Dixie Dogg’s head was swimming; more from the shock of what he had just experienced than any physical forces that had attacked him.  Kingston had kept asking him over and over again what had just happened, regardless of their loud voices giving away their positions. 

“Come on; what exactly was it you saw?” he pleaded to Dixie.  They both felt so powerless. The commandos high up in the tower seemed to be taking their sweet time: with all the nerve-wracking commotion going on, five minutes gone by seemed like an eternity.  He and Dixie were delirious and afraid.  Then dark thoughts started taking over: what if their friends had gotten captured?

“Don’t think that!” Kingston’s own mind warned him. “Resist. They’re coming. They’ll be back!”

 “Landslides” Dixie muttered.  “Landslides and giant …or I don’t even know how to describe what I saw.  I shouldn’t have come on this journey!”  He tried to calm down and analyze what he had just witnessed: he and Kingston had been talking like fools --- probably more loud and reckless than they should have.  Whatever that abomination that had derailed them was had trailed off to the northeast and died out; leaving the two young men witless and reeling.

 They decided the most rational thing to do was stay put and hide as deep and buried as they could just as Laberinto instructed them.  There was really nothing else they could do anyways: they didn’t have the combat skills to fight their way out of this area should anyone discover them.  And they certainly did not have the survival skills to brave their way back home through the frightening Ethierville Heaths and fend themselves off against any of those terrifying humanoid-lion creatures. 

 Dixie started wondering how many reckless decisions he had ignored lately in life that had brought him to this bad end:  here, in the middle of nowhere without any allies maybe alive left in that tower or Ireu running around, without his best friend Chilley-Sue, or his parents --- to save him.

 “I should have never come on this journey!  They should have never pushed me to do it!”  Dixie whispered to his friend. “Maybe it was a cruel cosmic joke. Some evil spirit’s idea of one; knowing the world is going to end and then tricking me into these delusions of grandeur as if I was the one last ray of hope to save it! The devil comes about like a roaring lion, looking for any one he can devour.  My God, my parents always told me never to dabble in the occult!”

  “Dixie, what in the hell are you talking about?”  Kingston asked him uneasily.  “Besides, who the hell is they?”  He peeked around through the branches of the large shrubbery they were hiding under.  The blood-curdling sounds of battle could be heard on and off:  sometimes louder, sometimes closer.  The screams coming from the woods to their left weren’t helping either. 

“Two separate voices that I let entertain in my head have driven me to this end here,” Dixie answered somewhat esoterically.  He leaned heavily on a walking stick Abadno had given him before they had parted ways. “I’m sorry; I know I sound nuts.  It was that mysterious speaker on that weird cell phone and that talking statue.  I should have known from the start: black magic!  My mom always warned me about it:  the devil is a trickster; promising you fame and power, and purpose --- hell, I don’t know.  I just remember my mom telling me the dark arts creep up on you when you’re least expecting them.  And now here we are.”   Clearly, Dixie was starting to lose his wits.

 “Overdramatic, are we?” Kingston replied with a shush.  “Fool; keep it down!”

  “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.  And now purgatory has come upon us,” Dixie continued babbling.  A large blast was heard nearby and the rushing of many feet.  Between the contrast of the dire situation they were in and Dixie’s melodramatic diatribe, Kingston was having a hard time keeping his own cool.

“This is it!” Dixie called out loudly. He looked around nervously, and he repeated something that sounded like a rosary prayer. “Peace is my strength. We’re totally screwed!”

 “Will you relax?” Kingston whispered loudly.  “I don’t need you to get all bible-thumper on me!  And even if we were about to die, I can’t imagine your particular take on it would get you anything, so stop trying so hard!”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t think you really believe in God anyways,” whispered Kingston.  “You don’t strike me as someone that does.  Or if you think you did, you would strike me more like a poser.”

Dixie sat up somewhat perplexed.  “A poser?  You’re calling me a poser?  Why?”

“Because you are one!” Kingston told him in a condescending voice.  “You just got lucky lately: lucky enough to bump into Ireu and company.  I’m not exactly sure that means you exactly have divine providence above all others.  Otherwise, you’re the kind of guy who only loves God when he’s sick.  I’m betting most of the time you could care less about anything deep; only when it is convenient.”

Dixie was flabbergasted.  He didn’t know what to say.  He was a mix of confusion, self-doubt and emasculation.  But at least that shut him up.

 Soon a brigade of Redcoat soldiers could be heard circling up the walkway near the moat surrounding the tower.  Although they remained hiding under a thick bush inside that so-called baseball dugout, both young men kept their heads even lower.   There were screams of calamity and chaos everywhere.

 “The reason I bet you went on this trip is not to save the world” Kingston went on whispering.  “It’s because of the exact opposite.  You’re shallow; sophomoric -- just like me.  You need something to make you feel super-significant.  Throw in a few bible verses, big deal!  That doesn’t make you deep.” 

“Yeah but at least I admit it!”

“You’re not making any sense,” Kingston warned him. “But just keep your mouth shut!”

 The turmoil of footsteps running around the circumference of the great tower could be heard for another several minutes, and then suddenly a mass flux of these footsteps made their way to the north and faded.  Even if their friends were still alive in the tower, escaping that thing wasn’t going to be easy.

