Amanda brushed against the back of Logan's hair, taking a seat beside him on the faded wooden porch at the head of the entry stairs. The night sounds of the swamp were just beginning as the last vestiges of daylight faded into the greyness of late evening. Above them, one single star winked through a small opening in the dense canopy of growth, peeping between the building clouds that floated rapidly by.
Logan's gaze was intent on that little spot of light. Even Amanda's presence and the soft touch of her arm across his muscled shoulders didn't distract his fixed attention. Intently, the young man stared toward Heaven.
"Do you believe in God?" Amanda eventually asked resolutely.
"Yes, I do," he answered quietly, still staring at the peeping little star. "I don't guess you could call me a religious. . . hell, you better not call me a religious anything, but I do have a strong belief in a divine being of some kind. I don't quite know how to describe it. I don't think of God as male or as female. I don't even think of God as having a physical form. To me, God just is. . . all that is."
"Funny you should say that." The young woman smiled, slowly shaking her head. "I was taught to believe that God was this old man living in a place called Heaven that was inaccessible to all but a few. . . in fact, a very select few. All he did all day was sit around watching for us to do something wrong and zap us." She snickered again and added, "I guess that's the way the leaders of the church keep us in alignment with their beliefs and under their control. They teach 'God is love' as a concept but really press the idea of vengeance and retribution." The animated girl slapped her hand across her leg with a loud pop, startling Logan. She then scraped a smashed mosquito carcass off the palm of her hand. "For a while it kind of turned me against the idea of there really even being a God, but the more I think about it, the more I'm like you. I believe in something, something divine, just not the mass market concept of God, know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I've heard the same stuff myself," the young man continued, recovering from his start. "It seems as if people have done a really good job of turning a concept of love and grace into a religion of fear and punishment. I guess the idea I have now is that we're all part of God and God is a part of us. You know, maybe we're all part of a greater collective consciousness or something. I guess, if you think of it in a more physical way, we could each be a quantum particle that combines with others to make up an atom. That atom, that we call our Solar System, is a part of a larger cell, called the Universe. In turn, that cell is a small part of whatever comprises the whole body of God. We are all associated in an overall purpose, fully independently functional, yet, each an integral part of a much more elaborate whole.
Logan returned his eyes skyward, thoughts of the infinite space that lay behind the dark, rolling clouds above him gave the awed lad a slight shiver. "Wow, from that idea, look at how much power we all have to create anything. I can feel pretty insignificant to think of myself as only a small part of one little atom. However, it's just as conversely awe inspiring to think of the possibilities and the power that I can have as part of the whole," Logan philosophized, surprising himself with the words and ideas that had flowed from his own lips. The young man found words as though he had pondered them for decades. Actually, he had never really given the matter that much serious thought until tonight. Thinking back over the unexpected ideas Logan marveled at the way he felt. It's good to get in a really quiet place sometimes and let the real self, the one that is truly wise, maybe even ancient, surface and really listen to what it has to say, he surmised.
"Jesus," Amanda responded wide eyed, then put her hand to her lips, snickering at the colloquialism. "I guess I never really thought about being a real physical part of God. That's almost a scary thought."
"Or exciting," he added with a wry grin. The two fellow captives sat in silence for a several moments. Logan turned his attention inward, losing all contact with physical presence. The wandering fireman, instead, began to explore across the vast recesses of his active mind. What was it that he really wanted for his life? To be with Morgan, first of all. But, where? How? I really don't think it's Houston anymore, but where else would I go?
Amanda's voice quickly brought him back to reality, interrupting his thoughts just as an answer seem within reach. "The only thing I'm not sure about in all that, is why God lets all of these bad things happen in the world. I mean, I know you're a fireman and you must have seen some pretty nasty situations. How could God let them happen if he is really a loving being?" she returned quizzically.
"I really don't know," Logan responded somberly, forgetting his dilemma and shifting his eyes back to the bright star in the now inky dark sky. "I guess I really have come to not believe in the concepts of true good and evil. I mean, we really can't see the ‘big picture' of any situation. I've seen some things that seemed just totally horrid when they happened. But, in the end, the good things that came out of those situations far outweighed the bad. So, was what happened really bad? Or, did some event just happen and good things came from it?" The fireman shifted slightly, turning his gaze to the shadowed girl beside him. "I guess the whole trick is to really get people to understand at least a premise of a much larger concept of life, then take responsibility for their own actions in that concept."
