The Alter’s large wooden doors opened and the Regulator stepped free of the heavy air of the hall. He squinted his eyes against the afternoon sun as he put on his Oakleys. He tilted his head back and spread his arms out wide to embrace the warmth of the sun-soaked spring afternoon. He lowered his arms and thought “Toward the sun, the days and weeks ahead will lead me toward the sun.” A small cloud passed overhead, blocking the warm rays for a minute and set a chill upon him. A reminder of the shadows that still lurk inside and all around him. Shadows he will need to embrace, navigate and manipulate. The shadows that will get him to the ends he seeks. Satiated by his time with Nagli he now saw the present and the past for what he needed. He could now set the future in motion.
The Regulator had grand plans in mind. Grand plans indeed. Plans that set him in a completely different place than he’d imagined possible. Funny how the world can hand you opportunities that you yourself had no idea existed. Emerging from the eather of life and the cosmos. Opportunities are funny things. Some pop up all obvious and easy like. Some need to strangle you to near death to be noticed. He was now breathing in the opportunities before him in long deep sustaining breaths. Hope and light filled his thoughts.
He could smell the difference in the air. The valley was free of its amber air distorted with the ghosts from the past. Good forward thinking work was crawling in his mind. Bob now realized he had been looking at his family from the wrong point of view. Looking at it as something to be protected, honored and managed. Bob now look at his family as a ticket to freeing his mind. Freeing him from the discomfort of being himself. His family will be his new source of freedom, rather than an oppressive obligation. Bob loved his family, his clan, but his role had taken its toll on him. He now understood a way to make all the worlds of Asgard align in his favor and he was going to will it into being. He just needed to locate a few people and hopefully have a few people locate him. First off, it was time to find his sister, Sanna. Time to set things straight with her and get her on board.
“Thank you, Nagli,” The Regulator said without looking at the sage.
“For what, exactly?” The old man cleaned his glasses and looked down at the ground. He had an air of disappointment about him. He said, “I have imparted on you the worst possible news and information one could have given.”
“Not the way I see it, old friend.” The Regulator was stone-faced. “I see this all as an opportunity to be reborn. True, it might kill me in the process but, better that, than living in the quagmire I call the present.”
“Well then, don’t let the door hit ya in the ass on the way out.” Nagli was suddenly very chipper. He slapped Bob on the shoulder. “It is sad but all too true, that I hope I never talk to you again, Regulator Bob. At least not on this plane of consciousness.”
“Love you too, Nagli.” The Regulator grabbed his weapons, stepped off the front porch and headed for the Subaru. He turned to look over his shoulder and said, “Now don’t forget to tell those displaced spirits to get their asses back to Valhalla and take care of their side of this.”
Nagli shifted. “Ah yes, um, will do.” He smiled unconvincingly.
Bob knew he would never see this place again. Or at least he hoped he wouldn’t. The Alter was a piece of his past and if everything went right, it would stay that way. He took a long look around before ducking into the car. The shadow from the western ridge was creeping across the valley. He fired up the engine. Stabbing the gas pedal. Whipped the car around on the gravel driveway. Dust piled up from around the spinning tires into the clean air of the valley. Letting up and counter turning, the Regulator straightened out the WRX and raced across the creek bridge, plunging directly towards the setting sun and the oncoming shadow.
Bob took one last look in the rearview mirror as he dropped down the gravel road. Strange enough, the Alter was not visible where it should have sat in the meadow. There was just an old dilapidated horse barn. If you were a landscape photographer, it would be a perfectly iconic visual to represent a long-gone way of life.
The Regulator moved down the road pondering on the illusion of the Alter. He thought hard about the days to come and the tasks at hand. Then he noticed it start. It began as a slight tightening of his gut. Then it would soon grow to a warm, comfortable easing of his spin. Eventually, the back of his head would tingle, like the feeling, you get when your standing in a dark basement and you feel you’re not all alone. He called this “The Mood.” It often came to him when he had to chain out the world and deepen his resolve. When emotions needed to be set aside and details needed sorting out. He could never quite explain what happened during The Mood. He would become part of another place. Well, not really a place- more like a state of being. Another level of consciousness. No words could paint the pictures that would splatter across his mind. Taking place in the back of his mind as he rambled through the operations of life. One side of his brain operating in the real world and the other caught up in his unfiltered self.
His closest friends could recognize the signs and they knew to back away. They would leave him to his thoughts. Nothing bad would come of his mood, but no one who knew him well enough wanted to be around and accidentally poke the hornet’s nest. Best he was left alone to work out the demons that demanded his attention. The Regulator knew this as well and would typically excuse himself from whatever it was he was engaged with. Or better yet he would avoid contact with people during stressful times. Especially when a problem was to be solved.
Avoiding people, in general, was more the Regulator’s way. Not that he didn’t like people. On the contrary, he could be a very social person. He enjoyed the company of other people. He even had some very close friends. None of them knew exactly what he did but neither did they want to. They just went along with the programmer story and let it all be what it was. The problem with socializing with most people lay in common ground. Mainly in the fact that there wasn’t any. Common ground that is. After basic pleasantries, an impasse would form. Really, how does one get chummy when most of your life is a secret? He couldn’t very well be honest about what he had been up to all day.
