Signs & Portents
The Secret Brotherhood
Stupidly, Robert had tried to explain his search for the cup of Ahura Mazda to some of Maureen's friends in Perthshire. But this group of open minded ley line researchers had met his story with such raised eyebrows, he realized, he must never talk about it again.
He looked at them, listened to their ley line stories, and could no longer imagine what he was doing here. It was not that he disagreed with what they were saying, indeed, the worst part was there did seem to be something going on with the ley line phenomena, but it was if he had taken a wrong turn along one of their reality lines and wound up in the wrong place. It was like he had been involved in a war and in the confusion, he had been separated from his own unit. Yet this reality seemed to encompass him like a seamless bubble without windows or doors.
He had attempted to get a train out of Scotland, but something had gone wrong with the rail lines. He could not even get a promise there would be another train, let alone, when. All Maureen's friends seem to view the local county border as a barrier against the encroachment of unspeakable dangers, none were likely to be helpful in assisting him to leave. Maureen herself was ever more preoccupied and seemed to take it for granted that Robert would fit in eventually, once he understood ley lines a little better.
While having lunch at the small canteen after another futile inquiry at the train station, he had begun hatching a plan to hike out on foot. He suddenly became aware that someone was standing in front of him and looked up, and found himself looking into the quiet eyes of a beautiful dark-haired woman. For what seemed an eternity, he lost all sense of time. Neither one of them spoke.
"I will expect you for dinner on Friday, at 6 p.m.," she suddenly said very quietly, "and before you come I would like you to read this book."
She handed Robert, Modern Man in Search of a Soul by Carl Jung and walked away without saying another word.
Robert was startled, but enlivened and quickly finished his meal. For some reason, he felt new life moving around him, at least the woman had a car, he had seen as she left, and just perhaps he could persuade her to give him a lift to Edinburgh, or some place where he might catch the train down to London and Heathrow.
He was intrigued by the book and flopped down on his bed and started to read. There was a small slip of paper in the book, it read, Friday, 6 p.m., with an address on Loch Tayside and it was signed, Miranda.
Friday, he arrived at a four-storey house fronting the loch. Miranda answered the door and led him up a long flight of winding stairs into a small turret like room which overlooked the lake side village. From this height, the lights of the village below were coming out like stars.
Miranda sat quiet and calm like a vision from another place and time. In the subdued light, Robert noticed the walls were lined with books, on the Sufis, Gurdjieff, and ancient wisdom of all kinds.
"Do you remember?" Miranda asked.
"Remember, remember what?"
"You know, but do you remember?"
"...becoming real, our choice in this life is to become real," Miranda said. He realized he was beginning to remember.
Through the window in the distance below, the loch sparkled with tiny stars. Suddenly, the vision of a door he had seen once before appeared shimmering over the still star littered waters of the loch and the door was opening wider this time, and his larger self rose up and looked over the wall of the world. In this process, he discovered that he belonged to an eternal brotherhood.
It was heartbreaking to realize that this brotherhood had been scattered all over the world and the old gathering places were now deserted and in ruins, but now he knew that he had belonged to this brotherhood and it had existed.
Later, a part of him began to plan how he could plant small clues, which would be recognized by those long lost companions. Like someone shipwrecked, he realized it would be like sending out messages in bottles, and the Undiscovered Worlds Press which he had joined with Miri and Carl when he had visited the states was an ideal launching place for such bottles. If certain signals were given, certain information made concrete on the written page, somewhere, a lost brother or sister would spy it out and respond.
Miranda had offered him the use of her car the moment he had mentioned his need, saying that she had intended to return to England herself, and it would be no trouble at all to give Robert a ride. After quickly rescuing his already packed luggage at Maureen's hostel with a hastily mumbled excuse, they had begun to drive together over winding dark highland roads toward England, making good time despite many detours and not a few fears they had lost their way. The journey had gone well, but just as they were entering Northern England, they encountered a sight Robert could not forget.
