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PAN-GOD OF THE WOODS, Chapter Three

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PAN – GOD OF THE WOODS

Chapter III

 

“Ghosts do exist.  Death does not finish all. The colorless shade escapes the burnt-out pyre.”

— Sextus Propertius – The Elegies ( c 50 BC – 16 BC )

 

Derek didn’t actually hear a voice.  He felt the voice, as though he were thinking to himself, except he knew it wasn’t his own thought.  “This must be what happens when you die…you start hearing voices,” he thought.

“No, not really”, said the voice. “You just happened to be in my forest.  I saw your body get shot.  I made the hunters miss hitting my deer. They hit you instead. Sorry.”

“What the hell is going on here?”, he thought to himself.  “I must be going totally nuts!  First I’m dead and now I’m hearing voices!  Jesus Christ!” he thought hysterically.

“No, Jesus Christ is not here.  Have no fear.  I am Pan, Guardian of the Forest and all creatures therein”, said Pan.

“Huh?”  Derek struggled with his heavily overwrought thoughts.  After a moment or two of confusion he thought, “You mean, like the Greek god, from mythology?”

“The same” said Pan.

Derek fainted.  He came to.  “Oh, Jesus…”

“No, not Jesus. Pan”, said Pan.  “Once beloved and worshipped by men and thought to symbolize all of the gods and all of the nature spirits of fields and forest, I was hailed as the feeder of flocks and herds.  In Egypt I was called Min.  The Romans praised me as Faunus, Lord of Fertility.  In Sumeria all men shouted my name to celebrate victory in battle: Enlil, Father of Life.  The ancient Maya carved my name in stone: Hurakan, of the erect phallus, god of fertility, rain and corn.  I have been worshipped at the great feasts of planting and harvest.  I am invoked by caravan masters before the journey to ensure safe passage through my domain.  My music is the all-purifying, gentle wind in the reeds and tree tops, beloved by  shepherds whose flocks I have soothed with song throughout the ages.  I made love to wood-nymphs and angered my Father Zeus, once upon a time.”

In the time of a cat’s breath, almost as a single thought without words, he knew these things about Pan.  Although he was still reeling with overwhelming confusion, Derek thought shakily, “Am I dead?”

“Well, you’re not in that body at the moment.  Do you feel dead?” asked Pan.

“…ah…I don’t know…I’ve never been dead before…I feel like I’m still here.  But my body’s down there.  Am I like a ghost or something?  Oh, shit!  This is really weird!”

Derek was even more exasperated than before.  He’d read about “out-of-the-body” or “near-death” experiences but none of them ever said anything about having a telepathic conversation with a mythical Greek god.  He thought he must be hallucinating.

“Don’t believe everything you’ve read in Earth books.  They are nearly all lies and nonsense.  I am who I am.  You are who you are: an immortal spiritual being”, Pan said matter-of-factly.

Derek thought, “Huh, immortal? You mean I’m going to live forever now?  Are you going to take me to heaven…or hell?  Are you like an angel or something?”

“I am not an angel. I am Pan, Lord of the Wood”, answered Pan with a glint of grave amusement in his thought.  “You are full of false notions and confusions and you suffer from amnesia, like all men.  You have already lived forever and will continue to do so. You have lost your memory of who you really are. This may return to you, provided you do not continue to inhabit one of those bodies.

There is no heaven or hell as you have been taught to think of it. Those are lies told by priests to make people obey them.  Although I have often thought that if one were to search for Hell and found Earth, it would fit the purpose very well.

“Oh”, thought Derek with a bewildered, breathless sigh.  “I should have figured…this sure isn’t what they taught me in Sunday school and college”.

“Of course not” replied Pan.  “There are a few men of wisdom on Earth, but they do not teach Sunday school or college, nor would truth be allowed in such institutions”.

It occurred to Derek that he didn’t have a clue what was really happening.  He was aware of being in communication with someone, that he’d been shot by hunters, that he was apparently dead, but not really dead.  Or was he?  He had seen his wounded body being carried away off across the meadow by the guys who shot him and that he couldn’t do anything about it.

A dark hopelessness crashed over him; a feeling of utter inability to move, to sense, to operate, to see.  An empty, cold, black nothingness.

 

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

 

Virgil and Billy Joe were drenched with sweat.  Panting, their lungs and muscles shrieked with the agony of over-exertion, as they carried Derek’s 175 lb. body at a dead run across the meadow, up a steep embankment to a dirt logging road and another 200 yards to Virgil’s pickup truck.  They pushed and dragged Derek’s still breathing body onto the seat of the cab between them.

In a single motion Virgil started the engine, spun the wheel and sprayed dust and gravel in a 180 degree arc behind the oversized tires, speeding toward the main highway which would take them to a hospital 20 miles away.

“Damn, Virg!”, Billy Joe panted, “Step on it son!  If this guy croaks on us, we’re in deep shit!”

Virgil skidded onto the asphalt of the main highway.  The tires screamed burning rubber as he floored the gas pedal.

“Get the police on the CB and tell ’em to lay off us man.  We’re comin’ through”  he said, handing the mike to Billy Joe.  Billy hit the switch, twisted the dial to the police frequency and yelled, “attention all highway patrol cars southbound on highway 239:  Code three, code three.  We are ten-eight in a red Ford pickup truck, license number…uh…”.  “J32743 !”, Virgil shouted for him, “headed to the nearest hospital with a serious gunshot wound.   Please assist!  Repeat.  Please assist. Come back.”

Derek’s body slumped limply against Billy Joe, who propped it up on the seat next to him with his shoulder. The wound was still bleeding  The CB speaker crackled with an official sounding voice of a dispatcher from the Sasquatch County Sheriff department, “Uh, ten-four, J32743.  We will intercept and assist.  What’s your twenty? You copy?”

As Virgil kept the pedal to the metal, a Sasquatch County Sheriff patrol car fish-tailed and screeched into pursuit of them from his hiding place behind a roadside billboard. He passed them with siren wailing and lights flashing, leading the way to the emergency entrance of Mother of Mary Memorial Hospital.

 

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

 

“Do not despair my friend”, soothed Pan.  “Do not succumb to your desire for oblivion. I will help you”.

Derek had never known an emotion of such utterly empty, senseless devastation before.  He felt that his entire existence was lost.  Even if he were not dead he could not hope to operate without his body.  He was nothing without it.

“You are not your body my friend.  All you have ever been or will be is you: your memory, your knowledge, and ability.  You are not dead.  You are the spark and essence of life itself.”

Pan’s words were clear, cleansing, and certain.  Just as rain rinses away dust from a window, Derek felt reassured.  A rush of relief raced through him.  He sighed deeply, then thought, “How can I be sighing?”

