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1. The Child is Father to the Man

 

     In an idyllic part of California called the Valley of the Moon, a fine spring day was being celebrated on an organic farm by a group that onlookers might take for a large extended family. In a back yard that melded into a meadow, men were cooking at a whole row of grills, while women and girls trekked back and forth carrying the hot food to a set of picnic tables arranged in a circle. Children were playing in the meadow and in an adjoining grove of eucalyptus trees. Not far away a sparring ring had been formed by a circle of spectators, and a series of combatants had been testing their mettle in mixed martial arts. It had been going on for half the morning and was nearing the closing bell, which would be the call to begin the feast.

     After all the heroic efforts of many fighters, two had clearly emerged as potential champions. One was a burly man whose body was still rock-hard in middle age, and bore the scars of mortal combat. His name was Eric, the firstborn of the man who had founded this clan that was now in its fourth generation; he proudly displayed his heritage in his Norwegian surname: Marcusson. This stalwart son of Marcus was undefeated in his many bouts, but so was the founder’s grandson, a tall young man of powerful physique who looked about twenty but was in fact a prodigy physically and in many other ways. His name was Gavin, the guest of honor at the gathering, for it was his fifteenth birthday. So formidable was he in the bouts that he was now fighting three men at once, and clearly winning on all sides.

     Gavin parried a kick by one of his opponents so that it struck another, and an instant later foiled a blitz by the third with a throw that cartwheeled his body to the edge of the ring. People gasped, for there was no possibility that Gavin’s svelt movement of hand and knee could’ve spun the bulk of the man so far off the ground ~ it seemed to violate the law of gravity, though not the rules of engagement. Eric did not react visibly, but his grim eyes took in the spectacle. Like everyone else, he knew that the final match would be between him and Gavin.

     A hammerblow to the side of the head leveled another opponent, who was quickly removed from the ring. Fear flashed in the eyes of the last man at confronting Gavin one-on-one, and that moment of weakness enabled Gavin to immediately power him down and grapple him into submission.

     As Gavin was dusting himself off, Eric stepped up and offered his hand. “Well done, nephew,” he said as they grasped wrists.

     “Thanks, Eric,” said Gavin. “It means a lot coming from you.”

     “Looks like the field is down to you an’ me.”

     “I’ll be honored to take you on.”

     “You’ve got a lot of psychic leverage,” said Eric, releasing the grip; “but I had a really good teacher for such things myself.”

     Bowing slightly, Gavin said: “OM namah Marcus, forefather of us all.”

     “But my father.”

     Gavin arched his brows but his smile never faded as he said, “Heil the son.”

     This was a subtle reference to Eric’s stature in the clan. He lived with about a thousand people in the larger of two intentional communities founded by Marcus. It was in the rugged foothills of central Washington, and named for the range in which it lay; and though he bore no formal title, Eric was the undisputed Führer of Cascadia.

     His eye glinted at Gavin’s friendly innuendo, and he said, “Take a breather, boy, and then we’ll have at it.”

     “I’m ready now. Our little chat was all it took.”

     “Are you sure?” Gavin nodded and beckoned to the referee, who stepped to the center and prepared to give the signal to start the match. A moment later the two kinsmen were circling each other warily, psyching out the leverage for the first strike.

     Eric started sharpshooting lightning kicks and hand-strikes to test Gavin’s defenses. Every blow was countered or evaded until a front snap hit Gavin’s arm. But it was a sacrifice move, and in a fluid recoil from the blow he executed a sweep kick at Eric’s supporting leg. Gavin was on him the instant he hit the ground and got him in a choke hold. Eric powered out of it, the men rolled to their feet, and engaged each other in furious attack and counterattack.

     The spectators were wild with excitement, shouting and hooting and cheering. But two women were snaking their way through the throng, and people on both sides gave way like the parting of a sea. When they reached the front circle, the men around them settled momentarily from their frenzy and offered respectful greetings. Both women were tall; one was middle-aged but still beautiful and in fact radiant. She was the godmother of the clan that worked the organic farm and lived collectively on these grounds, and hence was the hostess of this gathering. Her name was Diana, and she was Gavin’s mother. The other woman was her own mother, a ravishingly healthy and agile lady of seventy-five years, whose name was Saxon. She was a widow of Marcus (of which there were more than one) and a godmother to many of the people in Cascadia, including Eric.

     When they entered the circle and beheld the spectacle they were momentarily agape, then looked at each, broke into huge grins and said simultaneously: “Wow!” The combatants, meanwhile, could not spare a microsecond to look about them, but both were aware of the new presence on the sidelines, and it subtly altered their motivation and influenced their efforts.

