As Guardian walks the desert, he feels the sun. He is hungry and he drops the bottle of Fighting Cock in his hand. It lands tip down and in moments, all the bourbon has drained into the sand. He stumbles on sobbing. In the distance he sees an object and turns his feet in that direction.
When he gets closer, he can see it is gleaming white and he waits for any sign of what it may be. As he gets closer, he can see it is an idol, a figure standing on a pedestal. At the foot of the pedestal is a collection of empty bottles. All Fighting Cock Bourbon. All gleaming in the sunlight. He looks up at the figure and sees it is made of salt.
This is an exact image of Grasp. And at his feet Guardian has been leaving sacrifices. The pedestal has a plaque and on that plaque is the word: LUST.
“You have been worshipping a false idol. In your rage you come to this fight over and over again. You struggle with this false idol for years and you lay your pain and confusion at its feet. You worship a pillar of salt. And you expect a different outcome every time.
“This battle is won. This battle is well fought. This battle is not over.”
“I cannot handle hearing that the war was won. I can’t let you say that when he still walks the world hunting. How can I allow that? He is still winning every day.”
There is no answer, so Guardian walks on. He puts his idol of salt behind him and moves forward.
When he sees the vultures, he heads that way. A cloud of death hovers and squawks and he moves in that direction.
He swats away angry vultures as he approaches a body. The body is of a man who has dropped to his knees, ripped his chest open, and bared his heart. Vultures have been picking at it and it is covered in maggots. The man’s eyes have been eaten and the hair has been scoured away. This man is bald now and Guardian drops to his knees beside it. He sees all the pain of Less and all her manipulation. He sees all of it and what it has done to him, and Guardian begins to dig.
With his hands he digs a hole and drags the corpse into it. As the vultures scream at him and as the sand burns his hands, he covers the body. When it has been completely covered and no sign of it exists any longer, he walks on. He does not turn to find his path again. Guardian knows that all his footsteps go toward God.
He keeps walking and sees before him a cliff. It is a lone piece of stone stabbing from the ground, and he heads for it. It is the only thing to aim for. He reaches the bottom and sees a set of stairs carved in the side. He takes them, but the cliff is so high and the stairs so steep that by the time he gets to the top, he is exhausted, weak, and starving. He climbs to his feet and stumbles forward. He reaches the edge of the drop and stares down at it.
“Big night,” he hears from behind him. “It would suck to end it all with a fall.”
He turns, and standing before him is his nemesis. Standing before him is Shadow. But this is not Shadow. This is Him. The Almighty. This is God, here and ever after.
Guardian gets down on one knee. “Why do you come to me in this form? Why show me the face I have been fighting my entire life?”
“Really, you have been fighting Shadow? Have you, though? Shadow did all the dirty work you wanted to do but couldn’t. He was all the places, helping all of the people you couldn’t. For you to say that Shadow is your enemy is to call your left hand your enemy. Your left ear. Or your left testicle.”
“I’m trying to do a thing here,” God says. He sits on the edge of the cliff and stares out at it. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Guardian turns, expecting to see the desert and sees the Wasteland. Sees the Camp and the Streets.
“Artist has created something beautiful,” Guardian says.
“All creations are mine,” God says.
“All creations are mine. They have been a while in the making, but they all are mine.”
Guardian rubs his forehead.
“Who do you think inspired this?” God said. “Who inspired the Wasteland and all that is in it?”
“You did. I guess that is true.”
“No, that is not what happened. I did not inspire this. I created the band that had a wasteland on its cover. I let those boys be born so they would make that record so it would drop right here in front of Artist at a young age, and there you have it. He starts work on his Wasteland.
“I also created Artist. And I created you.” Shadow sits, but no, this is God, He sits with His legs crossed, His hands relaxed. “I had to work with what I had.”
“You are talking about Char,” Guardian says.
“Yeah, but I won’t talk about him with you. Let’s talk about Less. Char is for another,” God says.
“What do you have to say about Less?” Guardian says.
“Well, who gets to design you?” God says.
“You do, I guess.”
“No, day to day, with free will and interpreting experience, who gets to design you?”
Guardian’s head hurts and he rubs his temples. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Every living being shapes themselves from every experience they have. Some of those experiences are inspired by me. Some by the choices of man. But all of mankind gets to shape itself by its understanding of the world.”
“Okay.” Guardian is still so hungry. He is hot and thirsty.
“Okay, so let’s get to it then. You do not have Less in your life anymore,” God says. “Why?”
“She is dangerous. She smiled with hate for me. And she thinks she is my master.”
“And so you…”
“So I kicked her out of my life. To keep my family safe.”
“And that is who you are now,” God says.
Guardian drops his head on his shoulders. God places a finger on Guardian’s chin and lifts it up.
“Enough of that. You have been doing that all of your life. Let’s keep our head up and let’s finally take a look around,” God says. “You are not her bodyguard anymore because you have made a decision, and walked on. You owe her nothing because experiences, and your interpretation of them, has brought you to a new understanding.”
“She will come after me when she reads this,” Guardian says. “She will come to my house or will come for my family.”
“And I will heal her when she does,” God said. But He said it with that mouth built for sarcasm and cussing.
“Heal her how?”
