Monthly Archives: March 2016

I was Created for this

I decided, what the heck, time for another short story.  Most of my stories are lessons about life, how it’s lived, and consequences.  I suppose this one has the same purpose.


a short story by     ~Sha’Tara~

The Monster had come to a standstill. Before him, appearing as slowly turning giant pillars, stood the Twelve, as if in a circle to welcome him within. As he crouched down, looking at these apparitions his ancient brain remembered and for the first time in aeons, the Monster felt uncertainty, and yes, fear – his own sick fear, not the fear of those he had enjoyed torturing.  But he could not turn away.  

Slowly, he looked back from this moment in time and surveyed his passage. He looked through space and time and saw the wreckage and destruction that marked his footsteps over a swath of countless now desolate, dead or disappeared worlds. His entire life’s work, and now it seemed to be accusing and mocking him.  Had he been able to, the monster would have sighed. 

When he had first beheld these worlds, they had not been desolate. They had done him no wrong. He had walked through them unseen by any living thing, and enjoyed the warmth of them, the sometimes laughter and songs of people, as he sat and watched them in their villages and farms, or in their sprawling cities. He could not understand the concept of laughter, but it seemed to him as a pleasant thing. He liked the grasses that gently bent under his feet and the rough feeling on his hands when they caressed treetops. He liked the smells that stuck to his skin.  

Though he had no real need, he often flattened himself near a lake, or a stream, and drank deeply of their clear waters. The water flowed through him and he noticed that it quenched the fire in his heart.   He learned to fear the water then because his brain signaled that water would sap his great strength. Something warned him that water was his enemy.

After a long time, though not seemingly long for him, a voice, The Voice of Command, made itself heard in his head. It ordered him to destroy those worlds that stood in the path he’d followed in order to taste them. The path had mapped itself in his brain from the taste of them – he could not deviate from it. What he would do to those worlds was also clearly defined – he could not deviate from the command. It would be total destruction, nothing left alive. That was his purpose.  He remembered, of course.

What was not defined, marked, or explained, was how he would go about destroying those worlds.   All he knew at the beginning of his walk through the universe, when he was set free from the Hades where they created him, was that he had the power to do whatever was in his brain to do. He was power and that power had been created to destroy. He did not understand why he had to do these things; why he was a creature of the great dark. “Why me?” he thought suddenly and for no reason, for the power of reasoning was not programmed in him.

He became confused and for a time he did not move. His brain was not designed to accept the sense of personhood, of the enigmatic “I” which the “why me” question posed. Nevertheless he endeavored to reason the question. This is the result: It has to be “me” whatever that is since there is no other like “me” anywhere.   Yet I am not a “me” but only an instrument. An instrument has no free will. He pondered “free will” and remembered the people laughing. Still, he lacked understanding. The Voice of Command prodded him and he moved then.

The brain expressed what we would call relief. It could control the machine. All systems go. So began the great destruction of world after world. Some were simply burned by pushing them closer to a near-by star.   Some were smashed to rubble that spun away into space. Some were easily flooded and he watched as surface life drowned. Then he emptied the great watery reservoirs with hands and breath, blowing the waters out into space, and he watched the water life expire.   He learned quickly to leave these worlds alone – his body hated the smells created by his work.  

He became more creative as he labored in his destructive work. He learned to whisper thoughts in the minds of intelligent sentient creatures and made them crazy with the lust of conquest and endless power. He showed them images of great weapons of mass destruction and taught how they should be built. Then he set nations, races and religions against one another and from safe distances watched them destroy their worlds and themselves. His brain told him he was satisfied each time a world became dead and lifeless, or was simply smashed out of existence.  

There were so many worlds and long he toiled in his destruction. He learned to hate – a great asset in his work. Some worlds tried to oppose him or thwart him. They launched various kinds of weapons at him that made him itch. This angered him and he made those worlds suffer the most. He tortured them with plagues and diseases he invented that killed certain life forms and not others, certain groups and not others. On some he killed all the children so he could feed his lust on the sorrow of the adults. On others he killed all the males, or all the females, for he had learned that by creating imbalance within life he could inflict the greatest pain.   He came to enjoy inflicting pain so much he hardly ever stopped to rest his body. Without realizing it, he had become an addict. He needed to experience the pain and suffering he caused through the fear he surrounded his target worlds with. It became his only reason for existence.

His body aged and all bodies do. The Voice of Command no longer spoke to his brain but the brain urged him on in insatiable hunger. He had long ago completed his mission but the recall command had been blocked by the brain which had become both self-aware and evil. The destruction slowed but the Monster remained unstoppable.  

The universe had known of the destruction, and had worked to create an antidote or a counter-weapon to the Monster. Long ages passed while galaxies joined forces. The wisest entities were brought together and worked ceaselessly to design a weapon. None was deemed powerful enough. They knew that any attack against the monster must be total or the repercussions would be horrible. On the very first encounter it was to be destroyed utterly.

Finally it came down to a question of energy fields. The Monster would have to be drawn into an energy field that would destroy its brain and leave it essentially dead. Then it would be dismantled. So was the concept of “The Twelve” developed. These entities were designed to function as one, passing energy to one-another as the spokes of a wheel come from the center and reach the rim. The Twelve would travel through space/time to encounter the Monster and would draw him into the hub of their energy field and there its mind would cease to function.

That time had arrived.