Pan, as usual, answered instantly in a matter-of-fact tone, “You are the source of breath. Not the body.  You are the Cause of Life.”

“If you say so…” thought Derek gloomily.

Although he felt better, Derek was still abashed and not a little confused by his current situation.

“I do say so! Therefore, it is”, was Pan’s robust response.

Derek pondered his new predicament for a moment. “Well, if I’m not really dead and what you say is true, what do I do now?”

“Whatever you decide to do”.

“Oh, right…so now I’ll just magically reappear on Earth as my old self and pick up where I left off?  I’m sure my wife will really like sleeping with a spirit and all my employees will get a big kick out of working for a ghost”, Derek fumed.

“There is no reason to be sarcastic with me.  If you wish I will leave you here to solve your own problems”, scolded Pan.

“Sorry. I’m a little upset, I guess.  I mean, I just died didn’t I?”, Derek moped.

“I understand. Many lesser beings would have already succumbed to the automatic impulse to forget, to loose themselves in the oblivion of death.  You are a tougher being than most.  I remember you as you once were and will help you regain your former self, if you wish it”, instructed Pan.

“Huh?…  You remember me?… From where?”, Derek sputtered.

“Not long ago you were a free spirit, as I am.  But you were overcome by the desire for sensation: for sex, for food, for companionship, for a game to play.  You agreed too much with men and became trapped in the body of a man. These things caused you to diminish your own ability.  Because of your contact with bodies you, and other gods, lost your power, your freedom, and your memory” concluded Pan.

“Oh, I see”, Derek replied vaguely without really understanding at all.

“Dead men are always less lamented by others than by themselves.”  Pan paused, considering and continued. “However, death is only an illusion, as you have learned. The living, who no longer see your body, consider that you are dead. But only bodies perish. You will live on forever.”

“Do you have something philosophical to say about everything?” grumped Derek.

“Yes. Always.  Unless of course I choose not to say anything…”  There was a long, still, vacuous silence in which Derek started to feel very uncomfortable indeed. And very, very alone…then afraid.  And then panicky.

“Pan…?” he ventured a thought.  Nothing. “Pan?” again, more urgently.  Silence.  “Pan? Where are you?!” thought Derek hysterically.  “Oh, My God!”

“I am here”, replied a thought as though inside of Derek’s head…well, not head actually.  Startled, but relieved Derek shouted, without a voice, “Don’t do that! Christ! Where’d you go anyway?”

“I’ve been here the whole time.  I just chose not to communicate, as you seemed to want not to hear what I had to say.  Typical of Earth men: like pigs rutting in a diamond mine looking for truffles are annoyed at having to push aside the glittering gems to feed a body”,  mused Pan.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.  I’m sorry.  I guess I’m still too upset to be very understanding at the moment.”

Derek was contritely exasperated at realizing that he had felt so utterly helpless during that brief silence. For the first time he could remember, he felt like there was nothing he could do for himself.  He was blind, he couldn’t feel anything, he couldn’t move and the only thing he could hear were Pan’s thoughts and only then if Pan intended to be heard.

“God, this is worse than being a baby! I can’t do anything without a body!”

“There is a story told by the native people who once lived in this forest, about how the Eagle learned to fly,” said Pan. “A very long time ago in the forest there lived a pitiable creature called Shitalkme.  All he ever did was talk and talk and talk to himself while he hopped around on the forest floor looking for bugs and seeds which had fallen from the treetops.  He never listened, not even to hear his own talking.  One day Shitalkme asked a wise old Owl sitting up in the branches of a tree, ‘How can I get off the ground and reach the treetops, like you?’  The Old Owl answered Shitalkme, ‘If you stop talking long enough, you will learn how to reach the treetops’.  Shitalkme stopped talking and soon he began to hear the deer and the wolf and the beaver and the other creatures of the forest.  After a long time of listening, he heard the wind. When he listened to the wind, Shitalkme began to soar.  When he soared, Shitalkme became the Eagle.  After that, his soaring said everything the Eagle needed to say.”

 

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

 

After leaving the hospital, Virgil and Billy Joe spent several hours at the Sasquatch County Sheriff office telling their story to Sheriff Melvin “Bubba” Gumshoe, an unpleasantly plump, balding and slightly greasy cop.

Bubba got his nick-name when he started kindergarten.  It just seemed to fit.  He majored in Heavy Equipment Operation at the local vocational school after high school. But he lasted only three days on his first job as a backhoe operator due to a chronic sinus condition.  Everything outdoors — dust, dirt, pollen, grass, trees — made Bubba sneeze and it made his nose run.  Although police work didn’t require much outdoor work, the handkerchief he kept in his pocket was usually wet with constant use in spite of the eight antihistamine tablets he took faithfully each day.

“OK (sniff), so let me get this straight” said Bubba in his usual mechanically nasal monotone.  “You state that Billy shot at an alleged deer with a hunting rifle, at a distance of not more than 75 yards, (sniff) sighting through a high-magnification rifle scope aimed directly at the heart of the alleged deer, (sniff) and that the rifle, to use your words, ‘just sort of jumped to the right’, when you fired the weapon. (sniff) And that you missed the alleged deer and hit this, er… (sniff), Mr. Adapa, who you claim not to have seen until you started running (sniff) after the deer and discovered the victim.  Is that the story you’re going to have me put in my report?” (sniff)

“Yeah, yeah, yeah! That’s exactly what happened!” said Virgil in exasperation.  He looked across at Billy Joe shaking his head and rolling his eyes to the ceiling.

“We’ve been through this 50 times already!  That’s what happened!”

Virgil was really gettin’ peeved but suppressed his temper with a white-knuckled grip on the arms of the straight-backed wooden chair he’d been sitting in all afternoon.

 

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

 

“I am a god, not a ‘ghost’ as the human conception of an active spirit would have it.”  Pan said to the quiet and attentive Derek who had been given the opportunity to spend a few minutes in calm contemplation of his situation.  “However, though I am a god, I am yet, indeed, vulnerable to the same spiritual perils faced by a being with a body.  If you have read any of the stories about my past deeds in your ‘mythical’ history, you will recall that I have had more than my share of escapades with bodies.  I have lusted after women, had sex with many, caroused, cavorted, and sullied myself with every imaginable bodily sensation and desire, on this planet and many others.  I have intervened in the personal, political and military affairs of men and women and nations.  I have often set a very unholy and less-than-venerable example for other spirits to follow – for both men and gods.

