January 11 – Jan. 22
I could hear a voice before I opened my eyes, and when I did, it was like trying to lift a safe filled with gold bars that was secured to the floor by Velcro. My mouth was an empty toilet bowl, cracked and drying and recently used for nasty business foul.
Andy stood by a picture window. He was avidly clutching his Beretta tight to his chest and talking.
I sat up and looked around. I was on a couch in a modest living room that once belonged to elderly people — a judgment I made from seeing the old 24 inch television set sitting on a flimsy TV tray, complete with the cheap fake copper trim. The bottom tray was bowed from the weight of all the magazines and old newspapers stacked on it.
“No, no, no – listen! Deploy them to the west and cut up from the south and they’ll be pinched in. Trust me!” He chirped mirthfully and set a walkie-talkie on the windsill. “Ah, you’re back. Good. Thought I might have lost you again.”
Andy stepped away from the window and I could see a disturbingly large amount of blood staining his shirt and down over his jeans.
“Just messing with the saps looking for us,” he said, flicking a finger at the walkie-talkie.
“Are you okay?” I croaked, not sure which hurt more, my eyes or my voice.
“Aside from the incredible pain in my stomach where that helicopter shot me, yeah, I am okay,” he replied too matter-of-factly.
“Shit! Fuck! Shot!” I tried to leap to my feet but it was more like a cooked sausage rolling off a barbecue grill onto the floor. Shamefully, I admit to immediately selfish thoughts: I need this guy and I can’t be toting a mortally wounded man around.
“Lie down!” Andy grabbed my shoulder as I flung at him, like a drunk reeling from a head rush.
“It’s okay. The pain should go away in a day or two,” he groaned.
Standing upright and taking full stock of my balance, I tried to comprehend what he was saying. If he had been shot by that helicopter, he’s damned lucky to be alive — in one piece, even. I didn’t know the kind of gun that had been fired at us, I just knew that it was a brand of weapon designed to obliterate, let alone kill. The movies didn’t do that uber-violence justice.
The images washing through my savagely stomped mind were movie-like.
“You sit down; let me check you out,” I said. “You’ll bleed to death, fuck.”
Andy brushed me off. “Forget about it. I’ll be okay. You, however, are really lucky to be in once piece. Divine inter-fucking-vention.”
I protested that he must be in terrible shock because he rarely swore. He laughed.
“Where are we?” I said after a moment or two of shocked staring.
Smiling like a child telling a big story, Andy told me that he had carried me two or three miles from the site of the attack and we were in a farmhouse.
“You carried me… for two or three miles?” I boggled, gaping at his bloody trunk.
“Now that you are bi-pedal again — which is pretty impressive considering the blast from that rocket… Man, are you lucky! We can move out. We can follow property lines and shit until we find a vehicle. Try to keep low and cool.” Andy sounded giddy.
“How do you mean you carried me two or three miles?”
I was clearly having difficulty believing that he had carried me that far with a bullet hole in his stomach. I’d lost about 10 pounds since the disappearance, I reckoned. That meant I was about 195 pounds — not counting my heavy winter clothes and weapons, which I noticed were stacked against and on a nearby chair.
I sat back onto the couch and sighed. “Nothing should surprise me anymore,” I said more to myself. “So you’ve been eating your Wheaties, then n’shit. And lucky for me. Right? But don’t you think you should be laying down and resting, never mind be on a morphine drip and under the constant watch and care of an elite medical team?”
Andy cut me off by noting the others were dead.
“Yeah, I know. I saw. And I don’t know why we didn’t join them, but here we are. Man, come on, you carried me two or three miles? With that?”
Andy stepped up to me and opened his coat. There appeared to be enough blood to proclaim ‘bleed out’ in the still dark, wet stain.
He pulled his shirt aside and wiped at the wound, which was in the center of his stomach. I thought about how it was lucky his spine wasn’t blown out and how the bullet must have miraculously passed by all his major organs. Fucking amazing. Twilight Zone on acid wobbling.
Andy pushed his index finger into the tacky bullet hole and grinned at me. A whoosh of nausea washed over me and my ears pounded, which was slightly better than the ringing that had been building a nasty headache.
