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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Changeling: Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Norn Lyles swallowed the bile trying to rise up in her mouth. She had promised her friend to help, Toland was with her, and Kip wasn't really a monkey. Colette said he could be human if his education stuck. Going to visit a monkey's room at night in these circumstances wasn't strange at all. Norn had white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, just like her friend, though perhaps a dirtier blonde than Autumn's. They had been together since they were kids, always there to comfort each other after all the bullying at school had completely worn them down, no matter how often their parents had told them to ignore the other children. How could you ignore them when they surrounded you, yelled at you, pushed you, or grabbed your hair? It was all well for the adults who were safe, but Norn vowed to herself that her children would never attend school with homo sapiens. It was simply tossing them into a lion's den. It was torture. It was child neglect. They should have gone to war earlier, when home schooling was banned. That should have been the line in the sand. But at the time, we didn't have psychics. So maybe I'm just fantasizing that there was any choice. Before I was born, humans never stood a chance. I am their shield, the guardian of our entire species. I had to grow up first. But my kids won't have to grow up in their prisons called schools. Because I'm going to win this war. As strong as Katja or Azusa were, it was obvious to Norn that she was basically the entire war. If they could strike their enemies without being located, there was no possibility of a counterattack. If there was no possibility of a counterattack, eventually their side would win. So long as her illusions made any sensors or people who entered the area not see what was directly in front of their eyes, humans would win this war. Even if we had to sally forth on foot and with nothing but rifles, with Norn's illusions they probably would win the war. Who ever heard of losing a war when you still possessed an unassailable fortress? How many centuries did Byzantium hold off the Turks with just one city's unbreachable walls? Illusions were stronger walls than anything material. Therefore humans could not lose to today's Turks either, no matter how numerous or vast.
Her blue eyes and blonde hair wouldn't last through the next generation, which was sad. Her fiance, Toland Ordun, had brown hair and brown eyes, a typical white everyman, whose colors were dominant to her recessives. But their children's hair and eye colors weren't as important as matching psychics with psychics, in the hopes of creating more psychics. Norn wasn't only going to win this war single-handedly for mankind, she was also going to be the origin of a new, better race than anything that had come before. Brown haired children was an acceptable sacrifice, when you added it all up. Norn smiled inside her head -- Though only just barely -- and knocked on Kip's door.
"Coming." Norn heard from the other side of the door, and she had to gulp again to steel herself against the coming encounter. She wasn't afraid of Kip, not in a physical sense. But she did fear somehow becoming contaminated by him, by his words or mere presence, and not being able to shower herself clean no matter how long she stayed in the water. It was a fear below the level of rationality. She just couldn't stand muds. Toland was lucky. He would get to kill them directly. How fun it must have been for Autumn escaping school. All I did was walk out of the school with the illusion I was still there. Illusion sucked sometimes.
The door opened, and Kip's face went from surprised to slightly panicked. "Did I do something wrong?" He asked, Toland hulking menacingly behind Norn.
"Not at all, Kip." Norn winced internally and bit her tongue. She hadn't meant to say it that contemptuously. She had just taken one look at his face and it had sprung out. "Autumn was worried that you weren't making any friends or meeting any new people, and asked us if we could help."
"Really? She said that?" Kip's eyebrows lifted in wonder, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"More or less." Norn blushed slightly. Autumn had asked Norn to take over. It was close enough, though Kip seemed to be drawing way too many positive connotations from it. "I'm Norn Lyles, and this is Toland Ordun, my fiance. Can we come in?"
"Oh, of course." Kip opened his door fully and stepped aside, showing his rather spartan quarters. Norn gracefully stepped across the floor and settled down on his bed, patting a spot next to her for Toland, who gave a respectful nod to Kip before joining her. Kip took the chair for his desk, and the three stared at each other again. Norn tried to keep a smile on her face.
"Thank you for the other day," Kip grinned amicably, his white teeth set against his dark skin was grotesque. Monkeys can't help their looks. Norn reminded herself. He didn't mean any harm.
"That? It wasn't for you, it was for Autumn. I'd do anything for Autumn." Norn brushed the praise away.
"Even so, you saved my life." Kip protested. "Though, it does seem like a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, when I look back."
"Is it so bad here?" Norn asked compassionately.
"Well, it is a bit poorer than I'm used to. I wish I could have brought some things from home." Kip laughed. "A TV, a phone, a game station, and my music collection would be a good start."
"We try to get by." Norn explained sympathetically. "The government doesn't provide much for child support, and we're supporting a lot of children. Actually, this room would normally be shared."
