CHAPTER TWO

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WHERE AM I?

.

I had a dream, which was not at all a dream
                                 Lord Byron

I awoke on a patch of dry grass feeling disoriented and dazed, not remembering exactly where I was. And yet, for some reason, I felt more rested than I could ever remember. Curiously it felt as though I had been sleeping for days. Most odd, I thought, considering how I had been climbing since early dawn. I must have really been tired since I couldn't even remember lying down. Now wide awake, I remained supine for some time, looking directly up at the scattered clouds in the blue sky, thinking of all that occurred since leaving home.

My flight from London to Santiago via Buenos Aires was lengthy and exhausting, but nothing compared to my extended excursion in a dilapidated bus with worn seats. For the better part of the day, we navigated through the winding and backcountry roads. At last, we arrived at a remote village where I found lodging. The next morning, I left early since I still had at least a day's trek through the valleys to reach the base of this mountain I had randomly chosen to climb. Of course, I had to choose it, simply because the aerial photographs of these sierras seemed to indicate it was one of the more formidable peaks in Chile.

Also, according to the topographical maps I studied, it would likely have some spectacular vistas to view. Since I couldn’t find if this mountain had a name, I thought I’d come up with something creative and then inform the Chilean authorities what they should name it. Mount Phillips had a nice ring. But first I’d have to conquer it!

So here I was, ready for the final ascent. I sprung up off the ground to my feet, surprising myself with the ease and lightness with which I arose. It occurred to me again how well I must have slept to have such agility. I could tell I was only a few hours from the summit now, but it appeared there still remained some major challenges ahead, considering the height of precipices that loomed before me.

As I looked around, I thought what a splendid afternoon this had turned out to be. And yet something wasn’t right. What was it? Ah, the sun. It was still in the eastern horizon to my left, indicating it must be early morning rather than the afternoon. But, I thought, that can't be, unless I somehow fell asleep yesterday and slept all last night. Could I really have been that tired? 

Most curious, I thought, but for now, it didn’t matter. Chile's bright, mid-summer sun was exactly what I needed for a winter break to lift the veil of gloom from London's dreary winter rains. The bright azure contained only a few trailing wisps of haze to the east. Everything seemed so alive, so exhilarating… the perfect backdrop for my summit moment. Amazing what this alpine environment, and good sleep, can do for one's mind and body!

Not long ago I felt hungry, tired and bruised, but now, near the top, I felt like a new man. Apparent there actually is more to life than marking term papers while becoming embroiled in the internecine politics of incompetent administrators jostling for power and influence. Not going to be snogging anyone's scholastic arse anymore, at least not up here. But why even think about it and distract me from this splendour with such ridiculous twaddle. 

Indeed, the trip had all been worth the effort, even though I knew I could scarcely afford it. After being in a chronic malaise over the last few years, I wanted to find a new world where I could face down the fears that had been holding me back. Or was it more like a subliminal death-wish I secretly harboured that I may destroy these fears by destroying myself? I hoped not. The problem was I didn’t know why or what I feared. Certainly, it wasn’t these heights or anything else that was extreme; it lay much deeper than that. Maybe I would never know. In any case, it seemed I had come here to tempt fate. 

Going to these extremes of randomly climbing a mountain in this remote area of the world may not have made much sense to the average person. But I didn’t consider myself an average person. For reasons I still didn’t understand, it seemed I had to try to conquer my fears by proving to myself over and over again that I was invincible.

Though I was no longer eighteen, being battered about by Mediterranean storms on an old rickety merchant ship, still I felt compelled to test the limits of my strength and resourcefulness. That’s why I chose to be alone on an isolated mountain where few ventured. As a self-respecting survivalist, I had only minimal equipment.

In my adventures, I always prided myself in being able to stare down death! An analyst once suggested this was a form of psychosis, indicating I was compensating for something hidden deep within. But I wasn't that interested in hearing what he had to say. What did he know about life sitting in his office all day? Sure I may push the limits, but at least I had calculated the threats, anticipating what to expect and what to do. But this expedition had turned out to be not only the most extreme but also the most challenging so far.

As an aside, I now know these compulsions were only a ruse to distract myself from the unresolved fears I had hidden away for most of my life. Now I was about to enter into a strange new zone of awakening where everything would change to confront whatever had been lurking within. Since I didn’t understand myself that well, I didn’t know what to expect as I stood there in the shadow of the mountain’s summit. Yet I was here now, about to venture towards a new and indescribable Summit in my life.

