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The room was dimly lit.

“Double your fears, double your hearts, double your sadness....” A small stick-ish figure stood erect beneath the one light in the stadium.
“and open your minds to mortality. Open your minds to the true fate of mankind.” And with nonsense spoken he waited, and let silence grip the theater. A few indistinct whispers could be head, but only for a moment. When the voices became aware of they were the only ones active, they ceased. Then came total silence; its power was devastating.

Somewhere in the back, a man scratched his large nose with a long finger. Rustling to his left caused him to turn and see a small familiar oval face staring back at him.

Her face just stared, as if trying to gage his own reactions. The hood of her robe cast a shadow upon her face, making it so that only one single blue eye was visible. A second later, it was gone.

Her eyes, her judging gaze-- was gone as quickly as it had come. All of this only made him more uncomfortable. Then, the preacher-man resumed speaking, and his voice banished his anxiety.

“My brothers and sisters, there is only ONE truth!” He started off softly, and let his voice crescendo towards finality.

“The one truth, isn't out there,” he motioned towards the exits “It isn't in this place, this-this building,” His arms stretched out as if to encompass the whole audience. Behind him, a giant projection showed an image of a building(perhaps this one) in the arms of a giant robed figure. “It is within us. That's right! We hold our own truth. There is no answer unless 'we' accept one. So open your hearts, let your body, your mind understand what your soul already knows my brothers and sisters! WE ARE ALL ONE!” The lights went on briefly, and the projection showed a reflection of the audience. He tried to find himself, but before he could it their images turned into individual lights, all connected in a giant web.(Where's the spider? Wow, this symbolism would be amazing, if it wasn't so much nonsense.) He looked at the girl he had come here with. Her face was lit up with the light of the screen, and from the angle they were at, only one eye shined. She was the most beautiful Canadian he had ever seen. He was African, and being in Africa, it was hard to run into a Canadian without traveling out of the country.

A week ago, they had met on the beaches of Nigeria, and had spent everyday together since. He had never been with a Mathematician before, and it was interesting.

Her brown skin was a beautiful contrast to blue eyes. It was hard to understand that such people were considered black. Once, a historian told him that the Canadians that we know now are actually descendants of the original Africans, and that they only ten-thousand years ago, Africa was a country whose population was made up almost entirely of “black ” people. Also, That the Union of Canada used to be a predominantly white country.(He mentioned other things like French-origin and Quebec-American war, but he didn't understand these things. There hadn't been a war in three-thousand years, and speaking about it was highly discouraged.)

“Follow me brothers and sisters!” The preacher-man's voice snapped him back to the present. “I say, follow me me into the future. One day we will all be one, and all knowledge will be open to us. One day, we will journey to the stars, and I don't mean the cities on Luna and Mars. I don't mean our sisters and brothers, who through God's good graces, have stabilized our sister planet, Rheaon, or Venus as it was called in ancient times. I don't mean the newly formed Republic on Triton. What I speak of, is our journey beyond our own farthest planet: Belial. Our journey into new galaxies and new understandings of our own truth. There are answers out there, just like there are in here.” He pointed to his heart. The projection zoomed in on this image, and showed a galaxy spinning just inside his chest.

“We will journey towards that infinite pearl inside us all, and some of us... some brave brothers and sisters, will journey outward, to discover what lies beyond. And that day is much closer than we think.” the screen went black, and all that was left was the preacher-man standing beneath the spotlight.

Slowly, the projection began again, this time showing a massive needle-like structure that had many domes covering its sides.

“In three months time, we we will begin our journey. Forty-six will begin the greatest adventure ever: They will journey deep into the heavens, forever. Comrades, will those brave enough to embark on the venture, please rise.” From all sections, heads begun popping up. “Look around, thirty-nine stand before us now. From all walks of life, yet they hold two important traits: the will to survive and faith. They are doctors, teachers, scientists of all kinds. But with all of these skills; this whole thing would be futile without faith. Faith... in ourselves, faith in our spirit, faith in both our uniqueness... and in what holds us; what combines us: the one true God, the lord of the spirit which we are all a part of. Amen.”

“Amen” rolled across the crowd in both hushed whispers and yelled praises. The man with the large nose yawned and rubbed his eye.

