I believe she still lives, as does my love for her. Much like the moon exists for the earth, she has so been for me. She’s out there somewhere but for me and this place the chapter has now ended.”
Gus moved to the edge of the lookout and quietly said, “I love you, my heart’s flower.”
He then turned to George and said, “Let’s go George.....there is much work to do.”
“Gus…..I’ll take the job.” George said as he made eye contact with his friend.
“You’re sure George?”
“As God is my witness,” the young man said with a new determination in his voice.
Just north of the Three Sister’s peaks, high above the trail that soon would guide the members of Gus’ expedition a falcon worked the wind to stay aloft and search for his morning meal. From where the raptor maneuvered one could see much of the route that they would all have to travel. The trail had changed a little over time, as do all things. There was a washout and some growth to the area in the form of trees and brush. The falcon let out a high-pitched screech and landed just above the spot that Gus would be looking for. It would take a group effort to shift the boulder that sat below. This would clear the way for the balance rock to move freely. Something caught the falcon’s eye and she took flight again, slowly circling the area.
Everett was cooking up some scrambled eggs and bacon when George and Gus returned to the cabin. As the two sojourners opened the door the aroma filled their nostrils. George headed right for the table and the dog put on his best manners by sitting at attention. Moving over by the desk, Gus sat by Edward and had a cup of coffee.
“Anybody want cheddar cheese on their eggs,” Everett questioned.
All hands went up in the air so cheddar it was.
“Hey! Where have you guys been?” Kes asked as they came through the door and joined the mild chaos.
“Oh, I was just showing George and the dog some of the sights. The dog found a couple of sites on his own,” Gus joked and a large smile was added as punctuation.
“Gus, George, cheddar on your eggs,” Everett asked the newcomers.
Gus continued, “Listen, I have everything loaded into the wagon. George was good enough to help me with the supplies so let’s help Everett out with breakfast and get the show on the road.”
Katherine helped with the breakfast preparations and although there were not enough places at the table, everyone made themselves comfortable within close proximity of each other. It was Michael that started to question Gus, when he asked, “Why all the secrecy Gus? Would this be easier if we had more help?”
“You don’t understand young man. As good of heart as you people are, there are also those who are counterpart to you and they, for whatever reason, would stop at nothing to have this journey fail and keep the world regressing. They are not your, as you would say, B movie types we have been brought up to believe as evil entities but rather, they wear a face that could get them past the gates of heaven only to be betrayed by their heart at a later time.
My caution does not come unwarranted. When I made this trip as a young boy, I was George’s age. There was a woman among the group who was of the cloth. She was a missionary from Laos and although everyone felt that she was of the same mind as the rest of us, I did not. I was a boy though and at first I was apprehensive to say what I felt. Later, after it almost cost one of the others their life, I spoke up to he who was the guardian. He had known, he said, but he had waited for me to speak. He told me that all things and all attitudes have a balance. It is God’s way to help each soul to understand who they truly are. He added that this concept goes beyond what we are capable of understanding in this human form but that surely as far as we can see, there lies much more beyond.”
Michael looked at Gus in astonishment as he turned to his brother and said, “Everett….he speaks about the things we talked about as boys. The concepts are true.”
“Very much so.” Christian added, and then continued by saying, “This why I had to be so cautious about whom I spoke to about this trip. It’s why I needed to be so vague with all of you and yet try to get you to commit to something on faith; that what I was proposing was that which would not cause harm. And through it all I too had to step out on faith for even I was not given the whole picture.”
“Well then, you took quite the chance with George and me, didn’t you?” Kessah blurted out.
“You’re right Kes! I knew the dog was cool but you and George had me worried.”
The place went hysterical as everyone broke up laughing to the point of tears. When the dust settled and composure returned Christian added, “I knew when we happened upon each other that God wasn’t idly waiting for us to fall on our face. He called in a couple of players off of the proverbial bench then gave everyone the vision to see that you two were part of the plan.”
“Hey Gus,” George hailed. “What about the dog with the climbing and everything? How can he come along? We can’t leave him in the Jeep for two days and a night.”
“He makes the climb too! I have a harness in the shed for him. We will work him up and down the mountain like a sack of potatoes,” said the old man laughing. Anyone watching the dog would have swore that he gave Gus a dirty look about then.
By this time Kes’ color returned from the deep red of embarrassment to its natural shade.
Breakfast was finished as well as the cleaning up and preparing the cabin for the time away. Everyone pitched in and made sure that nothing was left forgotten or overlooked. Gus wandered out to the shed with Christian to look for the harness. The two men also made sure that they had not missed anything that might be pertinent to the trip. There was also an ulterior motive for Gus to get Christian away from the group. He got a small metal box from the shed and called to Christian to come over to where he was.
“Listen, Chris. I am giving you the deed to the cabin and the land up here. Never know what might happen and I wrote a letter last night to go along with what I want you to do.”
Christian just listened, knowing that there was no need to respond yet.
“I want George to have the place. I want you to make sure it goes that way, so he and his sister will have something of their own. You check on them from time to time. You’ll do that for me, won’t you my friend?”
“But……..you’ll….be.. You won’t be coming back then, will you Gus?”
Gus reached out and touched his friend’s forearm. Their eyes met and Gus gave a little half smile.
Christian’s eyes welled with tears as he hugged the old man. All he said was, “I’ll take care of it Gus.”
The vehicles were packed, everyone had their last bathroom break and it was time to go. Gus and George pulled out first with the Jeep right behind, then the Voyager following in that order. Kes, Katherine and Christian were in the Jeep, while the twins, Edward and the dog took up the third position in the van. The drive to the mountain base, which is where they would begin to move out on foot was under an hour in good weather. In the dead of winter the road was actually closed down for snow and ice. In the time it took for a short discussion about what would happen next they were near the turnoff. Christian saw the taillight blinking ahead of him.