As I strapped on my backpack to resume my ascent, I thought again about what possibly could have happened. Not only was the sun in the wrong place, but here I was at the bottom of a deep ravine I had already passed through yesterday, or so it seemed. Was I going in circles around the mountain? Hardly! While scrambling up the scree slope before me, I gave no more thought to these peculiarities.

It now became apparent, with my body’s new-found strength and dexterity; it may not be long before I would reach the summit. I congratulated myself on having made it this far with only a short rope, a few belay anchors and no climbing companions.

Feeling giddy, I looked up towards the summit to address Zeus, the mythical god I summoned the night of that unfortunate incident at the pub last October, just before having that weird dream. ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici,’[1] I cried upward to the summit. ‘Get your welcoming committee ready Zeus, and be sure to bring plenty of champagne with a bevvy of your most exquisite goddesses; we’re going to celebrate!’

After scaling up an escarpment of considerable height, I thought about the shimmering orb thingies I had seen darting around on the summit yesterday. At least, I thought, I may have seen something like that. But no, I couldn’t have, I wasn’t here yesterday. Probably I dreamt it… sometimes when I'm overly exhausted, I have really weird dreams. But even if there was something shining up there, it would probably be nothing more than the sun reflecting off a satellite receiver/transmitter on top of some weather installation.

However, I thought I may prefer it to be something a bit more interesting… say an assembly of charming green aliens perched on the summit ridge, wagering whether I'd make it to the top or not. Probably their craft was equipped with strobe lights that appeared to me as orbs. Who knows, maybe later they’d give me a joy ride around the Sierras.  

These thoughts amused me as I continued my final upward thrust. But the more I thought about orbs, gods and aliens, the more difficult it became to dismiss any of these possibilities from my mind, making me feel a bit uneasy. What if there really was something up there, then what? Was it possible I had been drawn up here for reasons I hadn’t been aware of; something more than just conquering another mountain?

Suddenly, as I paused on a narrow ridge, flashbacks came to me from that strange dream. Had that been a premonition of what I was now experiencing, I wondered? I could still hear the voice calling to me from somewhere on high, imploring me to join them on a summit. I remembered writing down every detail l could recall, up to where I was stranded on a ledge I couldn’t seem to cross. This was becoming queer! Probably, the most logical reason for these flashbacks was the altitude's rarified air that caused peculiar chemicals to be released into my brain, causing me to have these strange visions from that most indelible dream.

So I thought, just put these quirky thoughts out of your mind James, and begin to think instead of other climbing escapades you’ll make to even higher peaks. I was still a relatively young man, in excellent condition, with plenty of strength and stamina. Maybe I should try K2 next. No, that’s probably a bad idea, with one chance in four you won't come down alive… not good odds. Maybe I'll settle for Everest, like everyone else, but in any case, I really need to do this more often.

Hot damn, I thought, I’m inspired… like I can do anything! I've scrambled up this slope without even getting knackered, as though it were level ground. I couldn't remember being so energized before. And just look at the view up here; I can hardly wait to get to the summit to find what’s on the other side.

As I continued my rapid ascent, I came to a chasm that looked very familiar… in fact, too familiar! Moments ago, I was elated, but now I was confused. Had someone mixed some peyote in the gruel I had a few days ago in the village? I sat down on a ledge for a moment, examining the chasm before me and how I should proceed from here. The longer I sat there, the more I had an impression that someone, or something, was watching me. Much like when you sense you're being stared at, and then you look around and find there actually is someone looking at you.

I wasn't sure what to think, but nevertheless, it felt eerie. In any case, I got up and continued climbing until I was very near the mouth of the chasm just below the summit. Strangely, it seemed I had been here before. But unless I was clairvoyant, I couldn't have been here before. Or had I foreseen this in my dream? It’s too bad I don't believe in such nonsense; it may be helpful in explaining much of what I was experiencing today.  

As I was deciding the best way to cross the chasm, I noticed there was something moving about on the summit! ‘Well I'll be damned,’ I said aloud, ‘it appears there really is someone up there.’ Not exactly dazzling light orbs that I thought I had seen before, if not in my dream, but it seemed there might be two or three humanoid figures moving about the Summit. Or, were they possibly just stunted trees swaying in the wind? Yes, that’s probably it. But if it were my choice, I'd prefer they be sexy mountain nymphs waiting to reward me for my efforts. Perhaps they’re Zeus’ goddesses; why not make it worthwhile? I was beginning to think anything was possible up here. Maybe it was the altitude, but these fantasies were making me feel giddy, causing me to laugh aloud at myself.

