The Newspaper Insert
Jack hustled to get home. His legs carried him reliably despite the fact that his mind was alive, preoccupied with awe about Manny’s experiences. He hardly saw any of the walk home because his eyes were focused inside his own mind, full with his own longings and imaginings. Part of him wanted to visit the places Manny had been, to see them for himself. Yet a part of him also recognized how incredibly personal those experiences were to Manny. It would no sooner suit Jack to go where Manny went when his own issues and struggles were so very different. He’d even been surprised that Manny’s struggles were different and deeper than he would have thought, as an observer. He had often judged Manny superficially, as a hoodlum—someone who used lying and stealing to cut corners instead of doing things the “right way”. It had never occurred to Jack that Manny didn’t know how to become the person he wanted to be, that to him one way had been as good as the next, or that he hadn’t even understood who he could become. Manny’s experience had helped him find himself—something it had taken Jack so many years to find for himself.
Jack shook his head. It spun with all the reasoning. Trying to make sense of everything Manny had said was difficult. It was something outside Jack. It was between Manny and him—God. Still, Jack couldn’t help but wonder what his own visit would be like to the utopias—if he were able to take one. What more would I learn about myself? He wondered.
But perhaps what had shaken Jack the most was the way Manny spoke so personally of an interaction with God. He’d said the word “him” with a familiarity Jack couldn’t duplicate—even though he was a preacher. In all Jack’s years of preaching and teaching and gaining light and truth, that deep personal interaction with a being no one knew anything about had always alluded him. God seemed to be so unknowable even if Jack had trusted in his existence. It disturbed Jack in an uncomfortable way that Manny—whom he had always judged to be less good—had interacted so personally with a being he, Jack, longed desperately to know. Yes, he was uncomfortable, but only because he was disappointed in himself. He wanted what Manny had experienced. He was terribly jealous, and it bothered him that he could succumb to such an emotion. Am I a Peach after all?
Jack stopped walking abruptly, coming to himself. He was almost home. He looked down the path and saw his home porch just barely visible behind the caring clutches of the Learen’s leafy arms. He remembered Dora leading him up that path toward home after he’d sent Fern to the White utopia. He remembered being covered with that white substance that Dora had struggled to scrub off. He remembered his fear of what he’d felt, of never feeling it again. Suddenly, his breath caught in his throat and his heart started aching, beating fiercely to accentuate the thought that had jumped forward and expanded until it was the only one that his mind could hold. “I have experienced a taste of the personal nature of God…. That’s what I felt when I sent Fern…” he whispered to himself, unable to move forward, his whole body stunned by the sudden realization. “I felt…” HIM! His throat choked up when he tried to say it out loud. He took a sort of gasping breath. “He…was…telling me…that He was there…that it was okay to help Fern…” He was there for…me. A being I didn’t think I knew was there for me. Which means that He knows me!
Jack fell to his knees and began to sob. It was a combination of sorrow and joy. The tears began bittersweet but grew into something so wonderful, so sweet that it was beyond description. So powerful was the surprise and awe in Jack’s mind and heart that he could not move. He could not turn to look around to see if anyone saw him. Nothing else mattered in that moment but what he felt. He, and insignificant man was important to the being who had created the towns and who’d designed the utopias. He was overwhelmed by the feeling and yet loathe to part with it. It was so joyful it threatened to destroy him and yet it was also the only thing there holding him up, keeping him going day after day after day. He would do anything for that feeling—anything.
“I would do anything…for Him.” Jack said to himself, immediately shocked that saying Him had sounded right.
With those words, at last, the powerful feeling began to wane and Jack felt his body wilt. He understood suddenly why the rays froze anyone nearby. He understood why the devastation of losing someone to the rays changed anyone who experienced it close up. It was not simply a freezing temperature that held people motionless. It was a love so powerful that only those being taken could feel it. For it would destroy those not yet ready to go. Very few ever experienced the glow of the rays. The few people Jack had known who had experienced the rays when a loved one had been taken had experienced emotional devastation beyond that of the others. Now, Jack thought he knew why. They had felt a glimpse of God. Thus, when the ray departed, they lost not only someone they loved, but they felt the transition more keenly. For they had been bathed in something inexplicable which no other person around them could share or understand. Even they didn’t comprehend it.