The Jeep and Voyager followed slowly behind Gus’ Volvo wagon. The gravel road from the exit point off of the highway needed to be taken easy, as it was up hill and riddled with washouts and potholes. A small parking area for the regular climbers that frequented the area was just ahead and on the right side of the road. Gus pulled into the small lot, as did the others. There were two cars parked on the opposite end of the parking area but no one was around. Assuming they were some early bird climbers that had started out near dawn Gus really did not give them too much mind. After parking Gus made it around to the back of the Volvo and began unpacking the supplies. Everyone had their backpacks loaded with their personal possessions. The food, climbing supplies and medical bag were evenly distributed between the group of adventurers.
Edward was probably the most inquisitive and started looking around the area. The dog came along sniffing everything and anything. George stayed close to Gus and helped the old man with anything that he was allowed to while the rest found their backpacks and got ready for the foot journey.
“OK. Everybody ready,” Gus inquired as he made eye contact with his friends.
“The weather looks all right now but things can change real quickly up here. I’ll set the pace, if you all don’t mind,” Gus said, looking back at everyone with that toothy grin they had all become accustomed to. And so the climb began. The trail they took was common to many hikers and climbers. It started out easy walking but as the elevation increased, so did the maneuverability. Rocks cropped up and had to be walked around or climbed over. The group moved at a steady pace for an hour when Christian approached Gus to see how he was doing.
“Hey friend, you’re not rushing the pace for us kids are you?” Christian asked with concern but didn’t let it show.
“No sonny. I’m all right but we can take a break and get a drink of water. See how everyone else is making out,” Gus shot back.
The dog left his calling card every so often as if he was marking the trail so he would have less of a problem finding his way on the return trip down. Almost as if he knew they were all going to stop, he returned from his lead position and settled down near the center of the group. Another thirty yards up the trail Gus found what he was looking for and the gang took a rest.
George was right within ear shot so he could hear all the dialogue between the old man and Christian. He was stuck to Gus like a tattoo and Gus knew it but didn’t mind at all. Actually, the old man was flattered that the boy had taken to him. Gus knelt down on one knee and picked up a handful of sand and stones. Then he looked at George and said, “What if these were all discarded planets and they all had life on them at one time, just like Earth does now. There’s an odd concept, hey George?”
George picked up a handful of gravel and examined it. Looking at Gus, he just laughed as he tossed the stones to the ground but he kept looking back at the discarded rubble as he followed the old man to a large rock where they sat and rested.
“Thinking about what I said George? Puts a whole different perspective around things doesn’t. Just a simple statement can change the philosophical standards of a lifetime. Remember that things aren’t always what they appear to be. That falcon up over head,” as Gus pointed toward the sky.
“Perhaps she signals the other animals that people or some other danger approaches. Maybe they all work together, hand in hand, rather than as individual species. Maybe they all know more than we do? Just thoughts George, just thoughts.”
“Everyone! We will be breaking off of this trail about a quarter of a mile ahead. We will need to do a bit of climbing to get to the next passage. Is everybody still doing well? This next part is gonna have you break a sweat.” Gus remarked.
The group responded with positive enthusiasm, thumbs up and Edward shouted, “Bring it on!”
“George, you take the lead for a bit,” Gus directed.
George looked a little surprised but did as he was asked. Gus and Christian took up the rear. This gave Gus an opportunity to take his heart medicine without everyone watching. At this point, Christian did nothing but keep a steady eye on his friend as they moved through the Oregon Mountains.
“I’m worried about Gus.”
Kessah expressed her concern to Katherine as they followed George, the twins and Edward up the trail.
“I know. I think he’s very ill and he’s trying to hide it from us.” Katherine replied.
She added that she felt Christian was aware and he wouldn’t let things get out of hand. Everyone moved slowly but methodically up the winding path toward their unknown destination. The dog hung around Edward when he wasn’t off exploring twenty or thirty yards ahead of the group.
“It sure is beautiful up in these mountains,” Edward exclaimed.
Michael added, “This would be a great place to come up for a weekend camping trip. I’ve done some climbing in the area further north and actually south of here with Christian and Everett but never around here.”
“Hey George....how far are you supposed to go before we break off of this trail?” Everett asked as they moved forward.
“I’m not really sure. I’ll stop just ahead. It looks like the trail turns to the east.” George shouted back in the direction of the group. A couple of hours had passed by since they set out from the parking area and although the going wasn’t extremely difficult, they did measure their pace because of Gus. The weather was holding in the mid fifties, which made the climb easier on everyone. The threat of additional bad weather was still in the air but for now had held off. Everyone grouped at the turn, waiting a short time for Gus and Christian to catch up. When they finally reached the climbing party everyone could see that Gus was sweating profusely but they refrained from too many comments other than Kes asking if everything was all right.
“Let me get my....breath back.....and I’ll explain what we will have to do......next.” Gus gasped.
He took a long drink from his water bag. The days of the old fashioned canteen made out of aluminum were long gone. Even so were all the ropes and rope ladder that Gus had saved for so many years. Just those few scraps remained tied to his backpack and to hold his raingear. The group had finally reached the first position that would deviate from the standard trail. It was here that they would follow the path that Gus had taken so very long ago. It wasn’t the path that George had found but a vertical path they needed to take.
“George! Take the dog down the trail about twenty yards and make sure no one is coming up. We have to climb up this face and then over to the other side. There is a narrow passage that could give us trouble should it start to rain. It’ll be like walking through a rain gutter in a downpour. So we need to make this climb swiftly and then follow through the narrow gorge on the other side as quickly as possible.” Gus explained to the group.
When he turned to watch George head down the trail, he clutched at the hidden pouch hanging from his neck to insure it was still there. Satisfied, he returned his focus to the Irishmen.
