A Desert Soul, Part 2

At the edge of the trench were two men in heated discussion. There was much swearing and pointing and obvious frustration on both party’s ends. The man on the right was gripping some papers tightly and pointed at them occasionally as he argued. It appeared as though this man cared a great deal about his papers. The other man, I concluded, was less attached to the papers, as he was holding nothing and in fact, the briefcase which sat nonchalantly at his feet was open and the files in there were strewn recklessly around with no organization. As we approached them, they continued arguing, not seeming to notice us at all.

“The blazes, man! How could you possibly bear to abandon our years of hard work at such a time as this! I simply cannot believe my ears, Frederic! This is absolute–“

“Now listen here! I didn’t come all this way just to be reprimanded by my colleague – and best man at my wedding I might add! When did you get so… consumed with your work that you’ve given up on our good graces! If anyone has the right to be flabbergasted, it’s me!”

“Our good graces! Don’t you see the importance of this work! We’re on the brink of breakthrough, Frederic! One more day and we’ll have a moment and as soon as we publish our work, we’ll be famous! Famous, I tell you! And, listen now – no, you listen to me! – It’s not just about fame. It’s about discovery! It’s about knowledge! It’s about advances of science! Can’t you see that? Can’t you open your eyes and look about you–“

“Don, it’s just a map!”

“Just a map! God, Frederic! Don’t you care! Don’t you have an ounce of respect for–“

“Of course I care! But I refuse – I simply refuse – to let cartography of all things – hah! Cartography is what’s coming between us, Don, can’t you see that? Can’t you open your eyes? I simply refuse to let this job ruin a friendship that I’ve cherished for ten years!”

“You just don’t care about your field. You need to find some loyalty. You’re not the man I once knew – captivated by the science of cartography. Enamored by the discovery of new heights, new places, new phenomena! It’s everything, Fred, everything!”

You’re speaking to me about loyalty! It seems to me that you’re the one that needs a lesson in loyalty, Don!”

At this point, the argument dissipated a little as the two men, too annoyed to look at each other, prepared to go their separate ways. I looked at Jack, confused. Not only about the nature of what I just witnessed, but about my nature. Was I invisible? Was I in a separate dimension? Was I awake, was I alive? Jack must have perceived my state of mind from my state of face, for he explained without hesitation that we were just visitors in this desolate world and without his permission, I could not be seen by anyone here. I was a ghost! The thought appalled me, and made me more homesick than I’d felt since my first semester at university!

“Don’t worry, when your time here is finished, you will be transported back to your home on Happy Lane, but God still has a purpose for you here in this world.”

I sneered.

“So what do you think of the two gentlemen?”

“Well,” I responded, “I think the one called Don had a point, if indeed they were so close to a breakthrough in their work. They shouldn’t abandon their objective over a silly disagreement.”

“So you hold no merit for Frederic’s words?”

“He sounded a bit like a woman, didn’t he?” I chuckled to myself. Jack smiled too. “Look, I see the validity of his argument. Friendships are important, but think about the long-term. The advancement of science will have a longer and broader effect than a platonic relationship. Long after the both of them are gone, the world will thank this Don fellow and scoff at Frederic.”

Before Jack could respond, Don and Frederic began once more to babble on. It went like this.

“Oh, Frederic, please don’t tell me you are beginning to see the supernatural side of things! What, next you’ll be telling me you believe in God!”

“Don’t you find it just a tad confusing, the origin of our planet? I’ve done a lot of thinking on the matter and the more I wrestle with it, the less I can come to accept the simplicity of macroevolution.”

“Oh don’t be ridiculous! You call yourself a man of science!”

“Why does science and the supernatural have to be at odds with each other all the time? Huh? Why can’t, just for once, the scientific community come to think about reconciling the two?”

“Because, Frederic, the concept of God is a spit in the face to materialists everywhere! It’s admitting that modern science can’t adequately understand something, and I would argue the opposite!”

“Okay, let us take an example here–“

“There is no point in arguing this right now! What will we accomplish? Up until this point I have thought of you as a great mind. What has happened to you? Where’s the Freddy I know and love? This can’t be him!”

“I thought you should be a lot more open-minded than you’re making yourself out to be right now. At least I had hoped. Remember when you were this bright-eyed kid, hungry for science and knowledge? You were open to new ideas, you challenged your presuppositions, you engaged in conversation! When did you start defending your stubborn mind to the point of shutting out your closest allies?”

“Oh, not this again! Really, you’re still on this whole friendship thing? Can’t you see this is bigger than that! I care more about the future of science, the future of intelligence, than a silly relationship that will end as soon as the both of us are decayed in our graves!”

“There are others, Don! If we don’t make this grand discovery, somebody else will! Somebody else always does. The world isn’t at stake here, but our friendship is! I have come to care less about the grander things in life, and more about the things that affect me personally. I want to have more time for my wife and kids, don’t you?”

“There’s a reason I’m not married!”

“You never approved of me and Marie, did you? I knew it! Okay, well, listen to me carefully. If this is the real you, I want nothing to do with you! And I definitely don’t want anything to do with your scientific discoveries! I hope you enjoy your fame, but Don… I hope you can see some day what’s important in life. And what you’re chasing won’t satisfy you. You’ll be an insatiable beast til the day you die!”

And with that, Frederic was off, shedding his clothes with each step away from his colleague, til he was down to his breeches. With each layer shed, his step became lighter and lighter, til he was actually running – away from Don, away from the ravine.

“And what do you think of that exchange?” Jack asked me.

“Frederic is losing a level-headed friend. It’s quite a shame, really, but this sort of thing happens all the time. The folly of the supernatural is always covered over with the charade of care. The poor Don was only standing up for reality, for the truth… and he got attacked for it. Ah, but so it goes. Persecuted are we who champion science; I’ve come across quite a many Frederic in my day.”

“So how do you explain me?” Jack asked.

To be quite honest, I had been avoiding this purturbance. It had been bothering me since the moment I came face to face with my new reality in this barren land, and I hadn’t yet come up with a conclusion to the matter.

“I can only be explained with the acceptance of the supernatural, for I am not humanly in any sense. I am a messenger of God and you are captured in a supernatural dimension. I’d very much like to hear how you explain this whole experience away using your precious science. But no matter – I’ll let you chew on that for the time being. Let us continue on our journey, down into the ravine. It will be a tad narrow going down, and it might benefit you to shed your coat. I’m sure you’re quite stifled with heat in there.”

“I will keep my coat, thank you.”

“You’re a stubborn man, aren’t you. Well, let’s go.”

And Jack led me down past a dead shrub to a narrow ledge that led precariously down into the gorge. I did not fancy this part of the journey, but seeing no alternative, followed my ‘supernatural’ guide. My coat tore a few times on the way down I’m ashamed to admit.


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