Jack wiped his tears and looked skyward. “You…You are here in Sharanville too? Not just the utopias?” he spoke to the sky, a smile coming unbidden to his face. He knew that it wasn’t really a question, but a grand discovery. Energy returned at last to Jack’s limbs. He got to his feet and ran the rest of the way home.
I didn’t know how the transition back to Sharanville would be. Floating through the clouds that weren’t really clouds, I was excited and sad to leave, but also in a stasis free from worry and concern. When I came to myself, I was surprised to find myself back in my room in Jack and Dora’s house. I opened my eyes and saw the familiar popcorn ceiling. I scrunched my fingers and felt the rumples in the covers of a bed that I had left partially unmade. I turned my head and saw a room virtually untouched from when I had last left it.
I sat up and gasped when I saw my own fingers. I was glowing. My skin was shining with a whiteness far beyond my natural skin tone. I looked closer and saw that something inside my skin was slowly coming out and leaving me. Until it did, I was going to glow. I knew that in Sharanville that would be a problem, but my mind couldn’t quite feel worried yet.
I took a deep breath and realized I hadn’t been breathing until that moment. More light appeared in the exhaled air. I took several breaths and thought I saw a little bit more light escape. I stood and the pricklings I had felt during my utopian journey were still there. But they were waning, decreasing with every breath. I knew that if I kept moving, kept breathing, that soon all of that discomfort would be gone—and unfortunately, the light, too.
“Dora!” I called out hesitantly, uncertain of what day it was. I had no idea of how long I had been gone, following Joy around, traveling through space and time. No one answered my call, so I called out louder, “Dora! Jack!”
With my raised voice, more light seeped out from my body like a mist on a brisk fall morning. It disappeared before I could focus on it. I walked to my door and opened it, staring down the hallway. From where I stood, I could just see out the screen door. A head, maybe Dora’s head, facing toward the forest was all I could see. I felt an urge to see her that was so strong that I propelled myself forward. My footsteps were heavier. More real, I thought. It was harder to get going and my run toward the front door made quite the racket.
I reached the door quicky and called Dora’s name. The head turned to look up at me. It was Dora! Her face was more beautiful than it had ever been before. I opened the door and started toward her. But she stopped me.
“Fern! Dear, blessed girl, get back in that house, now. You’re glowing like a lightning bug.” Dora called out with a voice that hovered between a yell and a covert whisper. Her face however was full of joy and tears. She darted up the stairs, grabbed me in a fierce hug, and then pulled me back inside.
Together Dora and I cried, holding hands and staring at each other inside the door. I felt her love for me so potently, as if whatever light was still with me helped me to perceive stronger than I could on my own. But with every tear, I could feel the light of The White bleeding away. I felt more and more normal.
At last Dora found words. “For goodness’ sake, Fern. What happened to you?”
I smiled and saw the wince in Dora’s eyes as for a moment my body shone brighter. “The glowing will pass, I think. I had to be changed, somehow, to be able to endure what I did. Joy told me I wasn’t finished. It was both painful and wonderful, Dora…so wonderful. But this glow…it will go away.”
Dora shed a few more tears and led me to the kitchen table. “Well, that’s enough to hold me over. Now, don’t say another word until Jack returns. He would never forgive me if I let you tell me another thing without him here.” She sat down and simply stared at me with motherly scrutiny. She needed to see me, to take me in, to process my appearance and my return. I tried to speak, again, but she laughed a little bit and shook her head. “Not a word. He’ll be back soon. He…went to see Manny.”
My eyes flew wide open, “He came back too?”
Dora grabbed my hands, again. “I know you’re bursting, Fern. I am too. I can hardly stand sitting here. But…Jack has been so miserable, so beside himself since you left. Sending you…the whole thing. Trust me, we have to wait.”