The twins who were both excellent rock climbers as well as Christian began the preparation for the climb. Everett went up first, while Michael spotted for him. The surface was rough with many holds for the first thirty feet. The last fifty feet became much smoother and a bit more difficult to maneuver around on. Everyone watched Everett’s progress as he moved carefully and precisely upward. Each finger hold, each placement of foot was tested before full weight was applied. Tapping in a piton and securing the rope by safety clip insured a safe route for the others who would follow.
George could see Everett through the trees, moving toward the sky at a measured pace. Watching his slow but steady trek up the face George daydreamed for a while. He could only wonder at what was ahead for this unique group of souls. With his wildest imagination, he would have never invented such an adventure, let alone to be part of it. He thought about the odd dreams that he had as a small boy. Always the same dream of people or souls reaching toward him as if they were asking for help. Perhaps this was his calling; this was his destiny and somehow, it all tied into this odd happening.
A pair of blue jays sounded discontentment with George’s presence on the trail but George held his ground and did what he was told. Someone would come and get him when it was time. He kept an eye on trail but no one was around.
As Everett reached the halfway point, Kes harnessed up and began her ascent. Everett had made the way as easy as he could for the remainder of the group. From this point forward, the face was much smoother with less cracks and crevices to work a handhold or to rest a foot comfortably. The Irishman loved the challenge though and was right at home, whether here or on a two-story house working his trade as a carpenter. He hammered another piton into the crack just in front of him, added the safety clip and secured the rope. The angle of the face jetted outward slightly for the remaining thirty feet. This gave a false impression that there was much more of a climb once this obstacle had been overcome and probably was a deterrent for other climbers, which in turn kept the area virgin. There was little traffic up this face. Everett noticed some old piton holes in the surface which very well could have been left by Gus’ climbing party.
Additional strain and pull on the pitons was caused by this slant also, so Everett needed to secure several pitons for the additional weight, just as a safety measure. At this point he was secured but halfway hanging with his back facing the ground. The remainder of the group would have it easier, as they could swing out from the face and be lifted up to the top for the last fifteen feet.
Once Everett had made the top, checked and secured his position, he signaled down to start the remainder of the group up the rock wall. The ledge varied at the top from four to eight feet wide and some thirty feet long. Enough area to get the whole group perched on. Katherine was to get George when Christian and she were all that remained on the ground. Gus, who would follow Katherine after everyone else had climbed, stood a little ways away and watched each body move through the paces. Everything went smoothly as one after another the group moved up the side of the mountain’s face.
There was a fine mist in the air and the cloud cover had turned a pretty fair morning into a cloudy overcast day. Taking a quick look around Everett scanned the other side of the lower wall he had just climbed and as the old man had suggested, there was a long, narrow ravine that ran away from where he was standing. They would have to drop down this side about thirty feet to the narrow channel below and then follow it. Gus was the only one that knew where it would lead but for now the job at hand was to get everyone safely to the top.
Returning his focus on Kes and the rest of the group, Everett steadied the rope. Although Kes had done little climbing, she was very quick to learn and helped in making it look easy for the remainder of the group. Steadily and methodically, they followed her up the rock wall, placing each hand and foot carefully. Katherine came down the trail and told George that it was his turn to climb. The two hurried up to the face and George, slipping into the harness gave Gus a big smile for this was exciting for him.
“See you at the top Gus.” George said as he gripped the rope and headed toward the sky. The dog followed after George made it to the top. He was quite passive as he was harnessed and hoisted up by those who had already made the climb. Steadying himself with his front paws on the rocks as he bumped his way up the face, made one wonder if he had ever done this before.
Katherine, Christian and Gus still remained on the ground. Katherine would go next, with Gus to follow and Christian at the end. Next to the twins, Christian was the most experienced climber in the group. Christian steadied the rope as George worked his way to the top, all the while remaining a safe distance behind Edward.
Gus took this opportunity to chide Katherine about her feelings toward his friend, the geologist.
“Tell me young lady, what are your intentions with that man over there?”
“Huh? “ She replied being caught slightly off guard.
“Well.....I think I’ll marry him someday should he ever ask me. Why, do you think he’s dragging his feet?” She added.
“Could be he’s losing interest Katherine. Might have to do something to get his attention back.” Gus explained as he started packing his pipe.
“Oh really, Gus?” She replied, then turned and walked over to the geologist who was deep in thought watching George move like a monkey up the side of the rock.
When she reached him, she said, “Christian”, then leaned in and planted a big kiss on his lips.
“I love you Christian.”
Then she walked back over to Gus who was grinning from ear to ear and scratching the back of his neck with his pipe stem. The old man wore a warm glow across his face.
“Well Katherine, I think that worked.” Gus said with a chuckle as he motioned her back to her beau. It was time for her to harness up and begin the climb.
Within a few minutes, she was ready and Christian had had time to regain his composure. He looked deep into her eyes and said, “I’ll see you on top.”
After Katherine had worked herself about a third of the way up the rock face Christian began to relax. He looked to Gus and studied the old man’s countenance, checking to see if there were any telltale signs of his health wavering.
“I know what you’re thinking boy and you don’t have to worry. I’m feeling pretty damn good right about now.” He said as he looked up toward Katherine and his destination.
“Hook me up now and quit your worrying. That’s my department.”
Christian did as he was told. He got himself ready at the same time and when both men had things in order, Gus began his climb with Christian about ten to twenty feet behind. The journey to the top was slow but steady. When they reached the halfway mark Gus wanted to rest a few minutes. Not arguing with his wishes, Christian agreed but knew they shouldn’t pause too long.
“Look around boy. Look at God’s beauty all around us.” The old man shouted down.
“It is magnificent Gus.” Christian responded back.
“Let’s continue. They’re probably worried upstairs.”