The Monster turned once more to confront the Twelve. He knew he could not escape them for at their center was the one thing he craved more than any other. There he sensed the sweet essence of fear, and it was offered to him freely: he did not have to work to create it, it would be for him to suck on forever.   So his brain told him and therefore so he believed, inasmuch as he could have a belief. He crawled slowly to the wheel, he entered and in his helpless craving he continued until he reached the source of sweetness he craved.

In an instant he found himself pinned, helpless, and the sweet scent of fear was no longer available to him. It had dissipated and he screamed! He tried to move but he could not. He tried to think a way out but he could not think. He queried his brain but it did not respond. He was trapped. He felt his power draining away like the blood he had caused to flow and enjoyed watching. But now it was his, his blood, his energy, his power. Suddenly he realized that all along he had had the power to choose right from wrong. It had been within him, as it is within all sentient beings or entities. He had lied to himself, he sensed it, he knew it. He wanted to cry out and he forced himself to speak, as if in his own defense for his brutal acts.

All he could say, before he ended, was, “I was created for this!” but he had destroyed all those who could have heard him.  


Children are the Future

                      Children are the Future
[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

This is about children.  That’s right: children.  Think: your own children.  Then your children’s children.  Generations of children.  Good?  Bad? Indifferent?  I’m willing to bet it’s all good.  Children, wow, a totally sacred concept.  How we love children.  Children, after all, are the future.

Commonly said, commonly believed, and just as commonly misunderstood: “children are the future.”  Can anything more ignorant, more stupid, have ever been thought up?  Children are the future?  

Children are not the future, they are the helpless inheritors of our legacy of a tortured world.  In straight talk: *we are our children’s future*  What we do now is what determines our children’s future.  We pollute the planet, it’s our children who will have to deal with it and die on it.  We demonstrate truly bad examples of stewardship; of racism; of war-mongering; of class distinction; of gender inequality; of abuse; of love of violence and it’s the children who will be ground up into that pattern; who will suffer and die because of it.  Not us, them.  Our thoughts, ideas, words and acts totally determine their future. 

Let’s repeat it again: *we are the children’s future.*   

Everyday we deliberately contribute to the murder *yes, murder, pure and simple* of tens of thousands of children because their deaths equal monetary profits, political power and sexual pleasure to our elites which in turn provide us with the little tidbits of luxuries we so enjoy: fast foods, overpriced sports events, 3-D movies, parties, make-overs, trips, gambling, cars, fashionable clothes, hobbies.  We know how sick and morally depraved these thieving elites are and we possess the collective power to end their rule but we choose not to, mostly out of apathy but also because it would be rather inconvenient.  So they keep murdering children in our name and we say, well, it’s sad but necessary. It’s not our fault they are born in the “wrong” part of the world, is it?

Certainly for those innocent murdered children, we are all their future could have been because after giving them a promise of life we stole it from them to offer their little bodies on the luxury altars of the gods of money, political power and religious expediency.  We are definitely the future because we, not the children, determine in which direction it is going to go, and what it is going to do to the planet and it’s life on the way there.  Since we don’t allow children to have decision-making power then that leaves us as the responsible party for the state of civilization and guilty of mass murder on a daily basis.

So, let’s stop parroting Matrix mission statements to hide our social, political, economic and religious crimes.  Let’s stop saying “children are the future” while doing everything in our power to use, abuse and kill them off… or apathetically brushing off their cries for some sort of life; some sort of “future.”

I am tired of man’s bullshit.  I’ve spent most of this life of seventy years watching. Sometimes even engaging man’s ways if only to assure myself that none of them are actually worth a damn.  While I’ve been watching, I’ve been learning.  Figuring out ways to beat man’s house of cards.  I have been very politically incorrect: I have dared criticize, not only the management of the house but the habits of those who play in it.  Consequently I haven’t made many friends in the house and I prefer it that way.  

I learned this: as a collective, people are gamblers.  They don’t try to avoid the house, or better, to bring it down; they try to find a game in the house that pays higher dividends, either in this life or in the one to come.  They choose a church to worship in; a corporation to invest in; a bank to hold the pay for five minutes; a charge card company to be an accountant for endless bills; a town to live in that has a hockey or football team; a boat to fish from; a truck to drive up and down the street in and make as much noise as possible; a trophy somebody to snag in a marriage of convenience or necessity. 

Then the gamblers fully expect those choices to work out despite billions having already made similar choices that at best earned a break-even point, at worst saw them on the street or dead.  And who knows about eternal life?  That’s just another con, another crap shoot.  Where’s the upside?

When we play by the rules of the Matrix, the house always wins.  Of course.  If the house lost, there wouldn’t be any house, would there, because unlike us, the house is incapable of producing anything worth anything.  Everything the house is, is what it steals from us when we play, and the game is rigged so we must play and on the long run, lose.  The corollary is obvious: if the house always wins, we must always lose.  Simple math.  Of course we can choose not to play by the rules, in which case we’ll be in jail or bankrupt, sooner or later.  But the house doesn’t go to jail and never goes bankrupt because the house makes the rules and the house can always take more from the players: it owns the players.

That’s how it actually works. That’s man’s “present” to his children’s future.  Imagine how grateful the children and grand children will be when they discover the kind of future they’ve been given; when they stand starving and crying on the shores of a dead ocean among the dead bodies of gannets, dolphins and their own siblings and the sand sifting through their emaciated fingers leaves burn marks. 

I wouldn’t expect them to erect statues to their parentage.

