- By Jesse Austin
Space Needle You Are Not God
You live in sane comfort in Northern California. You pay your taxes. You have a garden. You are peaceful with your neighbors. And, you have a meaningful occupation that challenges and satisfies; you are a psychic medium therapist.
Thus, as a lightworker, you find yourself troubled by your country’s violent ferocity at home and around the world.
But, you logically reason, you are not God. Your job is only to bear witness to events.
Or so it seems.
“Well, it was a terrible dream,” Wanda said.
You push away your bowl of oatmeal and look at your wife.
Tiny, spirited, Hispanic Wanda had been racing around the house getting ready for her demanding job, her beloved border collie, Key, shadowing her every step. Last night Wanda had a dark dream about your daughter and granddaughter.
“Bobbi and Leslie were screaming!” Wanda declared.
Your darling has your full attention. You watch as she grabbed up her bulging briefcase. Her laptop was already dangling from her small shoulder. Wanda was a do-gooder, a criminal lawyer who assiduously defends the bottom rung of society.
Wanda, muttering that she was already late, looked back at you, frowning.
“Call Bobbi,” your wife instructed, going out the door into the foggy coastal sunshine. “Arrange a visit.”
Black and white Key barked once, sighed and dropped down onto the cold floor.
Later that morning your first client, a thin fellow in a dapper gray business suit, sat down and before you could even explain your typical procedures, blurted out that he felt guilty. You noted his British accent. He was on extended holiday, visiting a California friend.
“Ok,” you said, “Let’s take a look.”
You closed your eyes and went into trance.
“I’m seeing a jolly, round fellow with a big smile.”
“Yes,” the man whispers, “It’s me dad, we were very close.”
Interpreting your guides, you explained that his father understood that the motorway had been jammed with traffic and that it had not been his son’s fault he’d arrived at the hospital hours after his father had died.
“You are not to feel guilty, he is saying. Besides, he was in the car with you. Your favorite song kept playing on the radio.”
“Yes, that’s right,” the Brit said. “It was Jimmy Jump-legs. It almost made me daft. I was stuck in the afternoon car mess and a silly song I had loved as a lad kept playing on the radio over and over.”
“That was your dad saying goodbye.”
You heard the dapper man choke in gratitude.
After the client left, in between appointments, you squeezed in a call to your daughter Bobbi and set up a time for a summer visit. Wanda’s dream had given you a decided chill.
Skinny little grandchild Leslie came flying across her living room.
“Pop-Pop!” She yelled, her huge eyes sparkling with pleasure. “I thought you were never coming!”
Nearby, Wanda and Bobbi embraced. You picked up little Leslie and joined them for a family hug.
“You are mooshing me,” Leslie laughed in your ear.
You and Wanda were in Seattle visiting your only child and only grandchild. Bobbi was a brave single mom, her husband, your son in law, Malcolm, had died from leukemia three years ago.
“Pop-Pop!” After dinner, Leslie directed you in her favorite game. “Let’s play God.”
“OK,” you said, knowing the rules, “I am God. What do you want me to do first?”
Little Leslie stepped dangerously close to where you were seated. Even on the kitchen chair you were a fleshy giant next to her trim, tense form.
Ritualistically, you grabbed for one thin arm. Laughing, the child jumped with alacrity out of reach. Your job was to not quite catch her. Her job was to fill your soul with joy.
“Pop-Pop!” Leslie squealed when you nabbed one boney wrist. But somehow your grip was not tight enough, and the skinny sprite delightedly escaped once again.
Early the next morning you shake your wife’s warm shoulder. The two of you take the chugging ferry across the Sound to one of the Islands just west of Seattle. In your youth you were a dashing college quarterback, and now, nearly seventy, you drag your left leg when you are tired. But this morning you feel great. You take in a breath full of tangy ocean air and smile down into Wanda’s brown cat eyes.
Chuckling together during the ferry ride out, you abruptly hear a tremendous, thumping boom.
“Look!” Wanda savagely pulls on your arm.
But you are too late. By the time you look around at the Seattle skyline you witness merely a gigantic rolling cloud of black smoke. The tall, graceful landmark Space Needle has been blown out of existence!
