#SampleSunday Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money A Sample: Chapters 1 and 2





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Chapter 1

He darted across the lawn, fleeing along the lake’s shore. Treetops lashed the sky and leaves tumbled past him. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the towers of his home stark against the thunderheads.  Something was after him. He couldn’t see it, but knew it wanted to destroy him.

He felt the wind blowing off the lake the way it did when he was a child.  The  piercing  cold  left  him  shivering  and  weak.  He  heard  his father’s voice,  bellowing from within their stone mansion.
Then he was inside, moving through the great hall. Gothic arches admitted slashes of light. People and things seemed to pop into existence out of the shadows. “Hello, Master Will.” A servant fawned. “Good show on winning the Championship!” Win more! Win more!

He ran along the lakefront, his soul tossed like the treetops. Some- thing was trying to get him—he dodged this way and that, searching for a way out. Tears stung his eyes and his legs ached.

Will sat up in bed, heart pounding, sweat running down his cheeks. He looked around frantically, before realizing it had been one of his . . .

Had anyone seen him like that? His eyes searched the room until he was satisfied that he was alone.

He didn’t try to go back to sleep. Will got up and put on his jogging clothes. He would run in the gym until he was so exhausted that the nightmare couldn’t return. As he left his room, he glanced at the book by his bed. He seldom read psychology, considering it self-indulgent. But someone had written a book supported by decent research, a book that gave him answers.

People called him a genius. The label didn’t matter to him, but he knew it was true. Only a genius could do what he had done. That book explained the rest of it: The flashes of insight, the vision of what life could be, and the drive to create it formed the sunny side of his brilliance.  The  nightmares  and  horrors  were  its  other  side,  the  negative perks that came with his gifts.

Will  snorted  bitterly.  His  dark  side  was  as  big  as  the  light.  He made his way to the gym on the lower level of his home. The house was shuttered for the night. Bulletproof metal shades covered every window. He placed his palm on the sensor by the elevator. The door opened.

“Is that you, Mr. Duane?” A voice came from a speaker. An operative. “Yes. The sun will rise again.” He carefully enunciated that night’s passwords  for  the  voice  recognition  system.  He  knew  he  had  been monitored from the moment he stepped outside his bedroom. “No surveillance while I’m running,” he ordered.

Lights  went  on  when  he  entered  the  gym,  rippling  across  the equipment-filled expanse like the surf rolling across a rocky beach. The house’s lower level was dug into the hillside to allow it a larger foot- print  than  the  fifteen  thousand  square  foot  residence  above.  Every conceivable training device found its place on the floor. An indoor track circled  the  workout  area.  Handball  courts  were  beyond  the  far  wall; outside, past steel-clad windows, the pool awaited.

Will  was  a  runner.  He  didn’t  warm  up,  simply  launched  himself onto the track. He’d run until the sound of rough breathing, the smell of his father’s cigars, his gravely voice, and the revulsion at what happened  disappeared.  He’d  run  until  his  chest  ached  and  he  couldn’t think. If he was lucky, the joy that came from running would set him free. His legs moved easily as he began. His breathing expanded and became rhythmic. He’d hit a groove in a few minutes. Until then, his mind roved.

He’d had the nightmares as long as he could remember. He thought of them as spells. He had no idea what anyone else would call them. Once past  childhood,  he’d  never  told  anyone  about  them.  They  were  deeper than  dreams;  sometimes  he’d  come  out  of  one  to  find  that  the  world seemed dangerous and unreal. He had a hard time shaking the feeling.

They all began the same way. The world became silent and empty, a colorless, foreign landscape. He could feel the malice behind every- thing. And then he was running along the North Shore of Lake Michigan where he had been raised. His father bought a mansion built by one of the old Robber Barons the moment he could afford it. He manufactured a family tree to go with his new wealth. Will scowled. They were not American royalty. They didn’t have a fancy pedigree. Will hated pretense. He’d seen enough.

He could recall the whiskey-roughened voices in the library when his  father  and  his  friends  played  poker.  Cigar  smoke  penetrated  the walls. They joked about fancy women and what they’d do with them later. His mother was in the house, awake—how could his father talk about that with her there? They spoke of Micks and WOPs and kikes. These were good Christians who praised Jesus on Christmas Day and screwed anyone they could the rest of the time. They got country clubs, while their workers got union busters and substandard wages.

During the day, he was the perfect son. But in his sleep, he found himself running along the lake. As a child, the nightmare came almost every  night.  A  river  of  darkness  sucked  him  down.  The  evil  in  that darkness was so absolute that no terror could express it. He fought the murk and filth as something toyed with him; a malignant something hid behind the opacity of daytime life. If he made a mistake, it would capture him. He would have to crawl for it forever, doing its will.

He’d awaken, screaming and sobbing. His mother would come. “Will,  Will—what’s  the  matter,  darling?”  He’d  rave  about  something terrible that was going to get him. She’d sit up stiffly and pull the
bell cord for his nanny. “Will, I don’t know where you get these stories. I simply don’t understand you.” She’d finger an amulet she had, a jade piece, as she left the room. Her quick steps and averted eyes told him that his mother was afraid of him.