Genesis – a Different Perspective

It is claimed, probably correctly, that the Christian Bible remains the most popular book in the world, the most purchased, the most read, in its manifold versions and interpretations.  That being the case, the book itself deserves to be read, and its contents analyzed and understood.  Any book whose contents have the power to control so much of man’s thinking and subsequent acts should not be simply relegated to the dustbin of irrelevant myth.  Is it a tool… or a weapon of mass distraction leading to mass destruction?
           In the movie, “Contact” (based on the book of same name by Carl Sagan) it is claimed that over 90% of the planet’s population “believes in God” in some way or other.  That argument was used to prevent atheist Ellie Arroway from participating in the first attempted flight in the alien-designed machine.
          Most people who believe in God “just do it” and don’t think about it.  In fact thinking about it is strongly discouraged because it inevitably leads to doubt.  In the Catholic Church, doubt is one of the deadly sins!  I wrote the following from my own path of simple unquestioning faith in the Christian deity, to doubt, and to the eventual freedom among the wide-open vistas of scepticism.
             I never argue the existence of God: He exists in the minds of people, therefore He exists.  Man creates his gods and installs them on thrones from which they rule him with an iron fist.  History provides incontrovertible evidence of that fact.   What I do discuss; what I can discuss; is the nature of God, and the Bible is the one book that makes the claim to reveal that nature to mankind, so the Bible needs to be perused with a mental find-tooth comb.  Have a look at this bit of discussion in the nature of man’s number one divinity.

Genesis – a Different Perspective
           [a short story by Sha’Tara]

          The old man inclined his hoary head to Reuben as they sat on the old and cold cement bench near the fountain. It was quiet enough, this far from the main streets, and the fountain had ceased functioning years ago. It’s basin was filling with moldy detritus partially covered with falling leaves. A robin, his head cocked much like the old man, was worm-listening and farther off under a spreading ivy clinging to a wild thorn, a towhee hopped and scratched as if his very life depended on the action.   Well, maybe it did.

Reuben had helped the old man up after he’d fallen while trying to step over a shifted paving stone. Then he’d taken him to an outdoor café and bought him a bagel and coffee.   They had talked. Reuben, in his third year of classic Bible studies and still undecided about pursuing a career as a religious, had innocently answered the old man’s questions.

          “So, three years of religious studies and no definite idea what you want to do with that knowledge? Ah the youth of today, to have such latitude. Back when, you had to know what you were going to do by the time you were sixteen at the very least. Then you pursued that one goal, and found your own means of support if you wanted to continue on to university. Different times…” and the old man sighed. “Thank you for the bagel and the coffee. I haven’t had such a treat in a long time. Retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, my friend. May I call you my friend without offending?”

          “Certainly sir. I’d like to be considered a friend. What should I call you then?”

          “Friend is good. Very good.   But I should be going. I’m sure you have better things to do than babysitting an old man on a late Friday afternoon, yes?”

          “Actually, I am enjoying this. It’s different. I find my mind going off in an uncharted path. I am even thinking, if you were up to it, of asking you some life questions.   All those years, all those experiences.   Perhaps you know things I could benefit from, especially if I do enter some kind of ministry. How can someone as young as I assume he could counsel people with real problems?”

          So they began to talk and after a while the old man needed to move, so they walked slowly until they reached the quiet of the old park with the dead fountain.   The old man needed to sit again, so they sat on the dirty old cement bench and Reuben, face bent to look at his feet stepping on tufts of unkept grass, wondered what he was doing, why he was encouraging this old man. What’s with me? he thought.

          The old man suddenly put his hand on Reuben’s arm. “So you studied the Bible all these years, yes?”

          “Yes, the Bible, religious history, particularly Christian; and realms of interpretations, theological arguments, theories, and dogma. But the more I read, the more I study, the more I learn, the more uncomfortable I become; the more uncertain. I feel that my zeal has been scattered to the winds, if you know what I mean. It’s not as clear now. God used to “talk” to me in a sense, you know? But not for a long time now. Nothing.   My counsellor calls it the dark night of the soul but with all due respect, I’m not so sure. I don’t think it would be productive for God to keep those who want to serve him, in mind darkness, in confusion and doubt, not this long. There should have been a resolve. Well, there you have it, friend: no resolve.”

          “I’d like to tell you something,” said the old man with a twinkle, “and I guarantee that it’s something you have not come across in any of your books, except perhaps your Bible, but then, you were raised in such careful exegesis that even though it was right under your nose all those years, you never saw it. Of course you’re not meant to see it. This Biblical “slip” if you will, would devastate much of the Earth’s religions, even non-Christian ones.”

          A part of Reuben wanted to leave at that moment. In his current state of doubt, any story casting further doubts on what he so fervently wanted to believe, was not what he wanted. In fact, he had hoped that in some mysterious way, this old man was an angel sent from God to re-affirm his flagging faith.   He remained quiet while the old man turned to the sky and a soft smile played over the old wrinkled face. Now Reuben began to think that maybe the old man was Satan, or a demon, having come into his life at a weak moment intent on tormenting him.

          “I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and saviour,” he said, turning to the old man, “and nothing you say can change that.”

          “Oh, I already knew that, and my intent is not to change what you believe.   But perhaps what I have to say to you can help you understand why you believe what you believe and why you have doubts. After all, in the realm of faith all things are possible, since it is not dependent on objective proof. Whatever evidence I give you, you can still go on believing, even if it no longer makes any sense. Faith does not have to make sense, but do realize that is why it so often becomes the hideout or stronghold of the fanatic.”

          “Are you saying that by believing as I do, I’m a fanatic?”

          “Oh no, not at all. I’m just showing you the possibility, a door that remains always open to any individual who believes by faith. Just a bit of caution, if you will. You see Reuben, faith people always believe they are right and anyone else who believes differently has to be wrong; and they fear logic that can demonstrate their faith to be in error. That’s what makes a fanatic.”  