Yet, even in my laughter, I sensed there may be more I was experiencing here than just lightheadedness. I felt something like an electrical force field wafting about me: very much like the electricity you feel before lightning strikes, raising the hairs on your arms. It seemed I had that same thought yesterday, but I couldn’t be sure. Everything was becoming muddled with my dream from almost three months ago. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of strange déjà vu going on ever since I awoke at the bottom of the canyon ravine. 

And then, if all this wasn’t enough, out of nowhere I heard what sounded like a voice calling out to me. Was it coming from the summit or the dissonance of synapses misfiring in my oxygen-deprived brain? Lots of people hear voices in their head in abnormal conditions like this. Bloody hell, I thought, now I'm really losing it; maybe I need to get more oxygen before my brain completely decompresses!

Just as I was about to dismiss it as nothing, I heard the voice again. This time it was calling out my name. Now that's really strange, I thought; too strange for words. Maybe it’s some mountain guru that sits on top of mountains giving audience to seekers who climb thousands of metres just to spend a few hours there. That’s about as likely as the gods waiting there all day to celebrate my arrival!

Then I heard it again, this time the voice was so clear it could have been from someone standing directly in front of me. Was it one or many? I couldn’t tell. I sat there stunned for a few minutes, waiting to hear if it would call my name once more. And soon it did, but this time it was a different voice. This one was soft, alluring and ah, so feminine; my exotic mountain nymph and goddess, beckoning me to the Summit. Maybe they’re the same. Why not, anything is possible when you use your imagination. For the ancient Greeks, the gods and goddesses were supposed to have lived on the mountains along with Zeus. I liked that idea, even if it was just a myth.

But whatever was calling my name was more than a myth. It was so real and yet so peculiar. I sense her voice resonating from within my mind, having nothing to do with what my ears hear from without. Normally I'm sceptical about this sort of thing, and yet there it was; I couldn’t deny it. And now, rather than hearing her voice, I saw images imposed on my mind’s eye, showing me a less than obvious approach to the summit.

Since I didn’t have a good feeling about the thin narrow ledge that crossed to the other side of the chasm, I decided to follow this inner prompt. Without hesitation, I retreated down about twenty yards before veering off to the left where I found a narrow indenture in the precipice. By wedging myself between the sides I was able to straddle and manoeuvre my way up the fissure towards the summit ridge. It should have been extremely difficult for me to do this, but for some reason, it wasn’t. 

So now, after all, my struggling these last few days, here I was on top of the summit ridge. But it wasn’t just a peak; it was actually a long and wide ridge that seemed to go for a considerable distance. I was exhilarated. I stood awhile, taking in the full panoramic view of the majestic ranges all around me. Then I recalled again what I had seen from below not that long ago and wondered if there really was someone up here as it appeared. I surveyed the ridge as far as I could see to the right and to the left, but I saw no one. Most likely, I thought, I must have just imagined everything, along with the voices.

Or was it possible these beings had gone into hiding, lying in wait to pounce on me? I didn’t relish the thought! From my earlier observations, this was the general area I imagined I had seen something, and yet there were no trees to explain what I thought I saw. The ridge sloped gently down towards the west, littered with large boulders and huge slabs of granite protruding out of the ground. There were patches of short alpine grass and moss, along with varieties of shrubs and hardy flowers. I decided to make my way along the ridge as it narrowed towards its highest elevation on the left.

I wasn’t exactly sure where the ridge would end before it dropped off to a steep precipice. As I continued along, I became aware of something far off in the distance, not at all appearing to be trees or shrubs. As I drew closer, I had the impression these were two distinct beings, with possibly another standing further away in the distance. At first, I thought they may be other climbers who had approached the Summit from the other side. I wanted to believe one of these figures was my mountain nymph, patiently waiting for me to arrive here after all these centuries… the one calling to me while I was still below the summit. I’d prefer that to the wind.

Though I’ve never believed in the folklore of elves and fairies, at least not since I was a child; still I continued to entertain my fantasy. Not only had she called out my name but showed me the way up. In my rational mind, I understood such things can only happen in one’s imagination. But as I got closer, I could see only two figures now. Likely, the third was just something further in the distance, making the two appear as three.