What happened next depended on his nanny. They changed all the time. A few held him and petted him until he went back to sleep. Most caned him for his wild imagination and refusal to shut up. That was at his father’s orders: “Make a man of him.”

The  beatings  taught  him  to  bury  his  screams  in  his  pillows  and never tell a soul about the night visions. With good reason—they took him to realms that separated him from everything good.
They say I’m the Prince of Darkness, Will thought, pausing to tie his shoelace. I am. You can’t be a good person and know what I know. He had seen things about human nature that revolted him in his spells, but  he  knew  what  he  saw  was  true.  His  reality  wasn’t  for  ordinary people; it was his special gift. Will’s mouth tightened.

All his life, his father had told him what he thought of him: “You’ll never be the man I am.” He bellowed the words when he was drunk, and said them silently when he was sober. No matter what Will won,
or what team he captained, or how good his grades were, they were never good enough.

His nightmares ended the same way: A vortex dragged him toward the malevolence at the core. The stalker. He clawed against the whirlpool. His father appeared above him, grabbing his arms and hauling him to safety.  Will  looked  into  his  father’s  eyes  with  sobbing gratitude,  and saw the stalker’s hatred blasting back. His father was the demon, as evil as hell.
The old man bent to Will’s ear, drawing in a breath to say something . . .

And the dream ended. Wherever he was sleeping—at school as a youngster,  or  later,  in  some  woman’s  bed  or  his  own—he  woke  up, sweating and gasping. If he wasn’t alone, he’d hide his panic, jumping out of bed and throwing on his clothes.

“Is there anything wrong?” the woman he was with would say, confused.

“No, no. No problem.” He’d leave no matter what time it was; he couldn’t let any of them see his terror. They’d be afraid of him if they knew what he saw. They’d leave him.
Of course, he would never go back to any of them anyway—they’d seen him like that. He stopped bringing women home, and never took them anyplace he couldn’t make a fast exit.

Will took off, flying along the track. Unaware of the pounding of his feet on the gym floor, the sweat flying from him, or how long he’d run.
He would forget. He would forget. He couldn’t forget.

The funny part was, even if he wanted to tell someone how much he suffered, who would care? His father had been a millionaire, and he was the richest man in the world. No one cared about the rich kid— Will knew that better than anything.

He knew what his father was going to say when the dream stopped: “It will get you in the end, no matter how hard you run.”

Will ran faster. His torso was erect and his mind clear. His breath moved in and out without effort. His legs fired away like steel shafts. He could go forever. He was so strong, he would go on forever. He tore around the track.

When he ran, nothing but his power existed. Will didn’t feel the ache in his heart that whispered on quiet nights. He had no longing for a childhood that didn’t happen or anger over the one that did. He never noticed the little boy inside him that still hoped everything would turn out fine. When Will ran, only running existed.

Tonight  he  wanted  more  than  relief  from  pain.  Will  pushed  his limits, hoping that it would happen.

It  did.  When  he’d  run  himself  close  to  oblivion,  the  light  burst from the base of his spine and traveled upward. His back arched and his chest expanded. The force moving through his body was so powerful that he couldn’t run. He stopped abruptly, bouncing along the track. He  slammed  into  the  side  of  the  gym,  sliding  for  a  yard  or  two.  He stayed on his feet and swung to face the wall, pressing his chest against it. The column of light rose up his back. Groans escaped him. He put his arms out, palms hugging the wooden surface. His head twisted to the right, as though he were trying to face the center of the room. His face contorted as the energy moved upward. He couldn’t stop what was happening, and didn’t want to.

The pillar of light rose up his back. When it climbed above his head, it exploded into a brilliant golden fountain, brighter than the sun. He rose onto his toes. The energy unfurled around him, spreading and spreading, moving everywhere. It felt like it reached the edges of the universe. Will was its center. He knew things when the light surrounded him; he could see  relationships  between  ideas,  organizations,  and  people  that  were hidden from him before. The worst business problems became simple.

The bliss that came with the light was hard to accept. He felt so much pleasure that it shocked him. He had chased pleasure all his life, but this was beyond that. Sex paled in comparison. He pushed off the wall and walked down the track, his hands reaching up, enraptured. He talked to it, the Light.

“I love you. I love you. Oh, stay with me. I love you.” On like that, words he’d never spoken to anyone. The Light could understand what he said, he knew that. It heard his dreams and desires, his sadness and pain. And it fixed him; it healed him, at least for a while. With it, he could keep going. The Light was the most precious thing in his life.

Will  had  no  idea  what  it  was.  The  closest  he  could  come  to  an explanation was that column was his soul. Or maybe God. He thought it might be God, except that he didn’t believe in God.
The bliss played with him, flowing upward in a torrent. He moaned in  delight,  walking  around  the  track,  face  alight.  He  held  his  hands high, reaching for something unseen. “I love you!” he shouted. “Oh, I love you so much.” He danced, filled with joy. Tears of gratitude splattered the floor. The gym was magic, enchanted. He skipped and laughed like a child.