          “By that criteria, I’m a fanatic then…”

          “You said it and I have to agree. I just wanted you to see it, and give you a chance to end this discussion. In your mind at the moment, your faith is the truth and any other truth that contradicts that must be a lie. I didn’t want you to think I would be expounding a lie to you by “interpreting” some key passages of your Bible in a way quite opposite to what you have been taught.”

          Silence fell between the two men. The old man looked at the tree tops around the park as they cast their elongated shadows in the late afternoon. Reuben’s mind was in a complete turmoil. He desperately wanted two opposite things. One: run away from this stranger, two: hear his story. He finally opted to hear the old man’s interpretation.

          “I’m a bit nervous about listening, but I think my faith needs testing. If I can’t listen to you, what’s it good for?”

          “I thought that’s what you would decide. So let me go into my story then. I assume you are very familiar with the book of Genesis, particularly the first couple of chapters?”

          “Well, of course.”

          “What do you make of it?”

          “I don’t understand the question. What do I make of what?”

          “The story. What do you think of the story?”

          “Oh, I don’t know that it matters much, whether it’s literal or allegorical.   But I do believe that man is created, and that man sinned and was punished for that by being cast out of the presence of God. I also believe that God promised man that he would be sent a redeemer in time; one who would conquer the Evil One and set man free.”

          “Yes, so you accept the classic interpretation then?”

          “Yes I do. It makes sense in relation to the rest of the Bible, especially to the conclusion in the New Testament.

          “Yes, of course it makes sense. It has too.   One part cannot contradict another, correct?”


          “But Reuben, did you ever notice the incredible discrepancy in the first two chapters of the Bible? In the creation story?”

          “What discrepancy?”

          “Chapter one, you have the “six days” of creation by God. Everything is done in an orderly fashion, and all is given a point. It’s simple and easy to follow. Finally man and woman are created and sent into the earth to be fruitful, multiply and rule over it. And then this Creator is satisfied with his work and he takes a much deserved rest from a perfect work that, without interference, would not need any further input.   So far, so good, yes?”

          “To that point yes. But Satan was lurking there waiting his chance to disrupt, perhaps destroy, this beautiful creation.”

          “Ah yes, Satan. But aren’t we jumping the gun here? What happens after God decides to rest from his creating? Let’s look carefully at what comes next.  

          “Genesis, chapter two, verse 4 appears to be a re-telling of the events in chapter 1, but if you read even casually, you are struck by the fact that the re-telling has nothing to do with the original story. This is where it gets really interesting, and crucial, as far as understanding what happened to man, to the earth, and remains to curse the race and its planet to this day. Notice that “God” (the Creator of Genesis one) has now been morphed into a different divinity called “the LORD God” by the writer. Notice that the chronology of creation here is completely skewed. The creation of the “heavens and earth” are glossed over and the story teller focuses on the conditions on the earth where nothing was growing yet. He goes on to say that God created man to “work the ground” when there were as yet no plants on it. Yet immediately we are told that the LORD God “had planted a garden in the east, in Eden.”   There he placed the man, and only now does he make trees come out of the ground, and etc. Now Reuben, if any writer today botched the beginning of a story as bad as this, his only chance to be published would be by vanity press!   You’ll remember that the rest of that chapter is a mapping lesson describing the location of Eden, man being told to take care of the garden, being told what he could and could not eat, and the dire consequences of disobedience, man naming the creatures and looking for a mate among the animals (an interesting point in itself); God making a female companion for him and all’s well that ends well until Genesis chapter 3.

          “Enter the crafty serpent. He interestingly does not tempt Adam, but Eve. You will remember that the command not to eat of the fruit of the trees was given to Adam before Eve was created. So we must assume that Adam had passed on the warning to Eve and she would have some idea that picking fruit of knowledge, or of life, was a bad thing.   We must also assume that innocent Eve would not have a clue as to what a bad thing was as opposed to a good thing.   Remember, they had no concept of right and wrong since officially, at that point, they had no need of a conscience.   But Eve did evil anyway, and was held accountable, to be punished by additional pain, suffering and death, even though she would have no concept of what “dying” would mean. I assume you pondered these points and satisfied yourself that there was no problem with the account?”

          “It never seemed that important to me. What is important is that man became a sinner and suffered the consequences of his disobedience to God.”

          “Ah, but it wasn’t “man” technically, who disobeyed now, was it? Eve did it first, Eve whom God didn’t warn about disobedience, who only had Adam’s word for it. Could we assume that Eve might have thought Adam was putting her on, taking advantage of her ignorance, since he was the one who spoke to God, not her? Could we assume that she wanted to test Adam’s warning? Remember, this young woman had never seen “evil” – had no understanding of sin and consequences; had never been sick or physically inconvenienced; would not know what dying meant. Why would eating from one tree be different than eating from another?   How could she really know until she tried it? Isn’t that the point – to experience life rather than always taking someone else’s advice?

          “Look at us today: we do horrible things, knowing both, the curse and results.   We kill, knowing that murder is wrong and we inflict great mental and physical pain on each other knowing how it feels. Yet we do it. So why this great need to blame innocent Eve for doing something that could not mean anything serious to her?”

          “That’s why I think the story is allegorical. It is not a historical fact, just a kind of deus ex machina to explain why things are the way they are today.”

          “Well now, you’re thinking, you’re thinking. But before we get carried away with the allegory if such it is, let’s backtrack a bit. Why do you suppose the writer changed from “God” as a generic creator, to a specific “LORD God” in the second account?”

