Categories
Arts & Entertainment ebooks fiction Science Fiction short stories

It’s Coming–No Time to Waste


Actually, IT has arrived. The eBook–Not the catastrophe.

Download the eBook Free on Amazon Now Through July 11th, 2021

The Silver Sphere started out as five episodes posted intermittently on this blog. I’ve deleted the posts, re-written the story, and now it is available on AMAZON worldwide for only $1.49. Download it today and treat yourself to an engaging, fun, Science Fiction thrill ride. To whet your appetite, here’s Part One. Click on the Spotify button above if you’d like to listen to a professional narrator read it.

Man Walking On A Moonlit Beach

PART ONE

Jacob

IT WASN’T REALLY a sphere.

I found it on the beach. Right at the water’s edge. Actually, I’m not entirely sure I found it. The sphere may have found me in some karmic sort of way. We’ll have to wait until later to sort it out because, as I will soon learn, time is in short supply.

First things first.

My name is Jacob Casell. Two days ago, I left a comfortable beach house to go out for a stroll in the middle of the night. The full moon and stars were my sole companions. I needed to think about the ending of my latest novel. I found the water and the salt air helped to stimulate my creative thinking.

The night was clear. I splashed my feet in the tips of the tides. I
felt the crisp ocean breeze ruffling my longish hair as if it were saying, tell me your story. Before I could answer, I almost tripped and fell. A thing about the size of a basketball rocked gently in the water at my feet. I had the distinct feeling it was looking up at me, even though it had no discernable eyes.

The thing at my feet was a shiny silver sphere punctuated by streamlined indentations on its sides. It had a hole in the center which, in the moonlight, revealed nothing but bottomless darkness. Hardly an eye. Not a human one, at least.

As I examined it, the sphere began to pulsate. I stepped a few feet away. The sphere flashed on and off like a strobe light. I wondered if the damn thing was about to explode. Suddenly, the sphere stopped strobing. Then, it spoke to me. A voice inside my head spoke in stilted English.

“Do not be alarmed,” the thing said. “The lighting effect was me
reanimating my systems. No sense wasting energy while I was waiting for you to happen along. You certainly took your time, didn’t you? And, by the way, I’m not a ‘thing.’ I am a highly evolved organism. You can think of me as artificial intelligence. I am actually much more than an AI, but your mind is not capable of conceiving what I truly am.”

I drew back a few more steps thinking, I must be dreaming. This can’t be happening.

“For a man who writes novels, you display little imagination,” the sphere said.

I felt strangely comfortable speaking to the machine, as if speaking to a telepathic silver sphere was as everyday an occurrence as eating a tub of macaroni and cheese for dinner.

“How do you know I’m a writer?” I said out loud. I wasn’t in the habit of communicating telepathically, after all.

“I’ve absorbed quite a bit of information about you in the short time we’ve been together.”

“I’m not sure I like that.” I didn’t say it out loud this time. I thought it.

“It doesn’t matter if you like it or not.”

“It matters to me.”

It seemed like the machine was surprised by my response and needed time to process it. I pushed the advantage. “It sounds like you were expecting me.”

“I was expecting someone. I suppose you’ll do.”

“Uh huh. Do you have a name?”

“You can call me Arcon. A-R-C-O-N.”

“Got it. I suppose you came here from some far distant solar system?”

“Next you will ask me: ‘do I come in peace?’”

“Do you?”

“The answer is yes and no. I’m not here to hurt anyone, but there will be worldwide chaos if news of my mission leaks out.”

“That sounds ominous.”

“It’s nothing compared to what will happen if you don’t help me to complete my mission.”

“Since you appear to know everything about me, you must realize that I’m not at liberty to help you. I’m past my deadline for turning in the final draft of a manuscript. My editor calls to scream at me daily.”

“There is a much bigger picture here than your manuscript. I’ll dispense with the formalities and call you by your first name which, naturally, I’ve learned without your help. I’m getting cold and tired of soaking in this sea water, Jacob. Please take me back to the beach house your wealthy friend has lent you.”

“But I just told you—”

“Pick me up, Jacob. If I miss my deadline, you won’t have to worry about yours.”

Categories
Science Fiction short stories

To Engage With Time


Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, Oil painting, Americana,

What makes Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting one of his most celebrated works? Created in 1942, Nighthawks is considered the incarnation of existential art, capturing the alienation and loneliness symptomatic of modern urban life. The following story is inspired by the painting.

I mount the time machine and dial the year nineteen-forty-two. I have a keen interest in the war years. Activities like storming the beaches of Normandy are not high on my priorities list. I stay far behind the front lines. I find the study of American culture during the war years fascinating. I stay away from heavily populated cities to remain inconspicuous. You might say I’m not truly adventurous, excluding, of course, time travel and my voracious appetite for knowledge. I’m a scientist, first and foremost. As soon as I’ve perfected my time-traveling technology, I intend to unveil it in a white paper report and work with a team to use my discoveries for the betterment of mankind.

