Welcome to the Soul Journey Series
This is a story of mystery, fantasy and spirit, a journey through many worlds to find a truth that has been hidden from a young man who walks a lonely path. Along the way he will meet many souls, learn many lessons, and slowly discover the truth of what his journey is all about. His constant companion on this journey is a woman more beautiful than any vision he has ever seen. She holds the answers and will be his guide along his way. With her love to comfort him, he will discover the answers he is seeking and find his way home!
So far in the series there are four mini-novels. Each 4-chapter book contains another world in the journey of traveler. Each journey leads the reader one step closer to the truth of where he is and what is happening to him as he moves from world to world!
Below is a sample from each story in the series. I hope you enjoy it!
The Soul Journey Series, Book 1: The Awakening
Chapter 1: The Seeking
There was a sound...or was it just a vibration? It was rhythmical...steady, like a beacon in the darkness before me. Leading me forward? Or calling me back? I did not know which, or even why for that matter. Like the slow, steady beat of a drummer's call, it spoke to me in my inner self, and I felt compelled to answer, though I knew not where it would take me. I only knew I wanted to escape from the suffocating silence around me.
Slowly, the darkness gave way to shades of things past and things to come. There was movement all around me - or was it I who was moving? Though fearful, I gave in to the swirling of life as it swept past me, taking notice of my own rapid breathing as I journeyed forward into something new. It felt like a new birth of sorts, and carried with it the peril of leaving the safety of the womb and the promise of something more to come. And as I spilled out into this reality, I felt both the pain of searing loss and the release of gripping fear.
At last I could see my surroundings. All around me were the mists of morning in a forest that seemed as old as time itself. I rose from the ground - for it was then I realized that I had been face down on a wooded path at the edge of a clearing that led to a winding road. Putting one foot in front of the other, I ventured forth, taking in the sights and sounds and scents around me. The air was full of the twittering of birds in the trees, the ground alive with the scurrying of creatures rushing to remain hidden from this odd stranger moving through their domain.
After a while, I picked up the scent of wood smoke in the distance and heard the sound of men singing. It was both a harmony of voices and a singularity of resonance. After a moment, I recognized it as the hymn of men raising their voices to God in heaven. I moved further down the path until I could see a large stone structure that stood like monolith at the summit of a very large hill by the edge of the sea. The songs grew louder and carried on in a joyful harmony, and for a time it seemed to carry me along on the wind. I drank in their chorus of praise and let it wash over me in waves of peace and renewing strength.
At last the singing ended and I saw the men emerge from the building and take up tools to begin their labors for the day in the fields and stables and kitchen and scriptorium. I came to the pinnacle of the hill that at last revealed a tall and rugged wall that surrounded a group of buildings that made up the holy monastery. The monks were going about their daily work in silence now, and yet, in my heart, I knew that the praise being lifted up to the heights of heaven was as robust and resounding as my ears had already heard. It was a joyful sight and all that was within me longed to know more of these saintly servants in this sanctuary of hope.
I approached the gate to the monastery and saw a long, thick pull chord to one side. I took hold of it and tugged it, the peal of the small bell echoing with a music sweet to my soul. After a few moments, a small window within the gate slid open and I saw the face of an old monk who appeared as ancient as the great monument itself. He smiled and spoke: "Good morrow, young traveler. You are welcomed here. Come and rest within these walls. Have you come seeking?"
I paused, letting his question settle within me for a long moment. As I searched for an answer, I suddenly became aware that I knew nothing of where I had been or where I was going. I had no real sense of who I was or how I had even come to be where I now stood. Still, there was both a familiarity and a refreshing newness to all that was before my senses. And so I answered: "Yes, kind Sir - I have come seeking, but what I do not know! I only know that your music and holy prayers have called me - yea, carried me across an ocean of doubt to the safety of this shore!"
The old monk smiled and closed the small window. I heard the lifting of the heavy latch as the door was slowly pulled open. There, the old man stood, leaning upon his staff, with a younger man at his side. "I am Brother Bartholomew," He said. "And this is Brother Earnest. He will escort you to the Abbot, so that you may begin to find the answers you seek. May God go with you."
He placed his sturdy hand upon my shoulder in a gesture of blessing and bid me enter. Brother Earnest said nothing but bowed and turned to lead me to the Abbot. I followed in silence, my heart beating joyfully in anticipation of what awaited. As I walked into the largest of the buildings, I felt as though the arms of heaven itself were taking me into its embrace. As I passed a large dining hall, I could make out the aroma of freshly baked bread and bitter herbs from the meal that had just been served. It was then that I became aware of a deep hunger within me, an aching emptiness in the core of my being that longed to be filled.
We ascended a winding stone staircase and moved down a long, empty hallway to a large wooden door where another monk sat at a small table, entering notes into a small manuscript. He was a large man, perhaps ten years the senior to this younger man, with a full beard and a round face that was kind and eyes that sparkled with laughter. Brother Earnest bowed to his fellow monk and then again to me. I nodded my thanks and the young man left to return to the side of his elder. The monk at the door lifted the knocker and let it fall three times upon the heavy door. "Enter!" A voice called from inside.
