Chapter Twenty-Seven: Spirits and Matter
As she turned to shoot away again, the sword-bearer appeared in her path once more, making her leap back. It's not supposed to know what I think, what I plan, until I've done it -- Desai couldn't have been lying to me, could he? Or is this something he hasn't told me about?
Roj sprang away, then stopped and shot straight up into the sparkling clouds. The thing appeared right where she'd made her dash, not immediately above her. But then it was there, slashing at her, getting the better of her, churning her wits. She stopped fleeing, and just tried to keep dodging the burning edge of the weapon. It's so fast!
A bright light, so bright that the autumn clouds reflected the glow like a miniature sun, appeared between Roj and the thing. Desai was there, shining furiously, drawing a sword of his own from nowhere, parrying the dark blade. The instant the swords met, the thing disappeared.
Thank you, God, Roj prayed in relief. "Thank you, Desai!"
"You went to Duchamps to torment him."
"I did, you're right. Won't be doing that again, no, not me." If Roj still had a body, she would have been wiping away beads of sweat. "What was that? It was on him!"
"Duchamps does not believe in the Most High, and so does not believe that spirits exist, let alone evil spirits. He revels in the destructive direction in which that spirit guides him, without knowing that he himself is not the author of pain and death. He willingly carries a spirit of evil with him."
"He's possessed! That's horrible!"
"He is not. He prefers to manifest evil, it does not have to possess him. In a sense, he is its vehicle in the physical world. But surely you knew that this spirit was with him." Desai was stern.
"No! I knew Max was evil, stinking and oozing evil, but I didn't see that spirit before, not even when he was with Hennessey."
"It may not have actually perceived you after you were killed," Desai said thoughtfully. "Until you decided to try to appear to Duchamps, which was sheer arrogance."
"What would have happened to me if the sword had cut me?" Roj asked, feeling every bit as stupid as Gerry was accustomed to calling her.
"Ultimately, I don't know, of course. But you might have lost your way."
"I don't know what you mean."
Desai sank to the roof of an apartment building, gesturing her to follow. It was a swanky structure, with a patio and potted plants in a walled area away from the air conditioning units. "You seem to know that you have something you must do after your death. And though you don't know exactly what that is, you are following your ... inspirations. Had you been infused with the magnitude of evil that sword-carrier wielded, you might have forgotten ... or fled the way."
"I've never heard you speculate before." Roj might have been amused had she not still been so terrified.
"Perhaps it has happened before, to other human spirits. But as to what would have actually happened, that is of no importance. You are afraid of potentials, which is silly. There are none. They do not exist. In the eye of the Most High, all is complete and serves the purpose for which it was created. You need not fear."
"Silly, stupid, ignorant, uninformed -- I keep hearing that, Desai, it's what upset me before and led me to go visit Garrison and Duchamps to do something I can do. I'm tired of being the new ghost on the block and not knowing what's what."
"You mean, go back and talk to Gerry, who is just about the most overbearing twit I've ever met." Roj felt her spirit -- so to speak -- sink.
"She is not the most," Desai said. "If you bestir your memory, you will find at least a dozen more overbearing and ... twitty ... personages in your life than she is."
She sighed. "Tell me, doesn't everyone have a guardian angel?"
Desai did not hesitate. "Of course."
"Then, when Max Duchamps dies, his guardian angel will talk to him and straighten his shit out?"
"You know what I mean. Don't go all English teacher on me and distract me from the question."
"Roj, you must understand -- the world of the spirit is different than that of the flesh. Yet for humans, how they will perceive the world of the spirit is formed by their experience in the flesh. Your spirit came to know existence through your bodily experience. Your parents used your ears and your brain and their voices and loving arms to help you know about our God; your hearts and your emotions and your hormonal chemicals brought you and Matt together and helped you learn much of what Love is really about.
"Max Duchamps does not want to know God. He does not want a guardian angel. He does not want God to exist. He has no interest in Love. Perhaps he will change, even at the hour of his death, I do not know. I do know that those who die without wanting God, who have denied that God is, who have rejected all aspects of God, all those things -- will not be forced to endure God. The guardian angels of those who utterly reject the Life in the Most High ... grieve eternally for them. In the mean time, Duchamp's angel prays for his conversion."
"Wow. I need to think about this, Desai. Will you please watch over me while I sit in the sky for a little?"
"I shall. That spirit now knows that I am with you, but it also now knows that you are present and vulnerable."
Roj shuddered, flying to the belt of junk that circled the earth. She sat upon a faceted defunct satellite, riding upon it in its orbit as though it was the rump of a wooden pony on a merry-go-round. On the opposite side of the structure, the Earth-side, Desai stood in a posture of vigilance. Roj sought to put away the impossibility of both their stances, and drew her thoughts back to what had struck her.
