THE ASCENT CHAPTER TWO

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CHAPTER TWO


WHERE AM I?

I had a dream, which was not at all a dream (1)
                                   Lord Byron

I awoke on a patch of dry grass, feeling disoriented and dazed, not remembering exactly where I was, except it seemed like where I had rested earlier in the day. For some reason, I felt more relaxed than I could ever remember, as though I had been sleeping for days.

Most odd it seemed, considering how I had been climbing since early dawn. I must have been tired since I couldn’t even remember lying down this last time. Now wide awake, I remained supine, looking directly up at the scattered clouds in the blue sky, thinking of all that had occurred to me since leaving home. 

My flight from London to Santiago via Buenos Aires was lengthy and exhausting, but nothing compared to my extended excursion to this sierra in a dilapidated bus with worn seats. For the better part of a 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 got an early start knowing I would have at least a day’s trek through the valleys before reaching the base of this mountain I had randomly chosen. If there was any rationale for my choice, the aerial photographs seemed to indicate it was one of the more formidable peaks in the Chilean Andes.

Also, according to the topographical maps I studied, it would likely have some spectacular vistas to view towards the sierras in Argentina. Since I couldn’t find if this mountain had a name, I decided to come up with something creative, then later inform the Chilean authorities what they should name it. Mount Phillips had a classy ring. However, I would first have to conquer it!

So here I was now, rested up and ready for the final ascent. I sprung up off the ground, surprising myself with the ease and lightness I arose. I really must have slept well to have such agility. It appeared I was only a few hours from reaching the summit, although there might be some significant challenges ahead, considering the height of the precipices looming before me.

As I looked around, I thought what a splendid afternoon this had turned out to be. Yet, something wasn’t right. What was it? Ah, the sun. It was still on the eastern horizon to my left, indicating it must be early morning instead of late afternoon. That couldn’t be unless I somehow fell asleep yesterday and slept last night. Could I have been that tired?

It seemed curious, but for now, it didn’t matter. This bright, mid-summer day in Chile was what I needed for my winter break to lift the gloomy veil of London’s dreary winter rains. The blue azure contained only a few trailing wisps of haze to the east. Everything seemed so alive, exhilarating, the perfect backdrop for my Summit moment. Extraordinary what this alpine environment and a night of sound sleep can do for one’s mind and body!

Not that long ago, I felt hungry, tired and bruised. Now, near the top, I felt like a new man. Most apparently, there was 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. So why would I even want to think about such ridiculous twaddle while emersed in this alpine splendour?

Indeed, the trip had all been more than worth the effort, even though I could scarcely afford it. After languishing in a chronic malaise over the last few years, I wanted to find a new world where I could face down the fears that were holding me back.

Or was this adventure more of a subliminal death-wish I secretly harboured to destroy my fears by destroying myself? I hoped not. The problem was; I didn’t know why or what I feared. Indeed, it wasn’t these heights or anything extreme; it was much deeper than that. I wondered if the real reason I came here was 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. Still, I didn’t consider myself an ordinary person. For reasons I didn’t seem to understand, it seemed I had a compulsion to conquer my fears by proving to myself over and over that I was invincible.

Even though I no longer was eighteen, battered about by Mediterranean storms on a rickety merchant ship, I continued to test the limits of my strength and resourcefulness. Is that why I chose to be on an isolated mountain where few ventured? Further to that, as a self-respecting survivalist, I had few provisions with minimal equipment.

In my adventures, I always prided myself in being able to stare down death! An analyst once suggested this might be a form of psychosis, indicating I was compensating for something deeply hidden within. Nevertheless, I wasn’t that interested in hearing what he had to say.

What did he know about the real world, sitting in his office all day? I may have pushed the limits, but at least I had calculated the threats, anticipating what to expect and what to do. This expedition, however, had turned out to be not only the most extreme but also my most challenging so far.

I now realise these compulsions were only a ruse to distract myself from the unresolved fears I had hidden away for most of my life. Without knowing it, I was about to enter into a strange new realm of awakening where everything would change to confront whatever fear lurked within. For a moment, I stood motionless in the shadow of the mountain’s summit.

