an exquisite figure, or if she, too, had been transformed to an earlier body form.
It took a few minutes, but eventually Antiquity noticed there was a pattern to the flow of people. Large groups of people could move as units, almost like a school of fish in the context of the larger sea surrounding them. The key was to find a school moving at his pace, which he found shortly thereafter. Curiously, that same woman who had inquired into his well-being moments before was also in this group.
"Hey, fancy meeting you here. Come here often?" Antiquity asked with a smile.
"No! First time for me. You?"
"How ‘bout that! My first time too! Let's hang together!"
"Sounds like a plan darlin'!"
Antiquity could see why the people had appeared to be having a good time when he approached the ridge. After he got used to going with the flow, this was a lot like an amusement ride. And as for having to continually run, somehow this new, 17 year old body didn't seem to have any limit of energy. It was as if it were designed to be in a state of perpetual motion.
"So you think this is Purgatory? How do you know?" Antiquity inquired.
"I don't know. All I know is that I died and came here. If this is Hell, it's not that bad, and I don't think I deserved to go there any way."
"So you're sure that you died?"
"Honey, you don't get blown up in a car wreck and live to tell about it. How did you die?"
"Well see that's the thing. I'm not sure that I did. If I did, I must have had a massive coronary and just died. I don't remember any pain, though. To be honest, I'm not sure that I really am dead."
"Well honey, so far as I can tell, everyone else I've talked with is dead, so if you're not, you're one of a kind. You don't remember anything?"
"Not a thing...I was going to visit my parents...maybe the plane crashed? But wouldn't you think I would remember something like that?"
"Would be kinda hard to forget something like a plane crash, unless you passed out before the impact? Whatever, at least you didn't die a traumatic death. I always hoped I'd die in my sleep, but instead I end up with an oil tanker on top of my SUV. There must have been other victims, but I haven't met any of them yet."
"Nothing quite like going out in a blaze of glory, huh?"
"You said it darlin'!"
So I'm dead, Antiquity thought silently. Wonder what all the fuss was about? I mean, I've got a body to die for, and obviously there is something to look forward to here, though I haven't got a clue what it is.
Don't worry darlin', I figure that's what the journey is all about.
Antiquity stared at this woman, and then said, incredulously, "You could hear what I was thinking?"
"Oh yeah! There are no secrets in this world. We're all in this Rat Race together, so I think it's cool that we can hear each other's thoughts."
"Cool" was not the word Antiquity had in mind. "Unnerving," yes. "Unsettling," sure. But definitely not cool.
"It was a little weird to me at first too, but you'll get used to it. Think about it. We have no reason to keep secrets from each other, not that we ever really did on Earth either. We're all just trying to find our way to the Pearly Gates, and it doesn't matter who gets there first! We're all in this together!"
Antiquity thought about the subject more objectively for a moment. To be sure, there were many times during his life on Earth when having the ability to read a woman's mind would have been a great skill to have. All the same, though, Antiquity was accustomed to keeping his thoughts private, unless he chose to share them. So that would take getting used to, as the woman had advised.
"I just realized something," Antiquity said aloud.
"We don't know each other's names. I'm Gillian Usha."
Antiquity chuckled, and then said, "Antiquity Calais, but then, you probably already knew that."
"No, I hadn't caught that yet! It's nice to meet you Antiquity. Cool name. Sounds like you should have been a writer."
"You were? What did you write?"
"I was a novelist. My best-known one was The World of Forms."
"I'm not familiar with it. I mostly read..."
"...Trashy romance novels," Antiquity cut in.
"Yeah! How'd you know?"
Antiquity tapped the side of his head, grinned, and then said, "No secrets, eh?"
Gillian laughed, as they continued along with the sea of people, rolling inexorably toward a shore that they could only assume was out there, somewhere.
Antiquity and Gillian continued to talk, both silently and with their mouths. One thought he conveyed to her that he probably would have kept to himself was how beautiful he thought she looked.
"Thank you darlin'! I'll tell you what; I never looked this good on Earth."
"I was wondering that," Antiquity said, trying hard not to say "wonderin'," as he had always had a tendency to pick up other people's accents. "You say never?"
"Nope! How ‘bout you?"
"Yeah, actually, when I was 17, maybe 16. I'll tell ya, seeing this body came as a real shock. I haven't had a 34 inch waist line since then!"
"Yeah, I guess this must be one of the perks they don't tell you about when you're alive on Earth. Jeez, if I had known I had a body like this, I probably would have rolled that SUV years ago!"