I finish entering all of the pertinent data into the onboard computer and push the launch button.  Seconds later, the machine deposits me in the small town of Independence, Ohio. On this trip, I find myself on a corner across the street from an all-night diner. My trans-spacial watch tells me it’s two-thirty in the morning. Materializing in small towns on deserted streets in the middle of the night is a proven method for avoiding stampeding crowds.

Illustration of a time machine from the story "A Lesson In Time" by David Gittlin

I’m a bit freaked out by the feeling of emptiness the town exudes. I console myself with the thought that I’ve arrived in the middle of the night and everything is closed except, it seems, the diner across the street.

Through the panoramic window, I see four people sitting at the counter inside. My curiosity peaks as I begin, once again, to study life in the past, this time eighty years ago. This morning will be different than the others in one important respect. It marks the first time I will interact with people and environments of the past. I feel that I’ve learned enough from my previous trips to take this momentous step. And, I can no longer resist the urge to relate to people instead of simply observing them.

As I cross the street, I check my reflection in the large window. I’m dressed appropriately for the era in a blue business suit and matching tie with black wingtip shoes and neatly barbered hair. I’ll blend right in. Swinging open the glass and chrome door, I enter the cafe and take a seat at the counter a measured two seats away from a man sitting by himself. 

The small diner smells of stale cigarette smoke, fresh coffee, and the faint scent of body odor from the man two seats away. To my right, half the wall is fitted with small bins containing tempting muffins, cakes, and breads.  Across the counter, a nice-looking middle-aged couple sit demurely drinking coffee. The man is wearing a gray suit with a matching hat, blue tie, and he’s smoking a chesterfield unfiltered cigarette. The pack lying by his hand on the counter tells me the cigarette brand. The man looks like a lawyer or a doctor. The woman is wearing a green silken cocktail dress. It sets off her blazing red hair nicely. By the looks of the two-carat diamond ring on her hand, I figure the couple is well-off and married.  I suppose the couple is drinking coffee to sober up for the drive home after a festive dinner party.

The man behind the counter approaches me. He is undoubtedly either the owner, or someone related to him. This is an independent operation as so many of these places were before chain automats and eventually Starbucks put most of them out of business.

“Coffee?” the man behind the counter offers. Wearing a blazing white uniform, he’s a smallish man with wire-rimmed glasses who is going prematurely bald.

“Black,” I say.

“You must be new around here,” the man says.

“You could say that,” I reply.

Lifting his eyes from his coffee cup, the man across the counter stares at me. He tips his hat revealing bright blonde hair. Combined with his deep blue-grey eyes, he’s a dead ringer for Peter O’Toole in his signature role as Lawrence of Arabia.

“My name’s Kendall,” he says in a friendly tone.” I wonder if it’s his first or last name. I happen to hate my first name. Who names their kid Saul forty years after the war? It would be a good name for my grandfather. Not for me.

“And I’m Allison,” the woman next to him says.

I’m surprised by the couple’s friendliness. Maybe it’s the late hour and the intimate setting. Maybe people here are friendlier to strangers than they usually are in the other the small towns I’ve visited. Maybe–just maybe–this will be easier than I thought it would be.

Illustration of time travel from the story "A Lesson In Time" by David Gittlin

“My name’s Saul,” I say to the couple. “Nice to meet you.” I turn to the man next to me, half-expecting him to introduce himself. It suddenly occurs to me that the guy hasn’t moved a muscle since I came through the door.

“Ignore him,” Kendall says. “He’s just part of the scenery.”

“I’m sorry for that unkind remark,” I say to the motionless man. He’s heavy set, dressed in a brownish green-striped suit, and looks every bit like a non-descript traveling salesman.

I turn back to the man named Kendall. “If that was a joke, I don’t think it’s funny. People have feelings. Didn’t your mother teach you that?”

The last thing I want to do is get into an argument with these people, but I can’t help saying something.

“You don’t have to worry about his feelings,” Kendall says.

“And what do you think?” I ask Allison. On closer examination, she looks uncannily like Julianne Moore in her role as Clarice Starling in the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“Allison is new,” Kendall replies. “She’s still in training. She’s not supposed to talk much.”

“Wait a minute,” I say. “Who are you people?”

Kendall leans down and pulls a strapped leather briefcase from below the counter. He extracts a file, opens it, and begins reading.

“Let’s see. Saul Grossman, age thirty-two, engineer/designer employed by Raytheon Technologies, assigned to jet engine development, invented and now operates a time machine in his spare time. Does that about cover it, Saul?”

I am beyond shocked. Fear and anger compete to control me. Somehow, I manage not to panic. I don’t want to hear the answer to my next question, but I have to ask.