I continued to advance forward, one wary step at a time, my eyes riveted on them. They remained perfectly motionless at the highest end of the summit ridge. Its seemed they were staring at me just as intently… a bit unnerving and intimidating, to say the least! One had a long coat flapping in the wind. Who were they and why weren’t they proceeding to meet me half-way?

if I just stood still; then what would happen? Of course, I could walk away in the other direction, but I didn’t want to turn my back on them, not knowing who or what they were. After about another thirty yards, I was close enough to tell they were staring directly towards me. I had an uncomfortable feeling deep in my plexus that they weren’t just mountain climbers, but beings that had been waiting for me a very long time.

Was I imagining it, or did I just hear my name spoken, as if someone had been standing right beside me? If so, what other powers might they possess besides this telepathic voodoo? Did they have something to do with those glowing orbs I thought I saw or was I delirious? Whatever was going on, it seemed there was some really spooky stuff happening up here.

Perhaps they were alien decoys, but then, where was their spaceship? Hovering somewhere over the summit with their cloaking shields up? Wonder if they have laser weapons. In my mind I could already hear it: ‘Stun lasers set, ready… take the earthling.’

Then for whatever reason, a far different vision suddenly juxtaposed itself in my mind, reminding me of the Transfiguration story.[2] From where in space and time did that strange phantasm come? Had the voices projected this image onto my consciousness?

As befitting any credible philosopher, I’m familiar with most stories and teachings of most major religious myths, archetypes and traditions. And so, I knew this vision had something to do with Christ being transfigured with a dazzling form of light. The incident is said to have occurred somewhere in Palestine on some unknown mountain that is traditionally referred to as The Mount of Transfiguration. So were these two mysterious beings standing before me the same Moses and Elijah of this legend? If so, was I about to witness my transfiguration on this Mount? That would be most extraordinary, even as a metaphor!

Wasn't there something in the story about a brilliant cloud shining down on them? Maybe that’s what those blazing light orbs were about. Trouble is; I'm no Christ… not even close. I’m not even religious. Besides, I wasn’t sure what any of this was supposed to mean: trans-figured… but from what to what?  Possibly, the altitude had gotten to me in thinking such insane thoughts.

For a few more moments I stood there, my imagination contorting with science fiction and religious mythology. Then, as I again proceeded to draw closer to them, more delirious thoughts arose within me: I think I know these two! But do I? No, I don’t. Yet I think I do, but I don’t know why I would think that; I’ve never seen them before. So why do I think I know them when I don’t?

Am I crazy… or just confused? None of this makes sense. Yet I can’t deny there’s something familiar about them, even if I don’t know what it is. Just like when you think you know a stranger from somewhere before, perhaps a prior life; except I didn’t believe in prior lives, or for that matter, any other life than this.     

Mixed impressions continued to flood into my mind, though I tried not to allow my imagined fears to get too carried away with me. I stopped once again to see if they would make a move, but still, they didn’t, remaining fixed in stony silence as if to unnerve me. I stepped forward again, refusing to blink as I kept my eyes firmly fixed upon them with each stride I took.

I sensed the older one had an eerie presence of someone I may have known in the distant past, but I had no idea who that may be. It felt very peculiar when my eyes met his. He seemed to have a serious demeanour, like some Himalayan sage; not that I've ever met any mountain sages before.

Still thinking of the transfiguration story, it seemed there was a venerable Moses persona about him, reminding me of the movie scene where he came down from the burning bush on Mount Sinai,[3] except he was wearing old fashioned British hiking knickers. His prophetic image seemed accentuated by his thick white hair, that extended just above his shoulders. His penetrating blue eyes had a laser focus which seemed to command my respect, even though I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was fear.

His companion appeared much younger, possibly in his early to mid-twenties, yet equally interesting in his own way. I estimated him to be close to six feet tall with an athletic build. He had long blond/brown hair in Rastafarian dreadlocks. This, with his tattered Alpaca coat, reminded me of a young Bohemian drifter.

Likely my fear and bewilderment were evident as I approached them. In response, the young man gave me an assuring smile to allay any lingering concerns I may have towards them in this most improbable encounter.

‘Buenos Días,’ I said, expecting them to be Chileans

‘Good day,’ said the younger, in a cheerful British accent.