“OK! I’m ready to go on.” Gus shouted down toward Christian and then began to climb.
The dog, as well as the rest of the climbing party, were looking over the edge as they reached the top about twenty-five minutes later. Everyone was fairly tired from the climb and rested awhile. It was important that Gus regrouped so he could guide everyone, as he was the only one who knew where they were going. After awhile Christian prodded Gus about the weather and the old man snapped to attention.
“We need to repel down to that narrow channel. That is the path but let me warn you that about an eighth of a mile ahead, the path becomes a thin ledge that we will need to follow around to the other side of this mountain. My hope is that the ledge is still intact.”
They all appeared to understand and Everett took the lead again, securing the ropes for everyone as they prepared to repel into the crevice below.
“I’m ready.” The Sullivan brother shared and began his descent. When Everett reached the lower level he motioned for the rest to follow. The distance down to the bottom was less than half of what it was to come up the other side. One by one they followed the path of the leader to the base below. It was Edward’s turn to move down to bottom of the crevice. Reaching a place half way down he lost his footing foot and he dropped a quick six feet hitting his forearm on a protruding rock.
He cried out in pain, “my arm; I think I broke it! Ohhh!”
Michael worked his way up to Edward and helped him down the last twelve feet. When they got him down on the ground they realized he was right. The arm was broken below the elbow and needed to be reset. Everett made a splint out of a dead branch and a little innovative carpentry work with a small hatchet. Katherine and Kes gave up their belts to secure the splint after Michael set the arm.
Looking at Edward, Michael said, “This is going to hurt a little.” And with a quick yank, he set the bone back into position. By the time this had been accomplished the rest of the party had made it down. Concerned faces gather around in a circle.
“What do we do now Gus?” George asked puzzled at the mishap..
“We go on. We have to!”
“I can make it Gus!” Edward assured everyone.
“There’s no choice young man. You have to be there or it won’t work. Everyone is accounted for. The equation cannot be changed once it is in motion.” Gus said as he tapered off into more of a reflective mumble. He too was very concerned for the wellbeing of his new friend but he also knew that they were very close to accomplishing the task.
Everyone just paused for a while to take this all in and finally Christian said, “Well, if that’s the way this has to be then let’s have the faith to continue on. Edward wants to and Gus says it’s imperative that he does, so let’s get on with it.”
Then he added, “Someone get the harness off of the dog please.”
The walls of the narrow channel they would travel down were thirty feet high. The base or the area that they had to walk on was no more than ten feet at the widest opening and as narrow as four feet in some places. This was not a place for a claustrophobic.
Gus surprisingly took the lead at this point. The pace was slow with an injured party in the group but they did have some six hundred milligram Ibuprofen in the medical supplies. This helped Edward with the pain. The wind was picking up or appeared to be and made some strange moaning sounds as it traveled the course of the chasm. Just as Gus had said, the group walked out of the crevice. The high wall dropped off on one side to a large deep area below, to the left. To way continued to the right.
Before they entered this part of their challenge they decided to connect themselves by rope and a few well-spaced pitons along this ledge. Relinquishing the lead back to the Sullivan brothers Gus figured that their nimbleness was the ticket for success. Gus followed behind the brothers with George, Kessah, Katherine, Edward, the dog and Christian bringing up the rear. The path was a five-foot wide ledge that narrowed at times to two feet in some places. Daylight was beginning to fade from the heavy overcast sky and twilight was settling in. The group needed to get past this challenging area, break for dinner and set up for the evening. Gus knew that once they made it to the other side of this problematic walk, they would be in a good place to rest for the night.
The dog stuck close to Edward as he sensed that his newfound friend was injured. This appeared to be a protective move on the otherwise independent rascal. Maybe the dog remembered when it was injured at one time or another; maybe it just sensed that the teacher needed support.
Moving slowly the group took care with every step that was attempted making sure they were on solid footing. At one place on the path the rock had given way, leaving a two foot gap at the narrowest part of the stone trail. Michael rigged an additional rope along this stretch to insure everyone’s safety, as they hopped across the opening. Ninety minutes passed quickly and Michael could see the ledge widening ahead as they made their way upwards along the stone ledge.
They ended their precarious journey walking the rock path around the middle of the mountain’s well hidden chasm. Virtually no one had traveled over this surface since Gus and the group he was with as a young boy made the journey or at least there was no indication of human activity. It emptied out onto a flat plateau, which was about an area the size of a half of a football field. The plateau tapered upward and narrowed, ending with an eighteen-foot wide crevice that dropped a hundred feet below. The mountain wall facing them on the other side of the gap was cold and ominous. There was nothing but down on the surrounding three sides of this peninsula of rock, dotted with a few bushes and trees. It was here that they would camp for the night. Everyone was exhausted and Christian kept wondering how his old friend had managed to stay on top of it all. He figured, if he, himself was feeling the physical and mental stress of this partaking then Gus must be having trouble managing it.
Gus tried to focus on Edward to keep his mind off of his own problems but Christian could see his friend’s smile weakening as time ticked away. Exhaustion took over and a good night’s rest was desperately needed, more so for some than others.
The sleeping bags were rolled out in the higher areas of the mountain’s surface and positioned in such a way to protect them from the cold wind. There was an area of assorted boulders that worked well as a wall for just that purpose. Because of the one night in the field and to minimize the load, tents were not brought on the trip. An extra prayer from each adventurer was however, added for God to be gracious with the weather. Everyone helped in collecting any and all wood from the remains of a couple of dead trees that jutted from the rocks. In minimal time a fire was started and the group settled in for the night with very little dialogue.
The wind howled through the night as a reminder that they were in someone else’s domain. This added to the mystique and George kept searching the darkness for intruders until sleep overtook him. Threatening from time to time with a few sprinkles, the rain held off like a good host and their tired state put the rest of the traveler’s minds to sleep.
