Linda Allison ~ In the Beginning

Down From The Trees

part of: Fiction

by Mark Joseph Kiewlak

Joshua’s wife put a hand to his temple and tried to soothe him. The night
was tense. Reality was ready to erupt. If he could just slow down, Joshua
thought, he could sort it out. Tomorrow he would stand before the people
and make all their dreams come true. But for right now he saw himself in his
mind carrying those dreams in a sack and, God, was it heavy. Tomorrow they
would build a world.

Joshua got up from his bed and stepped to the terrace. The stars were
twinkling. In his mind he connected them and formed a net. Everything was
about capture, about imprisonment. That would never do.

He was standing on a platform a billion, billion light years from Earth.
He had traveled here because he was the one who could. Those who could came
with him. They had thought to themselves visions of a better world and
shared those thoughts and found a union with others. They had gathered
naturally, without pretense. Joshua had come to it a bit later. He saw himself as
a dreamer. And as a builder. But it wasn’t until he could see himself as
both that the work could truly begin. Tomorrow was the day. His own vision
of himself was the key.

His wife was at his side and she held him and wished him love. There was
thick glass all around them, thick enough they imagined to withhold the
vacuum of space. The orbital platform was synchronous to their chosen spot on
the desert world below. They had chosen a desert because it was
metaphorically easier to understand. If they could’ve imagined an empty white space or
even an empty black one they would’ve. But the mind tends to populate its
voids with objects and people. So they chose a desert and let it be dead and
let themselves be its saviors.

Joshua held on to his wife and brushed the hair from her face. He would’ve
liked to have spoken but the words distracted. Humanity had come a long
way but our concentration still tended to drift away from the present moment.
Joshua was proving that tonight. Tomorrow there would be no allowances
made for meandering thoughts. Tomorrow he needed to be as solid as the steel
he was standing upon. Perhaps it was better then to experience all his
doubts in a rush tonight.

Joshua was a confident man. But building a world… that was an
undertaking. He leapt back to his childhood and saw himself playing in the yard,
building snow forts and swinging on monkey bars, letting it all flow, allowing
his imagination to paint over the world around him, to gently cover it with
a veil-thin layer of his own reality—his invisible space stations and his
bodiless starships. They were there but no one else could see them. But
they were there.

Over the years he held fast to his whims. He let himself play and
structure and restructure until he was adept—until he could bring his own reality
to the fore, shape it in ways that allowed others to see.

Standing among the stars Joshua shook his head. That was his talent?
Showing others his fantasies? He was not by nature a reductionist. But tonight
he was questioning everything.

There was no use in going back to bed. There were long hours coming and it
was better he stay mentally active. It was better to play. There were
video games and holographic cubicles and a thousand other entertainments
available to him, but Joshua had always preferred the corridors of his own
imagination. He played for a while there, seeing himself as a knight, as a
quarterback, as a ship captain. They were good fantasies, exciting adventures, and
they helped him gently brush aside his doubts.

The thing upon which he had lived for years now, this mass of metal and
glass hanging in the eternal night, would soon be abandoned as his home. He
would have to stop dreaming of it and this was always a sad thing. But the
past was the past and humanity moved quickly these days. Thank God we had
turned our focus from the future. Thank God we had realized the importance of
the Now. Joshua could still remember tales told to him in his youth of the
days when every consciousness was cluttered with a thousand distractions.
How could they have ever sorted themselves from that mess? They were to his
childhood mind like monkeys tangled in the trees. And he was a man,
standing upright on the forest floor. Joshua laughed at this image. It was only
evolution. We had learned not to look back with arrogance upon earlier
versions of ourselves. But sometimes a thought would stray and he’d see those
monkeys. Another thing we’ve all learned, Joshua thought, was to forgive
ourselves. We had learned not to apologize for being human.

Just on the edge of sleep Joshua thought he saw a shooting star cross the
heavens. He hugged his wife tightly. He was back in bed and glad of it.
Perhaps the final hours should be spent with her, relaxing, soaking in the
familiar one last time before clearing space for new creation.

