BY J. H. SOEDER
This is part 1 of a two-part story. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow. Copyright is held by the author.
“TELL ME how it began, Master,” asked Joshua.
The arid desert sands touched the edge of the dark goatskin tent, moving the untethered flaps in a soft, rhythmic flow. The day’s heat had subsided; a cooling, gentle breeze reached his face, now lit by the hanging oil lamp, used by Moses to focus his thoughts when his own questions overpowered him.
The tent was quiet, save the questioning words of his young apprentice. The clean but worn, woven carpets offered a slight warmth to his tired feet. The scant scent of incense filled the room. His soft white robe covered strong shoulders, now aged with time. His whitened hair, combed cleanly, rested easily about a face marked with knowledge of the past. Strong grey eyebrows accented the character of a man who had seen many things, but with time held back many silent thoughts.
Moses stared into space for a few moments as if to recall his past and bring to the present the moment where it had all begun. Consumed in momentary thought, his hazel eyes shimmered briefly, as Joshua witnessed a soft white glow emanating from somewhere within his master.
It was that same glow that drew him to this great teacher, so many seasons past. It was his master’s glow that resonated within him as well, a glow that pulsated within his very soul, moving in rhythm to the soft undulating light that surrounded his teacher, his master and now his friend. He knew not why he felt this rhythmic, warm pulsing in his body, he just felt it whenever his master began to emanate a soft warm glow.
Joshua recalled that first day’s meeting, where something within himself beckoned him to follow this great prophet. It was as if he was meant to be with Moses. It was a hunger to be near the light in his eyes and the softness in his voice.
But it was always the silence that bothered Joshua. There were many such moments in the past where he had asked this same question, always in a different way. What was it that his master, his teacher and his friend held within him? Moses had touched so very many lives, yet intuitively he believed that his master hid something, deep within his soul.
But if it was a secret — a secret never told — what could it be that lay behind those dancing hazel eyes?
There were times when he thought Moses would confide in him. There were moments when he stood with him, overlooking the desolate dry valleys and plains, when he felt his master’s words would burst with a secret revealing the truth of all things, seen and unseen. Even being persistent his questions never were answered, frustrating every pore in his body. And yet, in that reverent silence, a strong but soft gentle hand touched his young shoulder, squeezing it ever so slightly. Words never followed that moment.
Joshua again pondered his question, studying the soft but defined facial age lines of his master’s face, wondering if his master would ever speak to him of the things buried deep within his soul. And yet somehow he knew that those secrets would never be shared with any other man, only to be taken with him on his final journey to God. What was it that Moses guarded so? If it was God’s words, were not God’s words to be shared with everyone?
Moses watched Joshua’s eyes burn with questions he believed he could never really answer. The light smell of frankincense inside the tent filled his nose. Taking a slow, deep breath. he felt a hum within his body. Energy from the center of his chest softly pulsed through his veins. Gently grasping the staff passed to him so very long ago, he studied the inscriptions written by the men who had had it before him. Some of the writing he knew; other inscriptions looked like symbols, strange symbols, etched into the very fabric of the wood, now polished with time. Those inscriptions, he believed, was the writing made by the Hand of God, reminding him of the legacy passed down to him that, even for him, was not always easy to bear.
The rod’s sapphires glistened momentarily then matched the pulsating hum inside his body. It was the staff that always comforted him when he needed to find the peace inside himself, he had lost so very long ago. It was the staff that heard him and brought his God to him, in times of troubling questions he could not answer.
“It was a voice I heard in my mind, so very long ago.”
He knew his time on this Earth was short. Even at the age of one hundred and twenty, few men of his tribe could match his strength and will. But it was the Voice in his head that always kept him focused. It was the Voice that overshadowed even his own thoughts.
It was the Voice that empowered his body and pushed his life forward. An ageless voice soothing his spirit and his soul with thought-words that brought comfort to his very essence.
And now within him, something deep inside beckoned him to begin his final journey up the mountain outside his tent. He knew that his Lord and Master called him; his rod pulsated with life, feeding him with the energy that had changed him and made him who he was this very day. It was the rod that beckoned him to go as well. It was only the rod that he would leave behind.
There was a secret he could never tell. A secret, which would leave with him on his journey to Mount Nebo, where he hoped he would find peace, once and for all. It was a secret he would carry with him, allowing him to change his staff into a beautiful glistening cobra, summon locusts, separate the Red Sea, turned water into blood and stilled the firstborn. It was the rod that opened the heavens and passed the Light of God to the believers. It was the same secret that, once he was alone, would generate the soft field of light where none of his followers could enter. It was within that field that the Voice and the glowing image came and spoke to him.
In that moment he wondered if he really had been a prophet as all had said these many long years? The burning bush not only floated in flames, it seemed to move with the words he heard in his mind so very, very long ago. He recalled that all around him lit up like a thousand suns. For how long he had slept, he did not know. But when he awoke, he found himself in a chamber surrounded by shapes of what appeared to be men? Or angels? To this day he could not empty his mind of what he had seen.
He touched the side of his chest where they had entered in. Even now, the place where they had cut into his body revealed but a small, imperceptible scar to the naked eye. Yet he knew where it was; throughout his later life and away from the tribe or late nights when others slept, his probing hand would run its course along his right side, reminding himself that he was different, somehow.
He remembered being in a place where there was no darkness. Many eyes, larger and clearer than his looked at him curiously, save the glowing shape of what appeared to be a man floating behind the others.
In his twilight consciousness, the form was covered in a white shroud, except for the long, thin arms and body, radiating a glow that almost blinded him. Turning his head away, he realized he was naked; warming jets of air surrounded and touched him gently as many glowing white hands wrapped in light deftly touched him, sending incredible waves of energy throughout his entire body.
One set of eyes lifted from looking at him, then turned to look at the floating figure. As their thoughts met, the question held itself in the open space between them.
Will he remember any of this?
It was a momentary but an eternity of silence. And then he heard the Voice.
In time, he may remember; he will only see it as a gift. A gift that separates him from his own kind.
It was then that he saw a glowing blue orb floating in the stars. Was that the moon behind it, glistening in the sunlight? The wheels of chariots dressed in gold hovered about it. He felt that he knew this place, but did not know why. And yet what was he seeing? What vision was this? Then there were glowing images of creatures, dressed in flowing garbs of white, creatures that he had never seen or could begin to describe. Their chariots were different, one even reminding him of Pharoah’s temple, though it hung quietly in the stars.
What was this place? Where was he?
A transparent sac of flesh floated through the air. In it, small lights glowed and flickered. Metals and fibrous wires seamlessly attached themselves to the unusually shaped organ, itself pulsating a soft blue.
He knew his body had been compromised; but there was no feeling that a normal man would feel or could describe. He had known, from accounts of fallen men, their descriptions of the pain they experienced when a spear had entered them. But this was different–he could feel soft movements inside his own chest, yet there was no pain!
He knew that something was about to be done to him, nonetheless; there was nothing he could do to stop it; the resonating voice once again spoke.
This will give him powers and abilities his kind has lost for millennia. It will also allow us to gather and speak with him privately.
Remember that his race is still young. We must only guide and hope that this experiment will work.
The concept of “experiment” was foreign to him. In his light but wakeful slumber, he wrestled with the thoughts he heard in his own mind. What did it mean? And what was this gift?
To be continued tomorrow.