The Light had come to him years before. After being whipped because he had a nightmare, Will crawled into his bed and pulled his quilt over his head. He shook with a child’s shuddering sobs—and the Light came to him. Delight traveled up his spine, erasing his pain. Will found himself lifted to a place as wonderful as his nightmares were horrible. The Light showed him a world he never dreamed existed. In it, he found  creatures—people  and  animals  and  things  he’d  never  seen— moving between luminous hangings across a mythical landscape inside him. Every touch was ecstasy; every sound, a chorus.

The dazzling column had no physical characteristics, but he felt it was a person. It could understand like a person. It had different parts. One was female. She was like a mother or angel. Her presence suffused the good place, and she enfolded him, making everything that happened all right. He called her Beloved. She and the Light kept him alive. If  the  dark  torrent  yanked  him  down,  the  ones  who  lived  in  the bright place brought him back. They brought him back, regardless of what he did in the ordinary world or the dark dreams. They loved him no matter what he did.

One day, they showed him a world where people cooperated, where commerce served everyone, and the good that everyone said they wanted came to be. They told him that his job was to make it real. It was real; he had touched it . . . Reality, the numenon. The thing as it exists. He named his corporation after it.

The world of Light was his deepest secret. He couldn’t explain the beauty of that realm; words would defile it.

Besides,  if  they  thought  he  was  crazy  because  of  his  nightmares, what would they say if he told them about a Light that gave him answers and protected him? Or an angel called Beloved?
Will didn’t trust his experiences: He thought he was crazy.

He’d never heard of anyone who had such encounters. They didn’t talk about them at Stanford or its Graduate School of Business, where he went to school. No one talked about such things at meetings of the Numenon Board or any other corporate venue. He wished he could ask someone, “Does a brilliant light surge up your from ass and give you unbelievable pleasure—then tell you how to solve that merger problem?”

He knew how that one would go over, so kept his mouth shut.

Will felt the rapture drifting away. “Don’t go . . .” he cried. It always left.  He  knew  it  would  come  back—when  he  needed  it.  Running  as hard as he could was a good way of getting it to return, but he couldn’t make it do anything. It came tonight because he needed it––after Marina kicked him out, after everything else, he needed it.

When the light had gone, Will threw a towel around his shoulders. His  legs  shook  as  he  walked  to  the  elevator.  He  was  so  exhausted that he could barely place his palm against the sensor. “The sun will rise again.”

He got into the elevator and became aware of something. He punched a button on the wall and spoke into a microphone.

* * *

Rick Bromberg took off his headset and handed it to the guy on the next shift, still shocked by what he’d seen. He resisted the desire to tell his  replacement  about  it.  Pretty  good  for  my  first  night  at  the  freak house, he thought.

He had been thrilled to get the job, even it if was the night shift; it paid better than any job he’d ever had and offered perks you couldn’t get anywhere else. Passing the test to get into the place took everything he’d learned getting his MA in Computer Science and what the Marines taught him about surveillance. But he passed.

And he signed the inch-thick contract that granted him the privilege of coming to work. He knew all about the non-competitive agreements that  were  standard  in  Silicon  Valley  employment  contracts.

But  this one, shit—if he breathed one word about what he saw in this house, they’d have his first-born child.

He  hadn’t  meant  to  do  it;  it  was  just  so  boring,  sitting  in  that cubicle alone. There were five of them on duty. He didn’t realize they’d be manning separate stations. True, it was better professional practice to have five people in separate rooms monitoring the screens than all of them together. The urge to talk came up when guys were together—it was a natural thing. Rick had even given in to the urge to drink beer once in a while on other jobs. He never brought the stuff, but if it was there, hey . . . Yeah, guys in the same room could miss things.

Before  showing  him  to  his  security  booth  that  night,  his  super- visor had told him that they meant it here. His name was Dunkirk. He was a fucking stiff—a Brit who acted like the Empire hadn’t fallen. He was one of the commandos Duane had all over. “We are here to facilitate  Mr.  Duane’s  security.  We  do  that,  and  nothing  else.  Have  you read your contract?”
Yeah, he had.

“Any  breach  of  contract  will  be  taken  very  seriously.  Mr.  Duane gives the orders. If he tells you to do something, or not to do some- thing, you will do whatever he wants. If you don’t, you’re fired, that’s it. No appeal.” Dunkirk had looked at him with those frost-blue, British eyes. “Or, if you must appeal, you will appeal to Hannah Hehrmann. You will never forget that experience, and you will lose. Now, it’s time to begin the shift.”

Everybody was scared stiff of Hannah Hehrmann. He hadn’t seen her.  Hadn’t  seen  Will  Duane,  either,  until  the  monitor  showed  him walking out of his bedroom in the middle of the night. Looked just like all the magazine covers: white hair, tall even on a screen. Good looking for  an  old  guy.  Duane  was  in  his  mid-sixties.  Rick  couldn’t  imagine being that old.