Gus was the first up and out of the sleeping bag in the morning and after relieving himself, gathered a bit of wood to refuel the fire. A few minutes later George was following in his steps and took over the wood detail. The rest of the group stirred and began to unfold for the day’s events. It was as if the group started out in slow motion and in a matter of minutes was up to speed as their minds refocused on their journey. Gus began to wander over to the far end of the plateau, beginning his examination of an odd but very large rock. This rock he had seen before but it was a long time ago.
It was positioned at the narrow end of the plateau’s surface sitting right on the edge. It was an odd shaped rock that almost appeared sculptured. Having a rough look of an extremely large spoon in the loosest of descriptions gave one with an imagination the thought that a giant had left it behind. This huge boulder was approximately thirty feet in length, twelve feet wide and six feet thick. It sat parallel to the chasm with the larger or cupped end of the spoon elevated about five feet off of the ground. This was the end that would receive the giant’s broth. Today, the broth would be replaced with the people Gus had brought along. The handle end is where Gus had stood when he did accomplished the feat years before. This would be George’s position. As the spoon shifted or teeter-tottered because of the weight transference, it also swung sideways about 140 degrees with a slight push, which would raise George up and over to the small hole in the cliff face on the other side of the chasm. Kes would have to be the guide and steer the rock. The balance was critical for all of this to work and the weight was the major factor.
Gus looked the group up and down trying to visualize if he had the right amount of weight between the five remaining people. This would activate the leveraged rock, bringing George up to the place in the sheer rock face where the key needed to be inserted. The twins, Christian, Edward, Katherine and Gus looked to be the right combination.
This would be a tricky move and needed to be explained thoroughly because although it was safe, it would scare the begeezers out of everyone when the balance rock swung over the cliff edge. Not only would George be hanging out over one edge but the rest of them would need to hold their position as to keep George out of harm’s way. Gus knew this from his own experience. Of course, when he was a part of this he was also on the other end of the rock, opposite of the counterweight group and being a youth wasn’t as concerned with his well being at the time.
Gus moved closer to the anomaly. This afforded him time to slip another nitroglycerin pill under his tongue. Wood on the fire, George started over toward the old man as Gus neared the edge of the plateau. Seeing George coming out of the corner of his eye he turned around.
“Try making this rock move George,” the old man chided.
A low bank of dark gray and smoke colored clouds began to drift over the top of the mountain. It gave Gus a weird feeling as he looked about then regained his focus on George.
Moving over to the enormous boulder George gave it a push with everything he had in him and nothing happened. The twins walked over and looked at Gus with odd expressions then both settled in next to George. The three of them could not move it an inch. Trying several times brought no results.
“Ha! If every one of us tried to budge this thing it would not move, unless of course you knew the secret!” the old man explained.
The three looked at him while the others joined having taken care of their needs and sharing in the sandwiches that were prepared the day before. The rain started to trickle down so everyone scrambled to pack up their gear, storing it beneath a recess in the rocky wall near where the path ended that had brought them to the plateau. In a few minutes time they were back in front of the boulder. Edward was moving a bit slower than the rest but his spirits remained positive. Obviously he was in pain but chose to keep it to himself. The Motrin helped and the knowing that soon this would be all over. Edward chose to keep his mind set in the present.
“You see, this thing is like a large counter balance. I’m gonna explain this like you were all kids now, so listen close. Picture a spoon setting on a table. Now, you push down on the spoon end and the handle lifts into the air. Balanced like this, it can also be pivoted or swung a certain distance. Here’s where your faith comes in people.”
The group looked hard at Gus as he was spelling this out to them. All the while Gus explained, the weather progressively got worse. The rain was now coming down at a steady pace. Wind breakers were zipped and hoods were up as they listened intently to Gus’ directions.
“When you five get in the spoon end of this boulder, Kes and I are going to swing it so George, who will be in the end that rises, will be able to reach the hole across the chasm. In that hole is a place where this key goes.”
He then tapped at his chest and pulled out the leather bag. Reaching in, he exposed the key for the first time. Everyone had these eyes riveted on the odd looking piece. It looked like it was right out of an outer space movie. The group all moved in for a closer look and when they all got a peek Gus slipped it back into the bag and dropped it down inside his shirt again.
“I tell you that it’s perfectly safe as long as no one leaves the rock, changing the weight ratio before George has completed his task!” Then the old man smiled maybe a little too wide because Michael looked like he thought Gus had gone off the deep end.
“Are you serious Gus?” Michael shouted, wiping the rain from his eyes and face.
“Absolutely my friend. It worked sixty years ago and I know for a fact that it ain’t been used since! So it has to be in good working order.”
“I’m willing to give it a try brother.” Everett shared with his sibling.
“Katherine added, “Listen, we all came here to do this thing. I’m believing that if Gus says it’ll work then we are going to get it to work!”
Christian finally said, “Gus, what happens after George turns the key?”
“Oh you’ll see my friend…..you’ll see! He, he, he…”
It was like the old man was reverting to a child by his actions but everyone had come too far to turn back now.
“Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime people,” the old man asked.
“Good! Positions please.....and watch your step! It’s getting slippery.”
The group looked at one and other briefly then started to climb into the cupped end of the rock. Everyone was in position with the exception of Kes, Gus, George and Everett.
“George, you got the picture in your head of what is about to happen,” the old man asked.
George nodded and moved down to the other end of the rock. He climbed up on the very end and gave the thumbs up sign to Gus and everyone. Everett smiled at Kes and Gus then began to climb up on his end as well.
“Wait!” George screamed.
“The key, Gus! I need the key!”
In the excitement of the moment Gus had forgotten to give the boy the key. Shaking his head he moved over to George; slipped the key from the leather bag and handing it to him said, “Hang on tight boy.”