“How do you know so much about me?”

“You’ve been on our radar,” Kendall says. “Now that you’ve decided to interact with the past, it’s time for us to step in.”

I’m still in shock, but a ray of hope may be peaking through the gathering storm clouds. “Are you time lords, or some sort of benevolent time control agency from the future?”

“Sorry to disappoint, Saul. We’re your local branch office of the NSA. We made some adjustments to your time machine after reading your time journal in which you wrote, ‘I’m now confident that I can interact with the past to make the present better.'”

“So, you broke into my house without my knowledge or consent.”

“That’s about the size of it,” Kendall confirms.

I feel my intestines start to melt. “What sort of ‘adjustments’ are we talking about?”

“For starters, we’re not in the past. We’re in a computer simulation where the only thing that’s real is you.”

I try to imagine how this can be happening. Am I talking to naked human bodies floating in an electrochemical solution inside giant Pyrex glass tubs? Are they fitted with electrodes attached to their heads to facilitate thought-transference-voice-activation to their virtual avatars? Or is it a cutting-edge holographic computer program capable of interacting with a real-live me?

I reach into my pocket to push the button on my remote control extractor. I’m not going to stand still for this. Literally. I’ll be out of here and back in good old 2021 in no time–or a few seconds.

Nothing happens.

I try again. Still nothing.

“I forgot to mention we disabled your extractor,” Kendall says with a cheeky wink of an eye.

“So now what?”

“Now you stay here for the rest of your natural born existence, my friend.”

“You’re kidding. Right?

“Afraid not, Saul.”

“You can’t do this.”

“Would you rather be thrown in jail?”

“On what grounds?”

Kendall takes the last sip of his coffee. “We’ll think of something. It won’t be pretty.”

“I can’t believe this.”

“It’s an unfortunate situation, Saul. You’ve become a danger to yourself and the rest of us. You played with fire, and now you’re burned. The good news is we know how to use your technology better than you would have used it.”

Kendall grabs the briefcase and guides Allison to the front door. Before they leave, Kendall and Allison wave goodbye. “Have some fun,” Kendall says. “You’re an inventive guy.”

“Don’t leave. Please.”

“We’ll check back with you in another thirty years, if you’re still around,” Allison says with a cheerful smile.

Outside the door, I watch Kendall and Allison dissolve into ghostly vapors, then disperse into thin air.

The Time Travel Spiral

Copyright 2021 by David Gittlin. All rights reserved.

Categories
fiction humor short stories

What’s At The Bottom Of The Staircase ?


Architecture, Art, Spiral, Curve, Design, Interior, Stairs, Stairway, Staircase, Tower

Six years ago, I attended a seminar presented by Saniel Bonder titled “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising–Activating Your Embodied Awakening, Wholeness, and Unique Purpose.” Nine people attended the five-day event at Kripalu Yoga Center in western Massachusetts. One of the exercises in the seminar is called “Heart Seat Share.” Each person in the group speaks for seven minutes about what is going on in their lives with time allotted for feedback from the teacher and group members. I’ve decided to revisit this post, polish it up, and hope it brings you some inspiration.

Here I am. It’s my time to share. I imagine myself walking down a circular staircase in my throat. I arrive on the first floor of my chest cavity.

Leaving the staircase on the bottom floor, I encounter a winding corridor with no doors or branches. At least I don’t have to decide which way to go, because I basically have no idea.  I just need to put one foot in front of the other and have faith that my feet are taking me where I want to go.

winding corridor to my heart

Finally, I see a doorway in the distance.  The overhead lighting becomes increasingly bright as I reach my destination.  It’s a wooden door painted gold with an intricate star pattern splashed on the surface. What does it mean? Maybe it’s just a goddamned ornament put there to look mysterious. Who knows? I decide it looks inviting.

Elaborate Wood Door With Intricate Star Shape Pattern

I grab the brass handle, turn it, and nothing happens. The door is firmly locked. I knock a few times and wait. Seconds go by and then a full minute.  No response.

“Anybody home?” I call out.

Total silence. Not even the sound of air-conditioning.

“You know, I’ve come a long way to get here.  The least you can do is answer your fancy door.”

I’ve traveled this way many times before, but I always get lost. Not this time. I’m convinced this is the real deal.

Futuristic Corridor, Heavenly Corridor, Journey's End, Seeking Light, Seeking Truth, Seeking Wisdom, Truth, Wisdom,

I’ve been told by numerous teachers that someone or something dwells deep within the recesses of the heart.  I’ve always believed this to be true.  I never doubted it.  Yet here I am, standing around like an idiot.  I’ve heard some vague rumblings from time to time from the other side of the door.  I’ve had a few inklings, maybe even heard a faint burbling sound, but that’s about it.