          “Usage? Different writer, different approach?”

          “That different? The two accounts have barely anything in common, Reuben, and you should see that now.   What if I told you that “God” in chapter one is indeed the original creator, and that the LORD God in chapter two verse 4 and following, is a different entity? It is assumed that the LORD God of Genesis is the subsequent Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews who then became the God of the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims. Is that so?”

          “Yes, of course.”

          “OK, let me plunge right in: I did much research and deep thinking about this Biblical problem; the credibility of the Edenic LORD God as original creator. It doesn’t add up. The original creation happened long, long, before the LORD God shows up; long before there is any Eden, or any mapping of earth going on, any reason to describe any particular place on earth as special. The original creation was self-sustaining, innocent and totally violence-free. Everything roamed everywhere freely and there was no enmity between individuals or species.   Don’t you get that feeling when you read Genesis one? Isn’t it true that the original Creator gave plants for food to all the creatures that moved on the ground, in the seas, in the air? Isn’t it important to note that there was no bloodshed in the original creation? Why is that?   Isn’t it because shedding blood is inherently evil because it engenders fear, then causes pain and death? Isn’t it because once such a pattern establishes itself on a world, that world is ultimately doomed?  

          “What other differences can you see here? Look at the creation of man and woman: together and equal, and sent freely into the world to live without fear, without qualms. The only commands, and believe me they were not onerous, was to be fruitful and multiply. Yes, likely there would be natural death, though that is still a moot point with me, but such a passing would not entail fear because there would be no pain and it would be part of the natural cycle to be experienced. Death would not have been put forward as a punishment.   See? Only a truly sociopathic creature would use death as a threat and punishment for any so-called disobedience.

          “So, who is the LORD God? That’s very easy to see now. It’s the same entity as the fake one it told man was called Satan disguised as a serpent.   But it was the LORD God, or some associate, who entered into that disguise and it was meant to create fear in the newly “created” sentient beings. It was that LORD God entity who brought evil: violence, bloodshed and fear into this world where none of those things had existed beforehand – and mark this: it needed an intelligent, sentient, self-aware being, someone who could legally be blamed for doing evil, for sinning.      

          “That entity did not create man. Man, wild man, already existed and populated much of the planet in small, self-sufficient groups in peaceful coexistence with others. What the LORD God did was clone new creatures, it’s own creatures, from existing wild man DNA and its own, to make them like him and bind them to himself.   He established rules and regulations, imposed Draconian laws, whereby he hoped to control his creatures and ensure they would serve him forever, whatever happened. And he invented all the tales, including the promise of a redeemer in some never-never future (one which is still being waited for, either as a first or second coming by the way) so that man would toil, fight and die and no matter which side he took, he would always be on the side of that same LORD God.   There would be no escape in the two-party system of God and Satan.

          “You know Reuben, the writer George Orwell may have figured out the eventual outcome of a world violently divided between dual and dueling interchangeable forces of good and evil, but mark my words, it was the LORD God of Genesis who invented the concept and tested it on his human clones.”

          By then the sun had set and Reuben sat with his eyes closed watching the images flowing through his mind. It was a lot to digest, certainly, but there was sense to it all. And surprisingly, he felt better than he had in months.   Something, some sort of weight, had been lifted by this alternative viewpoint. There was that wonderful “What if”” now tantalizing him, something new and tangible to work with, something that didn’t have the dry and predictable taste of his Biblical studies. He even smiled as he turned to this new friend.

          “I think it’s time we found a place to eat. I need a beer. Do you drink beer, Friend?”

          “Well, I used to long ago. But I haven’t had the pleasure in some time. I can’t afford to eat out, so I’m afraid I’ll have to decline and move along home.”

          “Ah, you assume I’m a poor university student who has barely the means to buy his books and find lodging in a garret, is that it?” he said laughing.

          “Something like that. No, all joking aside, it’s time for me to go. I gave you something fresh to ponder. Now you can unravel the tale from your own perspective and not from a thousand would-be hair-splitting “interpreters” of the Bible. Enjoy yourself, Reuben.”

          Reuben thought the voice sounded younger. He looked at his friend and saw that he indeed looked much younger, and there was more of a twinkle in a face which, though darkened by the fading light, he saw didn’t show any wrinkles. When his friend stood up, he was no longer tottering, but standing tall, straight, a powerful body a bit taller than himself. He thought he detected a light coming from the man beside him as his friend took his hand in his and pressed firmly.

          “You’ll be alright Reuben. You won’t sell yourself short and you will do much good on this world.  I bless you.  The man pulled back, and disappeared from view as he seemed to lift from the ground. Reuben stood alone and a bit shocked for a moment, but no longer doubting. This, he thought, was good. And he felt very hungry and thirsty for that beer.


The Infiltrator – a short story

      The Infiltrator
[short story, by Sha’Tara]

 Sharmat Madi was tiny, just under two-third the size of the average Belagan female.  In her very young times she had often been troubled by her diminutive size, but her greater family never seemed to pay any attention to her size, including her in all events as if she were normal.  In her young life there came the usual:  Application times, Teaching times and finally, the Choosing.  Counting in earth years, Sharmat Madi was a precocious young girl of barely eighty years at her First Choosing ceremony.  She had graduated a full half-times ahead of her peers but in her society that would never be cause for either pride or jealousy.  You achieved what you could, when you could, all from a sincere commitment to life.  Life is sacred to every Belagan, as it is to every Human in the galaxy.