However, I have overcome many of these spiritually degrading activities with self-discipline and by maintaining a safe distance from too much association with bodies, especially these last 2,000 years or so.  Because I have learned from my own inept experiences of the past, I will pass on what I can of my own observations to you in much the same way the master craftsman of Europe used to train an apprentice during the 16th century through a combination of theory, combined with daily practice at duplicating the actions and techniques of the master. “I understand your pain and confusion.  I have been there myself many times”, Pan instructed his new apprentice.

“The central purpose of my desire to tutor you that is you may learn to operate effectively while outside the body, and remain free from the cycle of birth and death.  Further, in order to maintain this most sought after state of being, I will teach you to be ever vigilant against external distractions and as well as the self-made doubts which can diminish your power as a being.

There is one point of vulnerability… I can impart only as much wisdom as I have gained through the trials and errors of my own experience, much of which I myself understand analytically, but have not necessarily applied with success to others. There are no mystical secrets; there are no hidden meanings in what I have to teach you.  There is only a strict adherence to those ideas and actions which have proven to work successfully and consistently, combined with your own hard work to apply this knowledge. It is therefore, possible that you may someday learn to exceed my own abilities, provided that you are diligent and persistent.  After all, we’re all gods to the degree that we allow ourselves to be” Pan concluded.

Derek didn’t really know what to say or think.  If the word ‘dumbfounded’ were ever appropriate to an occasion, this was certainly one of those occasions, he thought to himself.

“Yes, I suppose you must feel quite overwhelmed by all this” thought Pan back to Derek, having perceived his thought.  “The key question I have for you is this:  Do you have a desire to increase your personal power and ability?

Derek was sure that he did, but not sure that he had any other alternative.

“The alternative”, Pan replied to Derek’s unknowing question, “is that I can leave you to do as most other beings do — drift blindly, dumbly and silently into oblivion.  You may eventually return to your old body, or to a new one or perhaps none.  Without direction, I am sure that you will have no control over your own destiny.  However, with my help, you have great potential power.”

 

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

 

So, it came to pass that Pan started to train his new student.  The next step was to rid Derek of his dependency on a body in order to move and perceive on his own.  Pan instructed Derek how to look, to reach out with his feelings to permeate space.

To begin, Pan spent some time getting Derek used to the idea that he was not an object, but truly a spiritual “no-thing”.  Of course, Derek was accustomed to having a body, being an object, bumping into walls, skinning it’s knees, and so forth.  It took quite a while to get Derek to discover that he could move through objects.  It was a very strange experience at first, but one which proved more effortless with practice.

Then, he showed Derek how to feel an object by imagining himself to be the object; to flow through it, sensing it through thought, using every perception he could muster: texture, density, weight, gravity, temperature, mass and even to feel the emotion the object was feeling.

Pan made him practice and practice and practice.  All of this seemed very strange to Derek at first. It was extremely frustrating.  There were many fits and stops and objections and “I can’t” and “this is ridiculous”.

Pan was compassionately unwavering, unreasonable and insisted that Derek continue to do the drills again and again and again and again.

Derek cascaded by degrees through an emotional roller-coaster ride of anger, grief, apathy, then soaring in a moment of success to enthusiasm, explosive laughter and exhilaration, then crashing down again, and up once more.

Each time Pan made the drill gradually a bit more complex than the last. After many, many repetitions Derek began to have some victories, small at first, then bigger.

Derek relearned, with coaching, how to perceive light particles reflecting from the surface of objects without the use of optic nerves.  He learned to just be there and look, to be the object and experience it and then how to move by considering that he was changing his location in space and thinking himself from one location to another.

As himself, he really wasn’t located anywhere at all in particular.  He and Pan were just there.  The more he imagined that he owned space, the easier it became.  At first he had to pretend to attach himself to a tree or a rock by an imaginary rope and drag himself along.  And then, using the ground or a hill as a bracing point, to push himself away. It was a lot like doing push-ups without gravity. He was in a truly weightless condition now.

Derek even learned to smell apples on the trees in a nearby orchard by imagining the taste, putting the imagined taste into the fruit and then feeling it back again into himself as though it had come from the fruit itself. As he practiced he realized that the smell didn’t really come from apples as much as it came from his own imagination of what an apple smelled like. He didn’t have a body’s nose telling him how an apple is supposed to smell anymore.  It was all up to him now.  Perhaps it always had been. He just hadn’t realized it before.

A simple thing like smelling an apple or just moving from one location to another was no longer automatic.  Derek really had to think about it every single, minute aspect of it.  The effort was very trying, but at the same time, more gratifying than anything he had ever done before.

“Wow! This is fantastic!  I’m me, you know?  I’m really not a body! I’m me!” Derek enthused at his newly found awareness of himself.

“Very good!”, replied Pan with equal enthusiasm.

 

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

 

“And you, Mr. Jaras…ah…Billy”, Bubba motioned to Billy with his handkerchief, then blew his nose before continuing, “is that your final statement too?”

“You got it man.” Billy sighed heavily. “Can we get goin’ now?  We been here all day.  I ain’t had nothin’ to eat since first light this mornin’.  Give us a break will ya’?” he moaned.

“Yes, OK.  You can go now.  You will (sniff) be contacted if there is any change in Mr. Adapas condition. Be sure that you are available at all times in case we need further information from you” droned Bubba, sniffing.

As they scuffed outside to the truck Virgil said, “Jesus, where’d they ever dig up that guy?  What a sorry-ass son-of-a-bitch! I thought we’d never get out of that place!”

“Yeah. Well, I just hope this guy don’t give up and die on us or this sheriff is gonna be on us like stink on shit for murder or manslaughter or somethin’.”

“Hey, lighten up Billy!   He’s gonna be OK.  The doc at the hospital said the guy’s supposed to live, right?”

“Yeah, but he was hit pretty bad…” Billy moped, fumbling through his keys to unlock the door to this pickup.

“Shit! There’s blood all over the seat.  We gotta stop by a car wash on the way home. Damn!”.

 

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

 

“So far, so good Derek. You’re doing very well.  You will get it with more practice” Pan encouraged.

Derek already felt light-years better than he could ever remember feeling.  He felt confident, able, powerful and very, very alive.  “Quite a feeling for a dead man”, he thought.

“There is still much more to learn and remember”, Pan continued.  “One thing at a time.  The abilities that separate men from the gods, are the ability to assume viewpoints.  And from these viewpoints, one must then be able to make things happen.”

More drilling.  Practice, practice, practice.  Be a tree.  Be a rock. Be a leaf. Be inside a cloud.  Be above the forest.  Under the water.  Three feet above the water.  On and on and on. It seemed an interminable, yet timeless lesson to Derek. Pan was always patient, yet insistent that Derek learn.