As I strapped on my backpack to resume my ascent, I wondered again what could have happened. Not only was the sun in the wrong place; this ravine seemed identical to the one I passed through yesterday. Had I been going in circles around this mountain? Hardly! For now, I would put these questions out of my mind to tackle the steep scree slope before me and give no more thought to these peculiarities.

With my body’s newfound strength and agility, I knew it wouldn’t take me long to reach the summit. I congratulated myself on having made it all this way with only a short rope, a few belay anchors and no climbing companions. I scrambled up this last slope as if it were level ground. I couldn’t remember feeling more energised. Hot damn, I thought, I’m in a groove; it’s like my body can do anything!

Just imagine what other climbing expeditions I could do to even higher peaks. After all, I’m a relatively young man, in excellent condition, with more strength and stamina than I realised. I should try K2 next. No, that’s probably a bad idea. With one chance in four of not coming down alive… it’s hardly worth it. Maybe I’d settle for Everest, like everyone else. In any case, I needed to do this more often.

Feeling giddy now, I looked up towards the summit that I might address Zeus, the mythical god I summoned the night of my unfortunate incident at the pub last October. As I recall, that was just before having my weird dream.

‘Veni, Vidi, Vici,’[1] I cried out to Zeus as I climbed upward to the Summit. ‘Get your welcoming committee ready, and be sure to bring plenty of champagne with a bevvy of your most exquisite goddesses. We’re going to celebrate!’

I continued to scale up a strangely familiar precipice of considerable height. Something about this caused me to think about the shimmering orb thingies I supposedly saw on the summit yesterday. But no, I couldn’t have; I was never here before. I must have dreamt it since I sometimes have bizarre, inexplicable dreams when overly exhausted.

Even if something were shining up there, it would probably be nothing more than the sun reflecting off a satellite receiver/transmitter on top of some weather installation. Still, I might prefer it 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. Perhaps their craft would be equipped with strobe lights appearing as orbs to me. What if they gave me a joy ride over the Andes? That might be interesting.

I amused myself with these imaginings as I made my final upward thrust. Yet, I began to feel uneasy about the possibility of orbs, gods and aliens up here. Such phenomena were becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss from my mind. What if there actually was something up there? Had I been drawn up here for reasons I wasn’t aware of, and if so, was there more to this venture than conquering another mountain?

 Suddenly, I received flashbacks of my strange dream a few months ago. Was that, I wondered, a premonition of what I was experiencing? In a sense, everything was beginning to seem like an extension of that dream. I remembered a voice calling me from somewhere on high, imploring me to join it on some Summit. Was this it? That would be spooky if I were living out my dream.

So, I told myself to put these quirky thoughts out of my mind as I continued my ascent.

Nearing the Summit, I came to a chasm that looked very familiar. In fact, too familiar! Moments ago, I was elated; now, I felt confused, lost in a déjà vu moment. Had someone mixed some peyote in my gruel a few days ago in the village?

I stood near the chasm’s edge to stare into the deep abyss below, wondering if I should attempt to cross over. Again, another flashback came of me stranded on a precarious ledge, causing me to recall how I woke out of my dream in a panic. It felt queer to have this flashback of peering into the void.

The most logical explanation was the rarified air at this altitude that released certain chemicals into my brain, triggering a relapse into that very peculiar dream. Yet, what if it was more than that, something more ominous here and now on this Mountain?

Strangely, it seemed I had been here before. Unless I was clairvoyant, I couldn’t have been. Or had I foreseen this in my dream? Too bad I don’t believe in such nonsense; it may help explain much of what I was experiencing today.

If that wasn’t enough, I was getting the impression of someone, or something, watching me like when sensing someone staring at you, then look around and find there actually is. I wasn’t sure what to think… it felt eerie. As I looked up, I noticed something was moving about on the summit!

‘Well, I’ll be damned,’ I said aloud, ‘it appears there is someone up there.’ Not the dazzling light orbs that I might have seen before, possibly in my dream, although it seemed there might be two or three humanoid figures moving about the Summit. More likely, it was just a few stunted trees swaying in the wind? Yes, that was probably it.

However, I’d prefer they be sexy mountain nymphs waiting to reward me for my efforts if it were my choice. Possibly they’re Zeus’ goddesses that I asked to come and celebrate. I mean, why not make this worthwhile? I was beginning to think anything was possible up here. Was it the altitude, or were these fantasies making me feel giddy? I couldn’t tell.

