The Truth Will Set You Free
When I came up out of the water, my feet rested on a surface not unlike sandpaper. It was not painful, but extremely annoying. No matter how I rested my feet, I couldn’t ever feel comfortable. I looked over and Joy was standing firmly, as if untouched by the rough ground.
“I am not comfortable here, Fern,” Joy said in answer to my unspoken question. “But neither can its discomfort attack my happiness.”
“So, you can’t feel the biting grit?” I asked.
“In a sense I can feel it. But in another sense, I do not. I know of the annoyance of lies and deceit. Yet as a whole and complete person of another kingdom, or utopia as you call it, that annoyance doesn’t penetrate me as it does those who dwell here. I am a visitor, not a citizen. I do not send out, or emanate the deceit and discomfort in this place. Much of the misery of any place—as you saw in Silver Lake—is generated from within us. We bring misery of any kind with us and so create our utopia in the image of our misery. As I bring no wretchedness, lies, or deceit of any kind with me in my heart, no intent to deceive or steal in my intentions, so also, then, I do not feel or internalize the pain of the conditions here, in this kingdom. Or, perhaps it might be easier to understand if I say that I am more real and solid than this place because I am true. I am myself. I have more power than this place does and my trueness, my realness, cannot be made unreal by it.”
I gulped. “So, then I feel the discomfort worse because there are still lies within me that I have brought here?”
Joy smiled at me, while simultaneously guiding me forward. It bothered me that she didn’t reassure me, but then I realized that perhaps reassurance was not what I needed. Perhaps I needed to worry about deceit or wretchedness within me so that I might work to remove it.
I looked ahead and saw a landscape of hills and paths full of boulders, large rocks, coarse gritty sand, and dirt ridden with thorny weeds. Some grass grew among the rolling hills in front of me, but it was long and unkempt, looking almost like fields of wheat. Nothing in the landscape was organized or tended. Not even the houses, of which there were many of all shapes, sizes, architectural design, and materials.
At last Joy spoke. “You are unfinished, Fern. But that you can stand and walk here without significant pain is a compelling sign that your heart and soul are not destined for this place. You may have lied in your heart, to yourself, and even to others at times, but your soul is not yet that of a liar, or a thief—someone who has become deceit. What you choose, over time, is who you become. One choice unrepented and embraced becomes a habit, or even an addiction. If a person does not take on the painful sacrifice of repenting, turning, changing, of fundamentally unmaking themselves, of breaking their heart—with His help of course—so that they can be remade correctly, then they cease to simply do deceit and eventually become it. Then, there is no longer the choice of deceiving, lying, or carrying the misery of deceit. The choice has been made. That person has become a liar. It defines them. It is who they are.”
I wanted to sigh with relief, only I didn’t feel relieved. I remembered lying to my Mother about going to the Peach School. I had lied and deceived Jack in some ways—and that was only recently. Standing here in this landscape, I could remember not silly childish lies—like those of an unknowing youth. What I could remember was every purposeful lie I had told, and every attempt to pretend I was something that I was not in order to impress others, or even worse, to hide my true self from…myself.
“I have come quite close at times, haven’t I?” I asked. “I’ve come close to heading in that direction. It’s a scary thought.”
Joy nodded, light pouring out from her own countenance, as a further proof of the complete lack of deceit in her. “It is a path many walk for a long time before discovering the futility of deceit. It’s immediately gratifying in some respects. But, fortunately, for many, the relief or sense of power lying and selfish pretending affords crumbles easily. It quickly destroys the friendship, admiration, and love people crave from others. For most, by the time they are beginning to grow up, such deceit is abandoned in its most horrific forms. Their souls tire of deceit’s vice around their lives. For deceit is quick to bind. It is uncomfortable, like sandpaper, for nearly all.”
“Nearly all…” I mumbled looking ahead.
“Like Manny, for instance,” Joy continued. “He is tiring of its tearing, scraping, uncomfortable grit.”
I had been so distracted by my own discomfort and the inhospitality of the landscape, that I’d forgotten that Joy had brought me to this place to see Manny.
“Where is he?” I asked anxiously, straining my eyes across the inhospitable landscape to see if I could see him.
“This way,” Joy said. Then, she began walking toward a particularly large building. It was all metal and glass and looked like one of the few business centers I had seen in Saxton. I followed Joy as best I could, but the discomfort of the prickling in my unfinished self was being amplified by the incredible abrasiveness of the path upon which we hastened. I gritted my teeth and tried to ignore the very present pain.
As we got close to the business building, I noticed people going in and out. Most were exceedingly well-dressed, if flamboyant. They wore suits that shimmered in colors of black, navy blue, charcoal gray, tan, and dark brown. A few wore suits of vibrant purple or royal blue. I saw two women wearing brick red suits and heels that seemed impossibly tall. All of them had hair done in different ways. Some had slicked back their hair. Others had theirs cut fiercely short. Yet others had very long hair that had been twisted and curled up on their heads to great heights, both men and women. Not all wore makeup, but most did. Even the men. It was a tragedy not because they wore makeup, but because they wore it so thick and obvious. The closer Joy and I got to the building, the more everyone there looked like overdressed mimes with thickly painted faces with all sorts of colors on their eyes and cheeks.
