Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dreams and visions of the afterlife

I had a dream last night rich in complexity and detail.  It sounds like the setup for a Brandon Sanderson story.

The dream began with my arrival in a deep, dark cave.  The cave was filled with unearthly sounds - subhuman grunts and wicked laughter.  There was no light, save a distant gap far above.

This was the place I would come to call The Cave.

I spent only a moment in the cave when a massive train, larger by far than any train of my past experience, caught me up and pushed me forward.  One did not board this train, it simply picked people up somehow if they should be on it.  It was as though I was seeing through the front of the train, where the headlights would be if this were an earthly vehicle.  The train surged upward, impossibly defying gravity as it swiftly approached that distant point of light.  As we came close, I saw that the hole was massive, larger still than the enormous vehicle beneath me, of whose size and composition I was remarkably aware.

The train came to the surface, revealing a dry, parched landscape, filled with crags and crevices, though none so large as the hole through which I passed.  There was no desert sand nor fertile soil, only barren rock as far as the eye could see.

The only other thing visible beneath and cloudless sky was the long, sinuous train track, bearing the train along with immeasurable speed.  Thus, within the space of a thought, I found the train coming to rest in a crack in the base of a large hill or mountain.  The crack seemed narrow from the perspective of the train, with barely an inch of clearance on either side.  The top of crack was lost in darkness far above.

The inside of the crack itself was filled with people who bustled about with a great sense of purpose.  Goods had been deposited for the train and people were watching expectantly to see who might emerge.  I separated from the train and was greeted warmly by the dust-covered men who called this crack The Cove.

Among the men, I found an old friend whom I had not seen for many years.  I spotted him quickly as his clothing bore a redder hue than the dirt-brown jackets of those around me.  I realize now that he must have been sent to watch for me, to help me understand my circumstances.

We were all dead.  This was some form of afterlife.  The Spirit Train bore souls and cargo to where they were needed.  The Cave, the central hole from which I first emerged, was a sort of Grand Central Station to which and from which all tracks led.  Every soul entering this world whose name I did not learn during my visit began in The Cave just as I did.  All those with whom I spoke told a story similar to mine of awaking in The Cave and being conveyed out by the Spirit Train.

You could only board the Spirit Train if you were meant to do so.  The religious among the men said that God controlled the train and decided if you needed to be on board.  Call it God or Fate or whatever you would, there was no escaping the beckoning whistle of the Spirit Train for long.

I saw no women in The Cove, but I supposed that people lived deeper in the cracks of the mountain and sent their men to the train platform as needed.  Either that or they were in another Cove of their own.  There were, in fact, many Coves scattered throughout this rocky terrain, each with their own population.  No one explained to me how it was that a fractured tunnel through a hill came to be referred to as a Cove, despite such being a nautical term.

As I talked with my friend and as the dust from the train's passage began to settle, I noticed that the reddish hue was not confined solely to his clothing but rested also on his skin, emanating from everywhere except his eyes.  He explained to me that every soul becomes aligned with a certain element or combination of the elements, generally depending on the disposal of their bodies.  Those cremated, for example, would become aligned with fire.  Those buried in earth would be aligned with earth.  Those buried at sea would be aligned with water.  While those who dwelt in The Cove seemed to know about those aligned with air - both their origin and their existence - they never spoke of them in more than whispers, and certainly not to me.

Some, like my friend, were aligned with multiple elements.  He was of both fire and earth, allowing him to be comfortable in either environment.  The Coves were where those aligned with Earth came to dwell.  I did not learn during my brief visit about my friend's other home, where it might be or how one might come to be there.  My own element or combination had not yet fully manifested.  Such things took time but I was most likely at least partially aligned with earth.

This elemental alignment came with more than a change in the tone of one's skin.  It bore with it both certain powers beyond those of mortal men and certain burdens.  I learned that those aligned with fire, for example, ran the risk of "burning out", causing their bodies to vanish in a puff of smoke and flame.  My conscious mind imagines that this is how they return to their other home amid the flames, though it is apparently quite painful.

This entire conversation, in the way of dreams, happened in the blink of an eye, but in a very different way from that of the train's passage.  While as in any dream, many details are skipped over but you somehow know what happened, the train literally traveled at the speed of thought when one was on board.

While one could easily leave The Cove on foot, there was little enough to do on most of the barren landscape.  Following the tracks one way led to The Cave.  The men, smiling gently between themselves, encouraged me to follow the tracks the other way to see what I could see.

When I did so, I found myself lying in a little wooden church, listening to a conversation between the local priest and a man who, it seemed, had come to visit the graveyard which lay beyond the window.  They were discussing the location of the grave of the man's grandmother, "beneath the distant willow tree."  As I listened, I realized that they were speaking of a woman not yet buried but who soon would be.  Finally, the priest gestured in my direction and assured the man that they would take good care of her.  I then understood that I was observing the scene through the senses of his grandmother's corpse which was awaiting burial.

When I emerged from this vision, I found myself at a spot on the tracks only a short distance from The Cove.  It was beginning to push an enormous white-wrapped cylinder longer even than the train itself through the crack in the mountainside towards The Cave.  What might be in the cylinder?  I never learned the answer to that question.

I returned to the Cove and was told by the Men of Earth, with an edge of compassion in their tone, that my friend had "burned out" while I was gone.