"Yeah, I see what you mean. The old "ignorance is bliss theory" is shot right down the tubes with that idea. If people could understand that not every little action has to make sense to us as it happens then we could look for the good in every situation. Kind of puts a damper on the Devil theory, too, doesn't it? Awesome." Amanda silently stared out into the darkened swamp with a feel of reverence exuding from every pore in her body. "Wow," was all she could mutter after several minutes of silence. "I've never really thought about this kind of stuff before. I've always considered myself a true realist, if I couldn't see it, touch it, feel it and/or hear it, then it didn't exist. All of that esoteric mumbo-jumbo was for the space cadets. I don't know why I've so suddenly shifted my ideas so much."
Logan cocked his head to hear the pulsing heartbeat of life that flowed so thickly from the dark swamp. Little splashes echoed through the heavy trees and frogs sang into the darkness, creating a continuous symphony of nature. The fireman returned his attention to Amanda and answered, "You know, maybe those questions were there all along, but you were just afraid to look at them. Maybe just settling down and getting into a quiet place within yourself helps to let your true feelings come up. Feelings that were hidden even from yourself. I've kind of found that glimpsing the hand of death can also change a persons perspective of a lot of things. We had a pretty close glimpse of that possibility earlier. You know, I don't believe in accidents, I think everything has a creative beginning. Maybe you, me and Elizabeth all wanted to discover a little more about ourselves, so someone was willing to play the other part of some grand game and kidnap us to bring us together on a little deserted chunk of land in God knows where," he had to laugh aloud when he thought about it, it was all too funny.
Amanda squirmed. "That's a really wild thought," she answered uncomfortably. "But, what if none of this is real or true?" she asked with a funny look in her eye.
"Then I guess that is part of the game, too. Reality might be so different that we can't even comprehend what it is. But, for right now that satisfies me. It's fun believing that, so I think I will, for a while at least. Maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow. I have the power of God to do that," Logan added, smiling into the warm night. "Or not."
Elizabeth stepped through the screen door, sitting between Amanda and Logan. The group was so tight that their shoulders touched. Elizabeth began absently rubbing the backs of the other two, then draped her arms around each of their shoulders. "Wow, feels serious out here," she replied quietly. "Hey guys, I think we should celebrate. I mean, I snatched you both from the jaws of death today and that's a great excuse. You could both be 'gator bait right now. So now it's time to celebrate victory!"
She stood up, whisking by them into the cabin, returning promptly with three small Mason jars and a large bottle of red wine. Setting them on the porch behind her sister and Logan, the scurrying girl reentered the small house and returned with a lit candle. "We don't have to be constantly depressed and morbid. Just as long as we keep our wits, I don't see why we shouldn't enjoy a moment together in peace. No matter the surrounding circumstances."
Logan smiled at the younger sister, "I have to agree with you there. One of the major things I've been dealing with lately is my habit of taking things too seriously, never being able to enjoy the celebration of a victory. Well, lasses, that's coming to a halt right now. Prisoner or no prisoner, kidnappers or no kidnappers, I'm going to enjoy the peace and company of this evening!" The fireman took the wine bottle, unscrewing the metal cap. Pouring three glasses of the ruby liquid, he raised the glass to the women. "Sláinte agus fad saol agat!," the Irishman toasted then took a sip of the wine.
"What's that?" Elizabeth asked Logan curiously.
"It's an Irish toast. Roughly, 'good health and a long life to you'. It's one of the few things I can remember my Grandfather teaching me. Of course, he used a pint of Guinness!"
"Are you Irish, then?" the younger girl asked again curiously.
"Very," he responded proudly.
"Have you ever been there? Ireland, I mean?" Amanda chimed in.
"Yeah, I've spent quite a bit of time there, especially in my childhood. I still have a lot of family there, I'm first generation American."
"What part of the country are your relatives from?" Amanda asked again.
