short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Merging

It happened on one of those eerie, moonless nights when the nature of Life becomes infinitesimally clearer and lives are changed forever. The young college student with many and no future plans concurrently—as is the wont of younger years—was returning from a late-evening babysitting job. At midnight, the new moon was in full reign. She squinted past the headlights on her mini-truck into the total darkness that new moons, ironically named, always bring, trying to see each of the turns in the winding highway along the edge of the ocean. California’s oceanside roads were beautiful in the day and more beautiful at sunset, but in the dark, their curves could kill—and had on many occasions.

After a few turns, she found herself on a stretch of the road she knew well. She relaxed, straightened her back, and let her foot fall a little more heavily on the pedal. Soon she would be home, and how she needed to get just a little sleep before her psychology exam tomorrow! She sped down the road, skating through the curves as if on a roller rink or in a video game; she knew them all so well that habit alone moved the wheel of the truck in synchronicity with the curving of the road. As habit drove, her mind turned to reciting definitions she would need for the exam tomorrow: id, ego, super-ego.

Suddenly, just in front of her headlights, a concrete construction wall closing off her lane jumped up in front of her. That had not been there yesterday! Where were the warning signs? Lost in the folds of darkness’s blanket?

The moment the wall menaced, habit abandoned her. Id, now on alert, took over the task of driving, while Superego reprimanded her for her careless reverie and Ego, paralyzed by fear into inaction, simply watched.

The crash was inevitable, the jolt anticipated. However, the flipping of the truck and its rolling to its side disoriented all of them: Id, Ego, and Super-ego. When the rolling stopped, she was alone, momentarily abandoned even by thought.

Then, the headlights went out. There was a crackling sound, and there was a smell. More than a smell. There was something all around her. Vapors. Gas vapors. The gas tank! She had to get out of the truck, but she had to clear her mind first. She felt for her bearings. The truck was on its side, the driver’s door flat on the asphalt. No exit there. She felt further, and her fingers brushed the window to the cab. She pushed it open and put her head out. It was very narrow, but perhaps with some contortions she could squeeze through if she could just figure out what all was where. Where was she exactly? It looked like she was in the middle of the road, but she could not be sure. Her mind would not clear, and a disconcerting warmth and desire to sleep hypnotized both mind and limb.

As she struggled to focus on the road in front of her, to find shapes in the darkness, not only to locate her whereabouts but also to anchor herself in the here-and-now, a watery whiteness descended upon her and then enveloped her. She felt herself dissolving into it. The truck was no longer her only frame of reference; in fact, it was no frame of reference at all. She was in the truck, yes, but at the same time, somewhere else, in an expanding whiteness. Life Within, Life Without, Life Beyond—separate realities or intertwined trinity? A house of eternal dimension, with dissolving door frames and rooms expanding into other rooms without end and without form, just space before and after, above and below, a continuum without beginning, without end, without sequence. A place—or was it merely a transporting thought of the kind that facilitated the instantaneous movement of the Seagull—where appearance and reality, idea and action merged, a place to lose one’s integral self to the overlapping dimensions of time, location, and being.

And then, a hand emerged from within the watery whiteness. A brown, living hand, roughened by manual labor, strengthened by encounters with rock and asphalt. It belonged to a road worker, walking out from within the whiteness. Could it really be that someone had come to help?

She reached for the hand, and it pushed her back into the truck, into the darkness and the vapors. But she was not afraid, for she was not alone. The dark was no enemy but merely a cloak for Earth’s wearing absent the warming of the sun. Being not alone brought comfort, and she realized how uncomfortable being alone had been.

“Stand back,” the strangely compelling, oddly familiar voice gently urged her.
“This window,” he continued, crawling over the cab to the passenger window which pointed straight at the moonless night sky. No stars, no moon, yet the man’s plaid shirt and broad shoulders were clearly visible, haloed by the whiteness. Only his face remained unlit and unseen.

Skillfully, as if he rescued damsels daily, he kicked in the window, reached down, and lifted her up and through the window as easily as if he had turned the absent stars to stardust—so that’s where they had all gone on this lightless night—and sprinkled her with it to help her fly. Think happy thoughts, and she could fly to morning. The thought of happy thoughts was interrupted by more quiet urging by the strangely compelling, oddly familiar voice.

“Hurry! There is very little time.” The man helped her scramble down the side of the truck that used to be the roof.

“Hurry, hurry,” he repeated. And when she could not hurry, he lifted her with muscled arms and carried her across the empty road to a field of rock, dirt, gravel, and parked road-repair equipment.