“So, what did you think? Jared?” He looked over, and Alia was once again looking at him. Again, those deep blue eyes were trying to see through his dark ones. He smiled on the inside, knowing she was trying to see his thoughts, and failing.

“I've never actually been to one of these, but it was... interesting” He looked and she frowned a little.

“So you didn't like it?”

“It's not that,” Jared said, with a bit of a sigh.”It was quite impressive, actually, but I'm just not a religious person. I'm sorry, I did enjoy it though.” He lied. Her eyes had a glazed look and he knew she stopped listening after his first response. (How could someone so beautiful and so brilliant be so taken in by all of this? What was all of this babble about space travel about? Three months, are they serious? Noah has lost his mind if he thinks he can find forty-six people to go out that far. There aren't even people on Belial yet. Out of The Milk Way?)

“C'mon, I want to talk to him.”

“What? Who?”

“The man who spoke. I have some questions I want to ask him.” She replied as she stood up. I could see she was still looking at the ship. The projection had been left on, and it was slowly rotating, showing all sides. The lights had slowly regained strength until the theater was completely lit. Rows of people filed towards the exits, all talking among themselves as they removed their dull brown robes. Jared could hear bits and pieces of conversations, none of them interesting.

“You want to talk to Noah?” He asked.

“Yeah, so come on, before someone else gets to him first.”

Someone did get to him first, but by the time they had made their way to down the rows and to the bottom of the theater, the conversation was ending.

“Well, it was wonderful to see you again Mrs. Taniguchi. Tell Robert that I can't wait to see him.” Noah glanced at Jared out of the corner of his eye, and his smile faltered a little, but not enough for others to notice. “Bye-bye.” Noah said to Mrs. Taniguchi, and she turned and left, her red curly hair trailing behind.

Noah turned to us and smiled.

“Hello to the both of you. My god Jared, how long has it been? Too long, I say! How are you?”

“Just fine Noah. I would ask you the same, but I can see you're doing pretty well for yourself.” He replied, looking around at the stadium.

“Yes, the church is flourishing.” Noah looked at Alia, and smiled again. “And who is this beautiful woman?”

“Alia” She said. Jared could tell she was blushing, even though her skin didn't show it, and he knew Noah could see it too. The man has black eyes. And black eyes can always see on the inside.

“My my, such a beautiful name. Your grand-mother's was it?”

“Y-yes, but how did you?” She asked and he just shook his head.

“I just know people, my dear.” He continued smiling. “I bet she was every bit as lovely as you are.” He kissed her hand, and she 'blushed more.' Her mind, Jared could see, was going in a million directions at once, none of them good. Noah turned back to Jared.

“So what do I owe this pleasure?” He asked.

“Actually, she insisted I come to one of your sermons, and it was her who wanted to come down her to talk.”

“Oh really now?” Noah said, and glanced back at her, but before he could say anything, Jared interrupted.

“But, if you don't mind, there are some things I want to talk with you about first. In private.”

Noah just stared at him, trying to read his thoughts as easily as he could read hers, and was discomforted when he could not. Jared looked up at the ship, which was still on-screen and back at him Noah nodded.

“Oh, of course. Of course. Just follow me into my office, the both of you.” He turned and walked across the stage towards the back where there was a small door, which was at such an angle that it would be invisible form the crowd. Anyone who walked out of that door would seem to have appeared from thin air.

(How far out does that ship go? Really forever?) Jared's mind kept returning to the ship and its suicidal crew as they walked down a long narrow hallway. He looked over at Alia and terror gripped him. (No. She wouldn't, would she?)

There were doors lining both sides of the hall, all of them painted white. The entire hallway was white except the gray tile on the ground and the large red door at the end of the hallway on the left.

Noah pulled out a small card from his underneath his robe and pressed it against the door. He removed his hand and the door evaporated. One by one, they stepped through, the triangular card still hung in air. After they were through, Noah reached out and pulled the card down and placed it back under his robe. The door condensed until the outside hallway was no longer visible.