The bearded monk pushed open the heavy door and smiled as I went inside. The Abbot nodded in recognition. "Thank you, Brother Clement. That will be all." Brother Clement bowed to the Abbot and then closed the door, leaving me to stand before a towering figure of a man, clean-shaven with finely chiseled features that showed both the discipline of his calling and the wisdom of his position. He looked at me with both kindness and strength. "Welcome,young traveler," he said with kindness and grace. "I heard the bell at the gates of our sanctuary, Come...come and sit so that we may talk."
I moved forward and the Abbot gestured for me to take a seat at a large oak table upon which laid a heavy, richly-ornamented Bible. The Abbot looked at me for a moment, as if searching into the deepest recesses of my heart. "I am Brother Peter," he said at last. "And what is your name?"
I hesitated. I realized that I did not even know my own name. I turned my head in shame, wishing I could reach into the void within my soul to discover my own identity. "It does not matter," the Abbot said at last. "God knows your name, and perhaps you are a messenger sent from Our Lord to test our hospitality. For I am convinced that we have entertained many an angel within these walls during my time here."
"I am no angel," I replied. "Nor am I a man deserving of such kindness. It pains me deeply but I do not know my own name, nor what has brought me here. It may be that I come bearing sins that are so great as to drive my memory from me. So perhaps Brother Bartholomew was correct. I am truly a seeker in this sacred place."
"Whether you are dearest saint or darkest sinner is for God to decide," Brother Peter remarked. "I will not judge, lest I myself be found unworthy. But it is certain that God has led you here. Let us together invoke His blessing for the journey you are about to begin."
I bowed my head in sadness. "I have no money, no name and nothing to offer. How will I repay you for the kindness you are showing to me?"
"You honor us by giving us the opportunity to serve you in His name," Brother Peter answered. "And a man with a strong back, a teachable mind and a willing heart has much to offer. There is work to do here - much good and hard work. You will find a place among us and you will learn the discipline of our order. In this, God will show you your true worth and identity."
"And what am I to be called, Brother Peter?" I asked.
Brother Peter was thoughtful for a moment before he spoke. "Like God's faithful traveler, you shall be known as Brother Paul. God has blinded you to your old way of life and brought you to a place where the scales have fallen from your eyes so that He may lead you to your chosen path."
"Brother Paul," I repeated. "I shall try to live up to the name you have given me." Though I did not know who I was, I knew who the Good Saint Paul was. I saw that the road before me was set and I knew I would follow to wherever it led. I could feel a deep sense of awe and wonder come upon me. It took hold of my fear and uncertainty and held it firmly within the hope that I had been given. I still felt a sense of emptiness and loss, a hunger for reconciliation and rest and a deep desire to know the truth, but I accepted this new course and, like Paul himself, would set sail upon the lonely sea of my faith until I reached the shore of the vision that was beginning to form in the deepest part of my soul...
The Soul Journey Series, Book 2: The Raging of the Sea
Chapter 1: Rescued and Recruited
I was a struggling soul, rising in this my baptism from the depths of the sea with a new and noble purpose, ready for a new chapter in my life. The large Man O' War before me in the water was from a time and place that was different from the world I had just left. And yet, already I recognized some familiar faces among those I would now encounter. It was strange, this jumping from one reality to the next; still, in some unperceivable way, it just felt right – like I belonged here as much as I had in the place I had been before. Were the two connected somehow? These thoughts were swimming in my head as I was hoisted out of the ocean and into the long boat.
Seaman Clement smiled and shook my hand. "Not to worry, good sir – we'll have ya fixed up in no time!" His accent was clearly British, and the ship upon which he and his companions sailed appeared to be from the era after the War for Independence fought against the Colonies in America. But how did I know this? And why did I know nothing else? It was a strange enchantment, having an understanding adapted to this place and time, but nothing more: no recollection of who I was and from where I had come, and no sense of where I was going or why I was going there, save the words of grace passed onto me from My Lady. I still retained the memory of my time with the brothers in the monastery, but in some odd fashion it too was a blur of thought and feeling, relegating itself to the archives of my mind. Only the lessons I had learned continued to impress themselves upon my consciousness. And the faces of the men here – some familiar, some new, were all somehow connected to this new quest in a way I was only able to grasp like the fading fog of the morning.
By now the boat had returned to the side of the ship and I slowly made my way up a rope ladder to the Quarter Deck. As I climbed, I took in the character of this weatherly sea boat. It was a seasoned vessel but well-kept, the pride of the men who sailed her. There were 24 large cannons, 12 on each side, and three masts, manned and ready at a moment's notice to spill the sails and venture forth to carry out any orders spoken by the Captain.
I arrived on the deck and looked down at my clothing. It appeared to be correct for the era in which I found myself, though this was only a vague understanding within me. I stood before my familiar Captain. He came forward and shook my hand. "Captain Phineas Leoni of the HMS Glory. Welcome aboard!" he said with a hearty British accent.
