Nathaniel's Dream

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I don’t remember why feeding the turtles was so important, but at the time, I couldn’t really think about anything else. I even knew it was illegal, but then, no one really pays too close attention to the law in India. All the pieces were in place: we were taking a ferry ride down the Ganges, and I had my turtle food, which included (among other things that I don’t remember) a large, living fish, and piece of my gums about the size of a quarter that had mysteriously fallen off.

From the back of the boat, I could see the turtles frolicking in the river. They looked a lot like sea turtles, except for the strange fact that they all had two shells. Over their natural shell was a larger one that they inherited from the previous generation. I suppose conditions in this ephemeral river are particularly treacherous.

When we finally reached full speed, I threw the fish from the back of the boat. The police responded immediately, and, seeing the sirens, I leapt into the river and swam to the policemen on shore to answer for my crime. My only regret was that I hadn’t given them all of my turtle food.

“Why did you feed the turtles?” the policemen asked me.

I didn’t have an answer for him. I just knew it was something that I had to do.

“Well, at any rate, it doesn’t matter. We caught this video of you doing it.”

The policeman played the video for me. It was pretty impressive: from the angle they recorded it, it looked as though the giant fish I threw to the turtles had actually leapt from the boat and taken me with it. Indeed, it appeared as if I held on to the fish and rode it to shore along the wake of the boat.

“One of our colleagues posted this video to the internet,” the policeman told me, “and it’s won you international fame and popularity. You’ve been invited to a conference of world adventurers.”

Most of the world adventures treated me with respect, though they kept their distance. But right from the beginning a few of them seemed extraordinarily angry at having a newcomer along.

The conference had arranged an adventure for us that took us through an underground cave of evils, which we passed through quite hastily. I don’t remember any of its specific contents, but the cavern was certainly filled with a deep and depressing sense of darkness.

Nathaniel sleeps.
Nathaniel sleeps.

But for me, the greatest evil was the two or three of the other adventurers who didn’t want me there. I responded to them charitably, but my polite responses only made them more annoyed. When we emerged from the cave, they mocked me, and insisted that I prove myself.

To this cave of evil there was a second exit, which was only partially constructed. From the outside, I could scarcely insert my hand into the opening to the wrist. The challenge that my adversaries put before me was to re-enter the cave, and exit through this second opening. I agreed to this: not because I felt compelled to appease their aggravations, but because I felt it was indeed something that I indeed needed to do.

I came to the second exit without incident, but when I arrived at that corridor, I found that the way was blocked by a desk with a computer on it. So I used the computer to fill my head with knowledge about the place and the predicament in which I found myself. Then, armed with this knowledge, I returned to the cave, and illuminated it with what I learned.

In one of the shadowy corners of the cave, I found an injured fairy. When I brought her back to the cavern’s central path, she was healed, and with her magic, she transformed the cave into a vivid, green forest, filled with life, blossoms, and good fruit.

The evil that had formerly inhabited the cave was now relegated to a small rectangular mat that separated the forest from a small garden that stood between the forest and the world. Stepping on the mat caused a traveler to contract a disease that caused the skin to turn blue, and was fatal within a couple of days.

I knew, however, that in the garden there was also a relic capable of healing this disease. It was a book, a very old, leather-bound book consisting of three parts: the Psalms in Latin, photographs of the ancient buildings of India, and the grateful signatures of people who had received healing through it.

When I left the garden, I took the book with me, wanting to see all of the photographs and read all of the signatures. It only occurred to me gradually that without the book, the means of healing had been taken from the garden. A blueskinned news-announcer on television announced that the virus had been transferred to DVD, and copies were being mailed to people across the world…

I went to get a shave on the far side of Laxshman Jhula. A frantic man, naked, with flaming red hair and skin painted yellow, darted through the crowds.

“You better watch out for that rogue,” said the barber. “He smells money like sharks smell blood. You don’t have any money on you do you?”

“No,” I replied, “I didn’t bring any extra money with me.”

At that moment, I realized that there was a 500 rupee note sticking out of my front shirt pocket slightly. I pushed it back in, anxiously.

“Too late,” the barber told me. “He knows.”

The yellow man approached, and tried to reach into my pocket. I fought back, and managed to overcome him. As I restrained him, he became a length of plastic rope.

His brother was sitting on the ghat along the Ganges, smoking a cigarette. He had the same long, red hair as the yellow man, but he was clothed and in his right mind; a wealthy world traveler.

“Finish him,” he told me. “Throw him into the Ganges.”

I was reluctant. “You have to,” he insisted. “If you don’t do it, the police will. Thieving is a capital crime in India.”

I threw the length of rope into the river. It began to burn, rapidly.

“What’s happening?” I asked the brother.

He looked at me sadly. “It is his breath, returning to the wind. It is a tear, falling into an ocean of sadness. It is a flame, returning his essence to the world.”

I noticed between us another shorter length of rope, burning more slowly, but almost fully consumed.

“My friend,” I said to the yellow man’s brother, “It seems that your time is almost over as well.”

He turned white. “That has no power over me,” he said. “I have been baptized.”

“Just because it doesn’t have any power over you,” I replied, “doesn’t mean it has lost its meaning.”

Anxiously, the man walked down the ghat to the pilgrim beach. I followed him down.

“Trust in Jesus Christ,” I advised the man, “for He is the one to whom both life and death point.”

And my dream dissolved into the morning light, and all of its misty figures burned away with the light of the rising sun.

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