“It’s nothing,” Andy laughed tiredly. “Nothing at all. Round tore right through me and missed the important bits. I’ll be all right, don’t you worry. You, on the other hand, appear to have mush inside your head from that explosion. We’ll stay here for the night and leave before first light. There are towns nearby. We can get a vehicle.”
Despite the severity of this new level of incomprehensible hell, I let myself slip back toward unconsciousness. It was a better place to be than here. Rain spattered on the roof of the farmhouse and drummed me on my way.
The last thing I muttered before I slipped into auto-repair was “you should be dead.”
I didn’t hear Andy’s whispered reply: “I’ve never been alive.”
The rain that was falling on the Snake River Plains was falling on West Yellowstone, several thousand feet above sea level higher.
Kenneth didn’t like it.
Stacy was the first to notice it was raining. “Hey, now that’s weird,” she said, pushing curtains aside.
A steady patter of fat raindrops slapped into the thick blanket of snow covering everything and they all stepped outside onto the front porch to take in the spectacle.
“It’s like watching sugar melt,” Stacy enthused.
“I’m thinking this isn’t normal for around here at this time of year,” Carrie said, looking at Kenneth.
Packing a stern scowl, he looked at her and replied, “aye.”
Ridley was busy scribbling something into a notebook that he retrieved from his things.
Carrie’s querying look was enough of a prompt.
“I have to make note of this,” he said. “I have never seen rain at this elevation before at this time of year. This means something much bigger,” he excitedly imparted. “This is unbelievable!”
Kenneth barked that the snowmobiles needed to be covered. “If they’ll be any bloody use to us in a day or two, if this keeps up.”
A steady rain spattered over most of Idaho that day. The giant system, fed by a massive warm low over the Pacific, a cooler low over central British Columbia, stretching into Alberta, and a warm low quivering out of the Gulf and heading north, covered the bulk of the Pacific Northwest. Had there been meteorologists appearing on television at that time, they would have been shrieking like baboons playing with a new form of fruit.
The downpour kept us indoors well past our desired departure point and at mid-day the helicopter returned.
Andy, remarkably spry for a man who had been shot by a large caliber weapon the day before, woke me from the constant stupor I was roiling in on the couch.
We could hear the chopper in the distance. The ‘thup-thup-thup’ of its rotors would seem to grow louder and closer and then they’d fade. A minute later — silence — my heart pounding in my chest, my hands wrapped around my shotgun wet and cold.
Frenzied sleep seized me for fits and bouts. The gray light coasting over the flower pattern wallpaper illuminated a new sector each time my eyes bolted open.
It was well into the early evening when I sat up and waited for the nausea. When it didn’t wiggle through me, I dared to stand and when no gravitational puke thing occurred, I forged ahead with great courage and stupidity and took a step, backwards, my ass slamming onto the couch. Standing at the grandmotherly ornate entrance to the small, tidy living room, designed more toward the fireplace than the small television set in the corner, stood Andy.
He was bare-chested. He had cleaned the blood away and aside from a dark circle in the centre of his stomach, there appeared to be nothing wrong with him. From recent events, at any rate. Andy’s chest, stomach, upper arms and back was a patchwork of dark scars of all shape and potential cause.
“Have you slept?” I asked, trying not to appear too shocked by the basic hideousness of his body. It was like a giant evil toddler tattooist had gone ape-shit on his GI Joe.
Andy said he had and he felt “dynamic.”
I contemplated having to stand again. It was a short thought. A fart when you’re peeing kind of thing. And I realized if I had to think about standing, I best not think about going for a cold, wet walk to God knows where with evil people flying helicopters bristling with aerial death.
Andy said he was cooking some Chef Boy-ar-dee raviole in a pot on a little fire in the basement. “Incase you wonder why you smell smoke.”
I said I had hoped he had lit a fire. But that would have been like just standing rigid and straight when you’re the gopher trapped in a Whack-A-Mole.
“We need energy and it’s a sin to leave behind good food. Too heavy to carry,” Andy said.
“So man, I gotta ask, what the hell happened to you?”
Andy said he had been shot and disappeared back toward the basement to stir some tomato goop.
“Four hundred times!” I weakly arfed.
He returned a few minutes later, holding a bowl of steaming tomato goop and handed it me.