"Thank you, Captain," I replied. "Thank you for rescuing me."
"Your accent – American," The Captain said. "How did you come to be lost at sea? There have been no American ships in these waters."
I hesitated for a moment, searching for the right answer. "I'm sorry, Captain. I have no recollection of such things, except to say that I remember falling from a great height and struggling in the sea before being rescued by your men."
"A great height? From the mast of a ship?"
"No," I said. "I remember falling from a tall cliff."
The Captain gave me a curious look. "My good sir, we are at sea! I cannot see how you could have fallen from a cliff and made it this far out to sea."
"Beggin' the Cap'n ' s pardon," Seaman Clement interrupted. "Perhaps the lad fell into the water near the shore and made it to a ship that took him out to sea before he was tossed overboard."
The Captain did not look pleased. "Yes, thank you, Seaman – that will be all!"
"Captain, if I may," I began. "All I can say for sure is that I mean you no harm, nor do I have any knowledge of any plot against you or your ship."
"So you are not a spy then?"
"No Sir," I replied immediately. "I am...simply a man on a journey who became lost and now is found."
The Captain looked at me intently for a moment and then turned and called out: "Mr. Phillips!"
The Executive Officer came up to the Captain and saluted by holding his crooked index finger to his forehead. "Yes Sir!"
"Escort this man to Doctor Galloway and see that he is examined for injury. Then bring him back to my cabin."
"Very good, Sir!" Mr. Phillips replied. He turned to me. "If you please, Sir..."
As we walked below deck I took the opportunity to consider this man. He was a young officer, not more than 25 years old, thin but tall and solid. He carried himself with authority and grace, a gentleman officer for sure. I sensed that he had seen his share of blood and battle and had the knowledge and experience of a true sailor. We moved through the area where the gun crews waited by their cannons for further orders. Each man turned and made his obedience known with the same salute as we passed by. We made our way to the Infirmary, where the Surgeon sat at a small desk, looking into one of the medical volumes taken from his shelf. "The Captain wants you to examine this man for injuries. I will wait here and then escort him to the Captain's quarters."
"All right, Mr. Phillips," The Doctor said with a polished British accent. "We shall be finished shortly." He motioned for me to come inside and then slid the curtain over the door to the Infirmary.
He was a cultured man, with a kind face, long sideburns and a pair of spectacles at the end of his nose. He appeared to be in his late thirties, with a dignity to his countenance and gentle hands with long thin fingers that looked quite capable of wielding a scalpel with precision. He had been examining a sample of blood in a small microscope next to a candle that shone its light into the mirror of the instrument. I looked around the Infirmary. To one side, a small table held surgical instruments on a piece of canvas stained with the blood of men wounded in battle. The floor was lined with sand, placed there no doubt to steady the surgeon's feet as he worked with the sway of the ship on the open water. In the corner of the room sat a sturdy wooden desk and a cabinet containing other volumes of knowledge and refined reading. Next to the microscope lay open a note pad and writing stylus. This man was indeed a scientist as well as a surgeon.
He took a wool blanket from a shelf and wrapped it around me. "Dry yourself off," he said. "Let me take a look at you." He pulled his glasses up to his eyes and examined me, moving the collar of my shirt to one side to check for anything unusual. "You don't seem to have any scars or broken bones. Are you in any pain?"
"No Sir," I answered. "I feel quite fit, actually."
"Well, it would appear that you are in good health. I'm Doctor Thomas Gallaway. And you are...?"
I pulled the blanket around me more tightly to warm myself. "I really don't know who I am. There are shades of things – memories or insights, I don't know which – revealing themselves to me slowly. I only know that I'm on a journey I must complete."
He took my hands and examined them, turning them over. "These are the hands of a gentleman, not a seaman " of that I'm certain." I looked at him, puzzled as to why he had said that. "Oh, my apologies. When you've seen your share of war, it's hard not to have a bit of a jaded perspective."
"I understand, Doctor," I said. "And I can assure you and the Captain that I'm not here on some ill-intended assignment for an enemy government."
The Doctor's mouth formed a crooked smile. "Perhaps we can speak later. I would relish the opportunity to share conversation with a cultured gentleman."
"Thank you Sir – as would I."
I left with Mr. Phillips and we made our way to the back of the ship to the Captain's cabin. He knocked on the door and waited. "Come!" the Captain called.
I walked in with Mr. Phillips to see the Captain pouring over a series of maps of South America. He looked up and smiled. "Mr. Phillips, set a new course: South by Southwest."
"Aye Sir – South by Southwest!" With that, Mr. Phillips left, closing the door behind him.
The Captain gestured for me to join him at his table where he was enjoying a spot of tea. I nodded and sat down as he came over to the table. "Will you join me?"
"Yes, Sir – thank you," I said.
He poured the tea and sat down. I took the small cup in my hand and waited for him to speak. "I wish to apologize for any earlier abruptness on my part. We've been sailing under secret orders for the past two months and I'm afraid my tendency to weigh on the side of vigilance may at times make me less of a hospitable man. In times of turmoil, the only thing that keeps this little wooden world of ours afloat is discipline and an unwavering devotion to duty."