He heard him say, “No surveillance while I’m running.”

Yeah, Rick heard it. But as the time went by, he began to get worried. Duane’s old, he thought. How could he run that long? What if he had heart attack and they didn’t find him until the next day? So, he flipped a couple of switches and fired up one of the screens.

Rick knew that Will Duane couldn’t tell he was watching. He knew his stuff; he had an advanced degree in stealth. Besides, Dunkirk gave him his introductory walk around that afternoon. They stood in the gym, and he said, “Mr. Duane does not like to be aware that he is being observed. The house’s surveillance system is designed so that none of the monitors or sensors can be seen or detected in any way. For instance, do you see any cameras in this room?”

He looked around and shook his head. “No. Nothing.” Yet when Dunkirk took him to his cubicle and replayed the videos, Rick could see himself on five cameras and hear every word they said. The gym was loaded. That’s what he called smooth.

He wasn’t worried that his boss would know he was taking a peek. When he first saw the old man on the screen, he couldn’t believe how hard he ran. He must have been an Olympic runner when he was young. Now, for Pete’s sake. Mr. Duane was tearing up the track, and he’d been out there a long time.

He almost punched a button for help when his boss suddenly stopped and bounced into the gym wall. A heart attack, Rick was sure. That’s what he gets for being so built at his age. He couldn’t help but compare his paunch to Will Duane’s non-existent belly. But then, Duane put his hands out straight and started moaning and arching his back like he
was humping the wall. He turned his head to the right like a corkscrew.

Rick’s eyes widened. Jesus, was he possessed, or something?

He’d heard a lot of stories about Will Duane being a warlock or the fucking devil, even. Lots of stories about his new boss were out there. When he started doing that shit, Rick stared into the monitor, mouth open.  His  new  boss  started  dancing  around,  waving  his  arms  and screaming, “I love you.” This was certifiable, Rick thought. Real nutcase stuff. Which he’d also heard—that Will Duane was crazy.

But then his shift was over and he came back to earth. What Duane did was his own business—if you’re the richest man on earth, you can do what you want. If he wanted to hump the wall or dance around his gym all night, who cared?

Rick  went  to  the  checkout  point  where  they  patted  them  down before letting them go home. As he was being searched, he thought, Why all the need for security? What else does Duane do in here? It was only his first night and the place was starting to get to him.

Dunkirk  burst  in,  looking  at  Rick  like  he’d  run  over  his  dog. “Bromberg, I need you in my office.”

His  office  was  a  cement-walled  cell  with  monitors  ringing  every wall. They hadn’t been watching him, had they?

“I need your identification badge, your code book, and your keys.” Dunkirk looked as scary as a skinny Brit could. He handed them over. “I need you to sign here, showing that you understand the reason you are being terminated and you will . . .”

“What? I’m being fired? For what?”

“You were spying on Mr. Duane as he ran, Bromberg, against his orders.”

The expression on Dunkirk’s face and the cement walls, plus all the monitors and steel doors got to him. He told the truth. “Okay. I did watch him for a while, but I won’t tell anyone what I saw.”

“Definitely not, Bromberg. You’ll never mention it again, nor will you mention your reason for relocating.”

“Relocating? I’m not . . .”

“Yes, you are. And you’ll be no more trouble to us. You are banned from employment at Numenon or any Numenon partner . . .”

“That’s practically the whole world!”

“Yes, it is, Bromberg. So you’ll be happy that we secured employ- ment for you at your new location.”

“Where is it?”

“I’m not at liberty to say. A car is waiting for you . . .” “

But how did you know?” Rick sputtered.

“Mr. Duane told me.”

“How did he know?” Rick’s voice rose in a wail.

“Mr.  Duane  knows,  Bromberg.  He  knows  without  all  this,”  he waved his hand at the banks of monitors. “I don’t know why he keeps us on, really.”

* * *

Will  stood  swaying  in  his  bedroom.  Traces  of  light  seeped  from behind the metal clad windows. The silk draperies didn’t hide the fact that  the  new  day  had  arrived.  Should  he  get  dressed  for  work?  Will wore a robe embroidered with the Numenon logo that he’d put on after showering. His face felt like a leaden mask; his eyes kept blinking as though they were filled with grit. He couldn’t think of his schedule for the day, didn’t notice the lovely furnishings of his vast room. Not the Turner over the bureau or  the  little  Monet  he  loved.  The  bed  beckoned.  A  minute  won’t hurt, he thought.
Will laid down and pulled the quilt over his head.

He ran through the grey-green world, the thing he feared behind him, roaring for his blood. He turned his head, and something overran him. He was tossed without mercy, slammed into the ground. He rolled and tumbled, landing on his feet, battered but alive. He watched the juggernaut’s howling progress.

It  destroyed  everything.  He  watched  everyone  die,  smashed  and bent, torn to pieces. The maelstrom killed those he loved first, then the rest. Everyone died; all humanity. Billions of bloody, ruined bodies piled up around him. He was the only one left.

