I yawned, awakening in my bedroom, startled by wakefulness by a young girl’s voice.

            “Wake up, let the sunshine in!”  She said, as my curtains were opened to let the sunrise illuminate my inner sanctum.

            “Wha…?” I muttered groggily, wiping my eyes.

            My little sister sat on the edge of my bed.

            “Wake up, sleepyhead!  Are you going to let this day start without you?”

            “Gwen?” I asked, befuddled.  I felt as if she had woken me in the middle of some dream.  Something important now seemed to slip away as I tried to remember it.

            “Want toast and cereal for breakfast?” Gwendolyn asked.

            “Sure.  Hang on a sec, I’ll help you make it.”  I said.  She bounced from the room, and I stood, yawning and stretching.  I pulled on a pair of jeans and my favourite Superman t-shirt.

            I followed my kid sister downstairs and into the kitchen, where she had pushed a chair to the counter so she could reach the bread in the cupboard.

            “Hey, kiddo.  Do you want some bacon and hash browns?”

            “Sure, that would be great!” She grinned.

            I started frying up some food, enjoying the quiet stillness of the morning.  Gwen was always easy to be with, the two of us had a weird, natural rhythm together, like we could always read each other’s moods.  Right now we were both just happy to have breakfast together.

            After we ate, we watched Sunday morning cartoons, enjoying a lazy day.  Sprawled across the couch, we laughed together at Bugs Bunny for a while.  Then, we took a morning walk through the fields of our farm.

            As we walked, I reflected that this was one of my favourite ways to spend a day.  I was usually so busy with school or chores; a quiet day with my little sister was a treasured luxury.  Almost a slice of heaven.

            I tucked her in at bedtime and she looked up at me.

            “Wasn’t that a perfect day?” She asked.

            “Pretty close.” I smiled.  Inwardly, I felt an odd twinge of emotion.  The day was almost perfect, but something had been missing.

            “What’s the matter?” Gwen asked.  I sat on the edge of her bed, feeling a growing consternation.

            “I don’t know.” I said, perplexed.  “Something’s wrong here.”  I looked around, as if expecting an answer to appear out of thin air.  What was wrong with me?

            “Do you miss Mara?” Gwen asked.

            Sudden relief rushed through me.  Of course, that was it!  That’s what was missing.

            “Right as usual, Gwennie girl.” I smiled, kissing her forehead.  “I’ll have to see about visiting her tomorrow or something.” I got up to leave.

            “Goodnight Gwen.”

            “Night, Ethan.”  She murmured, already half asleep as I exited the room.

            I closed the door quietly and tiptoed down the hall.  At the top of the stairs I stopped short, struck by a sudden insight.

            I walked back to Gwen’s room, turning the handle on her door.

            “Gwen, how can you know about Mara?  I haven’t even met her yet…” I said, speaking of paradoxes I shouldn’t have been aware of myself.  I entered through the door, not into my sister’s room, but into a bright white infinity.  The doorway was gone, the house was gone, and all that remained was white light.

            Floating ahead of me was Gwen in her white night gown, her long hair swirling as if in a wind.

            “You’re not my sister, are you?” I asked, scratching my beard.  Up until a moment ago, it hadn’t existed.

            “Yes, I AM.  I AM your Mother, your Sister, your Brother, your Father.  I AM yourself,” Gwen said, but beneath her child’s voice I could hear a chorus.  All voices spoke through her, yet it was One Voice.

            “Who are you?”  I asked, even though I knew.

            “I AM that I AM,” She answered.  “I read your stories Ethan, I know your secrets, your inmost thoughts.  I see the world you created and the things you hid from yourself.”

            “What did I hide?” I asked.

            “Your anger.” She showed me a scene from my childhood, the end of our Camelot summer.  “First your friends left without you.  Then others abandoned you.  Then you were betrayed.  Your rage grew and grew, unexpressed, and then you destroyed each of them, one by one.  Yin and Yang out of balance.

            I saw Reza, my dark half, murdering my friends, obliterating them in anger.

            “Their traits are stamped on the characters in your stories.  They fed your symbols.  The leader, the charmer, the strong man, the jester, the quiet one, the musician.  Neal, Alex, Daniel, Owen, Jason, Evan.  And in all your stories, the hero outlasts them all, surpasses them.  And you were always the hero.  Always, at the end, alone.”

            My struggle had been always with myself.  No angels or demons had motivated my choices, no one else was responsible.  Tears spilled down my cheeks as I saw how life had become a story, and how stories had shaped my life.  How my dreams had changed my reality.

            “Was nothing real?” I whispered.

            I saw my whole life spill past from beginning to that final moment, where I struck Azazel.  Good versus evil, my withdrawal from the world into myself, my quest, Mara…

            “The journey was real,” Gwen said, her voice compassionate.  “Your seeking.  Your faith and hope.  Your love.”

            She smiled kindly.  “You did well.”           

            I wept. “No, I failed.  I may have looked for you, but I never lived out the things I should have learned while seeking God.  You’re not just something found in any one book, or in a church.  You’re more than that, you’re in the world.  And I hid from the world, hid from life, and thought it made me better.  I played a game and never grew up.  And Mara and I never had a chance to be normal.  To just live.”

            “Who says that you still can’t?”

            I looked at her, perplexed.

            “Why can’t I see your real face?”

            “You cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live.”

            “But I’m dead.”

            “Are you?  You have stood at Death’s door, but have you crossed that threshold?

            “You mean…?”

            “With God all things are possible.  For now, return to Samsara.

            “I don’t understand.”

            “I shall give you peace that passes all understanding.”  She gestured, and I fell asleep.

<<Previous   Next>>