Max's angel prays for his conversion. Did Max's angel do that out of affection, or hope, or was it just part of his/her job to pray for his/her charge? It didn't matter, really, but the idea of someone praying for Duchamps blew her mind away as surely has his gun had blown her head away. "What would it take for someone to actually pray for that monster?"
Some motes of spacecraft chips floated by her, in the form of an exclamation point. Desai apparently had something to say about her comment, so she slid around the side of the satellite so that she could see him. He left off his heroic stance and sat down. She found herself wanting to smile. Desai was so uncompromisingly helpful at times.
"There was nothing, other than The One Who Is All, and then The Most High created. Light, energy, spirits, matter. All the patterns of the universe."
"I remember that from Bible stories. I loved how God set the Sun and the Moon in the sky, and made monsters in the sea."
Desai shimmered with his form of humor. "You are ahead of the story. The atoms and the spirits danced, and shared the joy of existence with the Creator, and each had their own realm. The angels made the celestial fireworks of supernovas, and the glow of great stars sang with them in harmony."
"I know! I love the songs!"
"The Most High did not want to be apart from the atoms -- what Creator wishes to be apart from the Creation? And so the Lord God instructed the angels to form a place in which the Most High could be intimately in touch with matter. He gave this planet Life. Touched by Power, atoms began to collect in purposeful vessels, multiplying and rejoicing."
Roj leaned her head on her spectral knees and listened. The story was a bit different from what she had been told, but it sounded good, and the plot was pretty much the same. It didn't just sound good, it felt good.
Most of my life I've been told that there wasn't such a thing as Creation, she mused. To think about a God who created everything was made out to be superstition and naiveté. Childish. But here I am, listening to an angel, here I have been, moving around in ghost form, and it's really obvious from this side that the scientific explanation of existence was kind of hollow and pointless.
"As the atoms grew into creatures animated by the Lord's Power, and the Lord Most High found them simply delightful, some of the spirits grew jealous and angry. There was no need of matter for rejoicing in Life, they said, and matter in and of itself could do little or nothing to contribute to Creation. Why then, some asked, is the Most High so fascinated with these things of matter?"
"Why did they question what God was doing -- God is God, right, so where did they get off yipping about God doing what He wished?"
"They just did. The angelic myriads were created with free will, which means that they could choose God's Will, or not. They argued and bickered, and then sought to destroy the world of matter. Those of us who chose to stand by the Most High stopped them.
"And then the Most High did something unexpected. Mankind was created, and the Lord of All breathed into Man not just his power to give life, but his own essence, wedding the Realm of Eternal Spirit and the Realm of Matter, consecrating Matter into something new.
"The spirits who opposed the Lord's choice turned away from the Most High, vowing that they would not return unless the Most High renounced the material atoms and creatures, and Man. Indeed, they set as their goal their plan to show how worthless and unlovable Mankind was."
Thinking of Nazis and Hiroshima and all the atrocities people commit, Roj frowned. "They hardly had to plan, did they?"
"Humans were created innocent. What you yourself think of as "Voices" led them astray. Astray they went, though they had already been given free will, and were not animals to be led. Creatures of Matter and Spirit, they did not know how lowly Matter was, but only craved to be like the One Who they knew was so far above them."
"Okay, I know this story, more or less. But why didn't God give Humans his knowledge as well as his breath, his spirit? Then Adam and Eve wouldn't have screwed up."
"They were children, Children of the Most High. Tell me, would you, had you borne children, wished them to know everything about the world you lived in from the moment of their creation? Could they have withstood the impact of such knowledge?"
Roj shook her head, or what passed for such a gesture.
"Would you have put your children in a cage, in a room away from everything in the universe, so that they would never know what life can be like?"
"No, of course not! But what has all that to do with that crawling monstrosity Max Duchamps?"
"He has the breath of the Most High in him, though he does not know it, or want it. The Life that is in him, nevertheless, is holy, exalted. And that is why his angel prays for his conversion so fervently. The Breath, the Spirit of the Most High is more precious than anything else on the face of the earth, or in all the universe."
"Well, he's sure squandering it ... but so was I, wasn't I -- I just didn't really understand that I was. Wait, I knew I was, but it didn't seem like a real issue for me, because I was young and Matt was young and we weren't concerned about God as much as we were concerned about each other. We were ignorant. We're still ignorant, both of us. And Max Duchamps, too. He's ignorant, and so are his cronies.
"Is anyone not ignorant about the Breath of God in people?"
Desai managed to look both pitying and amused. "Gerry isn't."