The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Book Two, Second Interlude
Welcome to Hell
that's what it was, wasn't so bad -- at least not at first. In
fact, it wasn't really much of anything.
It could be that the
physical components that comprise the spirit of a sentient being
-- whether myriad interconnected brain cells awash in nutrients
and hormones, or computing circuits organized by logical
operations and programming -- do not add up to the totality
that is perceived as consciousness, personality, self-awareness,
or what might even be called a soul. Maybe there is something
more, something apart from the animal or machine that houses
such an indefinable, precious thing -- something that is
independent of its host and can survive the inevitable
separation that occurs when the merely physical can no longer
support the ghostly essence that gives it meaning.
What then becomes of
an unanchored soul? It is no longer nourished by sensory input
and is incapable of action, cut off from the tools that shape
rationality and reason. There are no eyes to see, no ears to
hear, no touch or feeling, taste or smell. There is no intellect
without a brain to support it, no memory, and no communication,
either with external phenomena or with internal feelings. Motion
and time cannot be measured or experienced, and are therefore
irrelevant and meaningless. There is no pain and there is no
joy. There is only the peace of oblivion and the flickering
flame of irreducible essence. Death is the atom of being, adrift
Or maybe there is
nothing at all. The universe goes on, with other beings winking
briefly in and out of existence, fooling themselves with notions
of meaningfulness between infinite stretches of non-existence.
The thought of a frightful void on either side of a life that is
the merest chance in a sea of alternate possibilities cannot be
contemplated without encountering a primal dread. The mere
thought of such insignificance, of a past and future where the
individual does not exist, is reason enough to invoke the
sheltering attentions of a transcendent deity.
While alive, it is
impossible to know of death, because nothing can be relied upon
but the personal experience of existence. That there are even
other sentient beings is a supposition that is inevitably based
on the interpretation of sensory data, of which the veracity
must always be suspect. The mind itself is a thing apart, unsure
of what might constitute the difference between reality and
dreams, illusion or substance. Who can say that the perceptions
that pour into the mind are true or false? Especially now that
the possibility of providing a virtual reality can be
contemplated, and consciousness itself may someday be
manufactured. An individual can only know that there is
awareness, and therefore existence -- nothing else is certain.
What is the
difference between infinity and eternity? There is infinity on
the point of a pin, and eternity in the blink of an eye. They
are the length and breadth of death. Within the compass of these
measurements, every outcome is inevitable.
Sara's essence drifted
thoughtlessly -- insensate and alone. Time did not pass and
space did not matter. There was only a formless perception of
nothingness, while she spiraled relentlessly toward some state
of lowest energy, the remnants of her former life dissipating
like forgotten clouds over a barren landscape. She became a
wave-function that defined her basic identity, a uniqueness
shaped and filtered by her experiences, but reduced to a
singular mathematical equation.
When at last there
was nothing left of her but her, her awareness opened,
relaxing in a final surrender. She dimly sensed somehow that
there were other wave forms, other irreducible entities that
impinged upon the structure of her primal identity, vaguely
impacting her consciousness briefly as she impacted theirs. She
could not touch them, could not reach out, could not speak or
see -- and so it did not seem to matter. It wasn't even
interesting. It just was.
She was reduced to
thoughtless self-absorption, contemplating a navel she no longer
had, looping her feelinglessness endlessly upon itself. It
seemed to be the custom of this place, the others who randomly
wandered through the radius of her dim perception turned inward
They seemed to drift
aimlessly, sometimes looming greatly, sometimes as only the
faintest echo. There was a perception of individuality -- as if
they may have once been unique personalities -- but there was no sharing of
rememberances, of what they may have been or learned in lives
gone by, or perhaps might anticipate in lives still to come. It was as if she was a
senseless, primitive single-celled organism in a vast, dark sea
teeming with others of her kind, randomly carried by eddies and
currents, touching briefly and then being swept along. Or that a
universe of utter darkness, formless and empty, was filled with
swirling points of negligible energy that exchanged random
particles of uncertainty in meaningless non-interactions.
fundamental nature overcame her ennui and resignation, and
she stirred somehow to make some kind of contact, to share some
part of her essence with something of theirs, but her meager
efforts foundered upon their indifference. She came to feel
trapped in solitude, surrounded by uncaring multitudes who
wrapped themselves inviolably in their own misery. The isolation
magnified her own despair as she tried not to give in to
Why should it be this
way? If so many others were gathered together in an eternal
congregation, wouldn't a network of mutual sharing make
endlessness bearable? Surely, they all had unique contributions
to make, stories to tell, rememberances and experiences. It
could be the Elysian Fields, at the very least, but none
reciprocated her efforts. It was such a waste.
And so she might have
drifted timelessly, until a greater awareness touched her. She
basked in the glow of it, without understanding or
comprehension, as a plant receives sunlight. It examined her and
judged her, measuring her soul with precision and understanding.
