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Chapter 1: The Endless Palace
What the . . . ? I spun around to see what terrors were lurking behind me. Unconvinced, I completed the 360 degrees to my original position at breakneck speed, my heart pounding. What is this place? How . . . ?
Every cell in my brain and body seemed to be straining for maximum output, readying me for whatever threat or challenge the next few seconds might bring. And yet, as extreme as my nervous tension was, my racing brain could not avoid the awareness that whatever this place was, it seemed to sparkle. It made the brightest sun-soaked, blue-skied day seem drab and the crispest of mornings feel flat. The atmosphere seemed charged with something I can find no name for, and so clear it seemed as if I could see a thousand miles in any direction. It was as if my eyes were suddenly opened to the fact that everything I had ever seen before had been caked with a layer of grime. It was like seeing something so white that you suddenly realize that what you had previously thought was brilliant white is a dirty cream.
The floor was fascinating but I was too on edge to study it. The sky was too bizarre to even think about. But there was something mind-numbingly disturbing: never before had I even imagined a place so terrifyingly empty. Every direction seemed to stretch out forever and yet nowhere was there anything, except the dead flat floor. You might think it ridiculous but in this overwhelming expanse I felt consumed by nothingness, swallowed up by a void so incomprehensibly vast that it sucked from me every illusion of dignity. I seemed stripped to total insignificance, like an infinitesimal fragment of dust trapped in outer space, numberless light years from anything, undetectable by any consciousness other than my own. It felt to the core of my being that even if this solitary speck of dust that was me was somehow chanced upon, it would be instantly dismissed as utterly devoid of interest or value. The haunting silence and the stillness of the atmosphere somehow further intensified my aloneness. Despite it all, however, I continued on hyper-alert; my senses inexplicably driven by a heart-pounding sense of danger.
A noise startled me. My eyes darted in that direction. Two people were approaching. I panicked. There was nowhere I could hide. I threw myself on the floor. Where did they come from? I wondered. Even though my 360-degree scan just moments before had been at panic speed, how could I have missed them? A second look at those approaching exposed my error. “People” was not the right word. Shock tore through my body. Though humanoid in appearance, they were giants. The entire place being totally featureless, plus the light and atmosphere somehow manifesting unearthly clarity, rendered distance perception alarmingly close to impossible. But I was sure they were giants.
In my frantic attempt to hide, I flattened my body still more, while thinking myself stupid for getting into a position from which it was most difficult to either flee or fight. But then again, what my eyes were now telling me indicated that if things turned nasty, neither means of survival could possibly succeed. It was far more than size that set these life-forms apart. They looked vastly superior to anyone I had ever seen. And they were heading straight for me.
Trying to hide on an open floor is ridiculous! I told myself, I might as well stand and face my fate like a man. I staggered to my feet, but as they drew closer this seemed a serious mistake.
One of the beings heading toward me towered at least half a body length higher than any person I had ever seen, and was massively built. The other was even bigger. In their most literal meaning, words like stunning and breathtaking would almost seem adequate to describe the fearsome majesty of their appearance and mannerisms. But we cripple these words; squandering them on less emotionally shattering experiences than the one that was overwhelming me. The aliens were not exactly terrifying – overawed would seem a better description of my reaction – and yet I felt strength draining from me like I would expect to feel if I were staring at a vicious animal poised to pounce and tear me apart. It seemed more than an emotional reaction. It was as if these beings radiated some sort of energy that threatened to sap the very life from me. It was like trying to stand chest-deep in the ferocious torrent of a river that could drown me any second.
I panicked. In the split second before I knew I would black out, I instinctively looked to God, as one would flinch when about to be punched. I uttered no word – not even in my thoughts – nor did I consciously change my posture. No time. No need. I knew that God knew I was serious. Nothing else mattered. Anytime, anywhere, he is there.
As a frightened child clings to its mother, and a drowning man clings to a lifebuoy, I clung to God, my only hope. Instantly, I felt as if supernatural energy were pumping into me. The desperate, life-giving exchange transcends explanation, but like a battery being charged, I was somehow drawing strength from the Infinite One. Before long I felt I could survive in the presence of these beings, but still I longed to find somewhere to hide from them. To my relief, so far they were acting as if I didn’t exist.
“O Chebon,” said the shorter one, “it’s been thirty earth-years, and the sight of that empty throne still breaks my heart.”
I needed to drink in their every word. It was surely my best chance of discovering where I was and what was happening. But distractions were everywhere. Everything hitting my senses – even the air – was different from anything I had ever before experienced. I was captivated by their skin. I can only describe it as golden and glowing and yet it was real skin; nothing like flesh covered with stage paint. And rather than reflecting light, the glow somehow seemed to come from within these beings. Both had hair that was long and whitish and seemed too fluffy to be hair. When I dared glance at their eyes, I concluded that “fiery” was the only way to describe Chebon’s. The eyes of the other were a mysterious pinky-silver that might almost be called peaceful if they were not so alien.