Kip looked around at his bed and desk, wondering where anyone else could go. "How?"
"There's always room for one more." Norn smiled. "You could sleep two to a bed, no problem. And then there's sleeping in shifts. We all have to be awake at the same time for school, but that still leaves two shifts that can sleep during the rest of the day, one after getting home from school, and the other half from night until school is about to begin. Of course, adults don't have anywhere they need to be, so they can sleep in three shifts to the same bed. That gets you up to six people per room."
"But don't you feel suffocated?" Kip's mouth was agape. Was this a regular monkey feature or was it just Kip who always wore that dumb expression of amazement?
"We marry at eighteen, so we're either sleeping with our siblings, parents, spouses or children. It's really not a problem. I'd feel strange sleeping alone, to tell you the truth. Sharing a bed is comforting." Norn replied.
"But what if you want to experiment more before you settle down?" Kip asked.
"Experiment?" Norn asked, confused.
"You know, see if you like one person or another, or try out new things while you're single and without responsibilities tying you down." Kip explained.
"What does liking someone have to do with anything?" Norn asked. "Either you're a good person who will do your duty or you're not. A marriage succeeds if both parties are honorable, faithful, trustworthy and dutiful towards one another and their community. It doesn't require time or a special soulmate to figure out whether you will be that or not. It's an act of pure will. Either you intend to be a good person or you don't. It wouldn't matter who you married."
"So you don't love Toland?" Kip asked, looking from one person to the other.
"Of course I do." Norn's nose wrinkled, confused.
"But you just said marriages weren't based on affection." Kip complained.
"I'm confused at what you don't understand. Toland?" Norn appealed to her fiance.
"I think Kip believes love has something to do with 'chemistry' or 'attraction.'" Toland offered.
"But that's ridiculous." Norn complained. "I love Autumn but I'm not attracted to her."
"But spouses are different." Kip said.
"Why?" Norn asked.
"I. . .it's just common sense." Kip said.
"Whose common sense?" Norn asked. Marriage was for the sake of the species, they were arranged between members who were suited to each other, and then fulfilled out of duty towards one another. This way, everyone was married at the right time and could hurry up doing the important things in life, having and raising a family. How could life be arranged any other way? What about the people left out, who no one 'liked'? What would become of them?
Toland put a hand around Norn's waist, who snuggled appreciatively into his embrace. "Between two good people, nothing bad can happen, Kip. We love each other because we are both good people, who understand our honor and our duty. I trust Norn with my life, with my genes, with my future, everything. I know she will always be loyal to me. I've known since we were both kids. So has she. As far as attractiveness goes, it's not polite to point this out, but Norn is beautiful beyond belief. No boy could ever ask for more, or will be any happier on his wedding day. I'm not sure what you think we're missing, but I certainly don't feel a lack for it." Norn smiled at his praise. She had heard the like said before, but it was always wonderful, every time, because she knew how sincere he was about it every time.
"But what if you two were arranged to marry, but it turns out you don't get along?" Kip asked worrisomely. "I'm not saying I doubt you two. Just theoretically, what would happen?"
"We would learn to get along." Norn explained. "Because it's our duty to do so. For society, for the children, and for each other's happiness, it would be terrible if we couldn't stop fighting. So we would have to learn to accommodate each other."
"But what if you just couldn't stand each other? I mean, what if, say, you detested someone. . ." Kip trailed off, looking away.
Norn smiled, finally figuring out what he was talking about. "I think, even then, the only thing to do is remember your duty and go back to getting along. We don't abide bad people in our world. Therefore, there's got to be something good about your lover. I think you just have to remember the good things and forget about the bad, and do your best. Marriage is for life after all, and parents are the ones who decide who we're fit for. All we can do is our duty."
"So Autumn just appeared the next day ready to talk again because she remembered her duty?" Kip asked, putting two and two together.
"She's a pretty rebellious child, Autumn." Norn smiled. "It's probably because she doesn't have a fiance. She doesn't know who she should be, unlike the rest of us. It must be a huge strain."
"She's single? With those looks?" Kip was amazed.
"Like I said, it wouldn't matter what she looked like. Her parents would find her a partner either way. But Autumn's an exception. We can't afford to pair a psychic with a non-psychic, not when psychic genes could be disrupted and destroyed thereby. We didn't have enough men this generation, so Autumn has to wait for the next generation to grow up before marrying. It's tough, but it's her duty. We all have our fields to hoe." Norn explained.