‘We've been observing your arduous journey up this mountain,’ said the elder, in a mix of the Queen's English with a subtle underlying Gaelic inflexion. ‘We are pleased that at long last that you have joined us on this summit. Congratulations on completing this stage of your ascent, James.’

‘I beg your pardon sir, but how do you know my name?’ I said with some alarm.  ‘There's no one on God's green earth who could know I'm here.’  

‘You're right,’ he said, ‘no one knows, at least not on God's green earth, as you say.’

‘But obviously, you do!’ 

‘Indeed, we do,’ he said. 

‘But how?’ I asked, trying to remain composed.

‘May we introduce ourselves?’

‘If you would be so kind, that would be greatly appreciated,’ I said, with a tinge of impertinence in my voice.

‘You may call me Eli,’ said the younger.

‘And if you please, you may call me Mo,’ said the other. 

What the bloody hell, I thought to myself. They just called themselves Eli and Mo, short for Elijah and Moses. Those were the two with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Had I not just assigned those names to them in my mind? But I wasn’t serious; the names just somehow came to me. So how could they have known what I was thinking? But then, if they were able to know my name, why wouldn’t they also know what I was thinking. This was just too uncanny. Mind readers… but I didn’t believe in that claptrap. There had to be a more rational explanation. Obviously a coincidence!

‘If you care to come along with us,’ Mo said, ‘we’d be pleased if you would join us at our camp on the other end of this ridge. We have plenty of extra food and drink.’

‘I don’t believe I have anything scheduled in my social calendar at the moment,’ I said. ‘So yes, I’d be delighted to accept your invitation.’

As we hiked towards their camp, they seemed genuinely interested in hearing about my trip to Chile and the experiences I had while climbing this mountain. I was impressed with them as being authentically gracious and genteel; perhaps more than one should expect from strangers in such a remote part of the world. Often their eyes remained fixed on me as I spoke: a quality I always consider to be an indication of personal integrity.

Though they were still strangers, I had an assuring feeling about them. In some ways they still seemed oddly familiar; perhaps too much so. I wasn’t sure why, but it seemed as if they already knew me, even though I didn’t know them. I kept asking myself, who are they? Was this just a friendly chance encounter, or were they sent by someone to meet me for some specific reason? That certainly would be a reason for serious concern! Thoughts of orbs and alien abduction still played in the back of my mind. Under normal circumstances, I would never allow myself to think anything so irrational. But fear is never rational.

It still mystified me why they were here. Obviously, they didn't just stroll up on some eco sightseeing tour. It had taken me a very long time to climb to this summit, risking life and limb, and I'm sure I must have looked the worse for the wear. Yet here they were, fresh as daisies! Very few climbers Mo's age could have made it even close to this summit unless they were a Sherpa. Actually, I pictured him more as a croquet player than a climber. For these reasons and more, I couldn't shake the feeling that something very strange was going on.  

And not only that, I suspected that perhaps there was something most peculiar going on with me too. I should have felt exhausted and hungry from these last days of my near-vertical ascent. This was likely the most precipitous and dangerous climb I had ever experienced. Yet surprisingly, my body felt inexplicably light and spritely, considering what I had been through.

My provisions of dehydrated foods were almost depleted, and whatever berries and herbs I gathered along the way were long gone. Not that that worried me too much since I understand that most can survive for about forty days without food. In fact, I once fasted for over four weeks with only water, though not while climbing. But where did this surge of energy suddenly come from? I must be a whole lot fitter than I realized.

As we carried on along the ridge, I thought how much I’d like to celebrate my ascent with a cool bottle of sparkling champagne. Had I not made this request to my mountain god?

As if reading my mind, Eli stopped and pulled out a bottle from his battered backpack! He shook it, popped the cork and directed the spray towards my face. Most refreshing! Laughing, he handed the bottle to me to guzzle down what possibly was the most delicious bubbly I’d ever tasted: Pernod Ricard Perrier-Jouët, no less![4]

We merrily passed it around a few times and then, just as soon as it was empty, Mo pulled out another identical bottle from the inner pocket of his overcoat, like a dealer in some back alley. This time glasses seemed to magically appear as may be expected from a magician on stage.

I assumed it was just the libations, but in this strange mix of confusion, conversation and laughter, I was beginning to feel more alive and vibrant than I could ever remember feeling before. Now that my residual fears were set aside for the moment, I felt I was in my element. But then, with enough champagne, I suppose that’s to be expected.