“A small plane flew straight into the top,” a man nearby says in nervous disbelief.
“Bobbi!” you cry.
Your daughter Bobbi and little Leslie were scheduled to meet friends for a festive breakfast high up in the Space Needle restaurant before hooking up with you later in the afternoon.
“Maybe they were late!” Wanda pleads.
Before you can answer, Wanda jerks out her cell to check on Bobbi and Leslie.
Suddenly you feel an elephant size shock slam against the side of your head. Dearest Bobbie, with Leslie in her arms, stands near you by the railing of the serenely chugging ferry. Her smile is huge, and little Leslie, who is showing you her wings, is also braving a glorious smile.
“No,” you say, not meaning to be negative.
The two lovelies wrinkle in the salty air, and disappear.
“What?” Wanda begs, raking her fingers against your chest. “What did you see?”
At Bobbi’s tidy, now empty home you waited in vain. The TV news about the heinous 4th of July terrorist attack went predictably ballistic. Early estimates put the Seattle Space Needle death toll at 518.
Again and again they showed the little silver and blue airplane puttering through the milky morning sky and slamming with a surreal boldness into the restaurant, exploding to smithereens the slowly spinning top of the Space Needle.
On the third afternoon you heard skinny little Leslie laughing from down the hallway, and you snapped awake. You had dozed off in the big rose colored chair in Bobbi’s living room. For a long, terrifying moment you felt a searing pain singing through your bones.
“Outside,” floated for an instant in your imagination.
Dizzy, you pulled on the chalk colored drapes and watched a police cruiser slide to a halt.
You quietly opened the front door and stepped onto Bobbi’s modest porch. You watched two uniformed officers, a man and woman, come up to the steps with their blue hats tucked under their arms.
The woman officer spoke, her oval, concerned face tipped up towards you. Her words came from a distance, as if you were watching a movie.
“There were no survivors.”
You are not God. You want desperately to talk to your daughter and granddaughter, but they don’t come through. It had always been easier to read others than yourself. Your grief is like a hammer knocking away at the top of your head and sending shock after shock down the length of your body.
On automatic pilot, together you and Wanda, mostly lawyer Wanda, make all the necessary arrangements for Bobbi and the grandchild, including questions about the memorial, the mortgage, life insurance and the missing car. It takes a week to locate Bobbi’s Honda; it was found in a downtown parking lot covered in gray ash. Leslie’s two fluffy rabbits, one white and one black, you carry in your arms to the children across the street.
Five weeks after the Space Needle attack, the brothers who were accused of training the suicide terrorist to fly the small plane, had been captured. One brother, Assad, stood up at the court hearing, and with his face twisted in black rage, denounced the USA. The younger brother, tiny Faiz, just 15, tearfully declared that he had no knowledge and had not taken part.
Neither you nor Wanda attended any of the court proceedings, but back home in Northern California you followed it on the news. You and your wife speculated that young Faiz was likely innocent. Watching, conflicted and muttering, you often skipped dinner.
“It would have been better,” Wanda said late one night in bed. “if we had been in the restaurant with them.”
In the dark, you twisted and groaned.
If you were God, you thought...If you had any real power at all, you would have known what was coming...
“We should have all four of us been on the Fourth of July ferry.” you said to Wanda. “Remember, that had been our original plan.”
You listened to Wanda quietly sobbing.
You felt as if a heavy animal were holding you to the bed. Right in that moment you couldn’t reach out to gentle your wife. Feeling her grief, your grief was beyond your capacities. It was all so sad.
That morning you had done a reading for a woman whose adult son had committed suicide. Was there only pain in the world? During the reading her guides came close, and you interpreted what they were saying to the middle-aged mother.
“None of us are victims. We all choose the events of our lives. We are here to learn. All of our challenges come wrapped with the solutions. Nothing is impossible. Every grief, if allowed honored expression, will lead to understanding and transformation.”
You lay in the dark. Wanda was still asleep. You felt moody and restless. Later, in a fitful dream, you were a large, proud statue that depicted a deity. There was an earthquake, and you tumbled endlessly down into a deep pit.