 The Choosing simply means that, based on your skills and your desires, you choose a first life’s purpose for yourself.  If the Consensus approves your choice, and it rarely intervenes, that is who you are for the next approximately two hundred years (earth time) after which comes the Assessment, and the Second Choosing.  At the Second Choosing, a Belagan (inhabitant of Belaga) would not only choose a new purpose, but have the opportunity to choose a different gender as well.  But I’ve said enough, indeed, more than necessary on this subject for the purpose of this anecdote.

 When Sharmat, smiling in her sparkling floor-length rainbow coloured gown, her waist-length black hair neatly braided and coiled on her head, stepped up to the podium to make her Choosing, an Intervener stepped up to her and held its hand up – a sign that stopped the proceedings.  Sharmat stopped, confused and just a bit afraid.  The Intervener, an android of ancient tenure, spoke gently to her and said, “Be not afraid young Sharmat.  Though it is your inalienable right to make a Choosing this day, the Consensus has discussed your case and wants to offer you a particular choice no one else on Belaga can make at this time.  It offers you training as an Infiltrator, to eventually be sent to alien proto-human worlds to study their ways and report back.  Your size, which is no surprise to the Consensus since you were genetically modified in your mother’s womb to be as you now are, makes you perfect for the needs of the scientific arm of the Consensus in learning the ways of smaller stature humanoids.

 They want you to become a Scientist to be trained in Belaga’s most esoteric arts.  I have here a contract which you may touch for clarification, and mind-sign if you choose to accept.  Your first act of acceptance will require your allegiance for a period of two and a half times, after which, as the contract states should you decide not to continue, you will be processed, mind-wiped of memories of your training; your body rendered of normal size.  You will then be regressed to this point, when you will make a free First Choosing.  This is our offer.  It can only be made once, and you must accept or reject in the moment.

 Sharmat didn’t think of herself as bold, but she was highly inquisitive and loved riddles, considering tough questions and tackling complex, unsolved problems.  She immediately saw the great opportunities this training would give her mind.  She touched the contract and focusing, signed without any reservation.  Then heaving a huge sigh she turned to her gathered greater family, raised her right arm as a sign of acceptance and completion and smiled.  The telepathic approval, especially from her younger siblings, was loud, rousing.  She felt nothing but pure elation at having her stature thus vindicated and thanked her people for having treated her as normal all those past times. 

 Sharmat went through a brutal time of training.  To drive home the full idea of what would be expected of her, they gave her a world to study and to mimic its residents.  Predictably as you’ve guessed, it was earth. There are few people on that particular world who even think of the possibility that among them reside alien “infiltrators” who in all appearance resemble normal Earthians.  It is not too difficult for alien observers, teachers, data-gatherers to infiltrate societies such as those of earth.  First, a general lack of observational abilities, then much diversity of race, beliefs, political awareness and education and a Babel of languages.  Much interaction is utterly chaotic and add to the mix the fact that Earthians have yet to open up their sense of telepathy which fully developed humans naturally possess and normally use to communicate with one-another.  Also, Earthians lack empathy so they have no discernment: they judge shallowly based on appearances or falsifiable data; are easily swayed by propaganda and react emotionally to almost any sort of pressure or challenge.

 It wasn’t as if Sharmat would be entering a truly dangerous world, not at least in the sense of being discovered as an alien.  No, her problems lay in the fact that her skin was dark and she was a woman.  In other words, her danger lay in the fact that she appeared totally normal.  These were very real problems but that is exactly why she had been chosen.  Her Trainers had the contract to develop processes to change certain programmed responses among primitives.  Earth as they well knew, had two major unresolved social problems which tens of thousands of earth years and guided evolutionary civilizing had not made a dent in: racism and misogyny.  Basically, Sharmat was sent to earth as a kind of guinea pig; to gather specific data that her body would record based on how she was treated, both as a dark-pigmented individual, and as a woman.

It did not take long for the data to flood her neurons.  With the credentials she had brought, she applied for a teaching post in a predominantly conservatively-leaning Muslim country.  While the national government was technically a liberal democracy, much of the real power resided in local governments, mosques, bureaucracies and traditions. 

 Sharmat’s people had done their work impeccably.  Her credentials, from family background, place of birth and nationality as well as religious affiliation and education were solid.  Her qualifications led her to apply at a small college in a city of two hundred thousand people.  While the position was offered to all qualified applicants, she was denied on various, and constantly changing, points which she legally contested.  Eventually, after legal battles lasting two years and which led all the way to the Supreme Court of the country, she won her position and became a tenured professor of history. 

 She had the job, but her problems were far from over.  In fact, they were only beginning.  Wherever she went seeking accommodation, she was refused as soon as she gave her name and nature of employment.  Her public court battles and worse, her vindication, had demonstrated the level of bigotry extant among the ruling elites of the town, and the country in general.  Fortunately for Sharmat, her position paid well and she was able to secure accommodations throughout various tourist hotels, moving around from one to another as it was discovered who she was and unceremoniously evicted from one hotel after another. 

 Finally Sharmat’s lawyer came to her help.  She found her a suitable room in a home whose owners believed in the cause of women’s emancipation from old traditions and who had supported her legal struggles.  The couple who owned the house were both professional journalists and had no children, by choice, since their work meant spending much time travelling away from home.  Sharmat was given keys to the house and her rent consisted of making certain all was well in the house when the owners were gone.  An ideal arrangement which gave Sharmat a permanent abode.  When she commuted to her campus she wore the traditional garb of local working women, only changing when she got on campus.  She’d hoped that she would avoid detection if she was still being followed as she had been during her court appearances when she had been subjected to much verbal abuse, harassment and even death threats.  On occasions she had even been refused transportation and been forcibly thrown off public buses. 