“The pain sears through each of us, Zyra,” replied Chebon.
“Chebon” . . . “Zyra” . . . “earth-years” . . . What is going on . . . ? My mind raced but the conversation continued.
“I didn’t think this whole dimension could be so . . .” the one who must have been called Zyra seemed to be struggling for the right word. “. . . empty,” he finally blurted. “I know we have so much to delight in, but his absence . . .”
“We must be strong, Zyra.”
As he spoke something began to arouse my curiosity. There was something peculiar about their lip movements. In my effort to pick up their every word, I was trying – as much as I dare even look at these beings – to focus on their lips, but it was not helping my comprehension.
“Earth! What’s so special about that tiny speck . . .” There seemed hurt and the slightest tinge of disgust in Zyra’s voice.
“Come now, Zyra, you –”
Suddenly there was a commotion. I looked round and hundreds, then thousands, of beings came pouring in. Where they came from, I have no idea. These life-forms were not present a moment ago and there was nowhere for them to be hidden. This place had not even a ceiling.
If these aliens were angels, I’m not too comfortable with the word. For ease of communication I guess I should stick with the term, but our familiarity with the word belies how extraordinary these beings were. Despite seeming an almost meaningless term, luminaries somehow seems more appropriate. Each looked not just otherworldly, but terrifyingly superior. The new arrivals were all of different appearances and sizes and yet each in his unique way looked stunningly majestic. (Should I be assigning them the male gender? They were certainly flat chested, yet something about them makes me uncomfortable about using the male pronoun. I couldn’t identify it precisely. There was sort of a softness – a slight aura of femininity – and physical beauty about them, and yet in many ways they seemed masculine. They seemed to epitomize the best of both sexes and yet in another sense they seemed genderless. If calling one of these beings “he” does not feel quite right, to refer to such a regal being as “it” would be even further off track.)
As they came flooding in, my eyes absorbed so many never-before-encountered sights that to attempt an adequate description would take far too many pages. I will curtail myself rather than risk boring you in a vain effort to force words to do what only sight could achieve.
Everything about these beings was fascinating. As individuals they were amazing, but as a group they were even more intriguing. For instance, they all had what could be called white hair and yet there were slight differences in color such that I never noticed two with identical hair color. The hair of one had a slight pinkish tinge, another was slightly bluish, another slightly golden, and so on. And although I noticed dozens with, for example, a bluish tinge to their white hair, each was a slightly different shade of blue. I think it was the subtlety of the variation that particularly struck me. There was nothing gaudy. Every aspect of their appearance had an aura of sophistication as to make everything human seem crude.
They seemed to radiate light. I cannot entirely dismiss the possibility that it was simply light bouncing off their shiny skin, but it seemed to come from within them. Whatever the cause, they were so dazzling that despite my natural inclination to stare wide-eyed in astonishment, I found myself snatching hasty glimpses of them and then looking elsewhere.
“It’s happened!” shouted several of the newcomers, as they burst into this world from nowhere. There must have been hundreds of thousands by now and more continued to pour in.
In my attempt to see where they were all coming from I again tried to comprehend my surroundings. The entire sky – I guess that’s what I should call it – was indescribable. It would be oversimplification to say that from horizon to horizon it seemed to be one gigantic rainbow. It was constantly moving and changing in intriguing ways. The floor was so magnificent that I felt I could spend eternity exploring it and keep finding new treasures.
“Yeeaaaaah!” shouted Zyra.
“Glory!” said Chebon, jumping high – and I mean high – in the air. Everyone seemed to be clapping, cheering, jumping, dancing, or emitting a peculiar noise.
I’m bursting to tell you about their astonishingly otherworldly clothing, but I dare not. It enhanced their beauty and dignity. Frankly, I’m scared to say more. I’ll risk revealing more later. Then you’ll understand my reticence.
“At last! After thirty long earth-years!” shouted a jubilant angel.
The more I looked at each speaker’s lips the more puzzled I became.
It’s a new era!” proclaimed another.
At that, the entire throng burst into a thunderous roar that seemed many times louder than anything I have ever heard and yet, instead of hurting my ears, the sound ripped through my body, suggesting that much of the angelic roar was at a very low pitch, perhaps even below my audible range. Whatever the explanation, as it thundered through my body, the effect was remarkable. It was as though there was so much energy in the sound that it energized my entire physical being. But beyond that, it generated within me an excitement unlike anything I have ever experienced.