"Oh, several areas, but primarily in County Cork."
"I've heard it's a beautiful place and the people are extremely friendly." Elizabeth rejoined. "I'd like to visit there one day myself."
"Yeah, the country is beautiful. And the people pride themselves on their country, even though Ireland has its problems, too. You know? Funny, I used to relish being in Ireland, I never wanted to leave to come home. I was in love with everything about the country, the people, the language, the whole lifestyle. Life there is so much simpler, straight forward and intimate. Then, I got older, got involved with the 'in crowd' around school and decided that the country life was way too backward for me. I began craving action. It seemed the only excitement worth pursuing was in a city, so I began considering myself a city lad, far too refined and action loving for a small town, especially for country life," Logan responded, a longing in his heart that hadn't been felt for a long time. This is it, the answer that had eluded his thoughts only a short time before! Of course! A warm feeling of recognition flowed through the young Irishman's body. "Funny, but now, I suddenly feel so much different. If I could choose anywhere in the world to lay my head right now it would be back in Ireland, sitting with Morgan next to me in front of a smoking peat fire in a warm cottage. It felt so much like home back then. The lifestyle isn't even remotely similar to American big-city life." The young man paused, reflecting again on the words that were coming from his heart and not his head.
Logan shifted his body once more to face both girls more directly. "It's just that," the reminiscing fireman continued, "I recently had an experience that, at first, didn't seem to have a whole lot of lasting effect on me. As time goes by, though, I can feel an impact at such a deep level that I'm really beginning to question all of my ideas and desires of everything. The stuff that happened today just reinforced the whole feeling and power of that experience. Life suddenly seems so tenuous now. You see, I died about a month ago, at a fire scene,"
Logan took another sip from his glass, staring across its dark rim into the rich liquid below and felt a lump form in his throat. "Obviously they brought me back to life, but I don't know how long I was out. I mean, I can't really remember the details like some people say they can, you know, the white lights and tunnels and everything, it's just the after effects have been building up pretty steadily for some time now." The fireman moved uncomfortably, shifting his eyes out into the darkness of the swamp.
Buzzing insects began surrounding the candle sounding like a squadron of dive bombers flying past his ears. An owl hooted hauntingly in the distance, followed by a second hoot, in answer, creating a deep sense of loneliness and isolation in Logan. "I guess I need some time to sort all my feelings out. I'm definitely not afraid of death anymore, but now I feel that I have so much life to live! I don't want to miss a minute of it! I want to live life fully; physically, spiritually, emotionally, every way that I can! I want to really live life, you know? I mean, I've found someone now that I really think I can share the rest of my life with. Morgan's like no one else I've ever known and I want to experience her love every minute of every day whether we're physically together or not! Maybe that's what this is all about," the pondering young man continued seriously, looking around him, "really experiencing life! And as far as Ireland goes, I'd be back there in a heartbeat, just as long as Morgan would go with me" he added, almost under his breath.
Both women stared at him in utter amazement, "But, I thought you were on your way to work when you were kidnapped?" Elizabeth quizzed him quietly.
"I had only been back to work for a couple of days and I really didn't want to go that day," Logan answered somberly, thinking back on the morning of their abduction. "Morgan even tried to coax me into calling in sick, but good ole' dependable me, I had a responsibility to the public. It was a matter of honor to uphold that duty. On top of that, I couldn't afford to lose my job, physically or emotionally. It has been one of the most important things in my life for a long time. I even, once upon a time, had aspirations of being Fire Chief. Now I don't know why I wanted that. I guess it was the only fulfilment that I could find for a long period in my life. It also satisfied my excitement lust.
"Now, here I am with nothing but time on my hands and confusion in my brain. Everyone back home probably thinks I'm dead, so, who knows what will be waiting when we get back. If only I'd listened to my intuition I might not. . . ."
"You wouldn't be here," Amanda finished his sentence, "And you might have never learned the things that you have. Neither would we!"
"So, if you've changed your whole idea of life, why don't you just go back to Ireland? You've got family there. I know it would be a pretty hefty step, but why not, if that's what you really want?" Elizabeth chimed in, questioning his real intention.