The room they had entered wasn't his office, but what seemed to be a waiting room just outside of it. There were a few chairs and and some couches near the center of the room surrounding a lake table, whose liquid surface rippled beneath an old-fashioned lamp at its center. Along all of the walls were shelves filled with the most amazing thing Jared had ever seen. They were filled with books. Real life actual hard covered books, not crystal palettes which people now had that you could download information onto, but individual texts written page by page. He had never seen so many in his life. His amazement, unlike his thoughts, was apparent, because Noah seemed to notice.

“You are looking at the largest collection of books in the world. Quite impressive, isn't it?” He stepped forward and made his way to the center of the room. “As Jared already knows, before becoming Minister of this church, I was an antique dealer, but it also seems that he is as stunned by this as you are.”

Jared looked over to see that Alia seemed to be in greater awe than him.(She's a child of infinite wonder. Perhaps that's why she likes this church.)

“Noah, this is amazing. Can I?” She asks as she reaches towards the closest book. I can make ancient letters spelling out Nabokov on it's spine(What the hell does that mean?). Beneath that: Pale Fire.(Ancient English makes no sense. F-I-R-E? What is that? Thank God for New English)

“Go ahead. Although I doubt you will be able to read it. The English language has changed much over the past few thousand years.”

She gently opened it and softly scanned the pages with her blue gaze. Her eyes would pause momentarily on different parts, as if she could almost read the words.

“Puh-Pale Fire. By Vllladimeer Nahbokov? Is that it?” She asked looking up. Noah strains to see across the room.

“Why yes, yes it is! How on earth did you get that?”

“It isn't too hard. I just was skimmed through, found repeating patterns and words, compared old words to new ones that were similar. All it takes to understand a different language is time.” She closed the book and set it back in it's place.

“Yes, time... but I would assume it would be more than two minutes worth!”

“I work for Harlan's Fusion. It's my job to find patterns. Words, numbers, they're all the same.” She replied. Jared saw that if he didn't interrupt soon, it would be another hour before he got the chance.

“Um, Noah, could we? I promise you and Alia will have plenty a chance to talk.” I looked at Alia, and she smiled at me, then she made her way back to the books.(Was that? Love?) Her eyes tell all, but sometimes he wondered if she knew this(Maybe, she's just letting me see what I want to.)

“Of course.” He turned to Alia. ”My dear, we will be back soon. Feel free to browse through those books as if they were your own.” Then to Jared. “This way.”

We walked through another door. This one though, was Large and brown, and instead of evaporating it had to be pulled open. Once through Noah closed the door behind them. He walked over to his large desk and sat down on the chair behind it. Jared looked around

The whole room seemed like some ancient relic. Everything was made of wood, metal, and plastics. The desk was large and oak, the chairs seemed to be maid of aluminum, except for the one Noah sat in, which was covered in some kind of fabric.(I think it's called leather.)

“So old friend, why is it that you need to speak to me?”

“Noah please, turn off the sympathetic minister voice. You know how I feel about that.” Jared said, and Noah sighed.

“I know, I know. I'm tryin' but it isn't something that I can just flip off and on. The thing about good acting is you must make the character a part of yourself.”

“Then why do it? Why do you parade around up there with these messages, and then come back here and call it an 'act?'”

“Dammit Jared, we've been over this.” Noah replied, slightly annoyed.(Good, I'm getting him back)
“The messages aren't an act. I have to be. People wouldn't believe in the Church's message if it was shouted by a bum hitchhiker. Hell, people don't even believe the messages of other church's when it's a damn minister handing it to them. So why would they believe me: an antique dealer/Martian revolutionist? When I'm out there, spreading this Truth—which, by the way, turned my own life around-- I need to be more than a person, I need to be a symbol.”

“Noah, when I met you, you hand a six foot long steel rod in your hand and you were about to introduce it into the back of someone's skull. After that, we spent the next two years traveling together, causing mischief, and settling down. I don't mind that you are not the same person that I first met. In fact, I'm glad. Personally, I thought you were crazy. I mean, seriously. Now, you're calmer, and a lot more pleasant to be around.” Jared walked over to the desk, and picked up the ceremonial knife that was resting on a stand
“What I do have trouble believing is that you went from 'there is no god, there is nothing after this and if anybody disagrees then they should be put down' attitude to 'holy man.'”

“You still don't think it's possible for someone to change their ways? Damn you and your gold eyes, what are you thinking?” He said.