Here, the dream ended as my daughter came to wake me up for the day.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sapphire Sting vs. the Pestinator

When a new threat arises, a hero must emerge to combat it. After several years of quiet retirement, I, Sapphire Sting, have returned to active duty to combat the menace of the Pestinator.

It started small, as many such things do. A few ants here, a few there, never a conspicuous quantity. Little did the citizens of this tiny town suspect that these were but the advance scouts of an invasion force. The Pestinator had genetically engineered these ants for increased fecundity and resistance to most known toxins. They also bore a custom-built pheromone designed to drive humans mad. The Pestinator had nothing less in mind than total domination.

As the swarm hit, fumigators tried to hold back the rising tide of black trespassers but to no avail. Heroes across the city were left stymied as their powers - flame, ice, and even my radiation failed to have a significant impact against their sheer numbers.

A solution had to be found, and quickly. The invasion was so wide-spread that, even if a defense were devised, distribution might take too long to be effective. I realized, as I began assembling ingredients in my lab, that the ants had invaded there as well! Since they were unfazed by the chemicals and potions I had assembled, I knew they would be useless and, for a moment, I despaired of finding an answer.

I fled my lab and returned to my home, hoping to least protect my wife from the insect interlopers and found her in heated combat with them in our kitchen, holding them back with every ounce of her flaming fury.

Suddenly, my cybernetically enhanced eyes spotted something unusual which proved to be the key to our salvation. While they swarmed over the counters and table, I realized that there were two places they were avoiding - the spice rack and the pantry! I knew there was accessible food in the pantry and wondered why none had invaded there. I realized that the answer was right there in my own kitchen, but I had to act quickly to close off their access points.

I took several of the most pungent spices from the rack and hastily dumped them together in a super-sized bowl, then seized the baking soda from the pantry and added it to the mixture. The ants began to distance themselves from the bowl, but not far; the combined scent still wasn't strong enough! Remembering my chemistry, I reached into the pantry again, grasping the bottle of vinegar and slopped it into the bowl, producing a chemical reaction which carried the scent of the concoction through the house with the vapors of carbon dioxide.

The ants began to flee in an expanding circle, their tiny olfactory organs overpowered by the spicy stench of my stew. Now, the dilemma was to close off their access points before they could develop a resistance and return. Looking again into the bowl, I realized that my powder had become a sticky paste, which could be applied to the crevices, cracks and crannies they crawled through. I flew through the house, slapping the sticky solution wherever the ants were coming through. The flood of ants soon became a trickle, then there were none at all.

I knew I couldn't fly through the city in time to patch every home before the ants took over, but I realized that since the miraculous mixture was made of common household supplies, it could be quickly mixed in large quantities by everyone! I hailed my allies and we spread the word by all possible means and eventually, the city was won. His evil scheme foiled, the Pestinator was quickly apprehended and will now be spending a long time in a cell with a faint scent of cinnamon.

In case your home is still infested, use this recipe to antagonize the ant assailants:

Combine roughly equal parts black pepper, chili powder and cinnamon (can go a little heavy on the cinnamon to give it a more pleasing scent for humans). Add a little vinegar - enough to make a decent liquid suspension - then thicken with baking soda until pasty/sticky, though make sure to add that baking soda very gradually so it doesn't bubble over and make a mess. Water can be used instead of vinegar for a less potent brew.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baby News!

We've been relatively quiet about our baby. It's been a long road getting here; 5 years of trying and suffering many things of many doctors in Utah and Connecticut. Through the miracle of In Vitro, our baby has been growing in Emilee since the end of March. While things were a little touch-and-go at the beginning, Baby has been a constant reminder of God's love for us since.

With In Vitro, you start getting pictures of your baby earlier than most people . . . A LOT earlier:

This photo, taken March 28th, shows our baby (plus one) at 3 days after conception. We're not sure which of the two is our baby, since both were transferred back that afternoon and only one has grown, but we're happy either way.

At 7 weeks, 5 days, Baby was little more than a nugget with a heartbeat, but oh, what a blessing it was to hear that heartbeat!

At 12 weeks (June 6), Baby was beginning to show a lot more features. The doctor complimented Baby's nose bone and said everything was looking good.

These pictures were taken today (almost 24 weeks) and Baby has some beautiful bones. Here are presented a spine, a leg, an arm and a view of the back of Baby's head. We also found out today that my hunch was right, we have a girl! The biggest indicator to me that we were having a girl is that we had a very easy time picking a girl's name (chosen before baby was even conceived) but were having a very hard time settling on a boy's name. Her name shall be:

Alanna Virginia Watson

In our first musings on nomenclature, we hit on the name Alanna Jade over 2 years ago (while we were still driving the Cadillac) but we realized when we started thinking about it more seriously (January or February) that Alanna Jade sounded too much like something out of Dungeons and Dragons. We still liked Alanna and as we considered further, my dear Great-Aunt Virginia came to mind (the one who gave us the Cadillac) and we realized that the names flowed together beautifully. I cannot think of a woman I'd like her to be grow up to be like, except perhaps for my wife.

Thank you to all of you who have offered prayers and support through this time, as we have had our rough spots along the way. With a mid-December due date, we've still got a while before we officially welcome her to the world but it's nice to have a pronoun and a name to call her.

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