He set her on her own wobbly legs just seconds before the crackling she had been hearing erupted with a roar into a bonfire, dyeing the mantle of night with broad plumes of red, lightning bolts of yellow. The new moon scrambled for cover. Night was now day. The sky was not black or even blue, but red and gold and grey. The truck was gone.

She trembled, and he held her more firmly. “Just a few more minutes,” he said. “Soon an ambulance will arrive and take you away to the hospital. You are safe here. I work here.”

They waited in silence. The presence of a companion was enough for now, and by the time the ambulance arrived, she had become calm enough to let go of the hand that had drawn her to safety. She let others help her into the ambulance. Only later did she realize that she had said neither thank you nor good-bye to the man in plaid with the strangely compelling, oddly familiar voice. Somehow, it seemed not necessary.

For now, her full attention was fixated on the cool deluge pouring forth from the fire hose, taking charge of the inferno which she had barely escaped. Fire yielded to water as the rushing ambulance rapidly distanced her from the smoking skeleton of her truck.

Her eyes moved from the disappearing road behind her to the looming edifice in front of her. A shapeless ether, dolloped with occasional pentacles of light, gradually dissolved into the well-formed, rectangular shape of St. John’s Hospital. The perfect name for this wonder of works: light splashing from the ceiling onto the gurneys below, doctors hustling, nurses bustling, interns scuttling, a beehive of telic activity. The wonder worker’s memorial offered her no overt sanctuary, but fatigue reached out and slowly drew down her eyelids until she could see no more of the object world….

… The overture of sleep-thought that had yet to reach its crescendo was prematurely ended by the hand of a police officer, who had arrived to take a report of her accident, shaking her awake. He was real enough. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and sat up.

As she dutifully related the minutiae of the evening, he patiently recorded her story until she described how the man in plaid had called the ambulance, waited with her until it had arrived, and then had passed her over to the medics. The police officer contemplated her with a concerned look, then said, “Ma’am, the ambulance was called by a passing truck driver, and the medics found you wandering dazed and alone at the construction site. You were lucky to get out of the truck alive.”

She was still processing that information when the doctor approached her bed. “You are lucky you had your seat belt on,” he said. “You don’t have a single scratch on you. It is a miracle that you were not killed.”

Again, luck! Was it luck? Who was the man whom only she had seen? She had to know.

And so, when she was released, she went to the scrap yard where her truck had been towed, fearful of what she might find and yet not knowing why she was fearful. She carefully examined the window through which she had crawled. It had been broken—but from which direction?

If it were kicked out, then perhaps the man in plaid was another version of herself, a personification of a strong alter ego her subconscious had summoned when her conscious was too weak to act. The Id taking care of the Ego. The Life Within meeting the Life Without.

However, if it were kicked in, then perhaps there did exist a man in plaid visible only to those selected to see him or those who believed in him. The Life Without meeting the Life Beyond.

There was no way to tell. Physical evidence was indeterminate.

She told her story to all who would listen, advertised in the paper, and called the work site coordinator. None of her actions were of any help. All she learned was that no one had been assigned to that work site the night of her accident and no one on the work crew recognized her description of the man who had helped her.


With time, the construction site evolved into a roadside park. She liked to walk there in the late evening when no one else was around. Some said that it was not safe to be alone there at that time of night, but she felt secure. She would stand on the grass where once she had stood on rocks, look across the road, and on moonless, starless nights would see the burning truck. At those moments, for some reason, she felt protected in a strangely compelling and oddly familiar way. She felt not alone.

With time, the little park was discovered by the masses, and only on rare occasion was she able to stand alone and watch the sun set over the spot in the road that had come to center her life. On one of those rare occasions, she felt a stranger standing beside her. For some time, they stood silently in companionship and watched as the sun enflamed the sky, then dissolved into streaks of smoldering red and gold and grey above a now-skeletal view of the rock-rimmed ocean shore. Finally, she spoke.


“Just a few more minutes,” he said. “Soon the darkness will arrive and take us away from this moment.”

“As it does every moonless night,” she responded. “I suppose it is not safe to stay here this late, after the guards have left, but I like to watch the sun set over the ocean beyond the road.”

“You are safe here,” he responded in a strangely compelling and oddly familiar voice. “I work here.”

She turned to look at him, but she was alone.

All the text above the first dotted line is fact, below the line fiction. It was published under my real name in a collection of stories from the Middle East. (c) 2005.


  1. Awesome! Thank you for sharing this from your collection.
    Blessings, andrea

  2. Thanks, Andrea. I cannot believe that I missed your comment -- until I went back to re-post this story on Spiritual Sunday (100th Lamb).

  3. What a riveting story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  4. Thanks, Charlotte. I am glad you enjoyed it.


About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.