When finally the roar subsided, another gigantic being spoke a few words. My mind, however, instead of concentrating on what was being said, was like a bull terrier with a bone, refusing to let go of a much less significant puzzle. The words I was hearing did not correspond to the movements of the speakers’ lips. Was I somehow listening to a translation? But each voice was unique and sounded as if it were coming from the direction of each person speaking. I began listening intently while each spoke, wondering if I could hear any foreign language in the background. I could detect nothing but English. My mind whirled with countless questions.
“What an achievement!” declared the first angel, his lips continuing for two or three syllables after the sound had ceased. Stupidly, I touched my ears to check whether earphones had somehow appeared over my ears. Of course, they had not. I wondered if I were in some sort of sound shell. Come on! I chided myself, Concentrate on what they are saying! Surely their conversation would give me more clues than my idle speculations.
“Thirty sinless years on that sin-infested planet as a baby, a boy, a youth –”
“Without even the Spirit’s anointing!” added another of the angels, amidst all the rejoicing.
Whatever are they talking about? I wondered. Then in a flash of panic I asked myself, I am in the twenty-first century, aren’t I?
After a while, Chebon raised his voice, “Could I have a little quiet please?” The throng, which by now had grown so vast as to seem endless, began to quieten. I could find no vantage point high enough to see an end to the throng. For all I knew there could have been billions there. “I have an announcement. To mark this unique occasion, Gabriel has been chosen to distill into words the feelings of all of us.” Everyone cheered again. I looked on, mystified.
A magnificent being came forward. Even among these beings, he looked dignified. His voice boomed with authority. “Earth-born observers who think they know Jesus of Nazareth are about to receive the shock of their lives.” The others murmured in agreement.
“They imagine he is one of them.” Some of the throng smiled. Some shook their heads, as if in disbelief.
“Earth has no conception of his humiliation these thirty years.” The rest murmured. Some nodded in what seemed to be sad agreement.
“But Heaven knows and we will not fail to celebrate his empowering this day.”
The throng went wild.
“At last our Lord is endowed with the power Christ-transformed earth dwellers will one day enjoy!”
Locked in that statement were truths so profound as to keep my mind reeling for ages. Even as I write, the implications are buzzing around my head. I wonder if I’ll ever plumb their depths, much less actually live them. I was glad that another celestial roar gave me a little while to ponder that profound mystery.
“Our Lord’s baptism in the Spirit,” he continued, “is one step closer to the restoration of the glory which rightly belongs to the only Son of God, through whom, and for whom, all things in every universe exist. His rightful role is to reign in unlimited splendor over every inhabitant of every world forever and ever.” The entire realm seemed to explode in almost thunderous cheers, applause, and a peculiar noise that I had now heard several times before. Eventually the stupendous throng began to quieten and Gabriel continued.
“For thirty earth-years the eternal Lord has been abased. Only now, at the completion of the Spirit-baptism, is his power equal to the potential of his future followers. But now, supercharged with the Spirit, pulsating with holy power, he is primed to explode into earth-stunning ministry. That planet will never be the same again.” Again the throng erupted into cheers and that peculiar noise.
“Jesus of Nazareth, ablaze with the Spirit, is a beacon so bright he’ll be seen by every succeeding generation of earth-dwellers, century after century until the termination of planet earth.” The angels went wild. That perplexing sound some emitted continued to intrigue me. Perhaps it was some sort of angelic equivalent of whistling.
Chebon stepped up to Gabriel and raised his straightened arm. It was angled forward at about forty-five degrees, palm vertical. Gabriel, facing Chebon, did the same. Their hands almost touching, they stood rigidly in silence for a few seconds. Then, military-style, Gabriel about-turned and strode off.
“Arch-angel Uriel from the music corps has been commissioned to compose a song for this great occasion.” announced Chebon. Everyone clapped and cheered. “Let’s see how quickly we can learn this sparkling new song.” More cheers followed. I had never before thought of angels getting so excited.
Then commenced what I can only call music, but the use of an earth term devalues what I heard. It seemed to caress my ears and then permeate my entire being. My spirit seemed to soar to realms I had never known. I was captivated. I longed for it to continue forever. Then, in an other-worldly voice, so pure, so noble, Uriel began to sing.
Turning towards Uriel again, Chebon said, “We’ve picked up the tune now. Have you got the words for us?”
Uriel did something with his hand and from nowhere three dimensional squiggles appeared, each looking as solid as gold, and suspended on nothing.
As Chebon studied the squiggles he emitted a strange sound, but quite different to the angelic “whistle.” “Teeeeeoool! This is good!” he gasped, “Let’s get all Heaven singing!”
Uriel turned to the throng. As his body rhythmically twisted in ways that no human would imitate, the seemingly endless throng responded as if he were conducting them with his entire body. On cue, they began to sing.
Yet our joy is tempered with awe
As we dare ponder your mission of pain;
Trial upon trial as your agonies soar,
You’ll shed your blood as mankind you reclaim.