“This is getting embarrassing,” I say to the elaborate, mysterious door.  “I’m here in front of the class, and I need to sound halfway intelligent.  Can you please give me some material to work with?”

“Like what?” a voice says from the other side in a slightly irritated tone.

I almost fall down.  These two words are more than I’ve heard in thirty years.  It’s a clear, unmistakable, somewhat irritated voice.  I quickly regroup before the voice loses interest.  I must take advantage of this opportunity.  I have to get right to the point.  I imagine whoever is speaking to me is quite busy.  I’m not even going to imagine if it has a shape.  I can’t risk wasting its time.

The Infinite, Integration, Divine, Divine Human, Nexus of the Divine and the Human, Reality, Peace, Love, Joy

“Okay,” I begin.  “Can you tell me why we haven’t met yet?”

“It’s a very long story all having to do with you that we can’t get into right now because it would exceed your share time.”

“Okay, okay.  Well, then, can you tell me when it might be possible for us to meet.”

“I really can’t believe you haven’t figured this out yet,” the voice answers wearily.  “I suppose I’ll have to spell it out for you.”

There is a long pause before the voice speaks again.

“You aren’t ready to meet me.  And PUHLEASE, don’t ask me when you’ll be ready.

Another pause.

“You’ll be ready when you’re ready.”

“I feel like I’m getting ready,” I say like a little boy holding out a shiny apple for the teacher.

“Good.  Keep it up. Let me give you one word of advice: Patience.  Everything is timing. Have you heard that one?”

“Of course.”

“Then practice it.

I wait for more words of wisdom.  There are none forthcoming.

I’m suddenly impelled to ask, “Is that it?”

I wait anxiously for a response. When none comes, I turn to leave. Then, from behind me, I hear:

“If it makes you feel any better, you’re right on schedule. THE SUN IS ACTUALLY RISING IN YOUR HEART. As a matter of fact, it’s rising in everyone’s heart, some faster than others. Pray that you are one of the faster ones. Remember these words, David:

“WISDOM IS EASIER TO ATTAIN IF YOU TRY VERY HARD NOT TO BE OBTUSE.”

“Now, If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Hopefully, we’ll meet again in less than a few hundred years.”

Categories
poetry

In The Windswept Fields Of My Soul


Desires, Lust, Sex, Vampires, Forbidden, Temptation

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.*

I wonder what secrets they keep.

The moon paints the leaves with a blood-red stain.

If I go in there, will I come out again?

Do thirsty vampires await?

Are the seductive voices I hear bait?

A ravishing woman appears from out of the air.

A second ago, there was no one there.

Her slender fingers with crimson tips beckon me.

She leans casually in a flowing negligee against a tree.

I have never witnessed such radiance before.

Her flaming red hair and porcelain skin are features to adore.

My senses awaken with overpowering lust.

She tells me her name, Melinda, and asks for my trust.

Can I believe my eyes or Melinda herself?

She stares at me confidently, embodying love itself.

What lies beneath such perfection?

To Melinda, am I just a confection?

My mind tells me these images are wisps of smoke.

In my heart the hellish fires of desire are stoked.

My right foot steps forward all on its own.

In the windswept fields of my soul, the seeds of madness are sown.

Night, Darkness, Beauty, Danger,Lust, Desire, Love, Sex

DISCOVER

SCARLET AMBROSIA–BLOOD IS THE NECTAR OF LIFE

*Excerpt from the Robert Frost poem “Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening.”

Categories
humor short stories

The Goddess And The Tree Stump


A beautiful young goddess from another planet crash lands in the desert. crash la

There once was a Goddess who preferred to talk to fully grown trees rather than people. While searching for a splendiferous tree, she instead encountered a gnarled tree stump–a whole forest of them, actually.

The Goddess, named Marsha, was quite young. She was one-hundred-and sixty-two years old, which, in Goddess terms, is merely a teenager. Her parents, Atara and Gringold, lived in another quadrant of the galaxy. They had not heard from their daughter in over one hundred years. Obviously, they were very concerned about Marsha’s welfare.

Since there isn’t space in a blog to artfully parse out Marsha’s backstory, I will give you the bare bones and then move on.

For starters, Marsha really isn’t Marsha. Atara and Gringold gave her a proper Goddess name: Savasanti. It means “Beautiful Peace.” Like almost everything her parents tried to give her, Marsha discarded the name in favor of something else. This is not to say there is anything wrong with the name Marsha. I am only pointing out that it is unheard of to refuse a given name in the world of Gods and Goddesses.

As the dual suns beamed down on the idyllic world of Aleya, an argument ensued between Marsha and her parents in the parlor of their majestic mansion built on the highest bows of a giant Grazanga tree. (The fruit of a Grazanga tree resembles a football-sized pasticcio nut, by the way. They make a delicious and nourishing grab-and-go meal for a God or Goddess, either raw, roasted, salted or unsalted).