I hadn’t felt hungry until I smelled the tart meaty waft from the bowl and sat, hunched, allowing the tiny steam from the bowl to rise into my neck and face. It was bliss.
Andy sat across from me. He scratched at his chest. “You know I am a fast healer,” he began.
I nodded, not wanting the raviole steam bliss to be interrupted and then my brain clicked back on.
“Fact is, I can’t die. Not completely and, well, I’ve tried… so many times I lost count,” he said.
The nature of many of our past talks had me prepared for more chapters and nothing really blew my mind any more. Ok, the hole in Andy’s stomach from a military helicopter machine gun bullet thing did a number but that had more to do with the fact my brain was liquid goofiness than anything else. At least I think so because my memory does get fuzzy at times.
That fuzzy memory thing gets in the way of most people’s spiritual advancement and understanding, by the way.
Apparently, according to Andy, I have a fuzzy memory for a reason. Death.
Andras was born in a small village outside present-day Ankara, Turkey. He was raised by a harsh but hard working father who provided for and kept ‘Andy’ safe after his mother died giving birth to him.
Hard work and dysentery robbed Andy of his father when he was just 11, launching the boy into his endless, mangled, tortured and ecstatically wonderful destiny.
Not long after his father died, Andras came upon a kind, old woman who was returning to “The Holy Land.”
She had been there when “the holy one had risen and her life had not been the same since,” Andy related. I nodded at him. I felt like a young boy hearing a fantastic bedtime story. To make it complete, I snuggled down on the couch, resting my head against the arm.
“I asked her if I could come along and she agreed, much to the chagrin of her travel companions,” he said.
I lifted my head from the arm and interrupted, “So you went to Israel when you were 11. Must have been an eye opener for you, even coming from Turkey.”
Andy realized he was missing the all-important timeline in his story.
“It was 111 A.D.,” he said with an ‘oh yeah’ in his voice.
My head pressed back against the couch arm. I told myself to shut up and just listen.
“I wasn’t very mathematical back then, and I didn’t know anything about Jesus Christ,” he continued. “So I couldn’t make the connection that the old woman — her name was Raola — had witnessed Christ’s resurrection. What she told me as we plodded toward Jerusalem, getting by on the kindness of strangers, left me in wonder. She had met Christ when he trekked through her homeland, now India. She said his gifted touch left many smiling during his wanderings and Raola was one of them. Christ cured her arthritis, something that always gets the atheists going off on paroxysms of shrill insanity! That was what she was suffering from when he took her by the arm and led her on a short walk. The pain in her arms and fingers and hands was gone when he gently bid her adieu, stretching an immense smile from her elderly, weathered face in the process. Her dark face lit up when she recalled it to me. Her tales of the Holy Land, which she visited a short time later as part of an epic journey, always seemed to cast a glow on her old face.”
Andy took a bite of the raviole from his bowl and paused.
“A few decades after she returned to India, Raola began to grow ill and a conversation with a driver in a passing merchant pack-train inspired her to leave India behind and head to the Holy Land once again, this time to die. The drivers relunctently agreed to allow Raola to take a seat on one of their camels. She was with the pack-train when they came upon me. She pleaded for my sake and the drivers, a sordid and awful bunch, allowed me to come along.
Andy took another bite of raviole and I wished he’d finish the bloody stuff because I was getting into this story, delivered to me in a dark, cold old farm house on the wings of an even, steady voice.
“I suppose all that is fluff and unimportant to a worldly journalist such as yourself, but the fact that this old woman was pals with the Lord God Almighty’s favorite son should get your attention, eh story teller?” Andy paused and flicked again at the walkie-talkie.
“She told me that Jesus told her that his father was going to unleash lessons of retribution and preparation and repair for his children on Earth. And to make that happen, angels would be sent to Earth to enact the battles of will necessary to prepare and repair, and to enact retribution. In time, his angels would make sure that balance was restored to Eden and the cycle will begin anew. Because the cycle is what is all-important. Fancy that, eh?”