"So the next male psychic is basically her betrothed already?" Kip asked.
"You could say that." Norn said. "Surely you didn't think you could. . ." Norn started to laugh, then held her hands over her mouth. "Sorry, I just. . ." Then she burst out laughing again, leaning over double on Kip's bed.
Kip's dark skin hid whatever reaction he had. "No, of course not. I wouldn't presume anything like that. . . I was just. . ." Kip gripped the edge of his chair fiercely. Norn tried to regain her serious face.
"Please, if you want to get along with Autumn, don't mention anything like that to her. She'd be furious if she thought you thought you could be her husband, or lover, or boyfriend, or whatever homo sapiens want out of girls." Norn said politely.
"Too late." Kip sighed.
"Seriously?" Norn spluttered. A lowly monkey proposed to my Autumn? That arrogant prick! Who does he think he is?
"I didn't realize you. . .had your own standards. I thought having fun together was the measure of a relationship. I certainly didn't know she was already pledged to someone." Kip said.
"No wonder she hates you!" Norn felt a little resentment herself. A relationship with someone not your fiance? Even the implication that you would engage in such a thing was an awful slander, it was calling a girl dishonorable to her face. "How are you even alive? Listen, Kip, we are virgins. Not just in body, but in mind too. We don't allow ourselves to fall in love or have romances with anyone but our husbands to be. If we did something like that, what would we have left to give our husbands? What would our marriage be anymore? It's just a sham, one relationship among many, nothing special or sacred at all. Whether you're with a boy before you marry or after, it's still cheating, because the same essential act is being performed -- you're whoring yourself out, and taking what was meant to be unique and making it a common, interchangeable, mass manufactured consumer good. Our hearts aren't consumer goods, we don't just churn them out on assembly lines. They're destined for just one boy. Just one, Kip. We fall in love once, love one person, and die their beloved. It's what any boy who lives with us and cares for us and protects us deserves, just as I deserve the same from any boy I live with, care for, and comfort. It would be a betrayal of everything -- I can't describe how dishonorable it would be to share these goods willy-nilly ahead of time. Do you know how sick, how revolting it would be if I could compare my husband's sexual performance to someone else's? If I weren't satisfied by him because I had already had better? How could we possibly live together then? And what if I met a boy who was more romantic and charming, or more sophisticated and witty, or funnier, or a better dancer, and I spent all day comparing and contrasting, wishing he were this boy or that I had met previously, never content with what I had? It would make me unhappy for life, because I could never appreciate my husband as the funniest, smartest, most charming, most romantic dancer I had ever met. I'd be like a rotten apple left out in the sun by the time I reached my marriage bed. Nothing but an ant-ridden corpse of a woman, overripe with too many experiences and too much baggage to be fit as anyone's companion."
"But what if you only married the best at everything?" Kip ventured.
"How many girls can get that one boy? What are you suggesting, polygamy?" Norn's hands balled up into fists, clutching at her skirt at just the idea of having to share Toland with ten or twenty other girls, never getting any time or any special memories alone with him.
"Well. . ." Kip took one look at her face and dropped it. "I just thought everyone married based on love these days, and everyone learned how to love through multiple romantic experiences. That's how my parents were. I'm sorry if I offended you, or Autumn. I had no idea."
"Just forget it." Norn Lyles relaxed the grip on her skirts. She understood Autumn's feelings now. Her blood pressure around this monkey was at a constant unsustainable high. "We were talking about poverty, weren't we? Have you tried to pick up a sport? Those can be played for free."
"I haven't had time. It's mainly been studying with Autumn, eating, and sleeping." Kip excused himself.
"We have sports leagues of all types. If you want to play a video game, we have a fighting sports league, and a first person shooter sports league, and a real time strategy sports league, that gets together every weekend for tournaments. They tend to get pretty loud." Norn smiled. "We don't have much, but with organization and sharing, this bunker can have a lot of fun. How are you supplied for books?"
Kip looked behind him at his bookshelf. "There's a lot."
"Who are your favorite authors? I could see about finding more in our library." Norn suggested helpfully.
"I guess. . . J.D. Salinger?" Kip Miles offered.
"Oh come on. A real author." Norn demanded. Anything they had read in school to get the proper politically correct beliefs was a complete waste of time as literature.
"Then. . .I guess the Bible." Kip decided.
"The Bible? Seriously? 'And then He smote the million Egyptian children because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and God can do whatever he wants so who cares?'" Norn asked, a sneer hooking one of her lips despite herself.