In the next weeks, Wanda came hotly alive and leaped into action. Along with doing her demanding job, your wife poured her energies into starting a college grant program with the relatively modest money from the sale of Bobbi’s house, car and life insurance.
Finally, with much national self-righteous fanfare, Assad, the older brother, was hung in a Federal prison in the state of Washington for crimes against humanity. Alone in the house when you heard the brassy newscaster, you felt an unaccountable shame. Meanwhile, Assad’s sad-eyed brother, Faiz, was still alive pending appeal.
The following summer, week by week, you wretchedly watched Wanda fade. She was diagnosed by a doctor with a thin, irritating voice. Your darling had acute heart disease. Finally she quit working. Squeezing her small, cold hand, you sat by her bed in the hospital radiating light and healing all in vain. Tiny, fierce Wanda had her final heart attack two days before her 62nd birthday. Writhing in the bed and struggling for breath, she stared unseeing into your eyes. Without a last word, your loving wife left you.
The border collie, smart Key, had always been Wanda’s dog. Now Key followed you everywhere. If you sat down, even for a moment, black and white Key would slide his chin onto your knee and look at you with soulful, wise eyes.
Haplessly, you attempted to bravely accept your life as it had furiously unfolded.
On a fall afternoon, you sprinkled Wanda’s ashes at her favorite camping spot on the winding Chonee River. Then, of necessity, you took time off from your practice as a psychic medium therapist. Dazed, you returned to the resort island across the Sound where your family had cavorted in happier times.
Angry, you slammed the cabin door, made soup and then didn’t eat. Moaning, Key lay on the window seat where little Leslie had liked to stand looking out on rainy days.
On the island you were cut off from the news. It was just as well, as young Faiz had escaped, you were later to learn. Because of his youth, his lawyers had managed another appeal with the 5th District Court in Seattle. In the late afternoon transit from court to the downtown jail, Faiz had leaped and crashed through an upstairs courthouse window.
You were beyond current events. Being back at the family cabin had brought on terrific confusion. And your football knee was killing you. You tossed and found sleep impossible.
Finally you and faithful Key ventured outside for a walk. Under a giant yellow moon you limped along the trail that lead down to the ocean. From the sloping hillside you could see the bright skyline of Seattle across the water.
And then far below you saw it, a rowboat in the surf working its way through the rocks. Almost recklessly you lurched down to the edge of the hissing water.
The little wooden craft was no match for the white, crashing waves. It flipped over near a rock not thirty feet from you. Key jumped into the surf first, giving you courage. You waded into the terrifically cold, surging water; forcing yourself in up to your hips, when the dark body was thrown against your chest. You managed to drag the small man onto the sand.
Pulling, you rolled him over. You were not surprised; it was young Faiz, and he was breathing, just. You got him up and sitting, slapping his back harder and harder until he choked, coughed and then vomited seemingly gallons of green seawater.
Heroically limping, you hauled half-conscious Faiz up the steep slope to your cabin. Almost blind with leg pain, you dumped the skinny fellow in your bed. Throughout the night you nursed him with hot soup. Finally at noon the next day, he sat up in bed and thanked you in heavily accented English. Weary, you glared down at the young convicted terrorist. Faiz was gravely depleted, but he was alive!
Suddenly your mind jumped across the border of reason. Your lovelies were dead, and this foreign, odd -looking little man was in your bed and sentient? Every saint has a moment of hullabaloo. You rushed wildly back from the kitchen with a large butcher knife and set the tip against the brown, funny knob of young Faiz’s Adam’s apple. The urge to destroy was overwhelming. Your shoulders shook with dumb retribution. You would be God, you would mete out justice, if not to the guilty murderer, then to his brother, the only one you had at hand.
You were about to plunge the knife into the terrified youth and splash his bright red blood on the pillow and the sheets when Key bit you solidly on your ankle. Stung by the dog’s treachery and his very real teeth, you dropped the knife and hopped in crazy circles by the bed.