Still, I felt something like an electrical force field wafting about me. It felt like the electricity you feel that raises the hairs on your arms before lightning strikes. Didn’t I have that same experience yesterday? Since I awoke at the bottom of the canyon ravine, my mind was getting muddled with images of my dream from almost three months ago, causing me a lot of strange déjà vu moments.

Then, out of nowhere, I heard a voice calling out to me. I sat down to listen carefully. Was it from the summit or just my synapses misfiring from oxygen deprivation? Lots of people think they hear voices in abnormal conditions like this. Bloody hell, now I’m really losing it; I need more oxygen before my brain completely decompresses!

As I was about to dismiss it as nothing, it came again, only this time it seemed to be calling my name. Now that’s strange, I thought. Imagine that; some mountain guru sitting on top of the mountain calling out to me. Or was it Zeus? Except this wasn’t Greece.

Again, I heard it; this time so crystal clear it could have easily been from someone standing directly in front of me. Was the voice one or many? I couldn’t tell. As I sat there feeling stunned, it called my name once more. This time, it seemed a different voice… soft, alluring and, ah, so feminine.

Was this my exotic mountain nymph or goddess beckoning me to the Summit. Why not? Anything is possible when you use your imagination. For the ancient Greeks, the gods and goddesses lived on the mountains along with Zeus. I liked that idea, even if it was just a myth. Whatever was calling my name was more than a myth.

This voice seemed authentic, if not distinctive; I sensed it resonating from within my mind, having nothing to do with what my ears might have heard. Usually, I’m sceptical about this sort of thing, yet there it was; I couldn’t deny it. It seemed images were being imposed upon my mind’s eye, showing me another less obvious approach to the summit.

Was it because of a dream flashback that I didn’t feel good about the thin narrow ledge crossing to the other side of the chasm? So, I decided to follow the voice’s inner prompt. Without hesitation, I retreated downwards 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 managed to straddle and manoeuvre my way up the fissure towards the summit ridge. It should have been extremely challenging, but for some reason, it wasn’t.

Now, after all my struggles these last few days, here I was on top of the Summit. It wasn’t just a peak; it was a broad ridge that extended a considerable distance far beyond what I could see. It felt exhilarating to take in the full panoramic view of the majestic ranges all around me.

Then I looked around, wondering if someone was up here as it had appeared from below. After surveying the ridge as far as I could see to the right and left, I saw no one. Most likely, I imagined everything, including the voices.

This is where I imagined seeing those bright orbs in my dream, except it no longer felt like a dream. If someone was up here, might they lying-in wait, ready to pounce on me? I smiled to myself… you never know with aliens.

The ridge sloped gently downwards, littered with large boulders and slabs of granite protruding out of the ground. There wasn’t much vegetation except for patches of short alpine grass and moss, along with a few varieties of shrubs. I made my way along the ridge as it narrowed towards its highest elevation, hoping to find a suitable area to make a fire and set up camp for the night.

I wasn’t sure where the ridge might end before dropping off, so I decided I’d take a look. As I continued in this direction, I could see something in the distance that didn’t appear to be trees or shrubs. As I drew closer, I had the impression there were two distinct beings and possibly a third standing further back in the distance.

At first, I assumed they were other climbers who had approached the Summit from the other side. What I really wanted to see, however, was the mountain nymphs I imagined were patiently waiting for me to arrive after all these years. Perhaps one of them called my name while I was below the summit; that would be preferable to believe than just the wind.

I’ve never believed in the folklore of elves and fairies, at least not since I was a child; maybe it was time to be a child again so I could enjoy my happy fantasy. What if she called out to me before showing me the way up the fissure? In my rational mind, I understood such things could only happen in my imagination, which is where I preferred to be at this moment.

As I got closer, I could see there were only two figures. Most likely, the third was a stunted tree or something else in the distance that made the two appear as three. I slowed my advance towards them, one wary step at a time. Since aliens remained on my mind, I kept my eyes firmly riveted to see who they were.

They remained motionless on the highest end of the summit ridge. It felt unnerving and intimidating as they stared intently at me. One had a long coat flapping in the wind. Who were these beings, I wondered, and why didn’t they meet me halfway?

