Cavorting with Gods
Six quirky journeys with a gallimaufry of gods
What follows is Frank’s first encounter with his enigmatic host, and the start of his first journey:
. . . so I go to my desk and push through my email. Most of it is meaningless but I still have to look for the few that matter.
I snap my head around. I thought I was alone in the house. I don’t see anyone but the voice was right there.
My desk is near the office door. The hall outside has a trapdoor. The furnace had been in a hole underneath, too small and too muddy to call a basement. The space was prone to flooding so the remodel raised the roof over the kitchen and put the furnace there. But crawlspaces are still accessible from the pit, so they redid the trapdoor with the floor. They did it sparingly though. No hinges and only a small brass ring for a handle.
“Come on down,” the voice says.
I grab my letter opener and use the point to lift the ring out of its recess. I put down the letter opener and pull up the trapdoor, pivoting it on the end away from the ring. I lift it out and lean it against the wall, then pick up the letter opener and peer down through the opening. Enough light from the hall lets me see there’s no one there.
“Where are you?”
“Come on down,” the voice says again.
“Who are you?” I feel the letter opener in my hand.
“I am who I am.”
“Yahweh said that. Are you telling me you’re God?”
“So did Popeye.”
“Popeye said, ‘I am what I am.’”
“Same thing,” he says. “You try saying it.”
“What? I am what I am?”
“Does it make you feel like God?”
“Too bad. Come on down. I have something to show you.”
I’m kneeling by the opening. I hesitate, then turn around and reach with one foot for the top rung of the makeshift two-by-four ladder bolted to the floor stud.
“You won’t need the letter opener,” the voice says.
Without thinking about it and without wondering why I’m not thinking about it I leave the letter opener on the hall floor and climb down the ladder.
The space is seven feet nine inches by eleven feet two inches. (I measured it when I measured the rest of the house.) In one corner a cracked wooden table stands missing a leg and in another a musty old golf bag lies on its side with golf balls spilling out. Both were down here being moldy when we rented the place. There’s also a burst bag of cement someone dropped through the trapdoor hole. The cement is caked from the flooding that still happens sometimes.
What is new is the opening in the end wall that used to be solid cinderblock. A cave mouth with mirrored letters arching over the top takes up most of the wall. The light is too dim for me to read the letters.
“I can’t see what it says,” I tell him.
“Next time bring a flashlight,” the voice says. I decide to let slide the implication of a next time. The letters light up as if illuminated by a light but when I look around I don’t see the source. The letters read, “Truth and What Is.”
“Are you ready for it?” he asks.
I’ve been down here a few times crawling under the house to check the plumbing and look for termite damage, but the wall was always solid cinderblock. Now it has a cave mouth.
“Make you nervous?”
“Even more than you make me nervous.”
“You can climb back up to your office and I won’t bother you again,” the voice says.
“A nice way of saying I only get one chance at this.”
“I see why they picked you,” he says. “You’re quick.”
“Who’s ‘they’?” I ask.
“You’ll meet some in your travels.”
“All gods like you?”
“Would you rather I be a car?” he asks.
“A car? Why a car?” Not exactly a godly image.
“Why not? I could be a fancy souped-up DeLorean.”
“Back to the Future. How do you know about that?”
“I go to movies,” he says. “It’s just that I have to sneak in since I never have money for a ticket.”
I pause, staring into the blackness of the cave. How can I not be curious about what’s in a cave that suddenly appears in my basement that a disembodied voice is inviting me to enter? If the purpose is to hurt me he could have done it in much easier ways.
“Are you going or not?” he asks, his tone giving me a shove.
“Okay, what the hell.”
“Not this trip,” the voice says. I don’t want to think about the implications in that answer either so I head into the opening.
At first what little light remains shows chiseled rock walls like the walls in the old mines in Joshua Tree. After exploring the first one Shay and I found with the flame of a cigarette lighter we never went anywhere again without flashlights. Now when I lose the last bit of light I promise myself if there is a next time with the voice, I’ll have one here, too.
Then in the blackness something strange begins. I’ve done three skydives over the years and now I start feeling the same falling sensation I felt in free-fall. At first I think it’s my nerves, but it gets too real to think so anymore. My feet are walking and I bump my head a couple times on rocks jutting down from above, but I’m also falling through emptiness. At least I am until I land sprawled face down on what feels like a rough rock floor.
“Bumpy arrival, but here you are,” the voice says.
“Where the hell are we?” I ask, less calm than I was before going into the darkness.
“I told you, not this trip.”
“Cute. But where are we?”
“That’s for you to figure out.”
“Is this place real?”
“Are you real?”
“I’m having these thoughts so at least my brain is real.”
“Thank you Mr. Descartes.” The voice says it with respect, for Descartes I assume, not for me.
“So since that much of me exists, there has to be some sort of reality.”
“Then what is it, and how do you catch a peek?”
“I’ve done philosophy 101 so I can play. Maybe it’s nowhere. Maybe the reality in my head is the only reality.”
“Ah yes. Is there an Absolute Truth behind your subjective truth? Is there a What Is behind what you perceive to be? Looks like you have your work cut out for you.”
“What’s that mean? How am I supposed to figure that out?”
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