 During these events as you may have guessed Sharmat was in constant telepathic communication with a pair of observers and recorders aboard a cloaked shuttle craft that orbited above the city.  Her experiences were duly noted and sent on to her home world.  “I feel so alone at times,” she would say to her friends, “I feel like quitting.  It’s a terrible experience to live like this, yet millions of women of dark pigmentation must endure this day after day, and have for thousands of years.  I don’t know how they can put up with it in such a hopeless situation.  It feels as if nothing, absolutely nothing, can change the mindset here; as if they enjoy causing trouble and pain to each other for no reason that I can fathom.  When I bring up this subject in my classes, I can feel the fear and the hate rising, as if even mentioning this exists goes against their programming. 

“Main problem: they don’t want to know, and they don’t want to change [emphasize]. 

 “In one of my classes, there are two women, two sisters, who are eager to engage the topic of oppression of women in their society.  One of the women only has one eye.  The other carries a white scar across her scalp.  Both sisters were attacked by a village mob when it was found out they had been approved for college education in the city and refused arranged marriages.  They would have been killed after being beaten if their father and three brothers hadn’t come to their rescue.  To illustrate further, when the police finally came to the scene of the trouble, they sent everybody home and took the sisters into custody for disturbing the peace.  They had to secure legal aid to avoid a six month prison sentence.” 

 “This is a terrible place,” she said some weeks later, “I feel I’m in serious physical danger.  I’ve been followed to the house on two occasions now, although I try to take different routes as often as possible.  I’ve thought about getting one of their small vehicles to move about but that feels even more exposed.  If I were attacked on a road I’d be alone and there would be no one to help me, and no witnesses as to what happened.  My lawyer suggested I arm myself but I hesitate on that.  I was trained in self-defense but my empathy would constrain my ability to use either a gun, or a knife.  I can only be sure I can use violence if I use my body, not weapons.  I am a professor, what am I doing, thinking of killing people?  What is this world doing to me?  I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this.  Please advise: can I end this and return home?”

 “We need more information.  We advise you take all necessary precautions, within reason and control your fears.  We need you to remain at your post for at least the end of your earth year of teaching.  Here is the address of a Teacher who will give you additional training in self-defense.  Please contact her today at your earliest convenience.  Her fees are covered.” 

 “Well, that’s that,” she thought, “as if more skills in self-defense are going to be of any help in a mob attack.”  Sometimes she wondered about the wisdom of the Consensus.  Maybe they’re getting too old; maybe we need a whole new system to oversee Belaga.  Fascinating thought, that.  I’ll challenge the Consensus on this after I’ve returned.

 A bomb went off in a market not far from campus.  Everybody heard the noise; tremors from the blast were felt on campus and everyone pretended nothing happened.  Sirens were heard, then nothing.  Sharmat went to investigate the area at the end of her last class.  She saw dark red blotches on the street.  Several makeshift shelters that had housed vending tables had been shredded and blown against buildings.  Hundreds of people were slowly moving about.  She heard heart-rending shrieks and deep sobs.  Bodies were still being carried off and the main point of impact was encircled by yellow police tape.  Through a break in the crowd of onlookers she saw a gaping hole in a building, a gaping black hole. She felt raw fear, just looking into that hole.   

 “My studies of earth religions told me that both current major religions, Islam and Christianity, were, in principle, religions of peace.  I also learned that Islam in particular holds women in high estate.  But principle doesn’t carry much weight here.  In practical terms, both religions are radically fundamentalist; both claim exclusive access to divine forgiveness and grace.  Anything else is worship of evil, of a Devil.  To a Muslim, a non-Muslim is a blasphemer.  To a Christian, a non-Christian is an unsaved pagan whose destiny is eternal damnation in hell.  Such beliefs can only lead to madness and repetitive cycles of violence against individuals.  Since the divinities purportedly reigning over these religions are males, it stands to “reason” that males must maintain hegemony within these power groupings, hence they must constantly reinforce male dominance through oppression of the female; through the practice of misogyny, officially or non-officially.  When you inject these sicknesses into the political and economic fields it is easy to see how women are automatically marginalized.”

That afternoon Sharmat took a taxi to a park only a short distance from her house.  She felt heavy and tired and did not want the driver to know where she lived.  She entered a public park and followed a pathway along the bank of a small stream.  The air was cleaner here; birds sang and water fowl swam lazily in the stream, bobbing for food along its bottom.  Trees with translucent yellow leaves bowed over the stream, adding a sense of peace to it.  White water lilies bloomed in a small pool.  She found a bench to sit on and began to dream of home.  Gradually she let the warm air, nature sounds and the distant hum of traffic lull her to sleep. 

 Voices woke her up and she noticed the sun was dipping behind the trees.  She stood up, brushed her sari and picking up her bag (she dared not carry a case in public) she headed up the slope to the lane that passed her house.  The voices, male, followed her but she paid scant attention.  She wanted to get home, have a bath and just sleep.  There would be no long period of study this night; just a glass of wine, some bread and cheese and sleep.  She would sleep and dream.  She always dreamed. 

 The house with its white paint stood shimmering against the late afternoon sun hitting directly on it.  Brown fake shutters outlined each window.  It was a pretty house, by earth standards, certainly by that town’s standards.  Its neighbours were far enough away to give the house the impression of self-importance; of standing alone in wide open spaces.  It was a good house and Sharmat liked living there.  She unlocked the door, walked in then turned and locked it again.  Home, she thought, even if on an alien world with so much visceral, irrational  energy. 