Life-weary Faiz crawled from the blankets and made for the door. The border collie pulled him down screaming in the hallway. That brought you partially to your senses.
“Key,” you called, “Key, for heaven’s sake...sit!”
And the good dog sat. Funny Faiz, naked as a skinny lizard, pitched himself around to a sitting position on the hall floor. He looked up at you with wide eyes, expecting to be punished. You hesitated. Dangerously tired, you looked down at the prim young man’s nude innocence and abruptly exploded with insane laughter. What was so hilarious? Were you crazy? You tried to stop yourself. From a distance of miles and miles you could hear Key’s joyous barking. Still roaring, you felt Faiz’s soft hand on your elbow as he led you to your bed. You hardly remembered being tucked in or the sleep that slid around you like the sea tide.
How narrowly close you had come to being one of God’s killers. You were, after all, an American, the killers par excellence of all known human existence. You America had killed the roaming Indians, brought in the dark peoples from Africa to work slavishly in the hot muggy fields, and lately had more than nine hundred concrete military bases around the globe protecting your vital interests as you picked clean the world’s resources. America, you were God. With your massive bombs, drones, snipers, jets, war ships and armies, you delightedly and religiously fought wars without end.
Finally your head cleared. You rolled around in the bed and sat up, surprised to see a set of bright eyes staring at you. It was little Leslie, willing you to pay attention to her. Your dear grandchild! Her shining face flooded you with immense joy. In that moment you knew nothing could ever be wrong in existence.
“Wake up, Pop-Pop!” Leslie’s little dead voice sang to you. “Please Pop-Pop, help Faiz return to his grandma in Iraq!” It took some doing, a lot of money and several trips to the dark places of Seattle, but you managed to gather the necessary papers for both ship and air tickets for Faiz to return, in a roundabout circuit, to Iraq. He had left when he was five years old during the turmoil when the US forces had brutally invaded his country and radicalized his older brother.
You put the heavily disguised young man on a ship. Three weeks later, you received a card in the mail. It simply said, “Yes, there is soup.” Faiz had made it, he was back with his people, those still living.
In your home in the next months you saw a spate of clients, did a bit of writing, and survived the daily folly of living on earth. One fall afternoon in the garden you sat on the lawn chair near the bird fountain. Key had his noble chin on your knee. “You are not at peace,” you heard your dear Wanda say in your imagination. Tears flooded down your overjoyed face. You waited, but there was no more. Then, yes, you discovered Wanda was right -you were miserable.
Meditating, your guides outlined your path. You said no, no, no and found yourself still distraught and empty of meaning day after day. Finally you gathered your courage, left Key with the neighbors and traveled back yet again to Seattle.
Being the father and grandfather of two victims of the Space Needle tragedy brought considerable interest when, through Seattle lawyers, you arranged a press conference. It took place in the Duesenberry Building in the downtown district. Dressed in a long sleeved shirt and blue pants you nervously limped to the bank of microphones. Briefly you related pulling the convicted terrorist Faiz out of the surf below your vacation cabin on Tucker Island.
“After the horrific Space Needle attack, I ricochet between deep sorrow and blinding, vengeful anger,” you admitted. “Finally, following the urgings from members of my dear departed family, I arranged for Faiz to secretly leave the United States. It was only after he had left that I began to experience the freedom of forgiveness.”
Hands shot up.
Finally in the hubbub you heard:
“Hector Wannamaker, BAV News. Are you saying that the dead victims themselves, your own child and grandchild, encouraged you to help their murderer escape justice?”
“Do you think you are God?” an unidentified voice bleated.
“Beli Smogt, CNX News. What about your duty as an American?”
“My responsibility,” you carefully answered, “is not to just one country but to all the countries of our world. The vile cycle of revenge has to end.”
You considered saying more, but then you pointed at a woman with brown, compassionate eyes.
“Honey Packer, New York Dimes. Do you feel vindicated, saving the life of young Faiz and then learning, as it has lately been reported, that key aspects of the government’s case against him may have been fabricated?”
“When I put Faiz on the ship, I knew he was guilty.”
A dark buzz went through the room.