Logan stared vacantly into the night with familiar, beloved scenes of Cork, Kerry, Conor Pass and other Irish sights taking over his imagination. "Money," the fireman answered hollowly. "Jobs in Ireland aren't the most plentiful in the world and I'm definitely not a rich man." Logan took another long drink from his glass and turned to face the two girls. "Also, I don't know that Morgan would want to live in Ireland."
The night sounds of the swamp began coming alive in the still darkness. The frogs croaked and night birds called to the night. Nocturnal insects gathered around the flickering candle, perishing one by one in the flickering, golden flame. Silently the trio sipped their wine and dreamed, each of their own Heaven. Logan again looked up at the small patch of sky that was visible above him. Two bright stars now peeked through the mixed canopy of trees and clouds. He felt a deep longing to see Morgan, to touch her firm, warm body. The homesick young man could almost feel his lover next to him, taste the sweetness of her kiss on his lips.
Then, the half dreaming lad thought of Ireland, his new-old dream of having a life there. Slowly at first, the two dreams combined. Logan could feel the cool freshness of the Irish countryside, smell the brisk, fragrant air and see the green hills and blue rivers. Next to him, Morgan's hand tightly joined his, delighting in their new surroundings. His sweetheart could share his excitement and love for this country. They could share this dream.
"You know," Amanda interrupted his vision, "If everything we were talking about earlier were true, nothing could stop you, at anything. You could find a way to be where you wanted to be and do what you really wanted to do. The means would show up somehow. If those ideas were all true, the only thing stopping you is you, and a limited perspective of possibilities."
For a moment Logan was taken aback. He was stunned at the directness, yet, the wisdom of that statement, especially coming from Amanda. Quickly exploring that idea somehow made his dream seem more real and attainable, yet, at the same time, brought a deep feeling of remorse to him. "God, I wish I knew how to do that. Getting ideas are easier than putting them into practice. I can sit here all day long and say I know that I am the only one stopping me, but it doesn't really get me one step closer to Ireland."
"What are you guys talking about now?" Elizabeth questioned, looking back and forth between them. "I must have missed something. . . profound." Her eyes sparkled in the darkness. Logan could swear that they actually lit up with physically apparent light.
"We were talking about God and being a part of God. How we can create anything if we are really part of the everything that is God. Nothing is impossible and nothing accidental," Amanda responded unexpectedly.
"Wow sis, you were talking about that? I thought you despised that kind of stuff. I'm shocked!" Elizabeth retorted, grabbing at her chest, pretending she was having a heart attack.
"I don't know, after all that happened today, I feel different. Maybe I feel a little more vulnerable, or mortal, you know what I mean? Maybe everything that I thought was important, or even real, was just an illusion. Maybe things are a little less black and white than I once believed."
Elizabeth stared at her sister with mouth open. The stunned girl didn't quite know how to take what she was hearing. The turn around was about as sudden as anything Liz had ever seen. She wanted to speak, but didn't know what to say. "You always laughed at me, calling me a dreamer and all when I talked about this kind of stuff," she finally uttered, amazed. "Remember, mom used to call you her little realist, even when we were children! Oh God, once when she took us to church, all the way home you were asking why we couldn't see God and if God couldn't come right out and talk to us why should people pray to him!" Liz paused, smiling at Amanda. "Oh, and what about the time you and she spent two days arguing. . . uh, excuse me, discussing how there could be no such thing as radio waves. You swore that the picture on the TV had to be coming from the electrical cord, not out of thin air! You almost drove mom nuts with that one!" She snickered, searching for more examples of her sister's practicality. "And there's that time when. . . ."
Amanda cut her off suddenly, "All right! We get the point! So, I'm changing my mind! I read somewhere that true love is really the willingness to allow something to change, will you let me now? Change, I mean."
"Sis, I support your change in any way you want. You just kind of caught me off guard."
"Well, since we're talking about kid stuff, I can remember you driving dad crazy with spending all of your money soon as you got it, and never cleaning your room until he had to come sit in there and forcible make you!" Amanda smiled warmly at the girl, "I will allow you to change, too! I can now see you as a very responsible adult, a very good friend of mine, not my kid sister or my nagging child!"