What occurred next was even more surprising. How it all happened as it did, I had no idea. But after arriving near the western end of the ridge, we came to an area which was somewhat lower, recessed among large granite boulders. Evidently, this is where they had camped since there were still hot coals smouldering from a fire. Curiously though, there were no tents or evidence of bedding.

Eli went off somewhere to find more firewood, although I wasn’t sure where he would find any up here. As Mo attempted to reignite the fire by stoked the embers, I continued to stroll further along to the end of the ridge, taking in the spectacular views of the northerly sierra. I stood there mesmerized, thinking how the struggle had all be worth it… definitely, the most difficult expedition I had ever been on.

When I finally returned to the campsite, I found the campfire was blazing high with a large high pile of wood stacked nearby. Where did Eli find all that wood I wondered?  But that wasn’t my big surprise.

I looked over to the side, and there were Mo and Eli arranging what appeared to be a feast of exotic foods on a long wooden table.

‘Where in the bloody hell did you get all this? I asked, exclaiming.

Not only were there a large variety of exotic foods, seemingly imported from all over the world, there were also several bottles of wine that, coincidentally, seemed to include my favourite labels. (However, considering their expense, I rarely indulged in any of them.)

Eli uncorked a bottle, the poured a few glasses as I commended my hosts on their exquisite tastes. Soon, I sampled another bottle and feeling rather jolly, sampled a few more. In my happy state, I imagined myself to be standing in the tasting room of an elegant Mediterranean winery, explicating the comparative merits of their finest wines. In the past, I’d sometimes put on my most affected airs at dinner parties as a wine connoisseur just to see if anyone would take me seriously.

‘Gentleman,’ I said in my most unctuous tone, ‘may I recommend this elegant Zinfandel vintage with its robust yet delicate solera bouquet comingled with a subtle European Vitis vinifera. Now contrast that with this dry red Bordeaux, obviously most aptly aged in a cured French cask. Don’t you agree, unlike this sweet, racy Italian Merlot, it provides a more mature and satisfying oaky char?’

They seemed to be impressed with my little charade, or perhaps amused by how little I knew. It didn't matter, we were having a good time and the wines were about as good as anything I had ever tasted.

Feeling a bit light-headed, I raised my glass and quoted a line from Homer that I had memorized to impress guests at dinner parties. ‘The wine can of their wits the wise beguile, Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.’

‘Most impressive, James,’ Mo said. ‘Wouldn’t you agree Eli? Imagine us finding a Homer aficionado up here, far from the Aegean Sea.’

‘Oh, yes… impressive indeed,’ Eli said. Apparently, a man of letters.

A bid startled, I asked Mo: ‘How did you know this obscure line from Homer’s Iliad?’

‘I wouldn’t,’ he said. ‘At least not from The Iliad, but I would from The Odyssey. Book fourteen, I believe.’

‘Oh,’ I said, shocked that he would even know that. ‘You may be right; I’ll have to check.’

‘Don’t bother; I am right,’ he said, ‘but what does it matter, you’ve had such a long and arduous climb, I’m sure you must have a considerable appetite. Please help yourself to what we have prepared for you. I believe you will find his selection to be among your favourites, and there’s plenty more if you wish!’

I felt I was back in Greece, with the most delicious food I could remember, including prepared meats, breads and varieties of exotic cheeses. Caviar never tasted so good sprinkled on the stuffed deviled eggs.

That’s awfully finicky work, I thought. Why would they go to all the trouble to prepare all this up here, or anywhere else for that matter? And where did they find all this food and fine wines; Santiago is a long way for food catering services?

I didn’t ask though but carried on with our celebration late into the night as the fire continued to blaze. I found that Eli`s offbeat humour and banter sometimes struck me as being a little too much like mine. It seemed the more I got to know him, the more it felt like we were two former shipmates that had been reunited after several years, even though he was much too young for that.

Mo too, I found, had own sense of humour, often expressed through his razor-sharp wit. I noticed during the evening he would occasionally wander away to gaze into the sky, as though lost his own universe. Then he would return in silent contemplation, before uttering something that sounded so peculiar and yet profound that I didn’t know what to make of it. Who was this man, I wondered, besides someone who about Homer and a whole lot more?

In spite of their affable natures, I became increasingly uncomfortable as the night wore on when they would say or do something that was too bizarre to make any sense. At first, I wondered if they were just messing with my mind because they knew they could. But why would the do this?