He stood in the void, surrounded by nothing.

He  had  to  live  when  everyone  he  loved  was  dead.  Everyone  he hated, too. Nothing was left, not even hatred. He had to go on living and living and living. Realizing that caused his jaw to drop, and pulled his hands to his mouth. Made him curl into a ball.

He lay, dazed. His chest rose and fell. The movement of his ribs was the only thing he could grab onto to tell him he was alive.

Was it a prophecy? Was that going to happen? Nothing could tell him; everything was gone. He felt a rumbling below the earth and heard the sound of rocks grinding together. His stomach roiled at the noise.

He realized what it meant: The stalker was coming for him.

His Beloved appeared from nowhere, speaking softly. “Yes, my dar- ling, it is true. The fate you have fought for so long will come to be very soon—in days. You have one chance to save yourself and all you love.” Whispering, she told him the way out.

Will did as she directed. It was already shaping up: He had a call in to the Indian shaman. He’d made it in hopes that what Marina said was true.  He’d  heard  from  her  once  since  she  threw  him  out.  She  wrote: “He’s a great holy man who has helped many people. If Grandfather tells me I should see you again, I will. But only then, Will. You and I are done.”

She did include a phone number where he could reach the shaman. He originally called the old man hoping he could get her back, but then he had that dream. He had to go now; the world of light required it.

The sucker didn’t return his call . . . He kept him waiting.

When the shaman finally called him back, Will was ready to detonate.  He  forced  himself  to  be  civil;  he  agreed  to  everything.  “I’ll  go wherever you want; I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll go on your retreat, just tell me how to get there.”

The  old  man  didn’t  sound  surprised.  It  was  as  though  he  knew what Will would say.

“Bring you best warriors,” the shaman said. “As many as you want, as long as they’re your best.” And then he laughed.

Will’s stomach clenched. The joy in the old man’s laughter hit him like a fist.

And then he gave orders that would make it come to pass. “I want you  to  go,  too,  Betty,  and  a  few  others  from  the  Headquarters.”  They looked at him in disbelief. He convinced them: “We have to go. This is the most important thing we’ll ever do.”

But he would never tell anyone the real reason for their pilgrimage.


Chapter 2

The boy felt his legs trembling and cramping, moving purely by the force of his will. He heard the breath enter his lungs, rage, burn  there,  then  exit,  only  to  reenter,  burn  again.  The  child couldn’t run any longer, he was run out. He shouted at his little brother, “Go there! Into the canyon! Hide!”

The younger child veered off, going in the direction the older boys had taken. The boy turned, running at the horsemen, trying to provide some cover for his brother. The two horses headed straight at him. He heard the hard staccato of the gallop on rock. A lasso’s whir filled his ears as one rider swung his loop overhead. He charged the men, waving his arms.

The horses ran past him. He stopped, bewildered. Before he could turn, something grabbed him around the waist and jerked him back- ward. He was dragged, popping over ruts like a twig. One bounce flipped him  onto  his  belly.  His  face  hit  a  rock.  His  arms  were  pinned  to  his sides: He couldn’t protect himself. The impact was so hard; he didn’t know  his  tooth  had  chipped.  He  didn’t  know  what  happened  until everything stopped and he found himself lying in the path.The  lariat’s  loop  bound  his  body.  Like  a  tight  fishing  line,  it  ran straight to the stranger’s saddle. At the end of the rope, the horse loomed above the boy, larger than any horse he had seen. It stared at him, ears pointed like spears. Loud blasts of air came from its nostrils. It moved the thing in its mouth, and streams of white foam splattered its chest. When the beast’s hooves hit the rocks, sparks flew. It danced around and the foreigner yelled at it.

“Whoa, Buddy. Whoa. I know he smells like shit. It won’t kill you! Whoa, you . . .”

Eventually, the horse settled and stood stiffly, arching its neck, and backing to keep the rope taut. The man looked directly at the child. The boy had seen such men before, but never had been close enough to one to see his pale blue eyes. He became stiff, shaking. “Y’re in a hell of a fix, ain’t you?”

He couldn’t understand the stranger’s words, but he smiled in a way that told the boy what he already knew: This man would enjoy killing him. His father had warned of these people and kept their band out of their way. The warnings had not been strong enough.

His breath came in fast pants, and his heart felt like it would jump out. He shook all over. The man began reeling him in, hand over hand, looping the lariat on his saddle, dragging him across the rough ground. Rocks struck him, bloodying his face, bruising his flesh. The smashing impacts  dazed  him,  and  as  they  did,  he  realized  that  a  monster  was ahead of him. It was a two-headed demon, both horse and man. A skin- walker, a giant of the mountains, come to eat his flesh. His body moved like he had the falling sickness, shaking out of control.

Windborne streams of sweat and saliva lashed him as he groveled. Rowels of spurs that were as big across as his face spun and flashed. The interloper’s stench assailed him. The closer he got, the more terrifying the monster became. The giant horse began tossing its head. Its feet started moving up and down so fast that sparks flew without stopping. When he finally was dragged next to the animal, he felt nothing: no pain, no injury—only terror. His body went limp. The horse spun away from him and tried to run.