"I understand completely, Captain," I replied. "I too have been under orders or a more spiritual sort. I've been following a course, the destination of which is still unknown. Still, I see a divine hand in all of this and thus far, my own brand of discipline has served me well."
"I understand divine appointments," the Captain shared. "I have come to see that what we are doing here is of vital importance, and so I find I must place my trust in the saints who protect sailors as I follow my orders to the end."
I paused, a thought suddenly occurring to me. "Captain, if I may – how is it that you have come to trust me this quickly, especially when my own circumstances are vague and uncertain?"
The Captain chuckled. "I'm afraid I must admit that this is Seaman Clement's doing. Though he has a tendency toward boldness in speaking, I've found him to have an uncanny sense for these sorts of things. When he breached protocol to defend you, I knew I had to rethink my position."
"And what is that position, Captain?" I asked. "What is to be done with me?"
"You are welcomed to join this crew and remain here for the time being, though I cannot alter my orders to accommodate your needs," The Captain answered. "We will be making port along the coast soon, to refit and resupply. You will be free to depart there and seek passage on a ship bound for North America."
Immediately I made my choice. "I should like to stay and submit to your orders, Captain. I will do my best to be a good seaman."
The Captain shook his head. "You are obviously an educated man. But I'm not sure what sort of position would suit your learning. Do you have any experience as a seaman?"
Alas I did not. "No, Captain. But I will do whatever work is available so long as I may remain onboard. All I know for sure is that my journey is now tied up in yours."
"A curious statement," the Captain said. "I don't know what to make of it, but I must warn you that a life at sea can be a lonely and difficult one, especially for a lowly seaman."
"I have been lonely and I am now lowly," I said. "I'm ready for the discipline of the service. I promise you this: I will do my best to serve with honor, distinction and loyalty, no matter the circumstances and no matter the cost!"
The Soul Journey Series, Book 3: Fight the Good Fight
Chapter 1: The Enemy Below
Once again I found myself in the middle of an intense conflict, the sights and sounds around me a dizzying blur of unfamiliar form. I struggled to know my surroundings, to come to terms with the discordant reality assaulting my senses and my soul. As I regained my equilibrium, I saw that I was aboard a World War II destroyer, the ships crewmen engaged in a battle against a German S-boat that buzzed past our port side like an angry hornet. I looked down at my clothing. I was wearing a sailor's dungarees and shirt with a gray vest, a pen and pad in my left breast pocket. There was a Navy-issued Kodak 35 millimeter camera hanging down from my neck on a leather strap. Instinctively, I picked it up and began snapping photographs of the action as the officers shouted orders and the crew manned the guns to take out the enemy.
The fast-moving S-boat was heavily armed with several torpedoes and a deck gun that fired at the destroyer. Somehow I knew that one carefully launched deadly fish could cripple our larger ship and even sink her to the bottom of the sea. Though I should have been afraid, I let the adrenaline coursing through my veins carry me to the side of the ship as I continued to take photographs of the battle. Suddenly I looked up and saw a familiar face come out from the bridge, a ships microphone in his hand. "CREWMEN, TO THE CHARGES! SET DEPTH FOR MINIMUM! PREPARE ON MY ORDER TO RELEASE!"
"Aye Aye, Captain Phillips!" a young Lieutenant called. I turned and saw my old friend once more. His accent was now thoroughly American. "SO, MR. CHRISTOPHER, FINALLY GETTING YOUR SEA LEGS? WELL MAKE A SAILOR OUT OF YOU YET!"
"LIEUTENANT ROGERS! I WANT A FULL SPREAD ON THOSE DEPTH CHARGES ON MY SAY!" the Captain called. He turned toward the Bridge. "COMMANDER ROLLINGS, 30 DEGREES TO PORT, ALL AHEAD FULL!"
The huge ship began to turn directly into the path of the oncoming S-boat. The ship came close to ramming the smaller vessel, but it quickly turned out of the way. The Captain shouted again: "GIVE ME A HARD TURN TO STARBOARD NOW! GIVE IT ALL SHES GOT!"
The destroyer began to turn and I felt the sway of the ship as it cut into the waves. I continued to snap photos, like an artist painting pictures on film. As I turned around, I saw that the S-boat had turned once again to follow the destroyer, coming up straight behind, lining up for a torpedo shot. The Captain yelled, "NOW, LIEUTENANT!" and my friend turned to order the crew to release the depth charges. But at that moment, a spray of bullets from the S-boat took two of the crew and Lieutenant Rogers down.
My body surged with rage and fear as I ran to the area where the men were. I pulled the lever and released the depth charges into the water, letting five drop in quick succession from the port launcher. The Captain then gave another order to make another starboard turn and I released five charges from the starboard launcher. The S-boat was just about to let loose its torpedo when the depth charges began to go off. The first one exploded to the port side of the vessel, causing the pilot to turn toward starboard right into the path of the other depth charges. The next two charges went off directly in front of the S-boat, the shock wave sending two of its crew into the water. Then the very next charge exploded directly below the S-boat, blowing a hole right through the center! I managed to take several more photographs of everything.