Shouting on Aleya is a rare event, especially between parents and their children. Nevertheless, the shouting between Marsha and her parents was audible on the marshy plain thirty feet below and outward to the neighboring tree mansions. As the conflict escalated, Atara and Gringold reddened with embarrassment and anger while Marsha’s spirits soared. Marsha always felt powerful when she irritated her parents.

Whereas they had every right to lose their tempers, Atara and Gringold, like the good parents they were, did not. However, the decibel count of the exchange increased to a level where it became necessary for a peace abiding neighbor to call the tree police to restore the tranquil vibrations of the neighborhood. The arrival of the tree police only served to heighten Atara and Gringold’s level of frustration and embarrassment with their daughter.

Exasperated, Atara cut Marsha off in the middle of a tirade. “As long as you live in this house, you will obey our rules.”

Marsha looked back at her mother, literally fuming with her long auburn locks ablaze.

“Our patience with you is at and end,” Atara added. “Your father and I expect you to curb your insolence, your selfishness, and your complete lack of gratitude.”

“If your behavior doesn’t improve,” Gringold said, “I will send you to Marsh Point where they will teach you discipline and how to act like a proper Goddess. This is your last warning, Savasanti.”

Marsha, as she was known to herself and a handful of insolent friends, glared defiantly at her parents.

After a few tense seconds, Atara implored, “If you won’t listen to us, talk to the trees. They are wise.”

“The trees are stupid. They say the same things you say.” And with that, Marsha stormed out of the room trailing behind her a long mane of smoke.

The next day, Marsha abruptly left home for worlds unknown.

Due to her premature departure, Marsha never learned the arcane secrets of navigating billions of light years across the galaxy and landing gracefully at a pre-determined destination. She arrived in Earth orbit, because the planet looked inviting from outer space, only to plunge like a meteor into the sands of the Gobi Desert in a failed attempt to land smoothly. I assure you that “failed attempt” is an exceedingly kind description of the event.

Marsha spent nearly a century at the bottom of a deep crater gouged out of the shifting and scorching sands of the Gobi Desert. The immense force of the impact left Marsha in a coma for most of this time. To be exact, the impact left Marsha’s cells in a coma because she no longer had a body. Her tissues lay scattered across a concave pit in the darkened depths of the crater. Over time, Marsha’s body reassembled, cell by cell. When her body was whole again, it still required a decade to recover from the shock of the explosive landing.

And then one day, Marsha’s eyes blinked open. She remembered nothing. She wondered, Who am I? What am I doing here.

For days, Marsha lay in the pit of the crater. Memories fluttered into her brain, slowly at first, and then quickly, like a drought stricken lake fully restored in a deluge of spring rain. She knew who she was and where she had come from.

With every beat of her heart, Marsha grew more curious about the planet she had landed on. She knew there was more to the new world than the desolate hole she found herself in. She remembered seeing lush land masses and vast oceans from her orbit in outer space.

Without another thought, Marsha jumped into the embrace of the darkness and flew out of the crater into the harsh sun and endless sands of the desert.

In any new situation, the first thing to do was to talk to a wise tree. This was especially true if you were not fond of people, as in Marsha’s case. Any dummy knew speaking to a tree first in a new situation was the smart move. And Marsha was no dummy. She had told her parents that trees were stupid just to aggravate them.

She kept flying until the land below turned from deathly pale sands into thriving shades of verdant green. After several clumsy and near catastrophic attempts to lose altitude, Marsha managed to ease into a cruising altitude near the planet’s surface. Ahead, she spotted a menagerie of trees in all shapes and sizes. Perfect. It appeared to be some sort of tree garden.

Full moon overlooking a Japanese tree garden.

She landed in a field of pink roses. There were no people or houses of any kind in sight. Marsha figured she had come to a public park, or perhaps the reserve of a very rich family. Whatever the case, Marsha felt safe enough to lie down and take a nap. The long flight combined with a century of bodily dismemberment and reconstitution had taken its toll.

Marsha had no idea how long she had slept. She awoke in the dead of night staring at a canopy of stars overhanging a ghostly full moon. The sight reminded Marsha of the museums her parents had taken her to as a child. Those were happier days, centuries ago and billions of miles away.

It was time to begin her new life. No sense laying around and reminiscing. Lifting herself up from her bed of roses, Marsha marched towards the tree garden. And then, Marsha saw something grotesque. She had never seen anything like it before. A ring of tree stumps surrounded the tree garden. Upon reaching the ring of stumps, she stopped suddenly. “Who would do this and why?” she wondered aloud.

“It’s unfair,” the nearest tree trunk replied. “We grew too tall and blocked the view of the garden. So the humans cut us down.”