If I stood still, then what would happen? Of course, I could walk away in the other direction, although 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 weren’t aliens; rather, men who continued to stare at me in silence without any hint of expression. I had an uncomfortable suspicion they weren’t just mountain climbers. How long, I wondered, had they been waiting for me?      

Did I imagine it, or did I actually hear my name spoken, as if someone was standing right beside me? If so, what other powers might they possess besides their telepathic voodoo? What if this had something to do with those brilliant orbs I remembered seeing, whether they were in my dream or not? Whatever was happening, felt like something strange was going on up here.

It occurred to me that they might be decoys for aliens, so then, where was their spaceship? Was it hovering somewhere over the summit with cloaking shields? Would they have laser weapons? In my mind, I could already hear it: ‘Stun lasers set, ready… take the earthling.’

Then, out of nowhere, a far different fantasm suddenly juxtaposed itself in my mind, reminding me of the Transfiguration story.[2] So, where did that come from? I had no idea unless they projected this image onto my consciousness with their minds. Yet, why would they do that?

As befitting any credible philosopher, I’m familiar with most stories and teachings of several religious myths, archetypes and traditions. So, I knew this vision had something to do with Christ’s transfiguration in dazzling light. The incident is said to have occurred somewhere in Palestine on some unknown mountain, traditionally referred to as The Mount of Transfiguration.

Were these two beings standing before me the same Moses and Elijah in this legend? If so, was I about to witness my transfiguration on this Mount? Still, why would I even consider something so absurd at this tense moment? That would be most extraordinary, even as a metaphor!

Wasn’t there something in the story about a brilliant cloud shining down on them? Could it be 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 trans-figured was supposed to mean. From what to what?  Likely, my mind had become unhinged at this altitude, causing me to imagine all kinds of insane things.

So, there I stood, transfixed, my imagination contorting science fiction with religious mythology. Since they remained frozen where they were, I finally decided to proceed closer to them.

I must be going delirious… it seems I know these two! But do I? No, I don’t. Unless I do, yet, I don’t understand why I would think that; I’ve never seen them before. So why do I think I know them when I don’t?

Yes, I must be crazy… or just confused. None of this makes sense; nevertheless, I can’t deny there’s something familiar about them… like when you think you know a stranger from somewhere, possibly from a previous life, except I didn’t believe in prior lives, or for that matter, any life other than this.

Mixed impressions continued to flood my mind, although I tried not to let my fears get too carried away. Again, I stopped to see if they would make a move; they didn’t; instead, they remained fixed in stony silence as if to unnerve me. I stepped forward once more, refusing to blink as I kept my eyes firmly set upon them with each stride I took.

The older one had an eerie presence to him as someone I might have known in the distant past; still, I had no idea who that might have been. All I knew was that it felt peculiar when my eyes met his. He seemed to have a serious demeanour, like some Himalayan sage, not that I’ve ever met one.

Then again, something about him reminded me of the movie scene where Moses descended from his burning bush encounter on top of Mount Sinai,[3] except this Moses was wearing old fashioned British hiking knickers. His thick white hair, extending just above his shoulders, accentuated the prophetic image. His penetrating blue eyes had a laser focus which commandeered my respect, even though I wasn’t sure why. Likely, it was intimidation.

His companion appeared much younger, possibly in his early to mid-twenties, yet equally compelling. I estimated him to be close to six feet tall with an athletic build. He had long blond-brown hair in Rastafarian dreadlocks. With his tattered Alpaca coat, he appeared to be 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 whatever lingering concerns I may have in this most improbable encounter.

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

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

‘For some time now, we’ve observed 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 most pleased that you have at long last decided to join us on this summit. Congratulations, James, on completing this stage of your ascent.’

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

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

‘Obviously, you do!’

‘Indeed, we do,’ he said. 

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

‘May we introduce ourselves?’  

‘That would be most 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 exclaimed to myself. They called themselves Eli and Mo, short for Elijah and Moses. Those were the two with Yeshua on the Mount of Transfiguration. Had I not just assigned those names to them in my mind? I wasn’t serious; still, these names came to me. So how could they have known what I was thinking?