“My guides showed me images of the young man loading explosives onto the plane.” you explained. “When I confronted Faiz, he heartbrokenly admitted his part in the savage killings.”
“What do you mean your guides showed you images, are you insane?” a man with a rolling stomach shouted.
“You are using mumble-jumble to justify your act of treason!” It was a woman’s voice. Your guides whispered she was in dire health.
You located the woman in the crowd. She was wearing a pink coat and a white blouse.
“You need to rush to the hospital,” you stated into the bank of mics. “You are having an appendicitis attack.”
The woman was just thirty feet from you. She grimaced. “No, I’m not,” she insisted, her head hung at an odd angle. “It’s just a weird catch in my side.” Then, a moment later, she collapsed.
The large audience of media folks gasped.
Outraged federal law enforcement officials cuffed you before the end of the press conference. Your trial brought you international attention. You were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
There was much public speculation as to why you had belatedly (and unnecessarily) revealed your involvement in the escape of the young terrorist. Your guides explained it to you as an opportunity for soul growth. You, by becoming a public example of active forgiveness, had placed yourself in the light of eternal justice.
You adjusted to life in the federal penitentiary in Washington State. There were many hardships. Being a political prisoner, you were cruelly isolated.
Finally one morning you woke and dropped your feet on the cold concrete floor of your silent cell. You had a visitor. You watched as black and white Key glided through the steel bars and dropped his chin on your knee. You stroked his head.
“Dear, faithful Key,” you whispered through your stinging tears. Alas, Key was now also dead.
It developed that Key was a daily ghostly comfort to your old bones. The border collie shadowed your every restricted step. For the next many, many soul grinding months and years, you were never alone in your dim cell.
Day after mind-numbing day you were not allowed conversation, books or devices. The massive federal pen was located on 40 acres of rocky ground near the city of Scabrock, Washington. Your portion of the compound was tiny, gray and hopeless. You slept a lot. You learned the art of the continual cat-nap. Finally, you began to make astral visits.
Hardly knowing how it happened, you found yourself floating randomly down a long concrete and steel hallway. As if guided, you slipped through the bars into cell 70-1B, tier 7. A big man came up off his bunk, his hands flashed to the fighting position. His eyes were wide with fear.
“What the hell?”
The other two men in the cramped cell also jumped to their feet. All three of the men could plainly see you, an intruder with a glowing halo around your shoulders and head.
“Your mother is happy. She is at peace,” you found yourself saying.
The brute looked at you stunned, his shaved head dropped.
“They wouldn’t let me go to my own mother’s funeral,” he mumbled with sad disbelief.
“Your mother...Martha,” the name jumped onto your tongue. “She is saying she has a playing card for you, the queen of hearts.”
“Oh my God,” the convict whispered. “She always said she loved me more than the queen of hearts.”
“Your mother has news,” you said. “At your next hearing your sentence is going to be reduced. You will be out in less than a year.”
Suddenly you are back in your bunk. You sit up, what happened? It all seemed so real. In the next few weeks you visit lost souls all over the prison. Word spreads. Finally, you are escorted to the Warden’s office by two guards. You are in shackles. Key stays close to your side, whining softly.
The warden is a fat man with an unhealthy, oily face.
“You leave your cell again and I will have you shot!”
He rants and raves and says he will catch you yet. He doesn’t believe all this ghost stuff. One or more of his staff has to be allowing you to visit the other prisoners. Every last guard involved will be caught and harshly, savagely disciplined!
“It is your daughter’s kidney,” you tell the puffy warden. “Have the doctors test her again. She will be OK in a few weeks.”
The puffy man’s mouth falls open.
“My beautiful daughter, Viola has cancer,” he announces in a wounded voice. “They have been doing chemo, her hair has fallen out. She is not improving. The doctors have given up hope.”
“After they remove the kidney on your daughter’s left side, she will recover,” you state. “Her path in this life includes adulthood, marriage and raising two children.”
Key leans her ghostly weight against your shackled leg. Before you leave his office, the warden fumbles a piece of chocolate into the palm of your hand.