The Captain maneuvered the destroyer into position and, with its heavy deck guns, easily blew the stationary ship out of the water! The encounter was over as quickly as it had begun.
I moved swiftly to the injured men. One crewman was dead, the other had been shot in his side. I quickly removed my shirt and put pressure on the wound. Two other crewmen came over with the ships doctor. "DOCTOR GALLAWAY!" I heard Lieutenant Rogers shout. "JONES IS DEAD, BUT ENSIGN THOMPSON NEEDS ATTENTION."
"What about you, Lieutenant?" Dr. Galloway called with a slight southern accent. "You've been shot!"
"Eh, they only winged me!" Lieutenant Rogers called as he came up to the injured ensign. "I've cut myself worse shaving! Take care of young William here!"
The doctor and the crewmen carried Ensign Thompson to the Sick Bay for emergency surgery. I turned toward my friend and looked at his wound. His right arm was bleeding from a bullet that was still lodged there. "Come on, my friend; we need to get you to the medical bay as well!" I grabbed my handkerchief and put it over the wound. "I know you're tough, but youre not invincible!"
"It'll take more than a stray bullet to bring down Ol' Johnny Rogers, Michael!" he said. "I'll go and tend to this after I secure my station!"
"YOU'LL GO NOW, LIEUTENANT!" Captain Phillips ordered. "I can have Chief Standish take care of things here!" The Captain descended the metal staircase and walked up to the two of us. "I want you shipshape before our briefing this evening. Now get going!"
"Yes Captain!" Lieutenant Rogers said. He left to head to Sick Bay. The Captain turned toward me. "In the future, Mr. Christopher, I would prefer you stuck to the business of war correspondence and leave the ship's business to the crew. I'm charged by Admiral Leo himself with your safety!" He paused and then put a hand on my shoulder. "But all the same, Michael it was very brave what you did - foolhardy, but brave! I don't know if we would have survived the encounter if you hadn't done it."
"Thank you, Captain," I said. "I guess I just got caught up in the moment. I couldn't just stand there and do nothing, not with all our lives at stake."
"Well, I'm glad youre in one piece," the Captain continued. He turned to a young officer who was coming down the staircase. "Lieutenant Higgins, have you finished setting up Mr. Christopher's quarters?"
"Yes, Captain," Lieutenant Higgins replied. "If you please, Mr. Christopher, I can take you there now."
"Get some rest, Mr. Christopher," the Captain said. "I'll see you for dinner in the Officers Mess at 17:00 hours. We'll conduct the briefing there afterward."
"Yes, Captain. Thank you; I'll be there."
I left with Mr. Higgins, who escorted me through the ship to my quarters. I went inside and looked around. There was a cot all made up, and a typewriter open on a small metal desk on the outside wall where a satchel lay on its side, a clutter of papers having spilled out during the battle. I saw some clothes hanging up to the side and a small shaving kit by the sink. Lieutenant Higgins stood by the door. "Will you be needing anything else, Mr. Christopher?"
"No thank you," I said. "And thank you for preparing my quarters."
"My pleasure, Sir," Lieutenant Higgins replied. "I'll be back shortly before 17:00 hours to escort you to the Officer's Mess. Oh, and by the way, there's some mail for you on your desk. With that, he turned and left."
I moved over to the desk and sat down. There in the typewriter was a piece of paper with the title, "Life Aboard the US Navy Destroyer Peterson by Michael L. Christopher" typed in at the top. On the desk next to the typewriter was a copy of Stars & Stripes and a lead story on Page 1 with my name in the byline. So I was a war correspondent for Stars & Stripes, apparently here now to do a story on the men and mission of this ship. At least it had a name that reminded me of the strength and character of an old friend.
I began to look through the papers strewn across the desk. There were photographs of the men of The Peterson that had been taken earlier, along with rough drafts of the article I was writing. Then I noticed it. A small envelope lay among the papers, addressed to me and forwarded from an base in the States. I took a letter opener from the desk and opened up the envelope. Inside was a sheet of paper that smelled of the sweetest perfume, so recognizable it took me back to the beginning when I had first met My Love. There was a picture as well, and in color no less! There she was, My Lady, in all her beauty, wearing a velvet burgundy dress, her dark hair shorter and suited for the period in which we found ourselves. Her full lips were curved up into the tiniest smile, as if she were fully aware of my emotions at the very moment I saw her image in the photograph. Perhaps in some mystical manner she was, for she was indeed a wondrous mystery, connected to me in some otherworldly way.