“I'm thinking that I can see your mind, and while it's a little cleaner, it still feels the same. So tell me brown eyes,” I laughed. “What is it that is really keeping you here?”

Noah sighed heavily.

“Fuck you. You really want to know? Are you really that curious?”

“Of course I am. I've known you too long not to be. And frankly, if they've got you brainwashed, then I intend to bust you out. So what is it?”

“...” He sat in silence a moment. “I never had a mother or father. You know that. I never had a real home. This place, this church, this people... I imagine this is what a home would feel like. I know you don't believe any of the One-ness stuff I preach out there, and frankly, neither do I sometimes. But they do, and if nobody else will give them hope, then why can't I?”

“But it's false hope. You're selling lies.”

“Does it really matter? It keeps kids off the streets, it makes people appreciate what they have. For some people, this is their only source of comfort. False or not, it is needed. And being needed is a good feeling.”

Jared sat there a while.(He's right.)

“You're right. People do need something. I always remembered that you were smart, but I guess I just thought you were being naive. You know, getting sucked into this like everyone else in the planet has.”

He laughed.


“I can't get sucked in, I started it.” He laughed more. Jared joined him this time.

“You serious? This whole religion, yours?”

“That's right, my friend. Never knew I had it in me, did ya'?”

“Damn, so where you just fucking with me with all that being needed crap?”

“No, I wish. It's true. I started it, the least I could do is follow things through to the end.”

“But do you believe any of it? What do you mean 'The end?'” I put the knife back down, Noah got up out of his seat and began pacing back and forth around the room.

“Honestly, sometimes I want to believe it. The only thing I really still have faith in is people, and that's what keeps me going.” He looked back at me and smiled. “The end? I don't know when that is. Hopefully, this exploration will help answer a few of those questions.”

“The shuttle? Yeah, listen Noah, about that; what the hell are you thinking?” Jared asked. He just smiled more.

“That girl is something isn't she. With a brain and a body that could give any sentient creature an orgasm. How long you two been together? Do I smell wife number four?”

“Oh, no. Not that serious yet. But yeah, she's something.”

“You should watch her, those eyes... she knows how to use them.”

“Ah, you see that too. It's like she's leading you on into thinking she's one thing, but then she turns around and does something to break all of that. Eyes, they are a tricky thing sometimes.”

Two hundred years ago, a Scientist named Joslyn Heirs discovered a technique for interpreting a person's thoughts and emotions based solely on their eyes. When you think, your eye muscles react, causing the pupil to dilate and contract. Different variations of this movement determine what thoughts are present, and when interpreted correctly, you can sufficiently know what a person is thinking. Of course, there is a slight dependence on situational context. Along with this, she discovered a few oddities: People with brown eyes are able to interpret 17% more than people with iris's of any other color. Also, those with irregularly blended eye colors(more specifically, a certain shade of gold) are almost impossible to be interpreted by others. Jared has golden eyes.

“They are. So what's the deal between the two of you? How long you been seeing each other? I can tell by the way she looks at you, that she really likes you. You know, you always did have a way with women. Men too, if I remember correctly.”

“It's been a long time since I've been with a man. If anything, I always thought you would be the one to stick to the same sex, but word has it you're married A kid if I'm not mistaken.”

“You're not. Got married four years ago. Have a two year old son, Jeremy. You know, you should stop by more often, a lot of stuff happens when you disappear for seven years. What have you been up too? You've got four rings, so two more marriages since I've last seen you. Anything else other than that?”

“I've been... well, I've just been. Traveled here and there. You know, Rheaon looks very nice now. It's still hot, but a damn beautiful planet. The sun looks amazing from that close.”

“Some people never change. Still roaming. Why can't you just settle? Why not here? You could find a real wife, settle down and have kids, and we could have bar-b-cues on Saturday nights.” Noah still stood there, smiling. Jared laughed.

“Dammit you sneaky old bastard, you're getting me off track. We need to talk about that damned ship.” He said as he sat down in one of the guest chairs.

“Alright then, what do you want to know?” Noah sighed.

“What exactly are you hoping to accomplish from this?”