Eli, for example, seemed to enjoy answering my question before I would ask him as if he was a mind reader. However, since I didn’t believe in such a possibility, I didn’t know what to think.

Even more disconcerting was how they seemed to know so much about me. It was unsettling. Not just that they knew my name; that was only the beginning. They also knew my favourite food and drinks and even my favourite books. Was it just a coincidence we had read many of the same authors and titles, from Teilhard de Chardin to Dostoyevsky? Which made me wonder, how did Eli, being about a decade younger, know more about literature than me?

Though I probed them, they wouldn’t say anything about themselves, as if to mystify me even more. Worse, Eli would just smile as if to say it was a secret. The most I got of any significance was that they were independently wealthy, having suddenly come into abundance a while back. Now they were supposedly free to come and go wherever they wanted, ever here of all places. I could hardly argue with that, except to wonder, why here?

How they ended up with this wealth, they didn’t say specifically, except to infer it had to do with an inheritance of some kind. This made me even more suspicious there was something suspicious going on. Likely there was much more to the story they weren’t telling me.

Yet, in spite of these concerns, I was having a great time with such a remarkable evening of food, drinks and laughter with these unusual characters.

‘You know,’ I said, ‘with everything that’s happened today, I don't think I’ve ever been this high before, even on a mountain. Not to mention light-headed with all these libations. But since it’s late, I should probably retire for the night.’

‘Indeed,’ Eli said. ‘If the truth be known, you are considerably higher and lighter than you might suspect at this point. But that's okay, you’ll get used to it. But here, before you bed down, let me fill your glass with this exceptionally smooth Scotch. It’s from Edinburgh. You studied there, right?’

‘Yes, I did, but how did you know that… I didn’t tell you?’ 

‘You seem a man of considerable erudition,’ Mo said. And because you seem to know a thing or two about Scotch for which Edinburgh is famous. And so, before you retire for the night, here’s to you, Dr Phillips.’

As they raised their glasses, Eli said: ‘To your arrival and further expeditions beyond. Cheers!’

‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘though I don’t understand what you might mean by further expeditions beyond. I’ve arrived at my destination, so I’ll soon will be making my way down and back to London. But at least I can say you’ve made this evening a most unforgettable celebration. Cheers to you both!’ I said, as I raised my glass of Scotch. ‘I'd certainly go on more expeditions like this if I knew I could celebrate like this each time I peaked a summit.’

‘Well, maybe you can,’ Mo said. 

They then got up and wandered off in the dark, leaving me to sit in the glow of the hot coals on our make-shift bench. I had no idea where they went, but they didn’t return. What a strange day this had been, I thought. Was any of it real or had I gone over the edge into some altered state of reality?

In feeling so light, I wondered if maybe I were actually in my flat back home on some wild psychedelic trip, like when it seemed I left my body. I thought about similar experiences similar to this in my undergraduate days when I did some interesting stuff back then with some of my more experimentally inclined friends. But that was over ten years ago, and I hadn’t participated in anything like that since then. If for some unknown reason I really was on another of those excursions, this would be one of the better ones. I smiled as I thought this.

Darkness had descended on us hours ago, leaving only the bright red embers to illuminate the surroundings. As I poked away the coals with a stick, it seemed strange that I wasn’t even tired after such an arduous day of climbing, and then spending the night regaling at our sumptuous Summit Diner Club, as Eli called it. After all, I had imbibed, I should have passed out long ago.

As I climbed into my bedroll, I thought how peculiar this happenstance was in fortuitously meeting these chaps up here. That was the last I remembered thinking. I didn't awake until dawn. 

                                        ENDNOTES


[1]I came, I saw, I conquered. Attributed to Julius Caesar, approx. 47 BC.
[2] According to the Transfiguration story, both Moses and Elijah stood talking with Jesus whose face and apparel shone in brilliant light. Next a bright cloud overshadowed them. When the light left, only Jesus remained standing there. Matthew 17:1–9 (King James Version, hereinafter referred to as KJV)[3] I thought of the Moses portrayed in the Cecil B DeMille classic, The Ten Commandments, played by Charlton Heston.
[4] I didn’t realize it at the time, but later learned that a bottle of this champagne sells for over £30,000. No wonder it was the best I ever tasted.      

 

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The first book of the Elysium's Passage series, THE SUMMIT, is now available for purchase through Amazon. 