Everett continued into the rock where his companions were waiting. Once in position and keeping a hand on Edward, Everett and the rest waited for something to happen. Nothing but the sound of the wind was in the air. No movement with the rock; not anything. Looking at Gus was a group of questioning faces. Returning their gaze was an old man who appeared to be totally miffed.
“It has to work! Lord! You wouldn’t let me down. Not after all these years of waiting; watching.” Gus shouted to the sky as he raised his arms in a pleading way. He dropped to one knee and hung his head. It was then that the dog came over and licked his hand, as if he could feel the old man’s pain.
Gus slowly raised his head and looked at the animal.
“Dog!” the old man shouted.
“Call the dog Edward, call the dog!”
Edward hollered, “Here dog. Come here boy!”
The dog ran along the side of the boulder and found a suitable place, then jumped up. As soon as he was alongside Edward, everyone felt the rock begin to shift. The sound of stone on stone groaned as it began to raise George into the air as the others came down.
“Steady everyone!” Gus shouted.
“Show me what to do Gus.” Kes said nervously.
“Yahoo!” the old man blurted out.
“All right, follow my lead Kes.”
The two got into position and began to swing the stone. As they did, George moved out over the chasm one way, while the group swung in the opposite direction. The distance closed and when they were just about in position the young boy realized that he would need to lean with one hand against the mountain. This would steady him for there was still a three foot gap between him and the mountain. The hole was clearly visible to him now.
“Go on George. You can do this!” Gus shouted from about twenty-five feet away.
George looked back at everyone on the other end. Then he leaned forward and met the mountain with his left arm extended. Holding himself there, he took the key and shoved his hand in the hole which measured about seven inches at the opening. Groping around, he felt something odd. George pulled his hand out and stuffed the key in his pants pocket.
“What’s wrong George?” Gus asked.
“Something’s blocking the shaft. Just a minute!”
The boy reached back in and pulled out the remains of a dead owl. The feathers and bones were all that were left. As he tossed them to the chasm floor, he said, “Yuck! Just a dead bird. Owl, I think.”
The rain continued at a steady rate. Every so often it would become more intense. George moved carefully so he would not make a mistake and fall.
Taking another reach in, he examined the rest of the small shaft with the tips of his fingers making sure that it was clear. Having done that, he pulled the key from his pocket and slipped his hand back into the hole all while he held himself in place with his left arm. The rock face was slippery and he was slightly nervous but doing fine under the circumstances.
Don’t look down, he thought.
George lined the key up with the hole at the back of the shaft and gave it a push.
“Shoomp!” Was the sound it made as it seated into the cavity. He grabbed firmly on the ball end and gave it a turn to the right. Nothing happened.
“Turn it back to its original position George and retrieve it!” Gus shouted from across the way. As George removed the key and his arm from the hole, he pushed back with his left arm to get upright on the pivot rock. As he did, he lost his balance for a moment and appeared to be on the way to falling down to a sure death in the chasm below.
There was a tremendous lightening flash and deafening thunder clap that happened all at once. This made everyone jump. As George teetered forward a peculiar heavy gust of warm wind came up from the depths of the chasm and with just enough force stood him upright again.
Startled at what had happened, George could do nothing but think, “Oh my God!”
Twenty feet further along the mountain wall where George had been supporting himself, something strange began to take place. Kes and the old man swung the pivot rock back to its original position and the dog jumped to the ground, which was enough to cause the weight shift. The rock settled back to where it had first been when Gus walked up to it. George took the lead and the rest of the group got off the rock.
Everyone moved back quite a distance for fear of what was happening to the mountain wall. A section of the mountain began to tip out of the mountain’s face and lower itself; bridging the span between the mountain and the plateau. The noise was deafening as it drowned out the sound of the rain and thunder. Where there was nothing, a stone bridge had materialized out of the wall and gave way to a chamber within the mountain. The actual bridged piece must have been thirty feet long, with close to twenty feet meeting the gap, while the other ten feet swung inward toward the mountain. It was as if the piece was pinned two thirds of the way down the length of the obelisk. Although it measured five feet wide, it was almost eight feet thick. This granted entrance to the interior, which with the rain almost to the point of a heavy downpour beckoned the group to come forward. Gus started moving in the direction of the opening with the dog right along side of him, followed by George then Christian and Katherine. Kessah and the three remaining men took up the rear. As Gus and the dog reached the beginning of the newly transformed stone bridge, the dog stopped and lifted his leg on a rock, which almost seemed a waste of time in such a rain storm. Everett kept a close eye on Edward for the arm was giving the teacher some trouble and the weather was only adding to the discomfort. Edward was looking pasty at best.
There was an odd glow the seemed to light the cave as they entered. The first chamber was small or about the size of a forty foot square room. Whatever was lighting the place up did not come from this location but further in through the next opening. Doing their best to shake the water off, the group tried to compose themselves after getting out of the downpour. An eerie silence blanketed this place that was hidden deep inside the belly of the mountain. Secrets had been kept safe here for a long, long time.
Edward was leaning against the wall of the cave in obvious pain and although everyone was concerned, there was not much that anyone could due until Gus had completed the task he was so adamant about. The dog moved to the next opening but did not venture through. He looked to Gus, then returned alongside Edward and waited.
“Follow me everyone.” The old Man said, as he prepared his pipe but never lit it.
Moving through the archway, the assortment of men and women entered the next chamber. Eyes grew large and there were gasps that were audible as the party cast their stares on what appeared to be an enormous device or some kind of machine that was close to three stories high in a camber of five stories. The device extended deep into the mountain. The enormity of this cave took everyone by surprise. The peculiarity of the machine was, that its substance was the same material that the key was made of and even more so, that it extended into the molecular structure of the mountain itself. It was as if the two were fused together to form a living piece of the planet earth itself.