I unfolded the letter and began to read:
Though the time has passed so quickly, I feel as though it has been an eternity since I have heard your voice. I pray the confusion and disorientation passed without too much pain and that you are settling into your new life here. Whatever you are facing now and whatever will come your way in the time ahead, know that I will be with you through it all. I miss you and long for your passionate words and your tender touch. You have a special task to undertake aboard this mighty ship and though you may not realize it yet, it will be one of the most critical moments you will face on this journey. There is not much more I can say to prepare you except to urge you to do the following. There will come a moment when you experience something beyond the normal course of human living, an otherworldly encounter with a mysterious force that cannot be explained. When that happens, please do not hesitate to act as your inner voice prompts you. Your life and future will depend on it. No matter how absurd it seems, and above the objections of those around you, act as your spirit directs and you will find victory and success. When all is well and you have moved on, I shall see you in person once more. Beware the enemy below, My Love. You are strong and soon youll discover that you will be stronger still. Take my love with you and hold it close to your heart.
I am forever yours,
I inhaled deeply, for I suddenly realized how her words had taken my very breath away. Her enigmatic letter brought both an unsettled feeling and a wave of calm to my soul. Like the unpredictable sea around me, I knew I had to ride out the waves of uncertainty into which this new adventure had drawn me. I folded the letter and placed it back into the envelope, then put the picture of Christina into the right pocket of my vest. I spent the time before me sorting through the papers and photographs, wondering if something there might give me a clue as to what lay before me. I could discern nothing specific about my future, not in the individual images and scraps of words; but having scanned them, I felt something begin to well up within me, an emotion and a determination I could not quite understand. Still it seemed to hold me in its embrace, and I felt as though my body, mind and will were being pulled along like a piece of steel to a magnet.
Just before 17:00 hours, Lieutenant Higgins came to retrieve me and we made our way to the Officers Mess. I entered to find the Captain there with Commander Rollings, Lieutenant Rogers, Chief Standish, Doctor Gallaway and two other gentlemen I did not know, both dressed in marine uniforms. "Come in, gentlemen," the Captain ordered. "Lieutenant Higgins, please close the door."
I sat down at the table where a plate of food was set before me. The Captain then spoke again: "Mr. Christopher, you know most of the crew here. These gentlemen are on loan to us from Naval Intelligence. This is Major Harper and this is Lieutenant Benson."
Major Harper was a large gentleman, a fighting man for sure. Though apparently in his mid-fifties, he looked to be in excellent physical shape. Lieutenant Benson was a younger man with blonde hair, thin but formidable. The Captain continued: "Lieutenant Benson has operational control of this mission and Major Benson will be training our sailors for combat."
"Forgive me for speaking out of turn, but what is our mission, Captain and why am I here?" I asked.
"It will all become clear, once the Lieutenant explains," Captain Phillips replied.
Lieutenant Benson spoke next. "We're here to test a new type of sonar equipment, Mr. Christopher. German U-boats have been taking out our merchant vessels almost at will. Weve lost some good ships and some good men trying to destroy them, but the costs have been too high. Weve captured one of their Enigma coding devices, so we have an opportunity to turn the tide. Our scientists have come up with a more precise targeting system for our sonar and were here to put it to the test."
"We know there're going to be some attacks planned in this location here," Major Harper added. He unrolled a small map and pointed to a grid close to our location. "Once we broke their code, we started some radio chatter about a supply ship heading for England that is due to arrive tomorrow. We know the U-boat is headed there to intercept it."
"The supply ship heading our way is a decoy," Lieutenant Benson continued. "It has a minimal ship's compliment and an empty cargo hold. Our job is to activate the new equipment, find that sub and disable or sink her. Captain Phillips has demonstrated that he knows a thing or two about taking on the enemy."
"And Mr. Harpers role in all this?" I asked.
"Well, we must prepare for every contingency," Major Harper remarked. "Should Captain Phillips not succeed and we find ourselves being boarded, we can't allow our new equipment to fall into the enemy's hands. We'll be doing all we can to protect the sonar and Lieutenant Benson and you, of course, Mr. Christopher."
"Again, why me?" I questioned." What's my role in all this?"
"Admiral Leo wants you to keep a record of this for history," Captain Phillips answered. "He said that next to destroying the enemy below, your mission is the highest priority."
"Apparently, Admiral Leo feels your efforts will be vital to the war effort, Mr. Christopher," Lieutenant Benson added. "He said he would like you to work closely with me on this project, in addition to your other duties."
The Captain lifted his glass of tea and the crew did the same. "To our distinguished guests, Lieutenant Benson, Major Harper and Mr. Christopher and to the success of our mission! To victory, gentlemen!"
"To Victory!" we all answered.
The next few hours involved further briefings and training. Major Harper prepared a compliment of the ship's crew for the unlikely eventuality of an enemy boarding. Lieutenant Benson showed me the new equipment and explained its operation. In truth, however, I remembered very little of what he said. In fact, his briefing seemed to pass by like a whisper in the night. For my part I spent time talking more photographs and making notes for the article I was to write. Later, as morning approached, I found myself on deck of the destroyer, looking out at the fading stars, considering our upcoming mission and missing My Lady. I lifted my camera to the sun rising with the clouds on the horizon and took a picture. It was strange. The more I thought about these things, the more I felt a dull aching within me, which turned into a specific sharp pain within my chest on the left side. It was as if something was attacking me from within, reaching out into the depths before us in a strange bond that shook me to the core of my being.