Andy went quiet. I blinked and felt raking dryness in my throat. I had always believed in the likelihood of a person named Jesus Christ who captured the hearts and minds of willing believers – pastoral, desert-wandering sheep who feared the shadows and the thunder of cavalry – who simply wanted to find a path through life that made the terrors shrink in size. The essence of humanity – love – always finds a way, like water trickling through soil, and all that hubbub.
My mushy brain flurbled at the news the Bible and apparently most other religious tomes were spot on in many areas and scoffing doubters like me could eat shit and die, apparently. I was starting to get pissed off with Andy but my head hurt too much to say or do anything. Part of me thought he was delusional from the loss of blood.
“Raola then told me that I was one of those angels,” Andy continued. “My heart soared at the thrilling joy of it all. I was only 12 when she told me these things, so as you can imagine, I ran with it! It’s amazing what can happen when you believe in something so thoroughly. The universe flowed through me and I played with it relentlessly.
“I was 13 when I found out I can’t die. I was playing with some children on the edge of ravine and, being a daredevil, I walked along the edge of it. A piece of rock broke away from the edge and I fell into space. I still remember seeing such an amazing array of colour in the rocks passing by and time seemed to freeze – then I slapped into the jutting slabs of boulders that lined the bottom of the ravine. I hit feet first and should have been torn asunder. The pain was horrible but I was alive. I fell into a shuddering heap and can remember hearing the faint shouts and screams of the children at the top of the ravine.
“I woke up on a cot in the small room Raola rented with proceeds from tending to the ill. She was seated next to me and she launched into a fit of cackling when I opened my eyes.
“Raola had fulfilled her destiny. She found me and delivered me to my destiny. She had completed her final angel’s duty, as it were, a few hundred metres away from where Christ rose from the dead.”
Andy scraped the last few swirls of tomato goo from his bowl and placed it aside.
“Then began my trek through time — searching, finding, protecting and serving. All great human events prompted and coerced by an army of angels conducting the Father’s bidding and how-do-you-do. My path didn’t become clear until I hit the age I am now — perpetually 33. The moment I found the way to go, I stopped living, really.” He fell silent and pensively stared out the window into the misty, dusky grey of a dying day.
“Now I am really going to blow your fucking mind. Remember that fuzzy memory thing? Well, what I was getting at is most people have no clue about the lives they have lived, coursing through this grand cosmic vortex of learning and loving and existence.
“Raola became my mother and I doted on her when I could. As I got older I kept being seized by uncontrollable urges to explore and wander and continued to have amazing experiences and encounters. The most important of my existence, beside when I met Raola, took place in a small village outside Rome. That was where I met the great gladiator and noble warrior who taught me everything I know about killing.”
I thought to myself, ‘good, here comes the bit that takes the story from an Easter piece to a sword and sandal epic.’
“I cannot name him,” Andy said, looking hard at me, “because I promised him I never would and I have never dishonoured him. His teachings seized me with purpose and reason. I excelled and in time, I surpassed even his skill. On my 33rd birthday, he pierced my heart with his sword while I sat across from him, eating supper. He just reached down, grabbed his sword and with me looking on, like a dumb lout, he shoved his sword into my chest. He withdrew it, stood up and then plunged the blade into his chest. He was dead before he hit the floor.
“He knew I could not die. He had seen me live through things that provided no reasonable explanation, a reason why he took me under his wing. He believed I was a chosen one and it was his destiny to train me and prepare me.
“After I laid him to rest in a tomb, I returned home to Raola and discovered that she had died. On the exact same day as my mentor. I flew into a rage and vowed to never do my father’s bidding. I vowed to kill him myself. Centuries rolled past – a blur of killing and hatred and relentless anger. And here I am today… a fallen angel who has never been forgiven. I know this only now… since the disappearance, as you call it. My learning over the centuries prepared me for this eventuality. My only hope of moving onward — of my soul surviving, is to be reseeded and to do that, I must fulfill my destiny. And believe me, there have been occasions where I believed I had done so and I waited to die, even forcing the matter with my own hand. Nothing. And I have searched and waited and wandered. I’ve led armies of hell to force the inevitable; I’ve manipulated the great and I’ve screwed over the innocent in order to stay alive… to remain being.”
I just lay there staring at him. Had someone laid a story out like that to me prior to Nov. 11, 2011, I’d have enjoyed it and then thought them disturbingly delusional. But shit had happened since and the proof was in the hole in Andy’s chest as far as I was concerned.