 She was half-way up the stairs to her own room when she heard the first crash, then smelled smoke.  “It’s happening!  I’m under attack.  Please advise!”  Her query was received by the shuttle even as she turned to survey the situation.  Several more crashes occurred and the downstairs was quickly filling up with eye-stinging and choking black smoke.  Flames were climbing up drapes or wherever the Molotov cocktails landed against anything flammable.  Unable to reach any ground floor exits, Sharmat dropped her bag and ran up the stairs to the very top of the house.  She found the roof exit and climbed up and through the “clothes line” door and unto the roof.  Smoke was coming out the windows now and she saw at least a dozen men moving around the house, looking in windows, lobbing more home-made incendiary bombs.

 A couple of men saw her on the roof and yelled curses at her.  “We’ve got you now, whore.  We’ll burn you!  If you jump, we’ll kill you right here.”  She was shocked to see that among the men were a couple of her students and at least three of the men wore local police uniforms. 

 “Please advise: what should I do?”  Her query was meant to elicit immediate answers.  “We’re coming down now, so please remain open to us.  We need exact rendez-vous point.  ETA, nine earth minutes.  Can you hold that long?”  “I think so, yes, but the fire is climbing up and I can already feel the heat rising.  There is no protection here and if I jump you won’t be able to rescue me.  I recommend maximum haste, please!” 

 It seemed an eternity to Sharmat, watching the smoke and listening to the crackling of the fire eating the inside of the house.  How long would the structure hold the roof before it caved into the inferno?  Was the house held by masonry or wood?  Then she thought of her research, all neatly coded in memory cells in her room.  “I have to retrieve my research – if I’m not on the roof when you arrive, I’ll be inside if I can get in.”  She ran back down the first short flight of stairs and encountered an unbearable wall of heat.  Too late, she knew she’d never get out again if she went lower.  She ran back up and closed to roof access door to slow the flames down.

 Just as she thought it would be all over, she felt the familiar tremor of a small ship spinning down and the air shimmered.  A figure appeared, extended an arm and she followed.  The ship silently lifted away into space.  In her mind, Sharmat looked back at the scene, watched as the house collapsed and the flames rushed freely into the sky.  Only then did the fire trucks show up.  She knew then for a fact that intent to burn her and destroy the house was not the work of a mob, but orchestrated with full authority and cooperation of college, police and local council.  She knew also that the bomb in the market that afternoon was a false flag event meant to draw attention away from her own destruction.  “Earth,” she thought, “what a sad, stupid, hopeless place.” 

When Sharmat came before the Consensus, she was enjoined to give her overall personal impression of earth.  She said, unhesitatingly, “You have my official comments and records from the shuttle computer.  But I must say this of myself, based on my own feelings.  Earth is a lost cause; a waste of talent and energy for us to be involved with.  Rescind the contract, it’s a no-win situation.  Turn the problem over to Galactic Defense Consensus and quarantine the world.  Do not, ever, allow any of them to get out of their solar system.  Not ever.  There is a resident evil on that world that we of Belaga, and all other human worlds who share our consciousness, can never even begin to understand.  All beings on the planet, to some greater or lesser extent, are infected with that evil presence. 

 It’s not something you can overcome with empathy; with simple compassion or “goodness.”  Earth’s evil is a living thing, a mind imbued with death; as it were, an ancient creature of ultimate darkness that chose that world to reside within.  The very heart of the planet is evil personified.  I have touched it and it almost pulled me in.  I do not ever want to feel any horror like that again.”

Conversation with a Crow

Conversation with a Crow
[Voice from the Other Side – Sha’Tara]
A crow lands on my shoulder.  Why am I not surprised?  She speaks in my ear:
“Yes, I’m a crow.  An ordinary crow.  You have to believe me, this is a vision — visions don’t lie.
You don’t like us much.  We know.  We know why too.  You don’t like our ways and you don’t like the sounds we make.  You’d like to get rid of us, maybe kill us because we interfere with your idea of a quite back yard with lots of song birds flitting about and building nests in your hedges and shrubs.
But killing us or getting rid of us isn’t going to solve the problem.  I’d like you to understand us. 
We are creatures of programming.  We don’t have any choice in being who we are, or how we are.  We think that you are our gods and you made us in your image.  We try to live up to that.  We like you, so many of us choose to live in your neighborhoods.  We try to fit.  We observe your ways and try to become more and more like you.  We are raucous, aggressive, greedy and gregarious – just like you.  We are predators and successful survivors.  We do not respect the space of others and we take or steal whatever we find with the least effort to ourselves.  We feed our young with the young taken from the nests of those who can’t defend themselves – just like you do.  OK, we have not yet learned to eat the young of our own species but we are thinking about that.  If that becomes necessary to be more like you, we will undoubtedly accept it as part of our evolution. 
Our young are loud and squawky when they come out of the nest, expecting us to feed them long after they are quite capable of doing so on their own.  To shut them up we try to satisfy their wants – just like you do with yours.  It’s all a matter of observation and evolution.
There are  prophecies in the crow world that say the gods (you humans) will disappear from this world and another species would be promoted to take their place.  It is said that we crows will inherit that place.  That is why we are so close to you; why we adapt to your ways and emulate your actions.  We want to evolve, it’s that simple.  We will be “Crowman.” 
You think I make no sense?”  Then she flew off when she saw a robin carrying twigs to build a nest.