"Thanks, sis. That means more to me that you'll probably ever know. I love you and I'm really glad you're my sister." The grateful girl reach out, wrapping her arms around Amanda's neck and hugging her tightly. The two sisters sat back down, arm in arm, allowing the quiet of the evening to encapsulate the small group.
The swamp noises suddenly seemed louder in the artificial stillness. The evening grew deeper, yet dawn was just breaking on some other level of consciousness. The pair of owls hooted to each other again in the distance, adding to the surrealism of the moment. Logan had feelings and memories resurfacing that he didn't even know he had. He stared into the darkness with his life passing before his eyes. Everything from childhood memories to the latest experience at being a kidnapee intertwined through his consciousness in no particular order.
"Logan, oh Logan. Are you still with us?" Elizabeth prodded, bringing him back into the reality of the moment.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Did I miss anything?" Logan answered, still partially in a daze.
"Depends on where you've been. We've been talking to you for the last five minutes. Do you have some kind of medical condition that we should know about?" Amanda asked seriously.
"No. Sorry, I don't know quite how to explain it. I just kind of sailed off into the ozone."
"I'm exhausted and it's time for bed. Will you take the first watch tonight, Logan? Goodnight," Amanda announced not allowing time for interruption. The surprising woman then stood and disappeared into the cabin without awaiting an answer.
Elizabeth broke the silence after Amanda departed. "I've been thinking. I'd kind of like to explore a little of the wildlife and stuff around here. There's a lot of pretty neat stuff crawling around this island. If you have some time I'd like you to explore a little with me."
"Okay, if we get a little time," Logan answered absently. "The main thing I want to concentrate on right now is getting back to civilization. I've got a lot of things to do to get us ready to get off this island."
"Okay, well, I think I'm ready to turn in, too." Elizabeth answered quietly. She drained her glass and stood to her feet. Leaning against the porch railing, she asked Logan seriously, "Do you think I'm pretty?"
The question took him aback. "Ya. . .Yeah, I think you're very attractive."
"No, I didn't say attractive. That sounds like the ole' 'good personality' thing. I asked, am I pretty?"
He was now a little more prepared to answer. "Yes, I think you are a very pretty woman. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, no reason. Just curious I guess." Without another word she picked up the flickering candle and glided into the dark house, leaving Logan to his own thoughts.
Morgan's image overcame him again. The beautiful woman's image flooded his senses so fully that she was almost there in physical form. My God, Morgan, I miss you so much. I wish that I was with you tonight. I'll be back to you soon, I promise. Then we'll go to Ireland, just you and me. Who knows, maybe we'll even end up there permanently. I just know that from now on, wherever I am, I want you with me. Logan lowered his head as a small tear slipped from his right eye, flowing down his cheek.
The sounds of the night seemed to close in on him, sitting alone in the darkness. A dim flash of light lit up the night sky. Followed soon by another, slightly brighter. "Shit, it can't rain again," he commented to himself.
Morgan stood with the Keohanes as the last of the mourners filed out of the sullen house. Anne Keohane sniffled and blew her nose into the overused tissue in her hand. "That was lovely of all our friends to come by with their sympathies. Maybe we should go ahead and set up his memorial, after all they'll be bringing his body back to Houston tomorrow. I still can't believe that he's gone. Oh Lord, did someone give him last rights? Oh, surely they did! Maybe we should call Father O'Dooley just in case." She turned and walked toward the couch, dropping her weight as if completely deflated. "Where do I go now?"
Yancy ambled tiredly across the living room to join his wife. "Now there, lass," he comforted her, putting a strong arm across the sniffling woman's shoulder. "Logan would be wantin' us to remember him as we loved him, not in sympathy. Why, I bet if the lad could speak to us right now he'd be a'smilin' and tellin' you how much he wanted some of your grilled Salmon in dill sauce. That was always his favorite, you know. When we'd go to Ireland that's the first thing he'd tell his grandma, ‘Please, granny, make me some of your lovely salmon!' Even before he said hi to his Grandfather! Oh, the young lad loved Ireland so much!" The older man forced a smile, trying to hide his agony.