Derek tried a combination of newly acquired skills on a chipmunk in the forest. He went into the chipmunk’s head by thinking of himself as the chipmunk. He became the chipmunk. He thought the thought, “stop”.  The chipmunk, which had been bounding across the pine-needle carpeted floor of the forest suddenly stopped.  Derek thought, “sit up” and then “turn your head from left to right”. He did exactly as Derek intended.       “Wow! I did it!” Derek spouted. “He did just what I wanted him to. Nothing to it.” he continued confidently.

“Of course.  Very good. You’re getting the idea of it very nicely”, Pan acknowledged.

“Now that you’re getting some of your own power back, let’s go take a look around.  We’ll do a little sight-seeing. Come on!”  Pan disappeared.

Derek waited for several moments before beginning to feel puzzled about where Pan had gone. He felt like scratching his head, but he didn’t have one, so he just waited, trying to feel Pan anywhere near him. Nothing.

“Oh my god…” sighed Derek.

“Yes?”, answered Pan.

“Jesus!” Derek jumped, half startled out of his wits.  “Don’t leave me alone like that!  Where’d you go anyway?”

“Where did you go?  I’ve been down in The Bahamas playing with the dolphins”, laughed Pan. “What happened to you anyway?”

Derek just stood there…well, sat…, that is, kind of floated, not really knowing what to say or think.

“You’re in worse shape that I thought” Pan lamented.  “Oh well, I’ll pull you along with me then, until you get your ‘wings’ back.  OK. So, here we go.  Hang on!”

In that instant Derek experienced a rush of feelings too many and varied to describe.  He found himself hovering inches above gently bobbing ocean waves.

“Isn’t this great?” blurted Pan with frisky gusto.

A sleek, shiny gray dolphin squeaked with delight, exploding from beneath the surface as it leaped directly up and through Derek.  It soared high into the air, trailing beads of water and splashed with effortless grace back into the blue-green waves.

“What the…what was that?!  Where…” spluttered Derek.

“Bahamas. Dolphins, ” Pan enthused. “I told you.  I was playing with some friends. Come on!”

Derek was under the water, speeding through a trail of burbling bubbles behind a quartet of sleek gray dolphins.  They thrashed their tails rhythmically, gaining speed, turned up and with a surge of playful power burst through the surface, arching and stretching a dozen feet above the spray, straightened and plunged below again.  He rode on with them, pulled along by a force he could not feel or resist, but he knew that he was connected to Pan.

The dolphins continued swimming, leaping, diving, splashing gleefully.  Derek could feel their immense energy, the exhilaration of their play; the crystal wet sparkle of sunlight reflected from beaded water droplets, the pressure of rushing water.  He felt the slippery odor of passing kelp and the scurrying scare of smaller fishes fleeing from them.

Derek was permeated with joy and ecstatic motion.  Warm sunlight awash with surf-scented air and sparkling, squealing giggles of dolphins at play.

Derek was immersed, enthralled, consumed, amazed. With a thousand sensations, nothing like he ever experienced in a body: too many to be differentiated.  He was thoroughly, completely exhilarated and simultaneously suffused with comprehension. As he and Pan broke above the surface, high into the air above the azure waters he looked down on a teaming stampede of dozens of speeding, splashing dolphins.

“This is what it’s like to be a god…this is who I really am” thought Derek. “I’m me!  Oh my god!”

“You called?” replied Pan instantly.

“This is completely, totally amazing!” beamed Derek,

“Indeed!”  laughed Pan.

 

INVOCATION OF THE GODS

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Invocation of the gods

“Where upon Olympus stand the gods who once ruled over Man?  Fallen from the Lofty Land to dwell on Earth as mortal men?

Who remembers how to fly as freeborn spirits through the sky? What powers can be exercised while trapped within a mortal guise?

The gods once caused themselves to bring The Breath of Life itself to being.  Their very thoughts made every thing: the sea, a sigh, the sky, the spring!

The Gods of Old, like you & me, created everything we see. Have they lost causality?  Abandoned their abilities?

Where are the gods of history?  What happened to their memory? If we are them and they are we, who will cause our destiny?

Merchant Lords now rule the fold. They want us all to fit their mold: “Be a Man!  Do as you’re told!  The only god there is, is gold!”

How did we ever sink so low, pretending we don’t really know that we’re the spark that makes life grow, like springtime flowers through the snow?

Infinity is passing by, but time is really just a lie. Are we immortal, you and I?  A question states its own reply…

We never really know we’re blind until we search around to find a simple way to leave behind the suffering that is Mankind.

Can godly powers be regained, like oceans fall to Earth as rain? Can we go back from whence we came, to greater heights and bigger games?

Lead us homeward once again, to realms beyond the dreams of men. We’ve gone astray, we’ve lost our ken*.  We need your help, Immortal Friends!”

— Lawrence R. Spencer

*ken = perception; understanding, range of vision, view; sight.

IF YOU WERE A GOD…

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PANBOOKCOVER“I, Pan, God of the Woods, God of Fertility and of Shepherds, narrate this partially fictional account, through a mortal, for translation into a written text. It is my decision to communicate directly with you now so that you may receive the true, unaltered knowledge of My Existence, as I have been and always shall be, forever, and ever.

I care not for your debased sense of human drama, limited as it is to purely physical perception, which requires that you be bludgeoned in every sentence with murder, mayhem, sexual tension and other such drivel. If these you require to maintain sufficient attention to receive the priceless information contained within My Words, read no further!

However, in order to compensate for the possibility that even I may have misestimated the abysmal depths to which you may have descended, I will structure the narrative in the most simplistic theatrical form – that of the daytime television drama or “soap opera” — so that even you, mere mortal, (if you pay diligent attention and do not drift and daze, as you are often wont to do) may comprehend the subtle profundities woven within the tale.

PAN GOD OF THE WOODSMy Intention is not to help you pass away the moments of your fruitless and purposeless existence with an entertaining divergence, but rather to impart a small part of the wisdom I have accumulated during my brief visitation as a god to the planet Earth. If you seek to know what lies beyond the perceptions of your mortal flesh, read on.

This is a story of how one human, Derek Adapa, departed his body until I salvaged him, through My Power and Benevolence, from an oblivious return to inhabit yet another body in the endless cycle of birth, death and re-birth — the common affliction of Lost Souls on Earth, such as Yourself.

These words are made available to you, My Old Friend, on behalf of the gods that are no more. It is for Their sake, the Great Souls, now lost, that I am concerned. You, yourself, may have been among my former Friends, the gods who once ruled and roamed the Earth – from India and Babylon, from KMT, as Egypt once was called, to Olympus Mount, and beyond the bounds defined by men.”