When he awoke the next morning Joshua took a tour of the station. Everyone
had gone. Even his wife. They were waiting for him down there. They
realized instinctively his need for solitude at this most important time.

As he exited each room and corridor Joshua imagined it disappearing behind
him, returning to the half-formed ghost reality that he would call his
memory of the place. He was letting it all go. He was preparing.

There was a shuttle to take him to the planet and Joshua made sure that he
existed in each moment as he traveled. It was good practice. He focused on
each layer of the atmosphere as he descended. There were noxious gases
abounding and oxygen tanks would be necessary. Basically it was a hell into
which he descended. But it was a hell of their own choosing.

The spot they had chosen to gather upon was the magnetic center of the
world. Be it mystical, thermal, atmospheric or temporal, all the energies of
the planet were gathered here. Joshua imagined the plateau as hundreds of
miles wide, like a continent in the air, and he landed at the foot of it. It
was metaphorically important for him to climb by hand to the top. It
represented a rising out of the depths for all involved.

Each of the men and women who accompanied him had done so for their own
reasons. Most could not name them if they tried. They were guided by
intuition and that was enough. Joshua laughed again at earlier Man and his lack of
faith. But it was all necessary, he realized. It was all growth.

Hand over hand he raised himself up until he could see the outcropping of
rock upon which he would stand. It was curious, this construction.
Foundation upon foundation. The plateau sat upon the desert floor. The high
outcropping of rock sat upon the plateau. Their space station had sat above the
planet itself. And what of God? Was he on a throne looking down?

When Joshua stepped out to the edge of the outcropping his heart rose in
his throat. He looked out upon a sea of faces—millions and millions—and
only himself to direct them. They had gathered close and their movements
were as the undulations of the sea. For all their dissimilarities they were
his people. He had risen above them for just this one instant and soon he
would return to the whole. But for now his consciousness was separate and
took joy in that. He would lead them as they had asked. And he would allow
himself to be led.

Joshua raised his hand and the undulations ceased. Movement was a
distraction they could not afford. Humanity had been performing this ritual since
the beginning of time, but only recently, within the past centuries, had they
discovered the internal processes of their own creations. The cliche was
so simple. Joshua had been raised with it all his life and it was
comfortable and familiar and never failed to put his mind at ease and into a
meditative state. He thought of it again now: like removing the training wheels from
a bicycle. That was it. That was all there was to it. But until we had
believed in our ability as riders, the wheels were a necessity.

Joshua closed his eyes and removed the training wheels from his mind. He
pictured those below, each of them concentrating, reaching out. Each of them
playing with images in their own minds, guided by whim and fancy. It was a
joyous, jubilant undertaking—the birthing of a world. Each imagined
their place in it; each stayed upon the path of harmonious thought. Each held
a place for themselves and for others.

Joshua stood above it all, concentrating. He was in the flow. His
thoughts came unforced, his visions unfolded naturally. They were all one in that
moment. And Joshua saw the desert and saw it painted over. He saw that the
veil was thin and needed further layering. He watched it coagulate; he
touched up the spots where it didn’t match. Everyone’s vision of a perfect
world flowed into his own and they thought and they dreamed and they thought
all the harder. Nothing was forced. The flow was like a fist unclenched.
The powers of the mind. The actualization of human potential. Within his
mind Joshua shouted the joy of this moment. He was falling and they were
catching him. He saw himself carried from one to the next upon their uplifted
arms. No one had opened their eyes. They would not open them—not until
everyone, to the last man, woman, and child believed in the truth of what they
would behold.

Joshua kept on with what he was doing; with what all those who had
supported him throughout the years had encouraged him to do: he kept on dreaming.
And at last the dream was made real.

Joshua opened his eyes. The world had altered, had forever changed. The
desert had vanished into memory. Their world, their perfect world lay
sprawled before them. The empty plateau had become a forest. And yes, Joshua
laughed, they were most certainly down from the trees.