A staircase, which was suspended in the air about thirty feet above everyone, moved upward another fifteen feet in a spiral and emptied out to a platform which appeared to be the control area.
Katherine moved toward the old man with her eyes scanning everything in front of her and asked, “Where did this all come from Gus?”
The old man’s eyes met with hers, then looked to Christian and pointed to their rear and over their heads to a place high on the back wall of the cave. Etched in the rock in three foot high letters was an inscription that read, “GOD ONLY KNOWS WHERE THIS CAME FROM”
One wondered if the poor deceased owl that George had found in the keyhole was a descendent of possibly a great, great grandfather owl ten times removed who had witnessed this phenomenon of creation once upon a time.
Katherine moved very close to Gus and almost at a whisper said, “You’re not coming back with us, are you Gus?”
It was at this time that Gus explained the entire story to his friends. How he came to have been in the mountains hiking with his father. The two had camped for the night and a violent thunderstorm had broken open over the area. Pouring rain caused the streams to overflow and a lightning strike hit a tree, which split, falling on their tent and pinning Gus’ father’s leg.
Near daybreak, Gus headed down the trail seeking help. He came upon a group of people very similar to Christian and the others. A mix of genders, ethnic backgrounds and personalities made up the party of people. Pleading for help, Gus guided the group up to where he had left his father. They freed him from the tree and one older woman helped his father down the mountain to safety. Gus said he was asked to join the expedition and although he was very concerned about his father’s well being and wanted to accompany his father down the mountain, he chose to stay with the group. He felt comfortable with these people and he went along with his father’s blessing.
“It was almost as if my father knew I was supposed to be there.”
“Well Gus, what is this thing? What’s it supposed to do?” Michael asked with much concern.
“Michael, what we got here is something you’ll never see again. You are the missing links that make this thing work. You create the bridges that allow it to regenerate. It has prepared itself for your coming all of these years and afterward, it will begin the process over for the next group. It’s a living creation of the Almighty! So enjoy it for the moment because when you all leave here you will not remember the details as to why you were up here. It’s all part of God’s security plan.” Gus explained to the group.
“This contraption is, for lack of a better description, a rainbow maker! I can’t really explain how it works but I can tell you that it does. It will restore the weather patterns here and around the world and in doing so, there is something else that will take place. I believe it to be like an adrenaline shot to mankind’s spirit. People will begin to act differently toward one and other. They will return to a gentler, kinder way of life. In that, is the true miracle of the machine. Unfortunately, over a period of sixty years or so, people will fall victim to their egos, beginning to sour a little at a time. It will be time again to reenergize the machine. That is where George will come into the picture. He will be the new weather watcher.”
Gus could see that Edward was grimacing from the pain in his forearm as he spoke and decided to get things underway.
“I need everyone to gather over here below the staircase.”
They all followed Gus to a center point on the floor that appeared to be made of the like material that the machine was made of. It was a three-quarter moon shape that appeared to marry to the staircase if they were on the same level. When everyone was in position, Gus pulled out a small pitch pipe. He blew a note and said, “Hum everyone!”
They all looked at him like he was nuts but hum they did. As the harmony of humming filled the air, the floor began to rise. The group was startled as they moved upward, humming their hearts out. When it reached the top, it locked into position and everyone moved off of the platform and on to the landing.
Edward said, “Hey, where’s the dog?”
The dog let out a bark from below, recognizing that he had been missed. Gus explained that the dog was not needed up here and from the looks of things the animal had already known. He was content to rest below and had all ready found a corner to curl up in. At this time while everyone was absorbing what they were seeing, being totally enthralled by the machine and the surrounding area, Gus pulled Christian to the side.
“This is farewell my friend,” the old man said to the geologist.
“You have been like a son to me.
“Gus! I...” Christian started to say.
“It’s OK, Christian. I love you too but it is my time and I must go. Watch over the boy and his sister. In that, you will honor my memory.”
“I love you...Gus.” And Christian gave his friend a long hug and kissed him on the forehead. They separated and began to prepare everyone for the next phase.
The site was spectacular to behold. As Kes, Christian and Katherine moved about looking at things, Gus told Everett to remove the splint from Edward’s arm.
“Ed, you won’t need that right now. We all need to get into position. Kes, come over here. I think this is your spot.”
One could describe the position for each person as a body impression in the surface of the material that the machine was made of. Oddly enough, when Kessah climbed into her place, which was similar to a prone position with arms extended above the head, she found it made to order. The legs were bent at the knees as if she was straddling a horse and they set into the depression on either side of the raised area she was on. She was virtually filling a mold. What was so surprising was, it turned out to be a perfect fit, right down to the face impression. Resting her face in the mold in order to get a feel for it she totally relaxed for a moment.
Taken by surprise, Kes lifted her head quickly and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“What is it child? Do you hear them?” The old man questioned with a sly grin on his face.
“Yes Gus. It...it sounds like...angels singing!”
Everyone looked around for their spot as if it was Christmas and they were kids searching for their presents, for they too wanted to hear what Kes had just experienced. Everett helped Ed into his position guiding Edward’s arm so it would not have any stress placed on it. Once the teacher was settled Everett looked for his own spot. The chambers or body impressions were scattered about, in an area that was riddled with walkways between raised areas of the machine; if in fact it was a machine. Even though each person’s spot was unique to themselves they were all within earshot of each other. As the Irishman found his respective spot, something weird began to happen with Edward’s chamber. Everett called to Michael, “Look brother!”
To describe it would be to say that there was the sound of static electricity, then something to the effect of what aurora borealis looks like in the night sky began to cover the entire section with Edward engulfed in this phenomenon. He made no sound and appeared to be in no discomfort. This lasted two minutes from beginning to end and when it was over, Edward raised his head from its position in the mold and exclaimed, “My arm! It’s healed!”