Then again, if they knew my name, why wouldn’t they also know what I was thinking. It’s uncanny… mind readers? Except I didn’t believe in all that claptrap. There had to be a more rational explanation, likely some coincidence.

‘If you care,’ Mo said, ‘we’d be pleased to have you join us at our camp at the other end of this ridge. We have plenty of extra food and drink. You look like you could use it,’ he smiled.

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

As we hiked toward their camp, they seemed genuinely interested in hearing about my trip to Chile and my experiences while climbing this mountain. I was impressed with their refined deportment, 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 indicate personal integrity.

Although they were strangers, I felt an inexplicable kinship with them since they seemed oddly familiar to me… in fact, too much so. I wasn’t sure why, but it felt as if they knew me, though I didn’t know them. So, who are they, I asked myself?

Was this a friendly chance encounter, or were they sent by someone to meet me for a specific reason? That certainly would be cause for serious concern! Despite my initial impressions, thoughts of orbs and alien abduction continued to play in the backyard of my mind. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t allow my mind to think anything so bizarre and irrational. I realised, however, fear is never rational.

Nevertheless, I remained mystified what they were doing here. It seemed most apparent these two didn’t just happen to stroll up here on some eco-tour. It had taken me a 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!

Not only that, very few climbers Mo’s age could have made it even close to this Summit. I pictured him more as a croquet player than a climber.

For these reasons and more, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something extraordinary was going on behind the scenes that I didn’t know about.

As we carried on along the ridge, I felt an impulse to celebrate my ascent with a cold bottle of sparkling champagne. After all, I put in this request to my mountain god, Zeus.

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

We merrily passed it around a few times until it was empty; then, like a dealer in some back alley, Mo pulled out another bottle from his overcoat’s inner pocket. This time glasses appeared out of nowhere, as might be expected from a magician on stage.

In this strange mix of confusion, libations and laughter, my body felt more vibrant than I ever remembered, but with enough champaign, that might be expected. What occurred next was even more surprising. How it happened as it did, I had no idea.

After arriving near the western end of the ridge, we came to a somewhat lower area recessed among huge granite boulders. Evidently, this is where they were camping since hot coals were still smouldering from a campfire. Curiously, 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. While Mo stoked the embers attempting to reignite the fire with what wood remained, I strolled further down the ridge, taking in the spectacular views of the eastern sierra. As I stood there, I thought about my struggles in getting up here and how it had all been worth it, even if it had become the most challenging mountain expedition I had ever undertaken.

When I returned to the campsite, I found the campfire blazing with a high pile of firewood. I wondered where Eli could have possibly found all that wood.  That, however, wasn’t the biggest surprise.

Suddenly, I noticed laid out a feast of exotic foods on a long wooden table with several bottles of wine that, coincidentally, included several of my favourite labels I rarely imbibed because of cost.

‘What’s this about?’ I asked.

‘We thought after such a long climb you might be interested in having a snack,’ Eli said.

‘Indeed,’ I said. “This climb took a lot longer than I anticipated, so whatever supplies of dehydrated foods are depleted, and whatever berries and herbs I gathered along the way are almost gone too.’

‘I guess you didn’t plan things that well, did you?’

‘I was testing my limits, like any good masochist, although I didn’t expect it to take quite so long to make it up here. That didn’t worry me, though, since I knew most well-conditioned humans can survive for up to forty days without food. In fact, I once fasted for over four weeks with only water while training for an extreme event.’

‘Don’t you feel weak and exhausted?’ Eli asked.

‘I did, especially these last days of my near-vertical ascent, likely the most extreme ascent I had ever undertaken. Yet today, my body feels inexplicably light and spritely. It’s most extraordinary; I have no idea where this sudden surge in energy has come from.’

‘Would it be because you’re so high… more than you know? But then so are we… that’s why we know how it feels,’ he said as he uncorked a bottle and poured me a glass.

‘I must commend you on your exquisite taste in wine,’ I said after a taste.

Soon, I was sampling another bottle and then, feeling rather jolly, a few more. In my blissful state, I imagined myself standing in the tasting room of an elegant Mediterranean winery, explicating the relative merits of the fine wines. I occasionally put on my most affected airs at dinner parties as a wine connoisseur 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. Contrast that with this dry red Bordeaux, obviously most aptly aged in a cured French oak cask. Don’t you agree, unlike this sweet, racy Italian Merlot, it provides a more mature and satisfying oaky char?’