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PAN-God of The Woods, Chapter One

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Chapter I

“Attribute all to the gods.  They pick a man up, stretched on the black loam and set him on his two feet firm.  Then again, (they) shake solid men until they fall backward into the worst of luck, wandering hungry, wild of mind.”

Archilochus of Paros ( c. 648 BC )

Derek hated his life.  He hated what he had become.  He was a tremendous success in the eyes of others but a failure to himself.  He didn’t even like computers anymore.  They hadn’t become what he dreamed they might when he got into the personal computer industry in the late 1970’s.  They had become nothing more than a glorified typewriter/filing cabinet/calculator/pin-ball machine shrouded in a lot of flashy jargon, technical bells and whistles, and big price tags.

Of course he’d become very, very rich selling software to businessmen whose entire purpose for living was chasing the dollar to maintain a lifestyle of buying all the completely useless junk that Madison Avenue copy writers could cram down their already glutted throats through slick glossy magazine copy and boob-tube advertising — the American Dream.

Derek had become a member of this herd without realizing it.  He owned a new BMW convertible, a Mercedes for his wife, and a 4-wheel drive monster all-terrain vehicle for weekends.  They had a big house in the valley, took vacations abroad, and three day weekend ‘business’ trips.  His investments, meetings, and social life were all politically correct.  His life was an endless run on the economic treadmill.

It’s not that he needed any more money. Derek’s company, Nimbus Software, had become a mega-success in the first ten years.  He had been in the right place, at the right time, with the right product, in the right industry.  In 1979 the virgin personal computer industry was just emerging into a marketplace hungry for new technology.

His minor in business administration at Cabrillo J.C. and major in the still new and mysterious computer ‘sciences’ had paid off.  He wrote the first successful business accounting software for PCs.  He called it ThunderCalc.

The company logo was a small cloud with a bolt of lightning descending from it.  Little arithmetic signs hung in the cloud like the positive and negative ions in real clouds which soon became the most recognizable symbol in the software business.

Nimbus had just released the newest revision of ThunderCalc, version 7.0.  When it was first released, it was the only accounting software available. Every businessman in the country, who needed an excuse to buy a computer so they could play “asteroids” without having to put a quarter in an arcade machine, bought ThunderCalc. Since then the Nimbus Research and Development team released a panoply of software programs – spreadsheets, word processor, database management, communications, corporate planning, etc. – all the essential programs for American business.

That was a long time ago, Derek thought lethargically.  He was tired.  Tired of ‘corporate culture’, decisions about which shade of carpeting would be most suitable for an Assistance VP’s office.  He was tired of the endless circus of trade shows and hospitality suite cocktail parties, sales meetings, market-share strategies, board meetings, profit and loss statements, tax shelters, hot-and-cold-running attorneys and in recent years, press interviews.

It seemed like every magazine writer he talked to wanted to know the same things: “To what did he attribute the success of Nimbus Software?  What about the competitor’s new product enhancements? What do you think will be the future of the PC industry?”  The whole business and industry seemed so automatic now.  It had all become a sales and marketing game with just enough R & D revisions to keep up with the latest technology.

New computer technology was released in carefully spoon-fed portions to the buying public to ensure that every dollar could be squeezed out of existing inventories before unveiling the next “technical breakthrough” to be hyped dramatically in over-priced, four-color glossy trade magazine and television ads.

The profits kept coming in at 100% or more above the previous year.  That made the stockholders happy. But Derek wasn’t happy. He was tired of playing the game now.  Been there, done that, burned out.

Derek built Nimbus Software by riding the enthusiasm of his early success in a new and booming industry.  There had been a few dramatic moments along the way: big sales deals, new releases, overcoming the threat of neophyte competitors with increasingly elaborate marketing campaigns and distribution deals. The licensing agreement with the federal government that put Nimbus Software programs on every PC the federal government bought for the next ten years had been the crowning sales coup which ensured perpetual income for Nimbus Software, Inc.

But money wasn’t everything. When he first started out in the business he had dreams for the computer. His humanitarian dreams had gradually evaporated from the barren landscape of real world marketing and finance.  He had envisioned a vast horizon of technical innovation whose power could be an immense civilizing influence across the entire planet.  The technology of computers, he thought, would be the promise and fulfillment of man’s dream to rise out of the mud of cultural and technical barbarism into a new golden age of communication and understanding.

Recently, he’d read in some industry magazine about the unprecedented growth in technology over the past twenty years versus cost of a computer. If the airline industry had made similar advances we would all be able to fly around the world in 12 minutes, eat a seven course gourmet meal, choose from one of several thousand in-flight movies, and be delivered to your own front door, all for a cost of only $3.12.  Something like that anyway. Used intelligently, a computer could be made to operate all of the mundane mechanical functions of an entire planet.  Not just serve as a personal plaything or part-time business tool.

All of the technology already existed to supply everyone in the world with a pocket-sized computer capable of nearly magical power: a combination of telephone, TV, video camera, personal information center, library and fax machine.  Each person could have a personal telephone number assigned to him or her for life which they could use anywhere: home, car, abroad, in airplanes, at sea.  By punching in a number on a hand-held, cordless keyboard one could access all of the information held in the Library of Congress, every book ever written: indexed and cross referenced.  Everyone would have access to photographs of all of the art objects in the Louvre and all the other great art museums available for instant view.  You could dial every phone number in the world. Instant shopping, bill paying, news, music, instruction and information services could be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The world could truly become a global society of individuals connected and in communication with each other regardless of artificial boundaries imposed by political bureaucrats.

Over the years Derek had grown up in the real world he learned the realities of the business and economics of myopic, individuated, selfish people. Too many agreements existed to monitor the civilizing process of mankind based on the whim of financial expediency in a culture bent on surviving from one paycheck to the next. There were no long range plans, no unifying philosophy of survival, no purposes or goals for nations or individuals beyond the next buck. It was just a soulless, mindless stampede from one expedient vested interest deal to the next. It was depressing…

“Brrrrrrrik!”  Derek was jolted out of his reverie by the intercom on his desk.  He pushed the speaker button and said, “Yes?”

“Your wife is on line 7, Mr. Adapa,” said the voice of his secretary.

Over the past year and a half Paula had proven to be indispensable: a very effective, efficient, personal secretary.

“Hello Jenny. What’s up?” he said, leaning slightly toward the speaker.