They ran along in silence for a short while, and then Antiquity said, "You know, Gillian, I'm wondering if there's anything else we don't know yet?"
"Oh, I'm sure there's plenty we don't know. You have somethin' specific?"
"Yeah, I mean, we've got these great bodies that we can't explain. And we can read each other's minds, which is still creepy, if you ask me. Doesn't it make you wonder if there are other things we should know about? Why is it that we've been running together for hours, and I'm no more tired than when I arrived? In fact, I feel great! Is there any limit to what we can do with these bodies?"
"That's a good question. I would say that flying probably isn't on the list, after the way you landed after jumping off the cliff."
"Yeah...but then, I wasn't intending to fly, because the thought had never occurred to me to try! I was still not entirely convinced that I was dead, so why should I presume that this great body would have such a skill?"
"I dunno. I guess there's only one way to find out."
Antiquity focused his concentration, trying to imagine himself soaring through the sky, no longer bound by gravity. The thought, however, seemed so ludicrous to him that he found it hard to focus. There was that annoying nasally, negative voice in the back of his head saying, "You know you can't fly!"
Abandon your inhibitions, darlin'. You have no idea how powerful you can be until you do, Gillian said telepathically. This seemed a bit more profound than Antiquity might have expected, but rather than shocking him, it galvanized him, and caused him to focus completely. A strange quiet came over him, as if there were no longer millions, possibly billions, of people running along around him. Instead, it was as if he had left this place, wherever it was.
Then he found it not only plausible to imagine that he was flying, but down right easy. Keeping his eyes closed, he imagined a scene where he was soaring high above the sea of people, who were all looking up at him, utterly amazed. The feeling of power and freedom was intoxicating to Antiquity, and he suddenly threw care to the wind and opened his eyes. He fully expected that when he did so, he would find himself running alongside Gillian in the sea of people. Instead, he was legitimately shocked and amazed to find that he was, in fact, flying above the people, and they were, in fact, looking at him in astonishment.
Gillian! Where are you? He called out telepathically. As he did so, he wondered if other people could hear his thoughts that were intended for Gillian. He surmised the answer would be no, for he wasn't hearing all the random thoughts of the people around him. Instead, he heard Gillian say inside his head, I'm right below you! How did you do that?
You said to abandon my inhibitions, and I did. Then I just imagined I was flying, and I am. You've got to focus hard, and cut out all the distractions.
Antiquity could tell that Gillian was trying to concentrate, but he also knew how hard it had been to do so. Then he got a sudden inspiration, and zoomed down low, hovering just over the heads of the people, just out of arm's reach. In a few moments, he found Gillian, and then said, "Let's try something! Take my hand!"
She did, and to their mutual astonishment, simply by locking their arms together, she, too, was able to fly. Amazed, they looked out over the sea of people, and were excited to see that some others were starting to join them in the sky, while the vast majority remained tied to the ground.
"If we go up high enough, I'll bet you'll be able to concentrate better - get away from the noise below."
Together, they soared so high into the sky that the mass of millions below appeared as ants. Gillian was holding onto Antiquity's right arm so tightly, it was obvious that she was anxious about what they were doing. Curiously, Antiquity was not. It was as if he had been born for this moment.
"Antiquity, don't you dare let go of me!
"Don't worry. What was it you said to me? Abandon your inhibitions? Sounds like good advice to me. Just focus on flying and you will, without my help!"
It was clear, however, that Gillian was not in her happy place, and was incapable of concentrating.
"Do you want to land?"
"No! I want to do this!"
"OK. Just use your imagination! Think about what it would be like to soar like an eagle! You have to see it, and focus on it, and it will happen!"
She screwed up her face, intensely trying to focus. She was still gripping his arm tightly, however. Then Antiquity closed his eyes, and once more envisioned him flying, this time with her. They soared higher, ever higher, to the point where details of the ground below were completely lost. And then, finally, Antiquity felt a sudden surge of energy start in his left finger tips, and traveling rapidly up his left arm, through his torso, and then out his right arm. As the ball of energy reached his right finger tips, he felt it transfer from his body into hers, and with a sudden jolt, her grasp was released, and the two were flying side by side, separately.
"Open your eyes!" Antiquity exclaimed, and they both did. The appearance of exhilaration on her face resonated throughout his being. She was free of her encumbrances, and was learning to fly for the very first time. Antiquity felt a sense of pride, much like a father watching his child take first steps. Only Gillian most definitely was not his child. As they soared around in the twilight between the world below and the vacuum of space, Antiquity found himself wondering, "Who is she, and why are we together?"