Morgan stood by the doorway empathizing with the mourning parents. She was trying hard not to get caught up in their emotions. "I really had better be going," Morgan addressed them somberly. The reeling lass wanted to tell them that Logan must still be alive and would be back soon. Even the autopsy report couldn't positively identify the man's body as Logan. Inconclusive identity, the official report said. There was still room for hope! However, that possibility seemed to be meaningless to the parents at that moment. They didn't seem to have a reality of anything other than Logan's apparent death, never to be seen again. His parents' minds were set on the reality before their eyes, not on giving credence to any possibilities that existed in other possible realms. Morgan found the ability to feel deep compassion for the Keohanes without sharing intimately in their feelings. "Call me if you need anything or if I can help in any way," the young woman concluded, stepping toward the door.
A chilled breeze met Morgan at the door, her breath steaming under the yellow porch light. Briskly, she shuffled to her car, still spinning from the day's activities. The shivering redhead clawed through her deep purse for the car keys, noticing for the first time the crisp brightness of the full harvest moon. She stopped searching and scanned the area around her in amazement of the details that were enhanced by the silvery glow. "I wonder what the moon looks like in Ireland?" the entranced Irishwoman wondered aloud. "Logan, you and I are going to explore Ireland when you get back." Why did she have that desire so strongly now? She had always liked to travel and explore, Ireland being one destination she wanted to see. Never, though, had she a desire so strongly as this, to just to pick up and be somewhere else, having totally new experiences with a single, intimate partner.
Morgan got into her car and backed out of the Keohanes driveway. The anxious redhead wanted to be somewhere, just not home or anywhere indoors. She longed to be outdoors, under the soft, silvery light of the full moon, feeling the magic of the moonbeams touch her, setting her senses alive.
Morgan found herself automatically driving to Logan's apartment complex. Yeah, that would be a good place. There's a little landscaped duck pond in the central courtyard with a fountain and all. It would be perfect. It was even late enough that she would probably have the whole place to myself. Except maybe an occasional strolling security guard. The young woman knew everything would be just fine if she stayed in alignment with the greater part of herself, allowing a higher sense of consciousness to guide her decisions. Nothing was greater than her spirit.
Morgan reached the complex, locked her car and strolled toward the little lake. Here, the moon seemed even brighter, against the starry sky. The mystified lass gazed into the inky heavens, feeling the immenseness of the Universe around her. Funny word, she thought, Universe; One verse, one song. A symphony of all matter playing in one accord toward an aligned ending. The lass shivered, more at the thought of the grand infinity around her than the coldness of the chilled air.
Pulling the tight leather jacket a little closer around her, Morgan peered amazedly into the fathomless twinkling sky. Slowly, she ambled across a small wooden bridge, eyes Heavenward rather than on where she was walking. A large boulder, standing directly in front of the wandering girl, caught her mystified attention, she had never noticed it before. The stone stood on its end, about four feet high. Very dolmenish it seemed in the silvered light; mystical, almost magical. Beyond, lay a small body of placid water, reflecting the moonbeams, catching them on its surface and casting them in odd directions as if playing some sort of cosmic game. Good, the fountain wasn't working.
Seating herself at the base of the large stone, Morgan rested her back against it, staring across the glistening pool. She felt both huge and small, witnessing the immenseness of the surrounding creation. Everything seemed so close to her, yet everything seemed so far. "However I decide it to be," she incanted softly into the stillness, remembering one of the prime ideas taught by Sandy Ellison. Morgan allowed her mind to relax, thoughts becoming much less frequent, eventually she wasn't longer thinking. "Oh, Logan, that isn't you they're bringing back tomorrow, is it? It just can't be! You wouldn't just run off and leave me like that. Someone else had to have stolen your truck and wrecked it. But, where are YOU? Come back, Logan. Please come back to me alive."
The treefrogs singing around Morgan croaked in unison and the night birds called into the stillness with their distant chirps. "We have so much more of life to live. . . ." the lass whispered, closing her eyes and relaxing against the large stone.
"Good evening, miss," an unexpected voice startled her. "Is everything okay?"
Morgan looked around to see a friendly security guard patrolling the grounds. "Wonderful," the smiling lass responded. "Lovely evening isn't it?"
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