“Dear, I wish you wouldn’t talk to me on that awful conference call box.  It makes you sound like you’re inside a tin can.  Anyway, listen.  Don’t forget you must be home by 5:00 tonight.  The guests will here for dinner at 7:30 and I have a million things to do to get ready.  The caterer will be at the house by 6:00.  I need you to be dressed and help me get the drinks ready. I have an appointment with Antonio to get my hair done at 3:30 and God only knows how long it will take.”

“OK. OK, Jenny. I’ll be there as soon as I can.  Don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine” said Derek, trying not to sound bored or impatient.

“Oh, and dear, if the caterers get there before I get back, please don’t eat any of the hors d’oeuvres.  Those are for the guests.  I’ll see you as soon as I get home. Bye.”

Derek switched off the speaker and leaned back into his high-back leather executive chair, absently stirring his half cold cup of coffee, melancholically returning to his reflection.

He and Jennifer were married right after college graduation.  They started living together during college to share expenses and sex. They fell in love gradually, like most people do.  She was a bright, well organized, athletic sort, a wholesome, pretty, and perfect wife for him.  She was his lover, best friend, personal manager, and social coordinator.

Their life together had been a good one he thought, though in recent years their marriage had been consumed by his business life and her charity work.  The dinner party they were having tonight was a business/social get together with a few couples from Silicon Valley computer circles.

Derek needed time away from the office to get with Vern Sampson, his VP Marketing, to plan an upcoming trade show.  They could discuss it after dinner at his home with fewer distractions than at the office.  Their wives could handle all the other guests with gossip about local society news, kids, schools, politics, interior decorating.  The usual dinner-party talk.  Derek needed excuses to get out of the office more often during the past few years it seemed.

He and Jenny always got along well. They were both too busy to not get along really.  They had learned to play the game well together.  They still had sex once or twice a week, but that was pretty automatic now too.  No magic, no mystery, like when they were younger.

Derek wondered if this had something to do with the incident with Paula one night after hours at the office.  They often worked together after hours in his office to catch up on overloads.  Their work gradually developed into a close friendship, but they had always maintained a professional relationship

Paula was young, sleek, and cat-like, with long, straight dark brown hair, nearly oriental eyes and full, pouting lips.  That evening she seemed to almost purr when near him, unintentionally enticing his attention to her svelte feline form. She leaned over his shoulder to read a document.  Her firm young breasts brushed against him.  Instantly, he felt like a horny teenager again.

What started as flirting horse-play quickly became kissing and passionate petting.  He put his hands under her skirt, pulled down her panties and bent her over his desk.  She was filled with hot, wet passion.  They made love standing up, then in his chair and finally on the floor.  Their lovemaking was frantic and uncontrollable.  Their orgasms were simultaneously explosive and all-consuming.  Afterward they lay together on the carpet exhausted by the effort.  They slept for half an hour in a blissful, semi-naked embrace.  The scent of cedar hung lightly in the office air.

They awoke suddenly, alarmed and embarrassed by the realization of what had happened.  In retrospect, their lovemaking seemed unintended by either of them and beyond their control.  Although they shared a deep affinity for each other, they had a business relationship and friendship which were far too important to risk ruining with an affair.  They were both intelligent and worldly: wise enough to know that sex had no place between professionals, especially with a married partner who loved his wife.

Derek and Paula sat for some time talking about what happened.  They finally agreed on a reasonable sounding explanation: spiritual attraction between people can be misinterpreted as sexual love. They decided that they must be careful to control their hormones in the future.

Without saying so, she was a very special person to him.  He felt he had known her forever, though they had met only two years ago. Although Paula would always be discreet, he was concerned that Jenny have no suspicions of the incident with Paula.  He had always been faithful to her till now and loved her deeply, although he found it difficult to express to her in words.  It was a knowing feeling, a spiritual bond they shared.  He had no intention of losing her.

Derek didn’t think he really knew much about Paula’s personal life. He had never been to her apartment or met her friends.  He knew that she had an uncanny affinity for cats though.  He remembered when he interviewed her for the job as his secretary she seemed skittish about his office, examining him, the space, and objects in it, like a cat in a new home, confident, but cautious.

Paula decorated her office with all sorts of cat pictures, knick-knacks and cards.  Since she started working for him, Derek had given her presents of several stuffed toy cats, porcelain and bronze statues and cat jewelry.  She kept several cats in her apartment and talked about them by name as though they were people. Oh well, it wasn’t important. Business is business. And her business was hers.

Derek looked at his watch: 1:35.  He didn’t feel like working today.  He knew the evening would be tied up with “homework”.  He punched the intercom.  “Paula?” he said.

“Yes, Mr. Adapa?”

“Send all my calls to my voice mail today.  I’m going to the club this afternoon.”

“Can I come too?” Paula teased.

“No.  I’ve got a headache.” he whispered. “I’m just going to go for a swim and a rubdown and go home.  You know I have to be home by 5:00.”

Derek knew that Paula always listened in on calls from Jenny, and God knows who else, even though she would never admit it.  Sometimes he thought Paula knew more about what was happening in his life than he did.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. We can have lunch together” he said pushing away from his desk.

He drove to the health club he’d been a member of for over seven years now: GOODBODYS. Not great bodies, just good. But it was only ten minutes away from the office so he could sneak away for a long lunch to swim or jog a little.  Sometimes he had a meeting at the club over a game of racquetball.  Derek tried to stay in shape though the years were starting to show around his waist.  Every year it was a little harder to get up from the dinner table and get it up in bed.  “Well, what the hell”, he thought.  “We can’t stay young forever.”  The idea depressed him further.

Derek looked at his fortyish body in a full-length mirror in the locker room.  His “love handles” were lounging along the tops of his swimming trunks.  He pulled them up a bit and sucked in his gut a little more.

“Maybe I should get a personal trainer,” he thought disconsolately.  “Ah, what the hell. Who cares?”

Nobody at work cared.  Paula didn’t seem to care.  Jenny didn’t seem to care either.  In bed the lights were always out when they made love, so she couldn’t really see him anyway.  Derek was jolted out of his self-abasing funk by the chill water of the pool. The swim did make him feel better for awhile.

Derek left the gym after a lack-luster workout.  He just couldn’t get into it.  His drive home in the afternoon freeway traffic was a lot faster than the usual commuter crawl.  No one was home.  Jenny was still out and the caterers hadn’t arrived yet.

Derek trudged upstairs to the master bedroom.  He flopped down in the overstuffed chair that had been his favorite for years.  So many times he had sat there dosing while he waited for Jenny to finish dressing and primping for some dinner or charity ball or art opening or musical they had attended.