“But–“

“I know. It’s abominable. The humans can’t communicate with us. Don’t ask me why. My name is Earl, by the way.”

“Marsha. Pleased to meet you.”

“Are you from around here?”

“No. I’m from the other side of the galaxy. I’m a Goddess.”

“You don’t say.” The tree trunk made clicking sounds, as if it were thinking.

“Maybe you can help me,” Earl the tree trunk said after the clicking stopped. “I’ve heard that Goddesses have powers. Is it true?”

“I’ve just met you and it sounds like you want something from me.”

“I need help badly. Look at me.”

“I suppose you want me to restore you to your former glory. That’s a big ask.”

“What can I give you in return. I once had powers of my own.”

“Can you show me what I look like?”

Like most Goddesses, Marsha’s outer beauty was beyond compare. She was, however, unaware of her looks. You see, there are no mirrors on the planet Aleya. No one needed mirrors because the Gods and Goddesses on Aleya were all astoundingly beautiful. And looking at oneself in a mirror was frowned upon.

“I can do that if you restore me to my ‘former glory,’ as you said so poetically. How long has it been since you’ve seen yourself, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“I do mind. Do we have a deal?”

“Yes. Absolutely. If I could pinch myself, I would do it, to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.”

“You aren’t dreaming. I’m sympathetic to your cause. Where I come from, no one would dare to cut down a tree.”

Earl breathed a deep sigh. “That’s reassuring.”

And so, Marsha raised Earl the tree trunk back to his former glory as the other tree trunks looked on in astonishment. They all began to clamor, “me too.”

Marsha ignored their cries. Business was business. It was time to collect her boon. She flew to one of Earl’s uppermost branches where she made a graceful landing.

“Alright, show me what I look like,” Marsha said impatiently.

“Happy to oblige,” Earl chirped. “Come closer and look deeply into the knot.”

Leaning forward, Marsha gazed into the whorl embedded in Earl’s skin, or more correctly, Earl’s bark. The whorl transformed into a mirror. Upon seeing the image in the mirror, Marsha gasped and turned away. “That can’t be what I look like,” she said in a tremulous voice.

Inner Portrait of a Recalcitrant Goddess.

“It’s what you look like on the inside,” Earl sneered. “Best case recalcitrant. Worst case, evil. I’m leaning towards evil. You don’t deserve your powers. I’m going to take them. Then I’ll rain hell down on the humans who reduced me to a stump.”

Before she could move, Marsha watched the bony ends of branches enter her arms and legs, and then her mouth. She tried to scream, but it came out as an impotent gargle. The pain was excruciating. It felt like the invading branches had set her blood vessels on fire.

As her strength ebbed, the same thoughts pounded in Marsha’s mind like a kettle drum, over and over again.

I should have listened. Why didn’t I listen?

A faint voice whispered in her ear. It sounded, no, it couldn’t be, but yes, it did. It sounded like her mother, Atara, speaking to her with some good advice for a change.

Marsha set herself ablaze. The torturous branches inside her body recoiled and withdrew, setting Marsha free.

Free to fall.

Marsha spread her arms to avoid another crash landing.

“Without anyone nearby to dowse the fire,” Marsha screamed at Earl,” “you will surely burn to ashes for the wind to scatter into oblivion; a fitting end for a criminal tree.

A nearby tree in the garden called to her.

“What do you want?”

“To apologize,” the stately tree said. “The humans cut down the circle of trees for a reason, but not because they grew too tall. They were infected with a virus that would have killed us if the humans had left them alone. I’m sorry your path led you this way.”

“Thank you,” Marsha said. “I, too, regret finding my way here. No offense to you.” She waived at the tree. “Live long and prosper, as someone once said.”

Then, Marsha looked skyward, and flew far away, determined to find her way home.

Categories
Essays inspiration life Making Changes memories motivation Nostalgia personal growth philosophy

Chart Your Course to a Better Life


Fantasy green road to magic bright fairy tale forest.

The Enchanted Forest of Childhood

There was a wooded lot two houses down from my home in the neighborhood where I grew up. We called it “the woods.” At times, the lot became an enchanted forest.  This was especially true when I invited a friend to play in the woods with me.  One of my friends shared my enthusiasm for vintage horror films.  We transformed into monsters and created our own scripts using the enchanted forest as our stage.

One afternoon, I remember playing Frankenstein to my friend’s Wolf Man.  I can still clearly remember scenes from this “play” forty years later. When our time together had almost expired, an invisible alarm clock sounded inside me. We had to return to my house. My friend’s mother would be calling any minute to arrange a pickup. I stood at the border of the woods, one foot in the wilds and the other on the neatly mowed grass of an adjacent home. This is the thought that ran through my head:

Next year we’ll be in seventh grade and we won’t be able to do this anymore.