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  • If you wish to read about the series' intriguing Back Story, I invite you to email me at nmeyers@shaw.ca. I will then send you a copy of my the free ebook How it Came.    
  • To access all articles posted on this blog the link is: https://digitalbloggers.com/articles/elysiumspassage
  • or go to elysiumspassage.com and click on MY BLOG

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READER REVIEWS

The following comments are among the first Amazon reviews of Elysium’s Passage: The Summit. All are Five Stars! Others reader reviews are included below, along with excerpts from two professional reviews. To read full reviews, go to READER REVIEWS on www.elysiumspassage.com

"Quietly, gently, and without imposition, the Author unfolds the pages, creating an intricate, interlocking bridge spanning the chasm between mind and heart. Renewing, refreshing, restoring. In my bereavement, it was vigil and light…"

"A delightful mix of fantasy, reality, conjecture and humour; Mr. Meyers draws the reader into the story with a gentle narrative that captures imagination, leaving one anxious to get to the next page drawing you into his exceptional world.”

“Excellently written with an exceedingly deep understanding of this world and the next. The characters are very well written and engaging. I can't wait to complete this book!"

“Takes the reader on both a philosophical and spiritual journey, a journey that at times is both disquieting and tranquil. James, a British Philosopher can be irreverent and caustic, traits that should have left me cringing, but instead made me laugh out loud. Elysium’s Passage is a fun, enlightening and remarkable book.”

“This is a masterful fantasy, becoming a real possibility, as the reader is drawn into the story. The Summit leaves you anxious for the next book in the series, yet also leaves you totally satisfied with the world you have just visited. Genius! An exciting, yet calming, experience that is not to be missed."

"There was hardly a page on which I did not find at least one sentence worthy of hi-lighting for future reference. In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed the main character, James, whose personality and passionate verbal exchanges with the other characters, kept me coming back for more. I am reading the book for a second time while I wait for the next one in this series to be made available."

 “N.G. Meyers has clearly put a great deal of research and thought into what the afterlife may look like and I like his perspective. It’s an altogether welcoming and exciting vision. The book gives one a great deal to think about and a reassuring confidence that the end of our lives is truly the beginning of life in the next. I highly recommend it."

“The humour interjected into a serious discussion makes me laugh out loud. Totally unexpected....l may be in the presence of at least a master, if not a genius. A fair ride into reality... seeking that which is unseen, yet absolutely real.”

“An engaging story of adventure embracing man's deepest desire to search for meaning and purpose, N.G. Meyers takes the reader on an adventurous thought provoking journey. This book has substance. It is a perfect blend of adventure and fantasy combined with spiritual philosophy. It ignited my imagination. The author magically weaves a good story laced with wit and humor together with deep philosophical wisdom. This book has it all!”

“An evolution in thought is triggered by many fresh philosophical themes which could inspire readers to re-think their reality and former ideologies that have dictated their lives… the author fires readers’ imaginations to view what could be possible when spirit vacates the body.”

“This is the book spiritual seekers have been waiting for. For me, it granted a great read as well as increased inspiration to live every day with a heightened sense of purpose. I highly recommend it.

“The Summit is capable of hooking readers and luring them to search for Book 2 to discover more about Dr. Philip’s surreal trek into the mysterious unknown universe. This thick book is well worth the read and to share…”

“Mind-blowing statements and speculation (‘…everyone is a non-physical thought form conceived in the Mind of God, preserved for all eternity because God’s thoughts never die…’). Many will find Meyers’ journey up the Mountain intriguing—and possibly even life-changing.” (BLUEINK REVIEW)

“In its effort to grapple with fundamental questions about the meaning of life, it raises questions that have echoed throughout the ages, including about where we come from, where we are going, who we are.”  (CLARION REVIEW)

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CONTACT INFORMATION

WEBSITE: www.elysiumspassage.com 

FACEBOOK: Elysium's Passage Novel Series, Elysium's Passage Public Group page, Elysium's Passage Author's Page, or to my personal page Neil Meyers

TWITTER: N.G. Meyers@neil1113 

INSTAGRAM: meyersneil

LINKEDIN: Neil Meyers

EMAIL: nmeyers@shaw.ca 

BLOG POSTINGS: https://digitalbloggers.com/articles/elysiumspassage or the Elysium's Passage website

AMAZON: Purchase details of Elysium’s Passage: The Summit, are available online from the web and blog site

Sample press review: https://www.prweb.com/releases/2018/05/prweb15515775.htm