I nodded, but it was difficult. The light within me was as much information as it was whatever transformation I’d needed to endure The White. That information was dying to escape, to get out, to get told. I fidgeted, bounced my legs, tapped my fingers on the table top, rejected Dora’s offers of food with silent gestures, and tried very hard not to smile too big. I could tell that anytime I did it hurt her eyes.
Jack knew something was different as soon as his feet hit the front porch. An odd light was coming from inside the house. It wasn’t enough to be seen unless someone was right on the front porch. But he noticed the light the second he approached the door. His heart nearly stopped as he glanced through the murky view of the screen door to the kitchen nook off to the left, inside. Dora was at the table. And the shoulder and right arm of a bright glowing being sat across from her.
“Fern!” Jack gasped. Then, he ripped open the front door and tore inside.
Dora looked up at the same time I heard my name called out from Jack’s lips. It all synchronized nearly perfectly with the slamming shut of the front screen door. I turned and found Jack standing over me, eyes full of a mix of disbelief and uncertainty. His shoulders shook with suppressed sobs. I stood up and held out my arms. Jack looked toward them as if longing for a hug but somehow unable to move. Then, his eyes looked up at me, glowing. I saw a flash of uncertainty in his eyes.
“It’s me, Jack. Fern. Don’t worry. I’m here. And I’m back for good.” I said.
Jack suddenly came toward me and took me slowly into his arms as if uncertain how it would feel to hug a glowing being. He held me tightly for quite a while. Then, at Dora’s urging, he pulled back. “Fern, I want to hear everything,” he said through a teary smile. “I’m…I can’t tell you how glad I am that you came back.”
“I couldn’t have stayed, even had I wanted to,” I replied, grinning and rolling my eyes. “I’m not yet ‘finished’. It’s something Joy said.”
“Joy!” Jack exclaimed. “You saw Joy?”
I nodded. “Joy met me in The White. She answered a lot of questions. She taught me about Him, Jack, and the purpose of the rays and of the towns. Do you still have the orbs from the statues we used?” He nodded, finally letting go of my arms.
“Good, I’m going to need them. It’s my job to re-establish the link between the towns and the kingdoms. Once I do that the rays will come back.” I said.
“Wait, kingdoms?” Jack asked, looking at Dora and then back at me.
I smiled. “Joy called them kingdoms. She only called them utopias here and there for my sake.”
Dora put her hand on mine and Jack’s shoulders. “I think there is a lot for Fern to tell us, my dear. You guys go pull up some chairs and cushions in the chantry. I’ll grab some food. Let’s at least get comfortable for this.”
“Okay,” Jack nodded, arching a brow playfully at Dora. “But the first thing I want to know is why she’s glowing. And close the front door and lock it. We’re closed.”
I laughed at Jack as I followed after him into the chantry. Dora brought in some day-old double-chocolate cookies and three tall glasses of milk. Then, I proceeded to tell them every detail of my journey.
“So, it’s not just about who we are becoming and what kind of life we want to live…well…forever. It’s about learning about Him—all about Him—and deciding what kind of relationship we want with Him…forever,” I explained. “If we want to become like He is, we can. But we have to want that relationship with Him more than we want to pretend to be something to impress others, or to hold grudges, or to be famous and important, or to feel independent, or to do things by our own ideas and plans…or…well…so many other things.”
Jack shook his head revealing how overwhelmed he was. But he smiled at me and Dora with an expression that was almost as bright as my own. “And you’re certain there’s more than one white utopia…kingdom, I mean? And there are countless gold and silver?”
It felt odd to be on the teaching side, with Jack. It felt odd to be the one telling him about the utopias. It still felt new to not hate the rays anymore, and to feel a growing place inside me for God, for Him. It hadn’t been there before and now I realized that it was the most important thing I had gained since the beginning of my vendetta against the rays. It had been the point of everything, but I hadn’t known that until now.