     Eric V-hooked a kick by Gavin and wheeled him to the ground, then grappled him into a cobra lock. “Oh, Gavin!” said Diana, pressing her fists to her cheeks. Gavin wriggled a hand into a position where he was able to press a finger against the base of his opponent’s spine. An uncanny chill rippled up Eric’s back, and Gavin’s body began to feel preternatural in his grip, as if he were hugging a treacly alien creature. His limbs let loose of their own accord, and Gavin regained the advantage. Saxon shouted, “Use the aegis, Eric, don’t let him psych you out!”

     The two women looked at each other again, and suddenly grasped a benign irony in how they were rooting for opposite fighters. They burst into laughter replete with tears, and fell into a warm hug. When they gathered their composure and looked back at the battle, the antagonists had regained their feet and were again sparring tooth and nail, so evenly matched that there seemed no end in sight.

     Diana’s eyes lighted with an insight, and she said to her mother: “Something big is happening. There’s more at stake than a friendly bout.”

     Saxon sucked in her breath and said, “I think you’re right.” The men beside them and behind them overheard; they exchanged grave looks and nods of acknowledgement.

     Eric landed a punch that sent Gavin teetering backwards. It was the biggest opening yet, and Eric risked an all-or-nothing move: a flying dropkick. Gavin saw it coming but couldn’t dodge in time. And then something incredible happened: Gavin’s body disappeared. His hands and feet were still visible in their spread-eagled off-balance position, and his head seemed to float in midair as Eric hurtled under it feet first and landed hard on the turf behind. The referee was so flabbergasted that he almost fell over himself. An incredulous whoop went up from the crowd, peppered with exclamations like “Oh my God!” and “The kid’s a superman!”

     Eric scrambled to his feet and faced a fully corporeal opponent. He wondered why Gavin hadn’t seized the advantage, but just stood in a defensive stance. Then Eric’s eyes narrowed as he said, “A trick like that takes a lot of energy.”

     He blitzed head-on, and enough of his strikes hit home to wear Gavin to the ground. Eric pinned him face up with an impeccable hold, and applied pressure to a point that was excrutiatingly painful. “Say ‘uncle’,” he growled sardonically.

     In the moments preceding the take-down, Saxon had suddenly grasped Diana’s arm and pointed upward. Diana looked and said, “Some kind of psychic field is coalescing ~ oh, it’s an entity!”

     “Don’t you recognize it? Here, I’ll help.” Saxon put an arm around her daughter’s waist and held her hand. Diana focused intently on an area above the sparring ring, until her face lit up in rapturous recognition. “It’s him!” she said.

     “Yes, isn’t it wonderful? And he’s coming down.” People on both sides of them looked hard at the locus, but even those who prided themselves on psychic sensitivity could see nothing.

     “Say ‘uncle’,” repeated Eric, tightening the grip. Gavin’s will to resist was weakening in a red haze of agony, but then he perceived the numinous being directly above him. He, too, recognized it and opened himself to it, surrendering not physically to Eric, but spiritually to the entity. Then it filled him with its radiant presence.

     Eric’s eyes were riveted on Gavin’s searching for a sign of submission that seemed inevitable.  Instead he saw something unthinkable, impossible. He shouted: “Dad!

     Gavin instantly broke the hold and threw his opponent backwards. Eric could not recoup from the emotional shock of what he had seen ~ and now he felt like he was fighting his own father. In less than a minute Gavin had him on his belly in an armlock. “I yield!” said Eric.

     The referee signaled Gavin’s victory, and the two men stood up amidst tumultuous cheers from the throng. They shook hands and locked eyes. Eric said, “You’re you again.”

     “I was as surprised as you at what happened,” said Gavin.

     “We’ll talk about it later.”

     “Right.”

     The people had surged toward the fighters, but left a respectful circle of space as they shouted praises and condolences. Eric turned to find himself looking at Saxon. They hugged, and she whispered, “I saw him too, Son. Don’t feel bad. Some kind of miracle is happening.”

     Diana approached Gavin, but his sweetheart got to him first. She was a flaxen-haired beauty named Gwendolyn, decked out for the occasion in halter and shorts. She leaped into his arms and smothered him with kisses, and the alchemy of his sweaty bare chest pressed against her bosom radiated pure orgone, to the distraction of several onlookers. “My champion!” she said, and people chimed in with huzzahs for the champion. Eric was strolling off with family and friends, but he glanced back and grimaced when he heard this.