Another alarm clock had sounded, only the chimes of this one struck an infinitely more somber note.  The chimes said the time had arrived to put this chapter of my life behind me.  I was not in the least bit happy at the news.

The  Paradox of Growing Up

Growing up is often associated with pain, and I am certainly no stranger to this experience.  Growing up is scary.  We have to separate from the umbilicus of parents, stand on our own two feet, compete for a niche in society, establish loving relationships, become parents, and face death at the end of our journey.  Truth be told, I’ve never really wanted to grow up. To this day, I am not a big fan of “putting away childish things.” But it seems growing up is something a human being cannot avoid if he or she desires to lead a constructive, creative life.

Here’s a trick I’ve learned that makes the medicine of growing up a lot easier to take—ladle in generous doses of daily joy.

You may be thinking (or laughing to yourself and at me): How do I do that with the uncomfortable pressures and time crunch of work and family responsibilities?  Relax.  We’ll get to the answer, but first, we need a little more background.

I get stuck creatively and psychologically if I’m not experiencing joy on some kind of a regular basis.

The Power of Joy

Bergsteiger auf einem Gipfel im Gebirge bei Nebel

Obviously, joy is a precious and elusive commodity.  It takes effort and a multi-faceted strategy to experience it.  Joy is the elixir of life in my universe.  It is the oil that allows this machine called me to run smoothly.  When I’m feeling joy, I’m more creative.  My work reaches a higher level.  I am more motivated.  I want to expand my heart and mind. I want to do what it takes to reach my goals.  I am more equipped to help others.  When I’m feeling joy, work becomes play.  I’m back in the enchanted forest with my sixth grade friend.  Resistance evaporates in the presence of joy.

Where does this joy come from?  It comes from within me.  It comes from within you.  The only way to find the joy that does not depend on something outside of ourselves is to establish daily practices that uncover this innate joy.  Since we are all unique individuals, we have to find the way to tap into this joy, or source, that we resonate with, that works for us.  The only generalization we can make is: JOY IS WITHIN YOU, waiting to be discovered, if you haven’t discovered it already.

The Path

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I’ve had to go out of the mainstream to find my joy.  It hasn’t been easy, because I’m a very conventional person.  Yet, something inside me kept pushing me to find an undefinable something more.  I was always attracted by the idea of finding God within me, but the Eastern inspired approach of dissolving the ego never remotely interested me.  And it is obviously impractical and inappropriate for survival and success in our Western culture.  I would add that it’s also a mentally unhealthy approach.

Thankfully, I’ve found that any ego destructive approach is totally unnecessary.  Through my research and personal experience, I’ve learned that consciousness has evolved beyond the concept of ego dissolution.  There’s nothing wrong with a healthy ego.  We need one in our Western civilization to survive and enjoy our lives.  I’ve found a path that honors both the individual self and the universal self.  It’s a path of embodied consciousness.  It embraces both transcendent and every-day awareness.

You Are More Than You Think You Are

The foundation of my practice is meditation.  It is my gateway to a reservoir of inner peace, joy, and love.

What do you want?  Don’t settle for less than you deserve.  Anything is possible.  Peace is possible.  Love is possible.  Joy is possible.  Find it.  It is waiting for you in the depths of your heart.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

 

 
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American Airlines Odyssey


Grok in Fullness
Grok in Fullness

I arrived at Chicago O’Hare International Airport feeling relaxed and in good spirits after a weekend seminar held in the small town of Elburn, Illinois. In light, mid-morning traffic, I had negotiated the trip from Elburn to O’Hare without making one wrong turn, thanks to my able navigator, Siri.

I strode across the Avis parking lot reflecting on what I had learned at the Human Sun Institute seminar.  I looked forward to a few hours of reading, novel editing, and eating a leisurely lunch before my plane took off. All I had to do was walk up to the ticket counter to collect my boarding pass.

When purchasing my airline tickets online, I could not resist the option of upgrading my return flight to first class for only $149.00. In addition to the enjoyable routine I planned before boarding, I had the comfort and luxury of a non-stop, first class flight back to Fort Lauderdale to contemplate as well.

Upon entering the American Airlines terminal, I noticed immediately how tired the ticket counter attendant looked. I figured she had begun her workday at some obscene, early morning hour. I was determined to treat her nicely. I made a few cheerful comments, gave her my flight information, and presented my ID. Her fingers flew across the keyboard. I stood there smiling, radiating all sorts of peace and joy.

The attendant looked up from her keyboard and said calmly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Gittlin, your flight has been cancelled.”

NBA sportscaster Jeff Van Gundy uses a phrase that I love. He did not coin the phrase, but Jeff has a unique way of saying it that never fails to amuse me.

Standing at the American Airlines ticket counter, I suddenly became Jeff Van Gundy reacting to the bad foul call of a referee.