Startled, I turned to see my old friend standing beside me, two cups of tea in his hands. The sound of him using a British accent caused my mind to race momentarily back to my earlier time on the old wooden Man O' War. He handed me a cup of tea. "What's the matter with you, Michael? You look like you've seen a ghost!"
"Sorry, Johnny," I said as I shook my head and took a sip of my tea. It's been a long night!"
"I hear you, brother!" he replied. "The Captain's had me up all night on watch so he could be fresh as a daisy come sunrise when we take out this sub! I told him he should have put Lieutenant Higgins on watch, but you know him. But if he thinks I'm gonna be lying in my bunk when the action starts, he needs sleep more than I do!"
"Well, I slept better knowing you were at the helm."
"You slept?" Lieutenant Rogers said laughing. "Everytime I checked in with Lieutenant Benson, he told me you were studying the equipment, trying to learn all about it."
"I'm afraid I didn't understand too much," I admitted. "To be honest, Johnny, I don't remember a lot of what he said. I'm still not sure why I'm so important to this mission. I guess I'll know at some point."
"You'll do just fine, Michael - I just know it!" Lieutenant Rogers said.
"And I know you should get some sleep!" I said. "Otherwise you'll be too tired when the shooting starts."
"Well, Michael," Lieutenant Rogers said as he slapped me on the back, "I'll take a crack at my bunk, but I doubt I'll get any sleep. I'm too worked up. You'd better head on down to the new sonar equipment."
"Be safe, my friend," I said. I started for my station when I felt a sudden pain in my chest. I dropped to the deck and shut my eyes to the pain. In an instant, I saw a vision of a submarine closing on our position, lurking under the water like a hungry shark coming in for a kill. I could feel its presence like an invading germ in my own body. I felt a rush of adrenaline course through me and quickly I made my way to the Bridge where the Captain was standing, looking out over the ocean with his binoculars.
"CAPTAIN - WE NEED TO TURN THE SHIP! THERE'S A SUB HEADING STRAIGHT FOR US IN THAT DIRECTION" I turned and pointed behind me to the place in my vision where I had seen the German U-boat.
"What in God's name are you talking about, Mr. Christopher?" The Captain said. "We're an hour away from where the sub is supposed to be! Why aren't you down with Lieutenant Benson testing the new Sonar equipment?"
"I can't explain how I know what I know, Captain, but you must believe me!"
"I'm not going to start turning this ship without some sort of confirmation, Mr. Christopher!" the Captain insisted. "Now please get to your station and get me the information I need!"
"But Sir, I..." I saw the resolve in his eyes and I realized it was useless to argue. "Yes, Captain."
I made my way down to where Lieutenant Benson had set up the new Sonar equipment. "Well, Mr. Christopher it's about time! Where have you been?"
"I'm sorry Lieutenant," I began, "I was speaking with the Captain. Look, I need to say something to you..."
"Right now, what we need to do is get this new equipment up and running so we can test it!" Lieutenant Benson remarked. "If you'll give me a hand please?"
"Yes Sir," I replied. I moved to the control panel and began to switch on the sonar equipment. Suddenly I felt the same pain I had experienced earlier. Once more I fell to my knees and came near to losing consciousness as the vision of the U-boat filled my mind once more. This time, I saw the submarine launch a torpedo. I knew we had no time to lose.
"Lieutenant we need to tell the Captain to make a hard turn to Starboard and prepare for depth charges!" I cried.
"What? Are you ill, Mr. Christopher?" Lieutenant Benson asked as he continued to turn on the equipment. "We haven't even gotten the system up and running. I can't tell the Captain to maneuver the ship without some kind of reason!"
I could wait no longer. I grabbed the intercom and called up to the Bridge. "EMERGENCY! CONTACT BEARING 2-0 DEGREES SOUTH BY SOUTH WEST. RECOMMEND IMMEDIATE 30 DEGREE TURN TO STARBOARD!"
After a moment, I heard the Captain give the order and felt the ship begin to turn. Suddenly, I felt the pain more intensely and saw in my mind's eye the torpedo as it closed on our position. I knew what I had to do. I ran through the ship and made my way to the depth charges. Quickly, I set one and released it into the water. My friend looked at me. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, MICHAEL? ARE YOU CRAZY?"
The depth charge went off, disturbing the water just enough to push the torpedo aside, lessening the impact as it struck the ship. The explosion shook the deck and sent shrapnel flying in all directions. Lieutenant Rogers was struck and went down. Quickly I ran over to him and lifted him up. The shrapnel had lodged in his chest close to his heart and he was bleeding profusely. I hoisted him onto my shoulders and raced to Sick Bay.
I made it through the doorway and laid my friend on a table. Doctor Gallaway came over. "Oh Dear Lord! Get me a surgical kit quickly!"