It had been raining for some hours and they had come quite a distance without seeing a road sign of any kind. He had been examining the map, trying to follow their twisting and circuitous route, when hearing a faint incomprehensible cry, he looked up to see a tall stone wall with the figure of a man crouched beside it. The man, who appeared to be wrapped in a dark colored blanket, was waving a spear at the car and shouting something, face contorted with fear and rage. His head was strangely enclosed in some sort of helmet, and catching Robert's stare through the car window, he suddenly leapt up, waving the spear in a more menacing manner and Robert saw that he was dressed as a Roman soldier, and a giant of a man.
Robert opened his own mouth to voice a warning to Miranda, but she spotted the apparition before he could speak and with a stifled shriek, she swerved the car frantically away from the wall and the man. For panicked moments, Robert feared she would veer off the road and they would lose control of the car and have to deal with the Roman face to face. But she managed to turn the car around while the spear toting figure danced back and forth approaching the car and retreating, thrusting the spear in their direction, but keeping his own distance. The whole scene was bathed in a lurid blue light which caused all details to stand out sharply, Robert could even see the rotten teeth in the mouth of the Roman as he shouted his crazed imprecations and threats.
At first, Robert believed they had been menaced by some mad man, but Miranda, for some reason, had a firm and quite different conviction.
"Time," she told Robert, "is layered, quintillions of layers, and the UK is being hit hard enough that some of those layers are wearing off. That was Hadrian's Wall, Robert, and over a thousand years back. You haven't much time, Robert. You must remember the brotherhood, and do your part. You've been selected by the Pleroma, which means you've got the best chance."
Robert could only stare at her mutely. His mind buzzed with questions, how, for example, did she know all this? He questioned himself, silently and inwardly, had he fallen in with an eccentric lady, who lived in a psychotic reality of her ownóone in which things like Hadrian's Wall of over a thousand years back could be recreated out of a weirdly dressed mad man?
She spoke with conviction about things for which there was no explanation in the world that was. But in the unraveling world, her logic and firmness was oddly reassuring, and, that Roman soldier was authentic, down to the hole in the sole of his sandal, Robert knew by the evidence of his own eyes. The Roman soldier had also been quite properly terrified at the sight of the car and the strange occupants, most of his menacing had been mock.
Sensing and responding to his inner turmoil, Miranda, who had been taciturn for a some miles now, glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, and suggested the only policy that made any sense in the circumstances.
"Don't worry about it, Robert. Just go with the flow."
He was still following that advice when after some relatively minor scrapes, she dropped him at Heathrow. He had tried to question her a little on the road, but she'd finally told him not to try to understand.
"Just succeed," she told him, "if you don't succeed, there could be a major shift. A major shift is unstable, Robert."
"And what does that mean?" he'd tried to joke. "And what the hell is this Pleroma? Will everything turn into green pea soup?"
She answered him only with a solemn silent glance. Robert believed her, her tone brooked no dispute, and 'unstable' sounded like it meant, quite lethal.
Who are you, he tried to ask, as he stared after her retreating back. She'd reached the terminal's end, and in a moment, she would turn the corner. How do you know these strange things, he called silently, but she was gone.
He turned to the not inconsiderable problem of acquiring a ticket from an airline that would take him to the San Francisco bay area which was located in what they now called the United Pacific States of North America, if he remembered correctly. The old United States of America still existed, at least in figurehead form, but the push for decentralization of government power and authority had centralized power along natural economic lines. Given the same large land mass, the U.K. might have done the same.
His meeting with Miranda still baffled him, and perhaps always would. Miranda had explained she was a "helper" but that she had no answers, it was up to the individual. It was a first class enigma, was there really a secret brotherhood that had some answers? He had believed it readily enough in the turret room under the influence of Miranda's call for him to remember. For all he knew, he was not the only one, all over the world others too could be sending out hidden messages, hoping they would find their way to one of the fellowship. A fellowship scattered throughout the world, struggling to free themselves and remember what they had once beenóbut for now, he must go on with his search, that was all the enigma he could cope with.
He must proceed as quickly as he could to San Francisco. Well, of course, it would really be to Berkeley where Carl and Miri waited that he would go, but Berkeley was just across the bay from San Francisco, a twenty minute drive when the bay bridge was uncrowded. So far as he knew, there was nothing for it now, except to try the publishing gambit while trying to follow up clues to the location of the cup of Ahura Mazda.