He absently flicked on the TV with the remote control. A white-haired, chisel-faced news anchorman appeared in mid-sentence:

“…and the President, attending the 43rd annual secret Summit Conference of Unilateral Money Manipulators (S.C.U.M.M.) in Geneva, Switzerland today.  He is expected to deliver a prepared statement appealing for lower interest rates and increased import duty tariffs on raw materials which have been exported by US Corporations to supply Third World factories, who in turn ship finished goods back into the U.S. at prices higher than the same goods could have been manufactured by American workers.  The Secretary of State, in a related statement, said that no significant changes in the declining world economy and decaying trade relations were expected from the conference.

In Congress today…”

Derek picked up the TV program guide which lay on an antique end-table next to his chair.  He flipped past the first 30 or 40 pages of advertising to get to the daily listings as he sauntered into the bathroom.  He dropped his shorts and sat down heavily on the toilet as he read through the 5:00 programs.

“Whew!” he said out loud as he grunted. The stink wafted up from the bowl.

“I better cut back on the cheeseburgers” he thought to himself.

He flushed and read the TV program guide:

Channel 5 (KCOP)             “Cops-R-Us” – Grown men playing cops and robbers at taxpayer expense.

Channel 6 (KFBI)               “Justice Behind Closed Doors” – Courtroom cases are decided with a Federal prosecutor in Judge Harold Harlequin’s private chambers.

Channel 7 (KDRG)             “Your Favorite Busts” – Video highlights of heavily armed Law Enforcement Agents busting political activists and small-time drug dealers.

Channel 8 (KFBI)               Movie: “The FBI in Peace and War” – 1938.  Jeff Chandler plays an embattled FBI agent during the McCarthy Era fighting movie stars and communists.

Channel 9 (KLAW)             “Attorneys in Heat” – Daytime drama.  Brad subpoenas his lover, Jeff, to appear before a jury to testify that he had no knowledge of his affair with the D.A.’s wife in her paternity suit against him.

Channel 10 (KDUH)            Really Big Time Wrestling Live! (Pre-recorded)  Today’s tag-team match-up: The Bataglia Brothers from the Bronx take on the Tiny Titans from Trenton, NJ in this continuing cross-town grudge match. Real sweat! Real fake fights! Real fans!   (repeat)

Channel 11 (KDUM)           The Phil O’Donnell Show – Phil’s guests today are members of the “Children of Lesbian Transsexual Hemophiliacs”.  Phil discusses the alarming neglect of government welfare agencies of these unfortunate victims of social disease.

Channel 12 (KCUM)           “The Young and The Randy” – (Daytime drama)          Susan and Sally make it in Brad’s bed while Brad secretly video tapes the fun by remote control while he makes it with Sally’s mother and younger sister in the next room.

Channel 13 (KSIK)             Kiddie Kartoon Karnival – Space Cyborgs slaughter each other.  Starring: Soldier Sam.

Channel 14 (KWAR)           The WAR MOVIE CHANNEL – Movie: “John Wayne Kicks Gook Butt” An anthology of clips from John’s 10 best films of 1956.  John defends the American Way for U.S. oil companies abroad.

Channel 15 (KCON)           Capital Hill Weekly – News summary of  another week of pork barrel politics, lies, graft and other forms of legalized criminality that pass for government.

Channel 16 (KDDT)            The 24-Hour News Network – (The public has the right to know!)  The latest in zany death, mayhem, destruction, rape, murder and insanity gathered from all over the world. (Sponsored by Psycho Pharmaceutical)

Channel 17 (KS&M)           Horror Movie Theatre:  (1989) “Eat My Guts Baby”.  Robert Ghoul and Sheila Smut star in a remake of this classic pain and sex thriller.

Channel 18 (KGOD)           Rev. Jerry Fallenangel.  Today’s sermon topic:  “Is There Life Without Lust?”

Derek started to feel nauseated.  Now he remembered why he stopped watching TV about five years ago. TV programming was bullshit.  He finished in the bathroom, returned to the bedroom, flicked the TV off and got dressed for dinner.

Dinner was the typical catered California health food fare: white wine, stuffed cauliflower kabobs with tofu chunks, sautéed in seaweed sauce, avocado salad sandwiches on stone ground seven grain bread, mahi-mahi sushi, and spinach hors d’ouvres and for desert, non-fat red raspberry swirl tofu ice cream.

After the other guests were settled in the living room, chatting over herb tea, Derek and Vern Samson excused themselves and disappeared into the recreation room.  At about 9:30 they slipped out the side door and drove to a local Burger Barn drive-thru for a chili-cheese burger, Cajun fries and Diet Coke.  They talked about the upcoming fall trade show in Las Vegas for awhile, but Derek just couldn’t get into it.

“Just go with the same basic booth set-up we always use”, Derek burped up some chili which burned his throat a bit.

He farted and rolled down the windows of his BMW and sighed.

“What’s up boss?” asked Vern, slouching in his bucket seat and turning away from the window toward his boss in spite of the lingering odor.

“You don’t seem to have the same old spark lately.  Is everything OK at home?”  Vern asked consolingly.

“Oh, I don’t know, man.  I’m just tired I think.  Jenny’s OK.  I think I’ve just been working too much.  You know these trade shows and new releases just aren’t as exciting to me as they were when we were getting started back in the old days.  You know what I mean?”

Derek knew he could confide anything in Vern.  They’d been together a long time.  Derek switched off the headlights and cut the engine as they coasted into the driveway back at the house.  He and Vern returned unnoticed into the side entrance to the recreation room.  All the guests were still in the living room.

“I’m getting older.  I’m not a kid anymore, you know?  Jenny and I have been married for almost 17 years now.  Everything seems like the same old rehash these days.”

Derek plopped down on a leather sofa against the redwood paneled wall at the far end of a spacious, deeply carpeted room.  An antique pool table, which he rarely used anymore, stood at the other end of the room adjacent to several arcade-size video games and pin-ball machines.

Vern ventured, “Well, why not diversify?  Develop a new product.  Build up a new R & D unit.  Maybe do a new hardware…”

Derek cut in, “No, I’m not really interested in that either.  We’ve been over all this before.  I don’t want to reinvent the wheel and start all over again from scratch with another product.  I just don’t have it in me anymore.  I guess I’m just not hungry enough.”

Derek slumped back into the overstuffed cushions of the sofa which creaked softly as only leather upholstery can do.

“You know, just between you and me I’ve been thinking about selling my stock.  Maybe retirement. I need something…” he said, running his hand through his thinning black hair and closing his eyes.

“Jeez boss, that’s a little drastic isn’t it?  I mean, who could replace you?  What would you do?  What would happened to Nimbus without you?” said Vern with astonishment.