“It’s like you always taught me, Jack. The utopias are about us. We don’t make ourselves fit into a utopia. Who we are when we are finished here in the towns is what makes our utopia what it will be.”
Jack, Dora and I all sat in reflective, awed silence for several moments. Even though I’d been talking for hours, trying to put into words what I’d felt, what I’d experienced, it just didn’t seem like there were enough words. I wasn’t sure if the rest of my lifetime would be enough to try to describe the full scope of what I’d felt. Even then, I wasn’t sure I could do it, or if I even should.
At last, Jack broke the silence. “Well, thanks to you and Manny, Fern, I think I’m about to become a much better preacher.”
We all laughed.
“It’s our job, now,” I said to Jack, “to update the rest of the chantries and give them the information they’ve been missing for a long time. Joy told me you and Dora were meant to help. We’ll need to speak with them, and write letters. Maybe we can even ask to be guest preachers.”
“A lot of them will be okay with that. Some won’t think we know what we’re talking about, though.” Jack said, fighting back a grimace.
“When I restore the rays and there’s no longer a need for the graves, don’t you think that will convince them?” I asked. “Won’t the evidence be obvious?”
Jack smiled. “Most will see what they want to see, Fern. If nothing, life and preaching has taught me that. People can all see the same thing, fundamentally, but see something very different based on what they want to see and their own life perspectives. But we’ll do our best.”
“That’s all you can do. The rest,” Dora said, “as Fern has told us, is up to each individual person. If they want to hear truth they will. Our only job is to share it—make it available.”
“And that’s just what we’ll do,” I said, feeling the last bit of light leave me. I had one glowing day. Now, I was back to normal, except that because of what I’d seen my life would never be quite the same again.
“Amen!” Jack chuckled.
“Amen,” I replied, laughing.
52th day of Helix 1008
(8 years later)
I can’t believe it’s been eight years since the day I came back. I still wake up sometimes and think about those days. The days you saved me from myself. The days of watching Zoe roll her eyes and Manny flex his muscles. Who’d have thought that Manny would become the father of two beautiful ruffians and find a wife who saw through his past, and who knew how to bring out the best in him while still letting him be…well, him.
I can’t believe the Peach School is running again now with its highest enrollment in years. They don’t just train Peaches (sorry, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop using that term). They are an official chantry as well. Preachers in training get to share sermons with the public.
The School doesn’t flicker at all now. No weird transitions taking place. Artifacts aren’t appearing in odd places or disappearing. It’s whole. The layout of the place makes sense too! Who’d have thought that what I found and what Harold had come to adore was a building that wasn’t what it should be, that was decaying, and which was being pulled and tugged by several different kingdoms. They were signs that something needed to change, but no one was paying attention. Did you know that people have almost forgotten that the building once disappeared? It’s amazing what people can forget.
I’ll never forget that front page newspaper article taken on Helix, 30, 1000, from the Saxton Chronicle with you and me on the front, smiling with the police officers, once they realized we weren’t loiterers or criminals but the ones who’d brought the school back into existence. Remember how hard it was to figure out where to install those orbs? Man, that was such an adventure and also a headache. The days it took to find that hidden, other-earthly pool of water under a mound of dirt and a giant stone lid. I remember feeling like we’d never find it—especially since we had to search at night. I still don’t know how you saw that tiny blade of grass glowing. It was so faint! Well, I guess we’ll relive that story for years to come, until the rays come for us at last.
I’ve visited the School a few times in the last couple years to speak, to share what I can of the utopias and Him. I have some influence there—less than I’d hoped, but more than I’d expected. But, true to Dora’s word, despite the miracles involved, so many are content to leave “Him” out of it. Most are uncomfortable with the idea of multiple utopias—more than three anyway. But we’ve done what we can, haven’t we? We’ve shared and shared and are still sharing?