“The thing is Rob, and you never appreciate hearing this… you’re my destiny. My destiny was to engage and inspire you toward your destiny,” he said.
“Go on,” I croaked. My ears were already perked up but now they were quivering.
“The first time I came upon you, you were gorgeous. You were in the prime of your young life, living a relatively safe and healthy life in southwestern Ireland. I met you while I was walking along the coastline, seeking a sign of life and nourishment after coming ashore. It was 777 A.D. and you were a 20-year-old wife and mother.”
I laughed out loud.
“You always laugh when I tell you the truth of your soul,” Andy said sharply.
“I am telling you all this now because, quite clearly, our world is not working on a normal rhythm, as you may have noticed. Do not dismiss or doubt or cast aside what I am telling you because we don’t have time to play ‘spare the dumb monkey’ games right now.”
I said I’d try to behave.
“I have now encountered you 11 times since 777. Just as Raola knew and the old warrior knew, I knew that I had found the purpose of my destiny. I had found my way forward, because you just kept reappearing in my life. So I kept a respectful distance from you and your family and made sure that you found occasional fortune. You had two sons. One, the youngest, was killed at sea while fishing. Your husband and your son were at your bedside when you died of some lung ailment, when you were only 42.
“We became great friends…”
“Oh no… don’t tell me…”
Andy laughed loudly. “You always do that, too!” He laughed harder and longer than I had seen him do so since I ‘met’ him in Oregon.
“No, no. You were someone I loved, don’t get me wrong. An angel has to love in order to do their work. And I had to love even more for all my sins. It took me more than 500 years to get over Raola. And enough encounters with other angels, most never ending nicely, taught me the error of my ways. You really never shed the stuff that becomes attached you from your doing. For me it was scaring the shit out of most people. I was always able to just thinking about doing something nasty to someone and they’d freak out. On a few occasions I have actually thought someone to death,” he said, wiping a finger in his empty bowl and slurping a red blob of goo down.
“That’s how I know I have found you, from your complete lack of fear of me. I scare evil people into gibbering puddles but good people only seem to be somewhat annoyed by me. That told me that I couldn’t be all that bad.”
I couldn’t help it. “No, just an asshole!”
Andy ignored the remark and continued. “After you died, I was lost once again. So I roamed afield, searching for a child that would be you. That was when I first came across your favourite old Scots bastard, Kenneth. Hard assed old soul, for sure. I could tell he knew that I had forsaken our father and his eyes tore through me like fire. I was building a boat to take me to Denmark. Not sure why I wanted to go there. I never questioned my urges. They always led me. Kenneth – can’t remember his names back then – approached me with a nasty blade in his hand and asked me what I was doing. I told him and when he realized I was trying to leave his rainy, green islands, he calmed right down. We spoke cordially. He knew what I was and I knew what he was. He was scared of me, I could tell. But he’d never admit it. And I knew he would give me all I could handle.
“The next day he returned to where I was building the boat, with a young girl — about nine or 10 years old — with these blazing blue eyes. She carried a large bowl with a prodigious amount of food in it. Bare in mind food was scarce on the east coast of central Scotland around the turn of the Eighth Century.”
I spat, “Carrie!”
Andy said she wasn’t called that then. “But yes, Carrie.”
I sat up.
“That got your attention. Carrie. She always did, my friend. Always, always. You do know that you have spent several lifetimes with her?” He laughed.
I said I fancied we had been lovers through time but thought it was also just as likely romantic bunk.
“If your heart believes something, my friend, it is not bunk,” Andy noted.
“Kenneth introduced me to his young charge for a reason and, do you know, I have wondered why ever since. Perhaps now I am just starting to understand. The fuzz is leaving my memory. I am telling you all this because you must start to step from the fuzz, too. The clearer you think and know and believe, the better off we shall both be. It’s time to ramp things up. We lost foot soldiers and have to do it all ourselves now. Won’t be able to recruit any more good killers, I reckon.”
Andy rose to his feet and peered out into the now ink dark night.
Ian Cobb/e-KNOWTags: 11:1111:11 - Chapter 39 – Part oneIan Cobb
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