I felt a mixture of revulsion to the looks of the people I saw. It was extremely ridiculous and funny, but in a terribly embarrassing sort of way. It was like seeing someone with a big hole in the back of their pants, that they weren’t aware of, and not only was it a very large and noticeable hole, but they were dancing about, unaware that the dancing was making the hole bigger and revealing their backside all the more. These people, as I looked at them, were so absurd-looking. Yet, they didn’t seem to notice at all. I felt an overwhelming sense of embarrassment on their behalf.
“Can’t they tell how wrong they look?” I asked Joy.
She shook her head. “What you see is what they want you to see. They project those images themselves. It’s not who they really are, of course. It’s not what is underneath. But they are either unwilling to discover what is underneath for themselves, or they’ve seen who they really are, cannot accept it, and thus they are unwilling to let others see. For all intents and purposes, they like the way they look—they prefer it—to the truth. To themselves they do not look ridiculous. Those who are unmasked cannot live here. Only those who do not know themselves, or who refuse to get to know themselves, live in this building…and others like it. There are many.”
This time, less guilt attacked me, but I recognized that I had often pretended to be like Manny and Zoe. I had often tried to not to be myself around them so that they would like me better. I had often tried to cast off my nature to hold onto their friendship. “I must have looked as ridiculous as these people, at times,” I mumbled.
Joy put a hand on my shoulder as we continued to walk forward. “You were never good at wearing your mask for long. The real you always came screaming to the surface.”
“But I did wear masks…off and on,” I replied, more to myself than to Joy. “Now that I realize it, it makes me not want to do it ever again. I never want to look…this ridiculous to myself, or others. Jack saw through my mask though. He saw through it immediately. At least he didn’t treat me like I was covered with a costume and crazy face paint…”
I was going to ask Joy when we’d see Manny, when I saw him. He was in the middle of the crowds. He looked very different from everyone else and seemed to be incredibly conscious of it. He was winding in between the crowds of people. I saw him nick a shiny black suitcoat off a man who had been carrying it casually over his shoulder. He disappeared into a crowd of women in various colored suits before the man could notice. Manny slipped on the coat. Then, he twisted back out of the crowd of women and began strutting among the lines. Before long, he had nicked a gray, suede leather briefcase, a green silk top hat, and a makeup kit out of the same briefcase. He began rubbing on the makeup, but couldn’t seem to get it quite right.
I stepped forward to talk to him, but Joy held me back. “He can’t see you, Fern. You are here to observe only.”
“Oh,” I frowned. “He looks worse than the others because he’s not doing it right.”
“Would you help him cover up his true self?” Joy asked.
It hit me then, that my instincts had not been charitable, but damning. “I should be glad he’s a poor liar. If he doesn’t fit in, then he might get to know himself?” I asked.
Joy looked at me and beamed. “Exactly. What good would it be if Manny learned to fit in here. Is that what you want? Would you protect him from the truth of himself?”
I shook my head. “I guess I didn’t think of it that way at first. I was worried more about his discomfort…about him not fitting in and feeling discomfort because of it. But I forgot that the disguises were lies. No, I don’t want to help him lie better. I…don’t want him to be comfortable here. But…what if he is?”
“Manny has spent many years lying to himself for many reasons. But I think we are about to see something amazing. Let’s step closer.” Joy said.
Manny looked funny with haphazard makeup smeared all over his face. His pants were still his faded jeans and his shoes were still those he’d worn the day I’d helped him take the silver ray. They didn’t match his shiny black jacket or the loud green top hat. He continued to weave in and out of the disguised and deceitful crowds until he came to a set of elevators.
The elevators were guilt as much, if not more, than the people. The inside of the building was also extremely gaudy, and not in a flattering way. Its appearance was even more ridiculous than that of the people. Together, however, it all worked. Inside the building the people looked like they belonged.
People were going into the elevators and coming back out. The elevators were nearly all glass with metallic adornments of every sort. They went up about twenty-five floors and then came back down. Interestingly, it seemed that people got on and rode to the top, hustled into a narrow and tight glass hallway that led only to the other elevator. Then, they boarded the other elevator and promptly came back down, milling amongst the crowds, getting back into line and beginning all over again.
Manny went up the elevator, came back down, and then got back in line.
“Wait,” I said. “Is that all they do?”
Joy nodded. “Do not forget, Fern, it’s all for show. It’s about what it looks like to them.”
“But…there’s not even anything at the top. They just keep cycling up and down and up and down. Doesn’t that get frustrating? It’s totally useless. They aren’t getting anywhere at all! Can’t they see that? Doesn’t it…bother them?”