You are taken away, clanging down the long, endless concrete halls enroute to your solitary compartment. All over the prison you are now known. Passing their sad cells the prisoners call out softly to you, “Reverend...Sir...Doctor…Jesus...”
For you, these recent events beg the question…Are you God? After all, you are willy-nilly floating around a horrible federal institution offering tenderness, ringing insight and universal love. You realize, deep down, your secret wish is to surpass God, All That Is. Why else be alive? The earth is a kind of kindergarten, with lessons of justice, love and forgiveness to learn. But beyond the earth, beyond even the universe, via your guides and your imagination, you know there is more. There are empty places where other universes, other gestalts of consciousness can be created.
And at that thought, something in you howls with joy. You want to be a creator of universes. You want to be God. You want to learn all of your earth kindergarten lessons, then be free to travel beyond the stars and to create amazing ramifications with courageous, glorious abandon!
Just the wondrous aspiration to be God is itself magical. And, of course, the thought follows: if you are God, then is everyone God?
On a more practical level, you eventually realize it is important to forgive not just the terrorists, but your own savage country as well. In your mind you light a candle. You ask to be forgiven, and you forgive, over and over.
Later, in one of your experimental half-dreams, you learn you are going to be released. Magically, in a cat-nap, you and Key are lazily watching the news back in your living room in Northern California.
The government’s case against Faiz had been a fraud. Reporters from the Washington Piss had exposed the chief prosecutor’s deception. In absentia Faiz was eventually proclaimed legally innocent. Public sympathy swayed towards your release.
Finally, nearly two hard, grim years later, the Washington State governor, the honorable Mildred Molly Miles (yes, the one with the crystalline blue eyes) granted you a full pardon.
After you were out and free, you were in some quarters of the country hailed as a hero. The principle of forgiveness that led to your imprisonment was lauded. Young people in pockets at home and around the globe vowed not to seek revenge on issues large or small. In the US, volunteers for military service fell dangerously low. The media was full of stories that the US would not be able to maintain its warmongering military bases worldwide. Russia, China and other countries were also having similar problems finding suitably senseless young people who were willing to maim and kill other young people.
The idea of peace, not revenge, was popping up independently all over the world.
Your government considered you a throbbing malcontent, dangerously attacking the world order of violence, mayhem and revenge. Consequently, you were routed from your Northern California home and made to stand before a fact-finding US congressional subcommittee of thirteen senators.
Walking into the senate chambers, now nearly 84, you lurched like a ship crossing high seas. Finally arriving, you lowered yourself onto the stiff, black chair.
“Do you swear to tell the truth as God is your witness?”
“OK,” you said, straining a bit to hear.
Speaking first, the good senator from a bible state loudly lit into you about duty to God, country and all the rest.
“Do you not, sir,” the senator intoned with righteously quivering jowls. “Do you not believe our country has the right to massive retaliation when provoked?”
“Thou shall not kill,” you responded.
The senator glared down at you, waiting for a proper answer.
Something crossed your imagination.
“Senator,” you said, “my guides tell me you had an argument with a teen girl. She told you this morning that she is pregnant with your child.”
The senator rose from his chair, his jaded face livid with anger. A woman in the audience, the mother of the teen girl, pulled out a gun and fired at the senator. The room full of senators, journalists and spectators gave a horrified gasp. The bible state senator reached inside his jacket and whipped out a massive pistol and returned fire.
Because of the angle, the senator’s stray bullet caught you in the neck and raced down your old but beloved body and mutilated beyond restoration your forever heart. You were instantly dead in your chair.
Jumping around and around you was delightedly barking Key. You found yourself in your favorite green swimming trunks, standing barefooted in the warm sand. Across the river you saw your wife Wanda and your daughter Bobbi and your granddaughter, skinny little Leslie. They were all hugely smiling and waving.
Key jumped into the clear water. You followed, swimming with strong strokes to your everlasting glory.
Reaching the far shore, it was little Leslie who told you the truth.
“Pop-Pop,” she smirked. “You are not God!”
You gave chase, laughing among the stars.
Psychic Medium Jesse Austin can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jesse credits his wife, Rita, for the story’s artwork