“Everyone of your family is a warrior. You built it that way. Every one of your family members have drilled and drilled for dangerous situations. You had a master train you in how to take a punch apart and break the person punching,” God says. “Your wife is a step away from black belt. She is smarter than Less and more prepared. If Less came after Ishwari, she would be destroyed.
“Your sons have learned from the age of five and six. They are coming up on their teenage years. They have been trained for years on how to take a weapon away from an attacker.” God laughed. “God help her if she gets into one of Rayph’s club attacks. And I will have a mess to clean up if Tobin gets started on her. That man is a storm.”
“And what about me?” Guardian said. “If she came at me with a knife, I would—”
“Kill her with it,” God says. “Without question. Do not doubt it. There was a time when you would have let her kill you, but that time has passed. You get to design the person you are based on experience and wisdom, and there is no way you will let this dark act separate you from Bekah.”
God smacked Guardian’s thigh. “Look, if the choice was Less stab you, so you didn’t have to hurt her, and you never get to see Bekah again, hold her, and make her laugh. Or take that knife from Less and put her down or kill her, but you get Bekah for the rest of your life, how would that choice go?”
“I have to have Bekah and I would never want to leave her alone.”
“Good. I was getting to that. The suicide thing? Really?” God said. “You really think you would kill yourself?” He shook his filthy brown hair and grinned at Guardian. “You think you would leave Rayph and Tobin and your soulmate so that you can give in to the hurt? Let defeat grab you, let defeat break you when nothing else ever has?”
“The War broke me.”
“Don’t jump ahead. That’s my closer.
“Look, you’re never going to commit suicide. I should not have to tell you this. You love too much, and too hard. You’re done with Less, and you have your wife and your kids. You have friends and Bekah’s family and it’s not going to happen.”
“I get thoughts. I get urges,” Guardian says.
“You always will. You have seen darkness and you know about death and pain. You are always going to have thoughts of taking the hard way out. But the easy way is what you will take every time.”
“Hard way out. Suicide is the hard way out?”
“Anyone that commits suicide has to watch what happens to their loved ones after their death. They have to know that their selfishness caused the pain and destruction of their entire lifestyle. Suicide is the hard way out. Life is so much easier. You hurt, you suffer, but in the end you work past it. You get the little things, and eventually you find hope. Not committing suicide is the easy way out. It might be a long journey but it is the easy way for sure.”
“Can we get to the War?” Guardian says. “I can’t forget the War and I hate you a little for how it turned out. I lost. I lost everything and I lost them. I lost the kids and my entire family and Grasp is still free.”
“One point at a time. I know you hate me. It’s okay, everyone hates me a little. I don’t hold a grudge. Everyone has one thing that they have to accept that has happened to their life that they blame me for. Some of my faithful, they deal with it by embracing their faith and talking about my ‘mysterious ways.’ Other people hold a grudge. They don’t want to, but they can’t help themselves. That is you,” He says pointing at Guardian. “And some just can’t stop hating me and everything around me. They blame me for everything the church has done. And they blame me for every bad thing that happens in their world.
“So you have had your fun hating me. Try not hating me long enough to look at the War through my eyes.”
Guardian feels his chest lighten, and he feels like he can breathe.
“One, you stopped those kids from being raped. You ended it right then and right there. Never did he hurt those kids ever again,” God says. “You scared the life out of him and showed the entire family what he is. They will tell themselves that he is more than a child molester, but they know in the back of their minds what he is. Your cousin didn’t let him take her daughter to his house because she knew. You had told her.”
“She still never should have brought her to his house,” Guardian said.
“Yeah, you gotta forgive her for that,” God says. “When you can. It might take a while, but she has her own crosses and her own path to walk.”
“We lost,” Guardian said. “How could you let us lose?”
“What did we lose?” God says. “We didn’t put him behind bars. That was the manipulation of Rose. She will have to answer for that. But what did we lose? Your family was always going to turn sour in your mouth after you and Bekah started building what you have. You would have pulled further and further from them. The way you were raised is nearly unforgivable. Forgiving people is kind of my thing, but those will be hard ones.”
“Yeah. That is wrong. I like that it is not in the books, but he was wrong for that,” God says. “The real thing we have to look at is that this War is not lost. Grasp is free and he will have to deal with the ramifications of this book. The world is going to burn him alive when they read this book.” He shook his head. “Not really something I condone, but they will. But we were never fighting a war against Grasp, Rose, or anyone else. Our War was with Child Molestation.
“How many times have you talked about protecting children? Not those children, but all children? That is the war we fought. You, Me, Bekah. We all fought a War for all children and that War ends here. When this book is done that War will be won.
“Grasp has a battle. The life you lived after him was his battle. But the War is worldwide. Normal Street will light everyone up against child molestation. Our War was never lost. We just hadn’t gotten to the last battle yet.”
He spread His arms wide. “And here we are.” God patted Guardian on the back. “Drink for fun, but not punishment anymore. You’re past that now. Don’t fear being around Less, because she has killed that thing in you that used to save her. And for My sake.” He placed His fingertip on Guardian’s chin and gently lifted it.
“Look up. You’re one of my warriors. I can’t watch you look at your feet anymore.”
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.