“Are you kidding me,” I said to the attendant.

With my reservation, I had given my email address and cell phone number to the American Airlines computer. The computer, in response, did not email, text, or call me about the flight cancellation. Instead, it booked me on a non-stop coach flight back to Fort Lauderdale scheduled for takeoff seven hours later.

When I asked the ticket attendant for a refund on the first class part of my ticket, she informed me there was no refund since I had upgraded the return flight from an economy fare on the first half of my trip.

“But I bought trip insurance,” I said.

“We have nothing to do with that,” she replied. “You’ll have to go to the web site of the trip insurance provider to see if they will give you a refund.”

Thanks mainly to the peace circulating in my body from the weekend seminar I did not hate the ticket attendant. I did not scream or berate the poor woman. She was only doing her job. She had no control over how badly her job was screwing me.

After a minute of researching alternative flights, we settled on a flight to Fort Lauderdale with a stop in Dallas. I would arrive in Fort Lauderdale two hours earlier but three hours later than the cancelled flight. Whoopee! The attendant upgraded the flight from Dallas to first class, although the airline was not required technically to do so. Thank heaven for small favors.

I felt relieved until I learned the flight to Dallas was boarding in ten minutes. I had all of ten minutes to go through TSA and find my gate in another terminal.

While going through the TSA ordeal, I began to wonder about the cosmic significance of this abrupt change in flight plans. Surely, I was meant to deliver or receive some important message from a fellow passenger.

Encouraged by this thought, I went to pick up my carry-on bag. A TSA officer grabbed it and informed me he had to search it. This had never happened to me in forty years of infrequent flying.

I feared the search had something to do with the raft of prescription drugs I was carrying. It turned out to be a problem with my shaving cream and hair gel. I have never been busted before for these items in my carry-on, but whatever, at least I wasn’t going to jail.

With bags re-packed, I set out in search of terminal “C.” Following the signs, I found the Sky Lift to the terminal. I noticed the steps on the escalator were frozen. The elevator wasn’t working too well either. I’m not making this up, people. All of this stuff happened. It all had to be part of a grand plan for my betterment and the betterment of Mankind. I believed in this deeply.

I struggled up the frozen escalator steps lugging my laptop and carry-on bag. The woman in front of me was breathing so hard I thought she was having a heart attack. Somehow, we both made it to the top without passing out.

After boarding the flight to Dallas, I settled into the very last seat in the bowels of the coach cabin. The guy next to me looked just like a Waking Down in Mutuality mentor I had met in February at a seminar in Atlanta. I made this comment to him. He politely confirmed he was not the person I had in mind. I used the opening to talk about doppelgängers and the seminar I had just attended. My fellow passenger showed zero interest, again politely, plugged his iPhone earplugs in, and settled back to listen to music for the rest of the trip.

Okay, so nothing momentous happened on the first leg of the trip. The cosmic implications of these highly unusual events would surely kick in on the second leg of the journey.

While waiting at the gate for the flight to Fort Lauderdale, I noticed someone who looked like Lexi Thompson. Lexi is 18 years old and one of the best women golfers in the world. She lives in Florida. The woman sitting nearby looked exactly like her mother. I had seen a close up of Lexi’s mother and father on TV. Then, a slim man in his early thirties sat next to the mother. I recognized him as Lexi’s older brother Nicholas, a PGA professional golfer. This confirmed the presence of the famous Thompson clan.

I had to figure out what having Lexi Thompson and family on my flight meant—in the cosmic sense, of course. Okay, I thought, they’ll be travelling in first class like me. I’ll more than likely be sitting next to one of them.  I will have an auspicious conversation with one of them.

Instead of the famous Thompsons, I sat next to a rotund Wal-Mart salesperson from Arkansas. She showed little interest in conversing with me, preferring instead to commune with her iPad and iPhone on the journey home.

Desperate for answers, I asked the steward if American cancelled flights regularly. I had not flown American in ages. This was the first time I had ever had a flight cancelled.

The steward informed me that flights can be cancelled if there is not enough freight in the cargo hold to make the flight profitable. He defined freight as bodies in caskets, mail, or any commercial product paid for by a vendor. He explained that American had lost its contract with the US Mail. This had put a large dent in American’s freight profit center.

The steward then revealed this startling fact: The amount of commercial freight on board a commercial jetliner determines the profitability of a flight. Passengers do not determine profitability. We exist to absorb the cost of overhead including fuel and payroll.

I thanked the steward for the wisdom he had generously imparted. I proceeded to contemplate the Parable of the Airline Freight for several minutes.

In a flash of enlightenment, the purpose of my American Airlines Odyssey struck me.

OMG!!!

The events of the trip suddenly made perfect sense. I groked in fullness the hidden meaning:

I am not as important as I think I am.