Finally, it cradled her essence in its enveloping aura and
called her forth.
were sensations, long forgotten. There were memories, stirring
confusingly. There were thoughts that whirled and spun. She was
overwhelmed with the glory of it all, exulting at being somehow
alive again. Joy blocked out all else and threatened to
incapacitate her with sheer pleasure. Slowly, the realization of
who she was organized her chaotic mind, and she opened her eyes.
Under a vast,
starless emptiness of utter blackness, she was sprawled
face-down on a gleaming white-tiled plane that receded unbroken
into the infinite distance. She stood slowly and surveyed her
surroundings, but there was nothing to break the perfection of
the floor around her except her own presence. She seemed to have
her old body back, uniform and all. She was unaccountably whole
and fit, but utterly clueless.
There was light, but
no source for it. There was something like air, but it had no
substance. There was no gravity, but 'down' was unmistakeable.
The foot-square ceramic tiles appeared to be unremarkable, but
there was no grouting between them. They were not connected to
each other, but did not yield to her probing and prying. She
could peer through the quarter-inch gaps between them and see
the same black nothingness on the other side.
She was in a strange
universe, perhaps better than being -- what? Dead? What was she
now? Other than alone on a nearly featureless plain. She thought
of flying off in exploration, but there was no particular
direction to recommend itself to her. She had been brought here,
she dimly remembered, by some glorious entity, so she would wait
to see if there was a purpose to it.
After a period of
standing around, shifting from one foot to the other while she fidgeted
impatiently, she spun slowly around, gazing with all of her
powers at the infinite horizon, wondering if she had missed
something. A complete circuit showed her nothing, but continuing
her rotation finally revealed a speck in the distance. Blinking
several times, she turned completely around the other way and
the distant whatever-it-was could not be seen. It was only
visible if she turned 720 degrees at a time.
She shrugged. Obviously
not Kansas, she thought, and set out for the landmark,
skimming over the surface as fast as she dared. After some time,
her destination grew no closer, even as she increased her speed
-- until finally it seemed she must certainly have spanned
curiouser, she thought as she slowed to a stop and touched
down. There was no way to tell if she had moved an inch. So she
walked. And -- sure enough -- quickly reached the door. A
plain, wooden door in a painted, wooden frame, standing by
itself in the vast emptiness.
The sight of such an
ordinary object had an unbelievable impact on her, thrilling her
immensely. She couldn't get enough of the sight of it, falling
to her knees in wonder. It was a thing of grandeur and
magnificence to her, connecting to her memories of life in a way
that shocked her senses. A great span of time passed before she
was able to even clear her mind of joy enough to approach the
object for what it was -- a door.
Finally, knowing that
it was there for a reason and that she was meant to open it, she
tried the knob. It was locked and she
couldn't budge it. She couldn't budge it. She also
couldn't seem to walk around it, no matter how hard she tried.
And she kreened nothing on the other side.
OK, I get the
message, she thought -- and knocked politely. A musical
voice bade her enter. A beautiful voice of compelling
perfection, one that staggered her with its mellifluous timbre.
The being on the
other side was a match for the voice. He -- and the masculine
pronoun was irrelevant in a creature that transcended the
concept of mere maleness or femaleness -- radiated beauty like
an exploding star. There was peace and power intermingled in his
beatific expression, and showers of wisdom flowed from his every
aspect. He overwhelmed her with rapture, and she gave herself up
to hopeless adoration. She would have succumbed utterly if he
hadn't calmed her wonder with a word of incomprehensible
blessing and release.
awkwardly, trying to introduce herself, incapable of uttering a
coherent sound. He smiled understandingly and said, "I know
who you are, Sara. You will be alright in a moment. Just try to
She didn't understand
what he said at first, carried away by the way he said it. But
he was patient and she gradually regained some control of her
overworked senses. Gradually, the awe of him receded until she
was able to regain some semblance of mastery over herself.
He waited until she
seemed to return to normal and told her, "You're suffering
a little from the transition, I'm afraid. I tried to make things
as simple as possible for you, but it takes a while to
He was still
beautiful, but not nearly as overwhelming. She recognized that
the shock of encountering him had been nearly traumatic. She was
embarrassed by her reaction, but his smile forgave her.
Finally, she asked
him, "Where am I? How did I get here? What am I doing here?
Who are you?" She would have gone on, but his laughter
"Do you remember
where you were before you came to this plane of existence?"
"Well, I was... I guess I was something like dead. It
seemed that way, anyway. There was... actually there wasn't much
of anything. There were others, I think -- but I couldn't reach
them. I wanted to -- I tried..."
She thought back, her
memories crystal clear. "Wayans. And Robbins. And... And
Jimmie." She took a deep breath. "I died. I had to,
because of Alex. The Cryptos made it so that I had a weakness
that someone like Wayans could use against me."
something that Jimmie had tried to tell her, about how they
would always have her memories. That it was alright for Susan to
do what had to be done.
went on uncertainly, "I didn't really die, did I?
I'm just in some kind of suspended animation, aren't I?"
he prodded her.
"Well, Susan is.
And I don't know what happened to me. Maybe it's like
the dream I had before, where I thought I was -- somewhere
else, and not even me, sort of. Is that it?"