I got your letter, explaining about the growth of your little chantry. Perhaps you might consider building a new bigger house with a bigger chantry? Yet, since I know you’re refusing all monetary donations these days, that probably means it will take a while to save up. Then again, I’m not sure I would like it if you sell the place. That’s the place I think of when I think of home. I know I live abroad, but that place will always be my real home.
Currently, I’m preaching in Mellville. Since leaving you two years ago, I’ve been in towns I never knew existed. The world, this place of learning and discovering who we are and what we want for our forever, is so much larger than I ever knew growing up. Sharanville and Saxton were the extent of my world. It felt big back then, but now it’s so far away and it seems so small. The number of people out here in the world…it’s mindboggling. How can He keep track of us all?
Things are hard Jack. I thought people would stop using the graves. But even though the rays have returned, and souls are going on and no bodies are being left behind…so many people are still using the graves to hold onto the connection to their loved ones. I’m not so certain I wouldn’t have made graves for Mother or Joy if they’d been a thing back then. I think its going to become a thing that continues. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know yet.
I don’t have all the answers, you know. So much of that visit to The White was about me, really. It was about what I needed to learn for me. I don’t know everything and people have so many questions… Questions I can’t answer. Questions only He can answer. Please send advice as soon as you can, for how to help people with questions I can’t answer.
To tie up this letter, I’m enclosing something I want you to post in all the local papers. Have Dora add some artwork, something eye-catching. She’s got that crazy creative streak. Then, pay for the biggest block of advertising that you can afford. Even if people don’t believe it, if they’ll at least notice it and read it, that will open doors for me. And thank you in advance for doing so.
With all my love,
Dear readers of this newspaper. What I’m about to say to you won’t be eloquent, but it’s the most important thing you are going to read. My name is Fern and I found the utopias. The places you hear about from preachers and the chantries—I visited some of them. How? Well, I started out confused. I hated the death rays because they took my loved ones. Then, I was determined to conquer the rays, to get revenge on them. I had a plan. Then, things in my life changed and before I knew it, I needed those death rays, but they’d left us. Do you remember New Helix eight years ago when no rays came? When they disappeared, it was my job to save them. I was the one who brought them back.
So, I’m going about teaching people about what I saw and what I learned. I’m doing it however I can. You’ll find my message in books, newspapers, entertainment, and in even places you never suspected. A preacher named Jack, with a nice little chantry in Sharanville on the edge of the Learen Forest, is also helping me. If you can’t reach me in my travels, and you’re having trouble, please visit Jack, and his wife, Dora, in Sharanville. You can trust them.
Why am I reaching out to you? Because I need help setting people straight about the rays, and about the utopias. Come hear my story. Once you’ve heard my story, if you see and feel the truth, I want you help others find the truth. This life isn’t a joke. It isn’t a scam. It’s a place for you to figure out what’s deep in your inner core—the you that’s been you for eons of time. It’s a place for you to figure out what’s there inside you, own it, accept it, change it for the better if you desire, and then get comfortable in that constant flow of truth and change. The rays will come for you one day, too. I want you to be ready. I want you to help get others ready. All my best to you, Reader. I hope to meet you soon.
This is the end of this serial fiction. I hope you enjoyed it. I try to plan my serials, but also to write somewhat spontaneously as well. This story definitely grew in the telling into something far more than I’d expected. I hope you enjoyed it. If you like fiction with lots of symbolism and meaning and loads of nearly latent truths, that’s what I write. While I’m not sure I could ever come close to the feats that C.S. Lewis accomplished, he is my writing hero, and it is my goal to do with my writing something akin to what he accomplished.
If you enjoy my writing, please visit http://kentstead-media.com and check out my books: Emerging Truth, The Adustum Diaries, and Copy Cat Earth: The Glugenal Suit. Two of these books are series books and the second books are on their way. Thanks for reading!
This kid-fiction serial is about done. The final chapter…will be available by purchasing the book! Head over to our Kentstead Media SHOP to pre-order your copy today. $2, or more, will go to The Road Home – UT to help shelter the homeless! Click here! Or on the picture above.
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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!