"I believe in Jesus and redemption." Kip said proudly.
"I guess we could find a Bible for you. Humans aren't religious, though. Superstitious nonsense is only fit for cave men. So if you want to join us, you're going to have to ditch that belief. I guess I could go tell Colette if you won't budge on this. You call that martyrdom, right?" Norn asked curiously.
"Err. .. yes. . .I. . .maybe I'll think on it a bit longer then." Kip said, shaken.
"I hope so, Kip, for Autumn's sake. She'll look bad if after all these classes you're still spouting ridiculous stuff like belief in a God in the sky with a big beard watching over us all." Norn laughed at the very concept.
"But look, it's getting late. How about I just loan you some books I like? You don't have enough taste to even know what you should be reading. For starters, we can have Lensmen, and Requiem for Homo Sapiens, and Wheel of Time. Light reading even a homo sapien can follow. If you start to enjoy yourself more in the evening, I'm sure you won't fight Autumn as much in the morning, right? She's pretty upset after your fights, you know."
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to. . .it just happens." Kip apologized. "Lensman, was it? I'd love to have your favorite books to read, Norn."
Norn grimaced at him calling her by her name, but she supposed it was only fair. She had called him Kip over and over. It's just silly for a monkey to think he could talk as an equal with a real human being. Nevermind. He'll learn faster now. And all thanks to me.
"I'll come back tomorrow night with some books then. How about we all stay up together reading? Then if you have a scene you like, you can talk to us about it immediately. Or if you want to debate something, we'll be ready for you." Norn suggested.
"I wouldn't want to intrude on you two." Kip held up his palms.
"Nonsense. We're already friends now, right?" Norn gave her winningest smile to the parrot. Her family had never withstood this smile.
"I. . .thank you. You're the nicest girl. . .ever. . ." Kip looked worriedly at Toland, who still didn't seem jealous.
"We're all this nice. You just aren't paying enough attention." Norn reassured him. "Autumn's way nicer than I am. Just be nicer to her and you'll see. Okay?" Norn smiled again. Norn didn't have to fake her smile. She was always happy when she fulfilled her promises.

* * *

"If you don't work, what do people do around here?" Kip asked Autumn, having had a refreshing sleep and a good breakfast, determined to get along this time like Norn had asked of him. It was funny. Norn had the same exotic looks as Autumn, plus or minus a few shades, but he hadn't been half as captivated by her. Probably it was because she was being escorted by her fiance. But Kip knew it was more than that. Even if Norn was easier to get along with, Autumn's personality was more commanding. She took over any room she was in with a casual toss of her head or sweep of her arm. There were things about her no one else had. Something a flat picture of the two girls side by side could never capture. Basically, Autumn was more beautiful by far. Knowing that made Kip feel a little better. He wasn't just chasing after a pretty pair of legs, or forbidden fruit. Maybe he wasn't in love with Autumn Brewnell. But he wasn't just a rutting beast who only wanted her for one thing either.
"Nothing special. Norn has an illusion up over a wide area of this forest. Within these boundaries, we can do whatever we like. A lot of women enjoy gardening. The children play tag and hide and seek. Older children and adults play sports together. Until recently, most of us were attending school, and then we came home to do our real studies, as directed by our parents, with just a little time set aside for recreation before bed. Now that we have everyone in hiding, the children are just being accelerated along their home schooling courses with the extra time. Older siblings generally look after younger siblings five and under. Kids over the age of five are in the school system and expected to do their studies and not cause trouble. Parents manage their children's education and their material needs, resolve disputes between kids, have more kids, do chores and pursue hobbies. For instance, if there's a problem with the air conditioner, or toilet, or the electricity goes out, we ask a specialist who knows what he's doing for help, grab some spare parts we have set aside in our warehouse, and fix it." Autumn explained.
"But why would any of you have any useful skills, or be willing to help each other? Isn't laziness king here?" Kip asked.
"Believe it or not, lots of boys enjoy making and fixing things just for fun. Plus, we aren't rugged individualists here. This is a collective enterprise. Everyone here is part of an extended family -- mankind -- the last true humans on Earth. We care about each other enough to do little things like plumbing repairs. For someone with the expertise, it generally only takes a few minutes. We're all so smart that learning the skill, or practicing it, is completely compatible with laziness. It just comes easily for anyone who bothers." Autumn answered.
"So do you have a special skill that you never intend to make money with?" Kip asked, curious.