“So, how was your day? Anything interesting happen?”
“Well, I strangled a man due to his poor debt management skills. I hope his business partner has better luck. And oh yes! There was that unfortunate fellow who “fell” off the footbridge downtown into the Platte River. Or should I say the rocks next to the river? These things do happen I guess. How about you? Anything fun today in your world?”
No, it was best he stayed to himself. Not a lot of people that could understand all this business. Bob thought of his self-appointed seclusion for a minute. Yes, he thought, best to keep most at a distance. Especially right now. But, there was that John, the preacher fellow. That man had been at the back of his mind for the past few days. He seemed to gain The Regulator’s confidence right off the bat. He was not altogether sure why that was. Just that there was something more to the man. More than simply another traveling preacher doing the Good Lord’s work. John had a past. A long and crooked past. This Bob knew for sure and the Regulator wanted to know more about it.
The tingle at the back of his head had set in. The timber gate at the end of the access road to the Alter was not in his rearview mirror. The road ahead became a fog.
John would have to wait because the mood was strengthening. The illusion of the valley, the meadow and the Alter sitting in his mind’s eye. “Things are changing,” he muttered to himself and then he went deep. Deep into his raw self. The thoughts came like a sucking wind.
Reality has a way of folding itself to meet the minds eyes, doesn’t it? Beyond the solid form of the planet is a never-ending sea of human tangibility. A defective space, all exhausted with misperception and unseeable truths. This hoodie, that coffee cup, my watch. They are all made-up things. Man-made objects of illusion and self-made comfort.
Take time for instance. Even that is man-made. Before we constructed time how did we know when to do things? How did we know when to be where?
I mean, if you told a friend “meet me by the large Oak tree later this morning,” how would he know when that was, exactly? Later this morning. You couldn’t very well say meet me around 10:15 AM. 10:15 AM hadn’t been invented yet! Maybe you could say, “Meet me when the sun is three fingers over the ridge.” But, is that measured by my skinny three fingers or his fat three fingers? Or, is it three fingers by my arm’s length or his arm length? I have some long ass arms. Well, for one thing, I am glad we now have time. Much easier to gauge my life but it is an illusion.
I guess it’s all how we each see it and from what angle we stand. “Reality” is just that. An individual perception. Made up by man. Just like time. But, I control my reality. I control the illusion. I can see beyond the illusion that makes others obey the laws of reality.
I am not a slave to the perceptions of others. I will not see the world in their distorted and commonplace way. No! I create the world I want, and I control the rules of the game. That is what they taught me. The spirits. Lejon and the sages. They showed me how to play with the angles of things. How to change them to my will. That is why I am a ghost. A shadow walker, a half-bread. It’s because I view reality from an alternate dimension. I make passageways out of solid walls. I make innocence into a menace. I can make the shadows into the light, and the light into dark. I can make the dark even darker still. Heavy as pitch. Blinding, disorienting and wretched with death. I can do this because I can see it and because I can see it I can navigate it. Manipulate it. I can move through it in the middle of the day, right in front of your eyes. Your reality-tinted mind could never imagine me there. In the dark, during the day, right before your face. You will never know I am there because your eyes and your mind can’t imagine it so.
You will never feel me, either. Well, not unless I want you to. Unless I need you to. Then I can make you feel me. Make you feel like you need to move. You won’t know why you want to stand by the window in the laundry room or sit in the corner chair, but you will do it. Then you will feel me. The true unmistakable reality of me. The bullet, the knife, the melting dart of poison. Those things will be real, and no imagination or hope, or prayer can save you from that moment. For a split second, I will be all you know, and I will know everything about you. I will be the shepherd and you will be the lamb. I create that reality and I will bring it upon you.
But, what happens next, after you cross. Well, that belongs to you. That is a place I cannot go. That is a place no one sees and then returns. Your reality has now altered to a new dimension. This crossing will not take long. After all, this is now my reality and I have limited time. So, take solace in the fact that you will not know the Regulator for long.
I can see and sense the ones that have the shadow power. There are not many and when you meet one you can see the broken light around them. The skipping of the sun as they move like a prism. Breaking the clean lines of reality and putting them back together at their will. John can occupy the shadows. I know this. He is very good at hiding it, but I could see. Or maybe he let me see. Time will tell.
The sound of a honking horn brought Bob back from the mood. He was driving down 285 towards Denver, weeping. A car in front of him was honking at a land yacht whose driver figure 45-mph in a 65-mph zone would be more than ample to slow down the rest of the world to his retired, sightseeing speed. He spun the car onto a dirt pull off, opened the door and puked. The darkness had not taken him like that in a long time. Every cell in his body was pulsing. Reality would be watching him. Play in the shadows as he sought out his next steps.
Charged with the calculated lust of revenge. He would have to push hard on his ego. Push it down to manage his resolve. Now, was time for patience and deliberate thought. He must not let the shadows overtake him. Lead him charging into a battle best won by perfectly timed tactics. He must play all of them to his will.