Father God, your heart feels this pain;
Your Son surrounded by hardship and foe.
He’ll be abused in body and name,
As he redeems those who hate him so.
I wanted the song to go on and on and on. I felt I could hear it continuously for a hundred years and it would still be as fresh and captivating as ever. To my acute disappointment it suddenly stopped, and every creature in sight bowed with their head to floor in reverent worship. Feeling totally out of place, as the only one standing, I attempted to mimic them. The floor was surprisingly comfortable but after what seemed an exceedingly long time, I grew increasingly fidgety.
The angels continued, seeming to draw immense satisfaction out of this humiliating posture. I feel forced to employ the word adoration to try to encapsulate the emotional/mental/spiritual ecstatic state these magnificent beings had apparently entered into. My hesitance springs from a sad acknowledgement that I used to imagine I had a vague idea of the meaning of the word. I now know this arrogant presumption is like a Stone Age primitive supposing he understands the vastness of the universe. I was humiliatingly obvious that I was in the presence of beings that had tapped into spiritual depths that were utterly foreign to me.
In my boredom I gazed at the tiny section of floor beneath my eyes. Set just below the smooth surface of this particular part of the floor were what looked like magnified, exquisitely colored snow crystals. The tiny segment of floor before my eyes was fascinating, but not enough to keep me entertained for all the time that the angels were devoting to their worship. I recalled other parts of the floor that I had noticed earlier. One part had looked like petrified fire. Another looked as if it contained miniaturized galaxies of stars. Other parts contained jewels. I longed to explore the vast floor, absorbing its beauty, but I knew the angels were engaged in something far more profound. I tried not to profane that sacred moment anymore than I was already doing.
After I thought I was beginning to understand the meaning of eternity, Chebon finally announced, “Let the celebrations commence!”
I was totally unprepared for the next split second. In an instant these stunningly otherworldly beings exploded from reverent stillness to extravagant celebration. Do angels ever know how to party! Their unrestrained exuberance made excited children look as somber as mourners. I have never seen anyone have so much fun. Even now, when I feel depressed I recall the sheer delight on their faces and the memory lifts me.
I have no idea how to adequately describe their acrobatics, but I can explain it quite simply: the performers were not human. They leapt four or five times higher than any human could reach and they spun several times faster in their aerial somersaults. Sometimes they gyrated so fast that they were just a blur and when they approached top speed they actually changed color. They could bend backwards as fully and easily as forwards. All of them were simultaneously diving into the air, twisting and twirling and somersaulting, each with individual characteristics. The throng had spread out, but I was still amazed there were no mid-air collisions. Whenever two got close, something like lightning flashed between them. The brilliant colors varied according to which angels the spark flashed between.
As they began to somersault, their clothing changed. Some were now bare-chested, exposing their golden, shiny skin, which made them look even more stunning. There was something alien about their flat chests besides their unique skin. I puzzled over what it was until it hit me: they had no nipples. Like the dimmest of memories, something triggered within me causing this feature of their anatomy to somehow seem fitting, but too much was happening to explore the thought. Although it was harder to be certain – they were clothed from the waist down – it seemed they also had no navels. Their joy was too infectious, however, for me to get caught up in physiology.
If they were a cross between butterflies and shooting stars, I was a beached whale. And yet their sheer exuberance pulsated through me. It was like someone’s laughter that sets you giggling and ends up rocking your entire body. Lumbering earthling or not, I found myself doing a little jig, like music can sometimes set your foot tapping without you realizing it.
Then it happened. It was obviously part of the celebrations, but I have no idea what to call them. They seemed to erupt as powerful explosions but instead of bangs they made the most amazing sounds, and instead of the stench of explosives, each emitted an exquisite and different aroma, and even a taste. The force of some almost knocked me over, yet some were as gentle as mist. The colors were so unlike anything I have ever seen that I wondered if I had somehow gained the ability to see a wider spectrum of colors than is normally possible for human eyes. Or was it the different atmosphere? Like so much else, I was at a loss to explain it, and I was too emotionally swept off my feet to really care. Each eruption was a different color. They seemed like harmless sparklers.
Then one touched me.
For a slit-second rapturous euphoria threatened total sensory overload. At last, after years of sacrifice, I was ready to revel in other-worldly glories. Put blandly: this was going to be fun! The next instant, the most sickening blow hit my stomach with such devastating force that I was hurled like a soccer ball being booted out of a stadium. To my horror, I was hurtling out of the Palace with such giddying speed that the throng streaked below me in a rapidly shrinking blur. Mind-numbing terror tore through me in ever-escalating shockwaves. The thumping time-bomb in my chest was set to explode. I blacked out.
Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1994, 2004, 2008. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Not to be placed on any other website. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net