"Sewing. I love taking old clothes and seeing what I can do with them to make them look better on people. I suppose there's nothing to be done for faded-out clothes without dyeing them all over again, but everything else can be mended and adorned to be good as new. I sew for my entire family, and lots of girls have come to me for help making a new dress. Since it's a chance to try out new designs they or I came up with, it's always fun and exciting." Autumn said.
"I thought you'd say telekinesis." Kip smiled, amazed at how domestic and feminine this genocidal mass murderer had suddenly sounded.
"You're right. I guess that is the more proper answer, come to think of it." Autumn blinked thoughtfully. "But telekinesis doesn't have as many useful applications as sewing at home, so I pretty much forget about it here."
"What's it like, being a psychic?" Kip asked.
"I don't know, since I can't imagine being anything else. It's like asking what it's like to see colors. You just do. It's weird not to see colors, since the world is in color after all. But you're asking too many questions about me. Focus, Kip." Autumn's tone became more strict.
"Sorry." But Kip wasn't sorry. He loved learning more about her. "Actually, I wanted to apologize about something else. Norn came to my room last night and explained to me about . . . virginity." Kip tread carefully, not wanting to offend her again. "I'm a virgin too you know. I didn't find anyone but you attractive, and you said no. But you already knew that, we were in the same class together, so it was impossible not to know. . ."
Autumn nodded with a flat, thin mouth, brushing his rambling aside as she waited for a point.
"Anyway, I'm sorry I asked you for no-fault sex. I realize what I did was wrong now. Not just by your standards. By any standards. It's wrong to have sex outside of love and marriage. I can see that now. It's cheapening something whose value is exactly in proportion to its rarity, and it's something we can't afford to cheapen, since marriages need all the help they can get to stay together. Serial polygamy or just straight polygamy cheapens sex, love, and marriage. Everything just becomes an ugly imitation of itself, a mockery of real bonds that have real strength and real meaning. No matter how much people try to fool themselves, there's no such thing as sex that doesn't matter. It matters every time. But there can be people who don't matter. People who have sex like it doesn't matter don't degrade the importance of sex -- they degrade themselves. The same for people who get in relationships and then break them like they don't matter. And the same for people who marry and then divorce, or marry and still have affairs on the side. I was degrading myself, and degrading you, by even thinking you could participate in such an act." Kip Miles let his heart out.
"Thank you, Kip." Autumn nodded her head politely. "But you should have known that without Norn explaining anything. You should have known that before you ever came here or ever saw me. No fault sex is a disgusting concept innately. You don't have to be told why. Your heart can give you the answer in a flash, if you had ever listened. So no, I still don't forgive you. Your fault is more basic than you think. There's just something wrong with you, to have played along with another of society's tricks, another great leveling force that was designed solely to break women's will to discriminate and choose carefully who they would award with their bodies and who they would deny. You wanted to use no fault sex to get me precisely because you knew you couldn't win my heart legitimately. You're a bully who was using the system to rape me. That's what every man who approaches a girl for no fault sex is doing. Otherwise, why not wait for the girls to ask you? How many girls did you see asking boys for sex?" Autumn asked Kip sweetly.
Kip thought about it for a moment. He didn't recall a single time. The thought surprised him. Surely once? He reviewed his memories again. Not once. Girls didn't say no when asked. . .but they always waited until they were asked. Was Autumn right? Were they pressured into doing something they never would have willingly done on their own initiative? Or maybe they were just modest or it was just the custom or they were more afraid of rejection or -- give it up. No matter what excuses you could give the other boys, you know you asked Autumn because there was no other way to get her. She never looked at you twice before then. It was absurd to think she had actually wanted to have sex with him. Insane. Which meant he had never wanted her consent. He had wanted her under duress. Was that rape? Not exactly. But it wasn't innocent either.
"There was a demon inside of me, in that school. At home. Everywhere. I couldn't get rid of it. It didn't go away until you were dragged out of the classroom. I banished that demon because I had to, because I couldn't lie to myself anymore, when I thought you would disappear from my life forever. That's the only excuse I can give you." Kip said, wondering how he could apologize more profusely.
"We don't believe in superstitions here, Kip. You weren't possessed by a demon, you just were a demon." Autumn smiled at him toothily, her blue eyes flashing in a cat like, vertical manner.
"I. . .Norn told me about that too. Would you really kill me just for believing in God?" Kip changed the subject.