“Did you expect them to be able to get anywhere? Can anyone progress if they can’t accept the truth, or if they can’t tell the truth?” Joy asked. “Remember, the soul of this utopia is deceit. It is called Silver Tongue.”
I cast my eyes down studying the ugly, over-embellished ceramic tiles underneath the feet of the cycling liars. As I studied the tiles closer, I realized they weren’t tiles at all. They were a cement floor, expertly painted into the illusion of tiles. I turned my eyes up again, examining everything in the building closer. Men who appeared muscular were not muscular at all. They had stuffed padding into their clothes to look bulkier. Many of the women also had stuffed areas of their clothing. Some also wore belts and girdles that squeezed them so tight it didn’t look like they could even breathe or bend, and they walked stiffly in obvious discomfort.
“Why put up with so much discomfort?” I wondered aloud, before realizing it. I glanced at Joy. She was looking at me brightly, but with a face that spoke of paragraphs of wisdom that she wished to heap upon me. Yet instead, she simply asked, “Why did you put up with the discomfort?”
I nodded, and dropped my eyes. “Because I didn’t want to be alone. Because I didn’t want them to think I was like the Peaches, or the members of those congregations…even though in many ways I was. Also…because I didn’t want to be what I thought was, well, weak…and so many other things. Because I also thought that I needed to meet other’s expectations, too.” I looked up at Joy, then, to view her response.
“And when you finally allowed them to be them and decided you would be you, no matter what? How did you feel?” Joy asked.
I felt confidence fill my chest. “Well, that’s just it. I thought it would be so painful, but it wasn’t. It was a huge relief. I felt better, actually, when I gave into the pull to be truthful.”
Joy smiled. “Now, that’s not to say all truth is an immediate relief; though most of it is. Some truth is more excruciating, initially, than some lies. However, all truth creates more joy and comfort in the long run. The pain of truth leads to a fulness of joy, comfort, and peace. Lies can never do that. Lies create a cycle of non-progression. Lies to others, lies to ourselves, lies to Him…though, those who think they can lie to Him have had to succumb to great many other lies before they can conscience that one.”
My eyes fell upon Manny again. He was on his third cycle up and down the elevators. Then, suddenly, he broke from the line.
“Ah! Here’s the amazing thing!” She clasped her hands together, eyes pouring tears of joy.
Manny ripped off the clothes he had nicked and threw them down, but not before using the jacket to scrub off all the makeup he had poorly put on. He stood staring at the discarded clothes thoughtfully, for quite a while. No one paid him any mind, except for the few people he had nicked the items from. Each of those, in turn, as they cycled through the lines and elevators, gave Manny a disparaging look as they retrieved their stolen items.
“Sorry,” I barely heard Manny mumble to each. “Sorry…”
“He’s sorry!” I exclaimed. “He’s stopped trying to hide behind a disguise! He’s stopped pretending to be something he’s not.”
Joy began clapping, applauding Manny’s victory. And a victory it was. It would have killed me if Manny had stayed in that damning cycle. I could feel the joy of him coming to himself. I joined Joy, pounding my hands together with utter happiness, even though no one seemed able to hear me. Then, a burst of golden light shattered the illusion all around Manny. A plain, golden door swung open from that light and a very plain, but extremely clean, arm shown from behind the door, beckoning Manny to come inside.
I thought for certain the people all around Manny would see the door and run for it—anything to escape their wretched cycle of deceit—or minimally, to steal the opportunity from Manny. But none of them so much as glanced toward it. It was as if they couldn’t see it. The door and the golden light were so much more substantial than everything in the Silver Tongue realm that the liars all seemed to go transparent, almost like holograms, in the presence of this higher power. When the liars walked near the golden light of the open door, it acted like an Xray, revealing the faces, clothes, expressions, and statures beneath those exorbitant disguises. What I saw was horrific. Hiding underneath all those disguises were grotesque, shriveled people. They were hardly more than skin and bone; the bones of their shoulders, ribs, and hips poked out unpleasantly. Their eyes were sunk deep into their skulls and their hair and teeth had all fallen out; though some still had a few strings of dingy hair. Their hands and feet seemed unnaturally big because of their gauntness. While some were short and some tall, they were all warped and undernourished in appearance, with grey and green skin tones dominating what had once been the beautiful skin of all different races.
“Come, Fern. Hasten to the golden door. We will follow Manny to his next opportunity.” Joy said. Then, she carefully clasped my arm at the elbow, and we floated up from grit of the cement floor, swiftly toward the open golden door. Manny, after a short moment of consideration, darted into the golden light ahead of us. Joy and I whisked in behind him; and the door shut behind us with the sound of bells.
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Hi! My name is Angela Tempest. I write fiction that entertains, takes you to another world, and fills your life with truth. I hope you’re enjoying A Search for Utopia. If you love it, there’s more. Check out my author page to read my other stories!