I ran over and got the kit and Doctor Gallaway began to operate as another man entered and began to assist. I hated to leave my friend, but I knew I needed to get to the Bridge. The pain in my chest began to worsen and in my mind I saw the submarine closing for another torpedo shot.
I raced up to the Bridge and began shouting: "WE'VE GOT TO TURN THIS SHIP TO PORT AND LAUNCH DEPTH CHARGES NOW!"
The Captain looked at me. "CHRISTOPHER - ARE YOU INSANE! GET OFF MY BRIDGE!"
At that moment, a call came to the Bridge from Lieutenant Benson. "CONTACT BEARING DIRECTLY BEHIND US, CLOSING RAPIDLY! HE'S GETTING READY TO LAUNCH ANOTHER TORPEDO!"
The Captain looked at me and turned to the man at the wheel. "ALL AHEAD FULL, HARD TO PORT!" He took the microphone and began shouting orders to the crew. "SET DEPTH CHARGES AT 25 FEET! RELEASE WHEN READY!"
I felt the pain in my chest once more. "50 FEET CAPTAIN!"
The Captain got on the microphone once more. "CORRECTION - MAKE DEPTH 50 FEET - 5-0 FEET! LAUNCH NOW!"
The crew began launching the depth charges into the water. I felt another surge of pain in my heart and then I understood something. I picked up the intercom and punched in the Sick Bay. "Doctor Gallaway! Look for a tiny piece of shrapnel just slightly to the left of the aorta near the left subclavian artery!"
"The Doctor's a little busy right now, Bridge!" a voice called out.
"JUST DO IT! JOHNNY'S LIFE DEPENDS ON IT! USE...USE A MAGNET TO REMOVE IT!"
With that, I felt myself lose consciousness and I slipped into another vision. I was in a hospital, more modern than the Sick Bay on the Peterson, looking down from above on a patient in the middle of surgery. I could hear the doctor saying something:
"Did the patient just speak?"
"I think I heard, "aorta subclavian" but I don't know who said it!" another doctor replied.
The first doctor spoke: "My God! There's a tiny fragment just to the left of the aorta, near the left subclavian artery! There's a tiny nick in the artery wall. Hand me the magnet!" He carefully removed the fragment and put it in a metal bowl. "Suture!" he called and began to stitch up the tiny hole in the aorta he had found.
I looked on as the doctors continued the operation. Suddenly I became aware of someone nearby. I turned to see a woman looking in through a window above the Operating Room. It was Christina! I looked into her tear-filled eyes for a moment and then the vision began to fade. I found myself spinning into the blackness, floating back to the reality I had just left.
I awoke to find the Captain and Doctor Gallaway standing over me. I was lying in a bed in Sick Bay, "What happened?" I asked.
"You had a mild heart attack!" Doctor Gallaway replied. "You collapsed on the Bridge."
I began to sit up. "The U-boat! Did we..?"
"Sank her to the bottom of the ocean," the Captain said. "You were right, Michael. I don't know how, but you knew exactly where to turn and how deep the sub would be. I thought she would have been up to periscope depth getting ready to fire another torpedo, but she was below that, on her way to going deep when we hit her with the charges. I suppose the turn you made spooked her and she decided to make a run. I guess we'll never know."
"And how is Johnny?" I asked.
"He's still in rough shape, but he'll make it," Doctor Gallaway replied. "Thanks to you, Mr. Christopher. If you hadn't called down telling me to check by his aorta, I never would have seen that tiny piece of shrapnel. And telling me to use a magnet to remove it? That was brilliant! You saved his life!"
"I just received a radio call from Admiral Leo, congratulating us on a successful test of our new sonar equipment," the Captain continued. "He sends his thanks and has asked that you be transferred to the Highgate Royal Air Force base In Middlesex, England. Apparently, he has a new assignment for you, Mr. Christopher, after you complete a nice little propaganda piece for Stars & Stripes, of course!"
The rest of my stay aboard the USS Peterson was a blur of activity. I completed my article though I scarcely remember at all what I wrote, celebrated with the officers and crew and packed my belongings for my departure once we reached England. I was at a loss as to what the visions I experienced meant and indeed how I experienced them in the first place! How had I been able to know the U-boat's exact position or what was needed in order to win the day? How did I know precisely what was needed to save my friend, Lieutenant Rogers? And who was that individual in the hospital, a world removed from this one? I wondered if that was where I might be headed once this world was done with me. Somehow, I knew My Lady would know and help me to make sense of it all; and somehow I also knew I would be seeing her soon.
I learned that Lieutenant Rogers was recovering nicely, and was being sent home, as soon as we arrived in England. I was happy for my friend, though I had a curious feeling that this was not to be the last time I would see him in this world.
The day had been a long one, and I was glad it was finally over. I took out the picture of My Lady and looked with love upon the beautiful image once more. There was still much ahead of me and I longed to move forward on the path to this journey's end. In time, all of this would make sense. In time, I would complete the journey and find my way home, wherever that might be. But for now, there were more roads to follow and follow them I would!
The Soul Journey Series, Book 4: Transformation
Chapter 1: Altered States
Update Coming Soon