“Knock it off. It’s just a kid. A fucking digger kid.”

The rider reined hard and finally, the animal stood still. When that happened,  the  cowboy  yanked  him  up,  dangling  him  in  front  of  his face like a fish on a line. They looked into each other’s eyes. The man was  opening  his  mouth  to  speak,  when  suddenly  the  boy’s  paralysis lifted. In that instant of freedom, the child lunged, tearing into the flesh of his captor’s chest.

“God damn it to hell!”

The man shouted, and then struck him. A blow made his ears ring.  Another  blow,  and  everything  went  blank.  When  he  could remember again, he was tied face down on the saddle in front of his captor. Something was stuffed in his mouth, and something else was tied around his head.

“Try that again, you little bastard!”

The other rider returned with the smaller boy over his saddle. “The big ones got away,” he said to the first.

“This little fucker bit me, damn it to hell!” He rubbed his chest. “Damn waste of effort. You can’t do nuthin’ with this bunch. They’re never gonna educate ‘em fit for nuthin’.”

“It’s a job, Roy. It pays good.”

A  third  rider  came  up  behind  them  and  halted  his  horse.  “Slim pickin’s,” he said, eyeing the two little boys.

“The rest of ‘em high-tailed it up that draw.”

“Why, hell, that’s a blind draw, I bet,” the third one said, grinning. “It’d be easy as shootin’ fish in a barrel.” The other two grinned back. “Throw me them runts, an’ you go get the rest.We’ll save the tax-payers some money.” The boy was thrown across the front of the third man’s saddle.  It  wasn’t  hard  to  do:  He  was  small,  even  for  his  People.  His younger brother was tossed on top of him. When they ended up back at the band’s camp, the boys were dumped into a mule-drawn wagon, balong with some girls their age and some older kids that were too slow making their escape.

Dazed and exhausted, the boy saw his father standing in the open space before their shelters. His face was bruised and bloody and men with guns surrounded him. The agent waved a paper in his face.
“I do, too, have the right. My right is here. They gotta go to school— it’s the law. We’ll make ‘em civilized Christians. We’ll make ‘em good Americans, every one.” The children sat in the wagon, crying silently, looking  at  their  parents  who  stared  back  with  hopeless  tears.  The mothers’ faces beseeched the agent and his hired hands. The boy sat looking at his father. Why didn’t he do something? He looked for his mother, and then remembered she ran away with his baby brother and sister when the scouts came back saying that the white men brought a wagon.  The  band  knew  what  that  meant.  The  boy’s  father  had  protected  his  clan  as  long  as  he  could,  moving  far  into  the  wilderness. They couldn’t go any farther.

His father was a man of peace: surely he could reason with these white men. Then the group waited, silently, until the two riders returned.

“Couldn’t find any of ‘em! That’s the last of the bunch I reckon we’ll get. The rest got clean away.” One rider chuckled (he’d have to clean his guns when he got home).
As the wagon pulled out, the boy’s father came to life. He remembered the words in English, though he knew his father spoke in their language; try as he might, he couldn’t remember a word of his tribe’s tongue.

His father shouted, “I will come for you!”

He called his son’s name, but his mind was a blank. He couldn’t remember his own name, which his father had given him in their lan- guage; he couldn’t remember it at all.
“I will come for you! I must move the camp. I must find the boys who ran. Then I will come for you!” The wagon pulled out and his father ran beside it, looking in the boy’s eyes, “You are the leader, my son! You will be Chief one day. You will be great. I will come for you, my son. I will come for you, or the sun will cease to shine.”

His father couldn’t keep up. The boy watched him recede into the distance. That was the last time he saw his father. It was 1918.

The old man lay back on his bed, gasping at what he had remembered. Starlight illuminated the interior of the lean-to, but all he could see was his father’s form, hands grabbing the wagon as he ran along- side so many years before. The sun was going down, and it outlined his father’s head, the bright light surrounding him like a halo. He turned to the wall, pinching back tears.
Even with his eyes closed, his mind showed him the canyon where it happened as clearly as if he stood in the path. A brilliant blue sky arched overhead. Canyon walls topped by spiky pine trees loomed on each  side.  The  cheerful  sound  of  water  played  down  the  stream bed, dancing past rocks and trees with fluttering leaves. He and his brother ran through the scene, a beautiful place where something ugly occurred. He had lived perhaps eight summers when he was stolen.

The old man’s mind was an open corridor. That morning, he could see everything he had ever done and feel each event as though it were happening. Bud Creeman had told him about amusement parks; the Shaman had never been to one. He told him about a ride where you got in a little boat  that  floated  in  a  darkened  indoor  stream.  Without  warning,  the channel would widen and— wham— a scene would appear. This morning, the boat took the direction it had been commanded, going back in his life. He would watch whatever it presented, knowing the Great One willed it, knowing he would need what was revealed in the week to come.