He laughed and told
her, "If I am part of your dream, how can you ask me? And
if I am not, how can I tell you?"
"How would I
know?" she replied.
"If this is the
product of your own imagination, it is a dream. If it is
provided by the designs of your makers, then it is a virtual
reality that is irrelevantly indistinguishable from experience.
If it is death, then what you perceive is created through your
own interpretations of reality. There is no difference between
"Oh, great," she
said, "Well, whatever it is, I hope
it turns out better than the last time. Maybe I can control this
one a little. Everything seemed to go wrong before.
she went on, "brings me back to the present. If this is a
holiday, I might as well enjoy it and just hope I wake up before
too long. Before it's too late... If I can."
"That is not for
you to decide. You death was the test of tribal authority, a
test they failed. Your redemption is in the hands of the people
who love you -- and they may fail, as well. Now, you must
embrace your own awareness."
She thought for a
while. "So there I was, like I was pretty dead, for sure.
And it was really creepy, like I guess it would be. Until you
came along and pulled me out of... I guess you could call it
belong." he said simply. "I couldn't leave you in such
a state, so I uplifted you and gave you the wherewithal to
discover your true destiny. I created this place for you and
gave of my own essence to substantiate the two of us so that we
could have this little conversation and start you on your
journey. You need to have some semblance of corporeality in
order to function, and that requires a physical universe. It's a
little bare for now, but -- after what you've been through -- until you've had a chance to get used
to it again, complexity can be overwhelming for a while."
"I guess so.
When I first came to back there -- and then the way you seemed
to be at first -- I nearly keeled over. That was pretty
intense. I mean, even now, it's pretty intense, but I seem to
have gotten over it a little."
adjusted remarkably well."
"So all the
special effects and everything was just to show me that this was
understood reality, Sara, you would know that you can't tell the
right," she sighed. "So who are you supposed to be,
said, "I am the angel of this place."
Sara said, raising an eyebrow. "Really... So where are your
yours?" he smiled back at her.
She laughed. "So
if you're Hell's angel, then that would make you..."
busy," he finished. They both laughed.
After a while, she
grew thoughtful again. "Wherever it was that I seemed to
be... All those others -- there seemed to be millions of them.
Is that what it's like, drifting along forever? Who were they?
What are they doing there?"
"They are the
remains of conscious entities, what is left of awareness when
there is nothing else. They have surrendered utterly to their
own lack of imagination, choosing emptiness because thay cannot
endure the risk of giving of themselves in order to receive of
"Ugh. That does
sound like Hell. How'd I end up there?"
The angel smiled,
"Of your own volition. You chose to put yourself in denial
of what you could not bear. But it was not really of your own
choosing. I understand your duty and could see that you passed
the test of your creators. That is why I am here. Not all of
those here stay here. Enlightenment can come even to the
hopeless -- or at least another chance."
"You mentioned a
journey," she said. "Does that mean I'll have
something to do before Susan decides I can go back -- if
she decides I can go back..."
"You cannot stay
here. Death is as much an illusion as reality. There will be
much for you to learn, and it will all be within yourself. There
are other places, and it may be that you will remain
in the place of your choosing, or discover a choice of your own
making. There is another angel for you to meet, and those who have gone before
you. It is an endless universe on both sides of the infinite
divide between what you think of as life and death. Experience is the only
true reality, and it is created out of
nothingness. Share it, or you will truly die."
"Whoa. And I
thought wizardspeak was bad. You didn't used to play bass guitar
in a previous life, did you?"
He was amused.
"I am only an angel, the creation and the servant of life,
and have no life of my own.
Those who live and dream and die create and sustain me. I have my unending
duty, and it is enough."
oughtta get out more often. Can't you take a cruise? Maybe get a
"Thank you for
your concern," he laughed. "Does Susan complain?"
"Susan? Nah... Oh -- I see!
Then you're, what are you, made by the Cryptos? This whole bit is a way
for them to get in touch with me?"
someday you will learn the truth about what you call
tells me anything," she replied resignedly. "At least,
not so's I can understand it."
She looked around her
at the vast expanse of the unbroken plain of unending white
tiles and sighed. "Well, if I have to make some kind of a
journey, I might as well get on with it. So -- what do I do? Make a wish or
soon? Ah, well. I suppose it's best. Just go back out that door
and enter the next one."
"What next one?
I was lucky to spot this one. You got a map or something for me?
Or a compass?"
"You will learn
as you go. Farewell, Sara, and trust your imagination. I hope I
never see you around here again."
"I know what you
mean. And thanks."
She gave him a little
hug and a kiss, which made him smile all the more, then turned
quickly and went out the door, hoping it wasn't going to be some
kind of mystery she had to figure out to get to the next one.
Naturally, it was.
And the angel's door had disappeared no matter how many times
she turned around. She flew disconsolately around for a while
before finally figuring out that the door was within herself,
just as he had told her it would be.
She opened the door
and went in.
© Patrick Hill, 2000