“Jared, a lot has changed recently: the discovery of Belial, the rapid expansion of the human race into space, the enormous popularity of the Church. Frankly, we are growing out of our own solar system.” He made his way back behind his desk, and sat back in his chair.
“Since we first learned to walk, we've been preparing for something like this. The simple fact it is, one day this planet, and this solar system, will die. Mankind has proved it can make an environment anywhere, so now we know we can leave our home behind when that day does come.”

“So, you're doing this to show people that when things start breaking down on us, we can move on? Is that it? But why out of the galaxy?”

“Because, we don't know what's out there. If we stay inside the Milky Way, then we are still under its control. Between galaxies there are infinite areas of open space; space that doesn't twirl around a central point or have any distinct pattern or system we know of. Eventually, we are going to have to know what's out there.”

“You're crazy.”

“If I was, then why would I have top scientists and engineers lining up to be a part of this? This isn't to get people killed. This isn't really even about religion either. It's about finding out what's past our limits, and making sure our species can continue onto eternity. That way, when the ultimate answer does present itself, there will be a person there to hear it.” Said Noah, and he sat down again.

They both sat there, in silence. Seconds passed, then minutes. (He's right.) He thought.(But it's so damned dangerous. And unnecessary. How long have we been talking? Alia?)

“I think we've kept your lady friend waiting quite a bit longer than I anticipated.” Said Noah, breaking the silence(He could hear the minister returning in his voice.)

“You're right. One last thing though, what do you make of Belial? I mean, we've only discovered it five years ago, and he space program has been around for centuries.”

“I think what most scientist think: That it is new to our solar system. That it drifted here and managed to get close enough to get caught into an orbit. That would explain why it revolves on a plane perpendicular to all of the other planets. It isn't too unreasonable of a theory. What's really amazing is what those probes found.”

Jared leaned forward in his seat.“What was that?”

“Well, as it turns out, the entire thing is made out of organic material. Picture a solid entity more than half the size of earth made out of completely organic material.”

“Organic? What do you mean?”

“I mean what I say. There are no rocks, there is no metallic core, the whole thing contains the properties of living, or once living, cells and tissue. Like if you were to take all living things on earth and just wadded it up. Plants, trees, deer, people, everything. It's amazing.”

“Wow. Is it... alive?”

“That would depend on the definition. But as far as they can tell, the don't think it's sentient.”

“I need to listen to the news more often. Noah, we should get together sometime. For drinks, for laughs, whatever. It's really good seeing a familiar face. I'm glad there's still some of the 'you' I know in there.”

“I would like that. You could come by and meet the family. Who knows, maybe you and Alia may have a family of your own someday. Wouldn't that be something?” He stood up, and made his way around the desk and put his hands on Jared's shoulders. ”Speaking of which, let's go see how she's doing. We can finish saying whatever needs to be said some other time.”

“Yeah, if we leave her in there too long, we're going to find her smuggling books out your door.”

She watched as they disappeared behind the old oak door, and heard the ancient metal latch lock behind them. Apparently, the boys didn't want to be disturbed. This didn't bother her in the least, since this one room held more fascinating things than she could ever hope to handle in this lifetime.

She pulled another book off the shelf at random; It's pages were crisp and yellow. On the dull brown cover, etched in gold was the title: Man In the High Castle. She slowly moved to the couch. She sat down and felt the cushions form to her shape. The lake table in front of her still rippled gently from the pressure of the lamp.(Oh what sweet waters) She thought.

Her dark fingers softly turned the old pages; her bright eyes skimmed as she read.(He, she... glass, grasshopper....) The more she read, the easier the language became for her.(This Old English isn't much different from our New English.) After a few more pages, she closed the book and set it down on the table, creating a new tide of ripples, which danced with the ones originating at the lamp.(It's such a beautiful table.) She thought, and then she thought of the ship, and then of Jared, and his eyes.

Her eyes darted up and down the many shelves of books, and finally settled on a small book on the bottom shelf on the far side of the room. Rising from the couch, her eyes never leaving her destination, she walked towards the shelf as ripples danced across the table to her right.

She bent down and retrieved the book from it's place on the bottom shelf. Unlike the others, it wasn't stacked neatly in a row like all the others. It was lying face-down, alone. She picked it up and dusted off the cover: LIGHTFOOT.

"You have confused the true and the real." -George Stanley

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The following comments are for "Belial"
by AGlassThought

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