He reflected upon what would soon unfold. Thousands were coming to be with him and learn what he had to teach. The coming week was the last Meeting—the retreat had grown beyond anything he imagined.

It was the last chance that many of his People would have to meet him and imbibe wisdom of their Ancestors.Preparations had been made to assure the Meeting’s success. The campgrounds were groomed and facilities repaired. The Founders had studied everything touching the Meeting, making sure they were ready. Paul Running Bird’s report, tabulating the data he’d gleaned, was part of the preparations.
Grandfather knew all this, just as he knew that those questions Paul had  presented  to  him  last  night  were  the  reason  he  felt  the  pain  of remembering his past. He wanted to hate Paul’s report, but knew that everything that happened was the work of the Great One.




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Holston Conference Gathering Registration Closes 9/4/09

A heads up to all the fans of the Holston Conference Gathering: THE REGISTRATION FORM MUST BE RECEIVED BY SEPTEMBER 4th, 2009.  It’s getting to be time to send in those registration forms to make sure they arrive by the deadline.

Here’s more information about the Gathering:

Bill Miller gives a Saturday night concert at the Gathering.

Bill Miller gives a Saturday night concert at the Gathering.

Registration information for the Holston Conference Gathering is available at TheGathering.us , the Gathering’s Official Web site. Click the arrowhead marked “Register for the 2009 Gathering.”

You can find information about the Gathering, descriptions of workshops and workshop presenters, and a photo tour of Coker Creek Village, site of the Gathering. A downloadable registration form is available.

Bill Miller, the multi-Grammy winning musician, artist, & speaker, will once again be the Gathering’s spiritual leader. Look forward to more of his insights and a rousing Saturday night concert.

The Holston Conference Gathering 2009 will be held September 19th & 20th 2009 at Coker Creek Village. The Gathering is sponsored by the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Native American Ministries Team. This year marks the Gathering’s 11th anniversary!

Here’s a composite slideshow from a number of past Gatherings. Enjoy!    GATHERING SLIDESHOW

The Gathering retreat inspired Sandy Nathan's award winning book, Stepping Off the Edge.

The Gathering retreat inspired Sandy Nathan’s award winning book, Stepping Off the Edge.

“The Gathering inspired me to write Stepping Off the Edge. Several chapters take place at the Gathering and Bill Miller gave me a wonderful interview, which is in the book.  I hope that you are able to attend the Gathering and that it inspires you as much as it did me.”

Sandy Nathan
Award winning author of Stepping Off the Edge

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The Gathering 2009: Bill Miller Leads the Holston Conference Gathering

Bill Miller gives a Saturday night concert at the Gathering.

Bill Miller gives a Saturday night concert at the Gathering.

Dear Friends,

The Holston Conference Gathering 2009 will be held September 19th & 20th 2009 at Coker Creek Village. The Gathering is sponsored by the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Native American Ministries Team. This year marks the Gathering’s 10th anniversary!

Once again, we are blessed to have Bill Miller, the incredibly talented musician, artist, and speaker, as the Gathering’s spiritual leader. Among many other honors, Bill has won two Grammy Awards and a lifetime Nammy Award. This year, he traveled to Israel where he performed his symphony, The Last Stand, with the Israel Kibbutz Orchestra. The was the first time a Native American symphony was performed in Israel and it was a terrific success. An amazingly prolific and insightful man, I’m sure that Bill will have many new thoughts and feelings to share with us.

The cover of Stepping Off the Edge. Bill Miller's Portrait and dancer Stanley Bell at the Gathering are shown on this cover.

The cover of Stepping Off the Edge. Bill Miller's Portrait and dancer Stanley Bell at the Gathering are shown on this cover.

This is Sandy Nathan, a great friend of the Gathering. Years ago, when I first heard about the retreat, I packed my bag and headed to green Tennessee as fast as I could. The Gathering was such a powerful experience that it inspired me to write a book. Several chapters of the book, Stepping Off the Edge: Learning and Living Spiritual Practice, occur in the Gathering. The book went on to win six national awards.

I also volunteered to put up and maintain the Gathering’s web site. I think it’s a lovely site, but being a “web mistress” leads me to ask: Are computers our friends or enemies? My old computer died a month or so ago after a long illness. I got a new one. None of the programs from my old computer work with the new one, so we have to update and upgrade everything, including the program I use for the Gathering’s web site. At this point, I can’t even get onto the site or my old files. The upgrading process isn’t going as fast as I’d like.

Meanwhile, people are emailing me, wanting to know about the Gathering 2009’s dates and times. Argghh! It’s so frustrating.

I decided to write this blog article about the Gathering 2009 to give people the information they need in this interim period. I’ll have the “real” Gathering 2009 announcement and info up just as soon as we’ve overcome our programming problems. What’s on this blog post should give you what you need right now. Keep scrolling down: There’s lots of info after I sign off.

To get you in the mood: A SLIDE SHOW OF THE GATHERING If you’re new to the Gathering and wondering if you should go, or if you’re an old timer and wouldn’t miss a year, this show will prepare you for the Gathering 2009.