Although there was a look of astonishment, mixed with sincere joy, it appeared that no one was extremely surprised by the event. It was as if the group knew that they had entered a very special place.
By this time everyone had found their spots; that is everyone except George and Gus. The old man walked the boy over to where George’s impression was then knelt down on one knee next to him. Reaching for the rawhide cord on the leather bag, Gus removed it from around his neck.
“You’ll be needing this....boy.” And he handed it to George.
“Keep the key in a safe place George. Stay observant to the world and what is happening around you. A time will come when a Christian of your own will come into your life. He or she will help gather the flock. You will see what has transpired in my life unfold in your own. You will reach the place in which you will need to make the decision to act upon your feelings and help in God’s plan. It will all come together. Trust me, when I tell you that.”
George looked deep into the old man’s eyes. He knew what Gus was saying but looked for the untruth that their paths would not separate here, at this time. He knew he was fooling himself. He knew this was goodbye.
“I love you Gus! I’ll never forget you. I’ll make you proud, you’ll see!”
The young boy had tears running down his cheeks as he embraced the old man. Gus let George cry for a moment before he held him by the shoulders and made eye contact.
“Here George. Put this in your pocket for safe keeping.” And he gave the boy his pipe.
“Christian will help you and your sister with anything you need. The cabin and the land is yours. Chris has the papers. You’ll have to guide everyone out of here when it is over. They won’t remember much about all of this and the little they do hold on to will fade over time.”
He stood and guided the boy to his impression; helping him in.
“I love you George. Always remember that’s what it is all about. Always remember...”
Outside all hell was breaking loose with the storm. One would have believed that it knew that its time was running out. Lighting cracked across the sky and the thunder shook the ground. Rain poured steadily down and new streams were formed by the deluge.
Gus moved toward a different type of receptacle. His, which one could deduce as the main point that everything would happen from, was in a vertical position which Gus backed into. As he did so, another part of the machine began to move downward and toward him sandwiching him in between as if he was returning to the egg. Once it had closed there was a drop or what appeared to be a drain in the power of the machine then it was as if an intensified light brightened to the point of pure energy. While this took place each person was filled with an angelic sense of being. They felt transported to a heavenly place and indeed heard the sound of celestial voices singing. Colors began to change on the surface of the machine. They moved through each individual creating a kaleidoscope effect throughout the entire chamber. The dog never moved while all this took place.
While the energy built to a maximum level and followed a conduit of material toward the upper area of the mountain the interior of the chamber walls began to glow a bright iridescent blue. The conduit continued to grow out of the top of the machine, resembling an umbilical cord; winding its way to the highest point in the chamber. Finally reaching the top of the mountain it discharged its energy and struck at the sky through multiple tentacles that appeared to digest the storm and all of its fury.
Within a matter of minutes the process had been completed. Everything began to settle back to the silence that they all had walked into just a short time before. One by one, each of the group righted themselves from their impression and moved near the center where Gus had entered into his chamber. There was the sound of pressure releasing and the half that had come down from above, retracted. George stood back a little because he had already anticipated what the rest were going to experience.
Gus was gone.
“Hey! Where did the old guy go?” Michael exclaimed.
“He had to leave.” George said rather sadly.
Regrouping his thoughts, he remembered that he had to lead everyone out. Gus had told him that he needed to move quickly.
“Come on everyone. We need to leave.”
George headed for the elevated platform. The rest followed him like he was the original pied piper. When everyone was standing on it George wasn’t really sure what to do so he just hummed as they all did before and the platform began to drop to the lower level. The entire group including Christian, were in a bit of a fog yet from the process that they had been put through. The dog began to bark and jump around as the platform settled on ground level and the twins, the two women, Edward and Christian followed George through the chamber into the connecting cave and out to the rock bridge than spanned the chasm. Everyone made it to the other side, the dog being the last to cross and immediately after the dog was clear the obelisk of stone began to move. Returning to its original place in the mountains side, it seated with an unsettling jar. Eyes were wide and yet slightly puzzled at what they had just seen.
Katherine was the first to speak, when she said, “I feel great! I feel like I just was part of a miracle but I’m a little foggy as to what all happened. You know though? It’s OK. It’s such a beautiful day that I’m not going to worry about a thing.”
With that said, she headed across the plateau. Christian and George followed close behind, with the rest following as well. High above, drifting on the air currents was a single hawk enjoying the sunshine that was breaking up the cloud cover. Although everything was still wet, the storm was gone. Across the mountain and along the stone trail, a beautiful rainbow started to form. Full of rich colors it spanned the horizon.
“Look everyone! A rainbow! Now there’s a wonderful sight. God’s way of letting us all know that it’s going to be all right!” Christian said.
“Yeah! Wonder if there really is a pot of gold at the end?” Michael said aloud.
George just looked ahead and said, “I think the good people of this world are the gold.”
Miles away an old woman pulled into a service station for gasoline and directions. She saw no one around so she got out of her car and was attempting to figure out the pump when the station mechanic spotted her from the garage.
“Just a minute Mam! Let me give you a hand with that. I have to get that drive bell fixed. I’m sorry, I didn’t see you pull up.” He said in a most sincere tone.
“Why thank you young man. That’s very kind of you.”
She noticed that he was limping as he walked and asked, “Did you hurt yourself young man?”
“Well mam, I used to move through this life a bit fast. I think this was God’s way of helping me slow down so I might get a better view of all that I was missing.”
He topped off her tank, gave her directions and wished her a pleasant day. Heading back to the garage he thought to himself, I really feel good today. Think I’ll go home, spruce up and do a bit of shopping. Get some new clothes. I need to work on getting this place cleaned up too. Hmmm, maybe that young girl was right? May be a good time for an attitude adjustment.