“Nobody’s irreplaceable Vern.  Not even me”, sighed Derek.

“Oh” said Vern casting his eyes to the floor and fidgeting with a cocktail napkin.

“Don’t worry about it.  Forget I said anything.  I guess I’m just tired.  You know.” Derek groaned as he kicked off his Italian loafers onto the carpet. Vern relaxed visibly.  After a pause he furrowed his brow, stroked his chin with his fingers, and said “Maybe you should just get away for a bit.  Take a vacation.  Take Jenny to Maui for a few weeks or something.  Take a cruise. Get your mind off things.”

“I don’t know. Maybe Vern.  I’ll think about it,” yawned Derek and pushing himself up wearily said, “Let’s go see how the others are doing”.

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

At 5:00 AM the sun wouldn’t be up for another hour but Derek was already on Interstate 5 on his way north to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.  He figured if he drove straight through with just gas stops he could make it there around noon time, get settled in his rented cabin at the north end of the lake and be set to start his back-packing trip early the next morning.

As the miles droned on under the mild roar of his tires Derek thought back to Friday night.  Vern and his wife left about midnight after spending a compulsory half-hour in the living room talking with their wives to exchange the usual social pleasantries and thank you’s and “Gee, I guess it’s getting lates” and “Gotta get up early tomorrow” chit-chat that seemed interminable to everyone, yet none-the-less essential to socially acceptable existence.

The next morning over brunch at their country club, for which they paid a huge annual fee to be seen eating a meal once a month or so, he asked, “Why don’t we go away together for a awhile? I need a rest”.

Jenny insisted that she would simply not be able to get away from her commitments to the L.O.F.T.Y. (League of Feminine Traditions and Yearning) Benefit Concert with the Palo Alto Philharmonic Virtuosi.  She suggested that perhaps he could go camping with the boys for a few days to get his mind off work.  He thought this was a good idea but couldn’t find anyone who could get away for more than a day as they had already had their lives planned for them by their wives weeks in advance and couldn’t make it on only a few day’s notice.  So he decided to go by himself.

Derek hadn’t been backpacking for more than four years, but still had all his equipment stored in the loft of the garage.  He went to the Army-Navy store to replenish his supply of freeze-dried foods.  When he got it all home he realized it was enough to feed three men for a month. But he packed as much as he could in his $375.00 light weight nylon, magnesium-framed pack along with his $450.00 all- temperature sleeping bag, $175.00 hiking boots, his $750.00 automatic 35 mm camera and all the other boy scout type paraphernalia he could think of that he could stuff in between a couple of changes of clothing.

His father took the family camping in the mountains nearly every summer while he was growing up in California.  Derek remembered how much he’d always enjoyed the mountains.  The clean, crisp fragrance of pine trees and the fine brown dust that seemed to get everyone so gloriously dirty.  Eggs and bacon and burned pancakes cooked on a cast-iron griddle over an open fire in the chill of the early morning mountain altitude.  The smell of campfire smoke in his clothes.  The gentle roar of wind in the trees and the always amazing magnificence of the night sky splattered with billions of blinking stars above the towering pines. The precious warmth of lying scrunched down fully clothed, in his sleeping bag near the embers of a dying campfire.  There was a serenity and simplicity about it that he had almost forgotten.  Now he was off to enjoy it again.  To renew old pleasurable moments, relax and take a new look at his life for a few precious days alone.

On the map Derek had chosen a range of forest in the Trinity Mountains for his hiking excursion.  He knew that amid that virgin timber in the shadow of Mt. Shasta there were still places to hike where no man had ever stepped.  Remote, pristine, primeval pine forests.

The drive north was uneventful and pleasant.  The broad base and flat volcanic top of Mt. Shasta grew on the horizon with mysterious majesty.  Interstate 5 was one of the finest highways in the world, as were most of the freeways in California.  It stretched smooth and straight through the center of the richest agricultural lands on earth which were now being steadily covered with high-priced, single-family housing, fast food franchises and shopping malls.  The entire countryside was being transformed into a continuous homogeneous stretch of asphalt, billboards, storefronts and parking lots filled with late-model Japanese cars, driven by lower middle-class consumers of non-biodegradable plastic goods.

It had been years since Derek had driven this route.  He was more than a little shocked by the sprawling jumble of human habitation marked by freeway exit signs to towns that he’d never heard of and which didn’t exist the last time he’d driven this way.

Derek bought a campfire permit at the ranger station and got directions to the cabin his travel agent had rented for him. Derek had waited his turn in line amid other late season vacationers and early season deer hunters who bought hunting, camping and camp fire permits.  Derek had never cared for the idea of killing wild game for sport.  Somehow the notion that shooting a beautiful animal in it’s natural environment through a high magnification scope mounted on a semi-automatic rifle was not “sport”, but legalized murder of innocent life forms whose flesh was not needed for food — not in a country overflowing with enough food to feed the entire population of Earth.  The table scraps thrown into the garbage every day by restaurants and military dining halls alone could feed millions of starving Africans.  Hunting was necessary only to satisfy the primordial, Neanderthal blood-lust of a bunch of red-neck pickup truck jockeys with the I.Q. of an empty beer can.

Derek arrived at his cabin in the late afternoon.  The cabin would serve as a base from which his hiking excursion would begin.  He wanted to have a bed and shower after being on the trail for a couple of days. He unpacked his stuff and settled himself for a one night stay.  He’d go to bed early and get up about 6:00 AM to begin his 3-day wilderness trek.

While he ate a frozen pizza heated in the cabin microwave, and cream-filled chocolate cupcakes washed down by diet soda, he began to relax.  He didn’t want to watch TV, he hadn’t brought any books, and there really weren’t any other amusements.  So he opened the front door of the cabin and sat in a wooden chair on the front porch and just did nothing.  As he sat in the calm of the surrounding forest, the affairs of men and life began to ebb from his mind.

He became aware of the smell of pine needles, earth and brush.  He heard the rush of breezes high in the trees, the twitter and chirp of birds and the occasional buzz of a passing bug. They soothed him.  The soft evening sunlight filtering through the pine boughs and animated tiny dust specks drifting in the air.  He sighed and tilted his chair back against the cabin wall.  This is what he’d come for. The purifying solitude and natural aesthetic of the mountain forest drained his thoughts into a universe of serene carelessness.  There was a pure, pristine pleasantness about it.  He sat.

Darkness drank the forest.  The evening chill cleansed the air.  Stars twinkled in silence.  Calm.  Sleep.  A subtle scent of cedar lingered, though there were no cedar trees.  And through the woodland rushed a winsome, whispered sigh.

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