If you would like more information about the Gathering than is available on the Gathering’s web site, my book Stepping Off the Edge is available as a Kindle for a thrifty 99 cents. In addition to the chapters which occurred at the Gathering, the book contains my line drawings of the Gathering’s people, and an exclusive interview by Bill Miller. Click here to go to the Kindle store.

Here’s a video about Stepping Off the Edge.

All the best and hope to see you in Coker Creek this September,

Sandy Nathan

Head Lady Dancer, Siouxsan Robinson (Lakota Blackfoot), & Head Man Dancer, Charles Robinson (Choctaw) at the Gathering 2007.

Head Lady Dancer, Siouxsan Robinson (Lakota Blackfoot), & Head Man Dancer, Charles Robinson (Choctaw) at the Gathering 2007.


  • The Gathering is September 19 & 20 at Coker Creek Village.
  • Registration Deadline is 9/5/09.
  • Refund Deadline is 9/5/09.
  • Deadline for Complimentary T Shirt: Your Registration must be received by 9/4/09.

REGISTRATION: Note that you have a long time before the registration deadline, so no need to worry at this date of 5/8/09. A downloadable registration form is available on the Gathering’s web site. The dates, etc., will be updated soon.

COSTS & DAILY SCHEDULE : The daily schedule for the retreat is the same as that shown on the Gathering’s web site. The costs for year’s registration are exactly the same as those shown on the web site. (Both have “strike over” lines through them, but they are correct for 2009.)

T SHIRTS: Those whose registrations are received by September 4, 2009 will receive a complimentary event T-shirt. This year’s shirt will feature a new design created by award-winning artist, Emerson Begay.

Refer to Registration Form for list of sizes. ONLY those whose registrations are received in time to be submitted with our order on Sep. 4th will receive complimentary shirts. A limited number will be available for purchase at the event for $15.


WORKSHOPS: The 2009 Workshops are as follows:

Mary T. Newman
Learn how pottery was made in the old days from potter  Mary T. Newman. This class will also include instruction and hands-on opportunities for working in clay. Of Cherokee descent. Mary T. resides in Ashland City, TN. with her family. She conducts pottery workshops and displays throughout the southeast and as far away as Alaska.
B.  SPIRIT OF THE DRUM Emerson Begay Learn the basics of pow wow singing and drumming, as well as the important role of the drum in Native culture from full-blood Navajo Emerson Begay.Originally from the Farmington NM area, Emerson, is currently living in Kingsport, TN.
C. POW WOW 101 Jonathon Feather This workshop is designed for newcomers to pow wows as well as those who have attended pow wows and had questions they were afraid to ask. This class will include pow wow etiquette, explanations of each dance style and the regalia associated with it, other pow wow customs such as giveaways, etc., and a discussion of common mistakes (offensive questions, etc.) often made by unknowing newcomers. Jonathon is Cherokee/Lakota. He grew up on the Qualla boundary in Cherokee,NC where he now lives. Jonathon has been involved in pow wows his entire life in every aspect from champion hoop dancer to MC and judge of dance competitions.
D. MEDICINE BAGS Linda Cash Learn to make your own medicine bag from accomplished beader Linda Cash. Linda will also discuss the meaning and purpose of medicine bags in Native culture. A native of Clinton, TN., Linda is Cherokee/Metis’.  Her exquisite beadwork is  museum quality and is treasured by those fortunate enough to own one of her pieces.
Construct your own drum in the traditional way as you learn about the importance of the drum from full-blood Navajo award winning dancer, artist, and performer Lowery Begay. Lowery grew up in the Farmington ,NM area and now resides in Jonesboro, TN.* THOSE TAKING THIS WORKSHOP WILL BE REQUIRED TO PAY A MATERIALS FEE OF $30 . THIS WILL BE PAID DIRECTLY TO LOWERY AT THE CLASS. THIS WILL BE A TWO-DAY WORKSHOP. IF SIGNING UP FOR THIS WORKSHOP, DO NOT CHOOSE A SECOND ONE.
F. FOOD FOR SPIRIT Charles Robinson Charles will share his insights on the connection between Native spirituality and Christianity and how God reveals Himself to us through His creation. This workshop will enhance your relationship with our Creator, regardless of your personal beliefs. Charles (Choctaw) and his wife Siouxsan operate the Red Road Ministry in Franklin, TN.
G. BLACKFOOT CULTURE/COOKING Siouxsan Robinson Siouxsan (Blackfoot/Lakota) will share with us what life on a western reservation was like for past generations, how it has changed in the present day, and her vision for future generations. **This workshop will include some discussion of the treatment of Native American children in boarding schools which some may find disturbing.

Originally from the Rosebud Reservation, Siouxsan now resides in Franklin, TN with her husband Charles and their five children.

H. CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES Scott Crisp and Jamie Russell Children ages 12 and under will be educated and entertained with activities ranging from stickball to storytelling.  * If we have a wide range of ages, we will separate into appropriate groups.

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