They seemed bemused with my little charade or how little I knew what I was saying. It didn’t matter, we were having a good time, and the wines were about as sublime as anything I had ever tasted.

Feeling increasingly light-headed, I raised my glass and quoted a line from Homer: ‘The wine can of their wits the wise beguile, Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.’

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

‘Oh, yes… most impressive,’ Eli said. ‘It’s obvious our guest is a man of letters.’

‘So, Mo, how would you know this obscure line from Homer’s Iliad?’

‘I wouldn’t,’ he said. ‘At least not from The Iliad; however, I would if it was from The Odyssey… the fourteenth chapter, I believe.’

‘Oh,’ I said, startled that he would know that.

‘You may be right; I’ll have to check.’

‘Don’t bother; I am right,’ he said; ‘it doesn’t matter; you’ve had such an arduous climb, I’m sure you must have a considerable appetite. Please help yourself with what we’ve prepared. I trust you will find this selection among your favourites, and there’s plenty more if you wish!’

I felt I was back in Greece, with the most delicious Mediterranean foods I could remember, including prepared meats, loaves of bread with several exotic varieties of cheese. Caviar never tasted so exquisite sprinkled on the stuffed deviled eggs.

That’s finicky work; why would anyone trouble themselves to prepare all this, especially 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 but carried on celebrating late into the night as the fire continued to blaze in the darkness. Eli’s offbeat humour and banter sometimes struck me as being a little too much like mine, but the more I got to know him, the more it felt like we were two shipmates reunited after several years, even if he was much too young for that.

Mo, too, I found, had unique humour, often expressed through razor-sharp wit. On occasion, he would wander off, gazing into the night sky as if lost in some universe. Then he would return in silent contemplation before uttering something so peculiar that I had no idea what to make of it. Who was this man, I wondered, other than someone who knew his Homer and very likely a whole lot more?

Despite their affable natures, I grew increasingly curious about who they really were. As the night wore on, they would occasionally say or do something too peculiar for comfort. It seemed they were intentionally messing with my mind because they knew they could. Although, why would they want to?

Eli, for example, enjoyed answering my question before I asked him as if to show how he could read my mind. Yet, since I didn’t believe in any of that, I didn’t know what to think.

Even more disconcerting was how they knew so much about me. Not only that, Mo knew my name, and that was just the beginning. They also seemed to know about my favourite foods and drinks, including many books I most enjoyed. Was it only a coincidence we had read many of the same authors and titles, from Teilhard de Chardin to Dostoyevsky? And how did Eli, possibly a decade younger than me, know more about literature than I did, even as a doctor of philosophy?

I continued to probe them about who they were; nevertheless, they had little to say about themselves as if to mystify me even more. Whenever I pressed Eli, he smiled as if he was the Cheshire Cat. The most I got was that they were independently wealthy with no concerns or interest in money. From what I could tell, they had come into considerable abundance a while back, supposedly now free to come and go as they pleased, even here. Still, why here?

How they came into their wealth, they didn’t say specifically. At first, I thought they had shared in the largess of a winning lottery ticket worth millions of pounds. Or perhaps they were part of something dodgy, such as an international money-laundering syndicate.

Then later in the evening, Mo said something about an inheritance, which made me even more suspicious that there might be more to this story than they were telling me. For one thing, I remember earlier Eli saying they weren’t related, so how could they be sharing in an inheritance?

Despite these concerns, I had a remarkable evening with all the food, drinks, and laughter while cavorting with intriguing characters… much different from my regimented world.

‘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 the libations. Considering how late it must be now, I ought to retire for the night.’

‘Indeed,’ Eli said. ‘Truth be known, you are considerably higher and lighter than you might suspect at this point. That’s okay; you’ll get used to it. Before you bed down, let me fill your glass with this exceptionally smooth Scotch once conceived in Edinburgh. You studied there, right?’

‘Yes, I did; how did you know that, Eli? I didn’t tell you.’ 