"Yes and no. We plan on killing all homo sapiens, and part of why we despise homo sapiens is their ridiculous clinging to 3,000 year old religions invented by prehistoric savages. But we wouldn't have killed you any faster than irreligious homo sapiens except that you're here in our secret base and we can never allow a non-human to know our location. In this case, killing you for believing in God is just a matter of survival. Either you're going to join us or you're going to die. We can't trust someone who stays on the sideline or equivocates with the knowledge you now possess. Surely you understand." Autumn said.
"Have you ever read the Bible? What if it's all true, and you're all wrong?" Kip asked.
"Yes, I've read the Bible. And the Koran. And the Bhagivad Gita. And the Book of Mormon. And the Hadith. And the Upanishads. Have you?" Autumn arced an eyebrow.
Kip stared at her in consternation. When had she found the time to read all those texts? What the hell religion was the Upanishads in the first place? "Well, when you read the Bible, did you pray? If you don't pray to the Holy Ghost, the Bible won't inspire you, you won't see that it's True." Kip challenged Autumn.
"I prayed with all my heart and all my soul. I asked God to give me a sign, any sign, that He existed, and pledged my eternal loyalty to Him if He did. Since He didn't, that was that." Autumn answered with a level gaze.
"But you can't test God like that." Kip explained.
"Why not? His own apostles did, they didn't believe Christ had resurrected until they actually met and saw him. God gave signs to all of his prophets. So if he wanted me, all he had to do was treat me fairly and equally, just like the people he convinced in the past. What do I owe a God who won't even treat me fairly? Kip, how serious are you about this nonsense? You could save us all a lot of time by just proclaiming yourself a living testament to Christ and letting us crucify or burn you to death, however you please. Maybe we could find a lion to feed you to, or throw you into a furnace like with Daniel. I'm not here because I enjoy our chats. So if you're going to preach to me about a God that abandoned me long ago, I'd really rather just go tell Mother that it's hopeless. Which is a shame, because you were sounding human for a second back there." Autumn gave half a smile to him. It was the first time she had complimented him -- and so of course it was accompanied by a long litany of death threats. Autumn was Autumn, after all. A was A. Kip grinned inside his head at his pun.
"I always believed in God. How can I just stop believing?" Kip asked.
"By realizing how stupid it all is. Is this really God's world? Is this something a God would make? An omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent being? Why is this world so shoddy that any human can improve upon it? What is God doing? It's absurd. It's just too ridiculous to even argue about. Only brain dead idiots believe in God. Are you really a brain dead idiot, Kip?" Autumn asked angrily.
"But don't you believe in anything? Otherwise, what's the point?" Kip complained.
Autumn Brewnell smiled, and then leaned back. She eased her long hair over her shoulder so it wouldn't be pinned against the couch, and stroked it self-consciously. "I do believe, though others would call me silly for it. I do believe something."
Kip had never seen Autumn more beautiful than that half wistful, half embarrassed, totally solemn small oval her lips had formed into.
Autumn leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, just a few inches away from his face. "God is asleep. We were born to wake the sleeping God. God will be awake when our intelligence and virtue equals his own. Someday, our eyes will stop seeing all these normal, human perceptions, and become the eyes of God. He will see everything through us, and we will all be a part of him. A vision so clear and so bright that it will see everything everywhere at once. When God awakens, so will our souls. We will be quickened, awakened, enlightened, enraptured, and transported to heaven. Our true heaven. We will form the mind of God, and our thoughts will be our nectar and ambrosia, forever and ever, world without end. But it's a long time from now. I don't know how long. I won't live to see it. But if my kids have kids who have kids who have kids. . .it's out there. God is out there. Waiting for us. Waiting for the unborn to awaken his true potential. I would lay myself at the feet of that God. I would serve Him and cherish Him and worship Him however he asked. Maybe someday he'll write a book, the real holy book, for us to read. I would read it cover to cover, and then just turn it over to the beginning, and read it cover to cover again. I pray to that God, sometimes. Whenever I want something truly important. I prayed to him at the principal's office. Before you arrived." Autumn gave him a troubled look, and then stood up.
"In any event, this doesn't count as superstition, because it's still within the framework of natural, observable reality. Don't think we're in the same boat." Autumn coughed self consciously. "I have to use the facilities. When I get back, I want to know whether you confess Christ or not. I can't train a monkey who won't learn."
When Autumn left, Kip Miles asked Christ to give a sign, any sign, that would be worth dying over to believe in. He pledged eternal loyalty to God if he would just prove himself, all the way into the flames and the lions. God was silent. God had no interest in Kip. So Kip threw him away.

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