‘Because you seem a man of considerable erudition, you also seem to know a thing or two about Scotch for which Edinburgh remains famous. So, Dr Phillips… here’s to you.’

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

‘Thank you, although I’m not sure I understand what you mean by higher expeditions beyond since I’ve arrived at my destination. Soon I’ll make my way down, then off to Santiago for a few days before returning to London.

‘I must say, you’ve made this a most unforgettable evening; cheers to you both,’ I said as I raised my glass of Scotch. ‘I’d certainly go on more expeditions if I knew I could celebrate like this each time I peaked a summit.’

‘Well, maybe you can,’ Mo said.

I didn’t know what to make of that comment, but before I could ask, they got up from their log stumps and wandered off into the dark, leaving me alone to gaze into the glow of the hot coals. I had no idea where they went or if they intended to return.

What a strange day this had been. Was any of this real, or had my mind gone off the edge into some altered state of existence? In feeling so light, I wondered if I might be back in my flat on some wild psychedelic trip. I thought about other experiences like this during my undergraduate days when I did some interesting stuff with a few of my more experimentally inclined friends.

That was over ten years ago, and I hadn’t participated in anything like that since. If for some unknown reason, I was on another such excursion, this would be one of the better ones.

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

By now, it was apparent my friends wouldn’t be returning, so I climbed into my bedroll as I reflected on how peculiar and fortuitous it was to meet these chaps up in such an improbable location. I had many questions about what happened tonight. One that stuck with me was when Eli said the Scotch was conceived in Edinburgh but not distilled there. What did he mean by that?

That was the last I remembered thinking before waking at dawn.

 ENDNOTES



[1] Lord Byron, English Poet, Darkness, 1816
[2]I came, I saw, I conquered. Attributed to Julius Caesar, approx. 47 BC.
[3] According to the Transfiguration story, both Moses and Elijah stood talking with Yeshua 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) 
[4] I thought of the Moses portrayed in the Cecil B DeMille classic, The Ten Commandments, played by Charlton Heston.
[5] 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.   


For READERS REVIEWS go to https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/reader-reviews          

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                      CHAPTERS AND LINKS IN ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE: THE ASCENT
                                         

                 

Prologue to the Series
https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/prologue         

Chapter One: A REALLY CRAZY DREAM
https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/Elysiums-Passage-Chapter-One         

Chapter Two: WHERE AM I?
https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/Elysiums-Passage-Chapter-Two         

Chapter Three: STORYTIME            
https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/chapter-three        

Chapter Four: THE COMPANY YOU KEEP             
https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/chapter-four          

Chapter Five: THE FALL
https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/the-ascent-chapter-five          

Chapter Six: SUMMIT UNIVERSITY           
https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/the-ascent-chapter-six        

Chapter Seven: DOWN AND OUT             
https://digitalbloggers.com/book-reviews/the-ascent-chapter-seven     

Chapter Eight: THE SCEPTIC’S DILEMMA          
http://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/the-ascent-chapter-eight      

Chapter Nine: THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER
https://digitalbloggers.com/book-reviews/the-ascent-chapter-nine      

Chapter Ten: A NEW GIRLFRIEND      
https://digitalbloggers.com/book-reviews/the-ascent-chapter-ten       

Chapter Eleven: LAMENT TO LOVE
https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/the-ascent-chapter-eleven      

Chapter Twelve:  MY BIG BREAK 
https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/the-ascent-chapter-twelve   

Chapter Thirteen: DOUBLE DOUBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE
https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/the-ascent-chapter-thirteen    

Chapter Fourteen: NOT MY FIRST RODEO          
to be released in February 2022

    

 

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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 the 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 humour 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 

PENDING PUBLICATIONS IN THE SERIES

The ELYSIUM’S PASSAGE series is projected to be released as follows

THE ASCENT fall 2021

THE SUMMIT fall 2021

QUANTUM LEAPS winter 2021/22

SURREAL ADVENTURES spring 2022 

MYSTICAL ROMANCE summer 2022

HE ELIXIR fall 2022

THE RETURN sometime in 2023/24

ELYSIUM’S PASSAGE: THE SUMMIT, is now available for purchase on www.Amazon.com and www.Amazon.ca

With the exception of the last novel in the series, the last three have been written but still require more editing before publication.