“What do you think is the meaning of life?” Dixie asked nervously.

 “What?”

 “Meaning of life.  Meaning, I mean; what does life really mean to you that should give it meaning?”

 “Well, I guess it’s being true to one’s self and living it to its fullest,” Kingston answered with reflection.  “I guess try to do good things that will make you happy, and not let things ruin it for you.”

 “Yeah, yeah: that sounds about right” said Dixie.  “Meaning,  if you really believed that, then you would actually try to live each day to its fullest and it would be obvious.  You would actually be curious about so many things: study everything there is to learn so that you would understand as much as you can about how reality really works.  But if that was true, then you wouldn’t really look like you do.”

“Excuse me?”

 “Hey all I’m saying is you would try harder if you believed wanting to live life to its fullest.  Only if you really believed that, you would really try to achieve a higher level of consciousness; a drive to be that self-aware, but do you?”

 “Do I what?”

 “If you don’t do that then I guess you’re lying to yourself; at least that’s what my best friend Chilley-Sue used to always tell me.  Of course, this is coming from someone who never studied for her math exams, so go figure.”

 Suddenly three Redcoat troopers could be seen circling around the tower and running towards their direction, but before Dixie let himself have another panic attack, they suddenly changed direction and made their way towards the northern woods.

 “Yeah, but I suppose to reach those levels of consciousness, that would take serious effort and most people don’t feel like working that hard,” Kingston answered as they both breathed a sigh of relief.

“You know, if they realized it, they’d see how ironic that is,” said Dixie.  Anything to get his mind off their dilemma.  “They’d probably realize that staying that apathetic actually causes you to work even harder everyday anyways because your ignorance causes you to be ruled and economically exploited by forces greater than you.”

 Kingston turned around and looked at his friend with wonder.  “Sounds like the teachings of… did you come up with that yourself?”

 “My brain sometimes thinks clearer when it’s on overdrive. No; once again, I think my best friend came up with that one.  Sounds about right though.  Or course, she never practiced what she preached.  You know, if anybody was worthy enough to learn this Balhrrama stuff, I think it would be her.  I wonder where the hell she is now?  I mean a month has passed and we’re still not all dead yet.  Maybe I heard everything wrong.”

 “Now what are you talking about?” asked Kingston.

 “I don’t know,” said Dixie.  He looked up at the six hundred foot-plus tower directly in front of him.   No signs of his friends yet; no signs of grappling hooks or tiny shapes skydiving out of the thing.   That was another thing that just hit him: if Abadno and company did succeed in finding these giant treasure troves of scrolls, how the hell did they expect to haul them out of this building?  Were they going to just toss them out of the tower and pick up the scattered items all over the gardens around here?

 Some more battle blasts could be heard in the distance along with the cries of cryptic combat.

“I don’t think we planned this thing very well,” muttered Dixie.

“Well, we’re going to have to figure out how to get out of here if they don’t come back you know,” said Kingston.

 Dixie did not like the reminder one bit.  “No seriously: you think there’s divine providence through all this? Or do you think everything is just cause and effect, and it doesn’t matter who’s good and who’s evil in the end -- or if nature has a reason for destroying people?  Or if we were here through fate? Or is it just random?”

 Once again, Kingston was unexpectedly surprised.  It seemed there was something about being on the brink of earnestly dying that was bringing something profound out of them.  “You mean, like all of this conviction we are feeling about trying to stop the Redcoats who we think are evil ultimately has nothing to do with the fact they are actually evil?  That it doesn’t matter if we thought they were because there is no such thing as good and evil?”

More cannon blasts and battle could be heard taking shape in the distance.  A loud nearby blast.  A few agonizing screams, something that sounded like a person yodeling in fright as if sailing through the air, a thud, and silence again.

“So, you think ultimately, all that matters in life to any living organism is its survival, and we shouldn’t care if we have a right to be pissed?” Kingston continued. “Because logically, it doesn’t matter anyway: that there really is no purpose to any of this as if guided by divine providence, and everything happens just because of physics?  Physics and survival of the fittest.”

 “Well, um, yeah; I guess so.”

  Kingston smiled and shook his head.  “If you absolutely knew for sure that good and evil wasn’t real, and God didn’t exist, and you could finally relax and celebrate because there’s no need to feel the burden of trying to be good, would that make everything easier?”

 “What are you saying?”

“If everyone on Earth could finally celebrate and stop worrying about trying to be good because there’s no hell and therefore, no consequence for our actions, then how the hell do you explain what we are experiencing right now?”

 “I don’t understand.”

 “If there’s no God, I guess there’s no morality, and I guess good and evil would be subjective, and there would be no hell, and then I guess there's no consequence for our actions.  But then again maybe we’d  miss the point, because hell becomes real enough here on Earth at any rate: a jumbled pot of confusion;  imagine these Redcoat assholes becoming as powerful as the Moluccas Brothers and terrorizing the world with their antics and becoming unstoppable in their bullying?  That would be hell on Earth, at any rate.  They’d have to be stopped.  If not by us then yes, I pray God would stop them somehow. So I guess it makes sense I hope God is real because I’d rather he was than he wasn’t.”

 Now Dixie looked at his friend with wonder.  “Church: that’s deep stuff.  How did you…how did you come up with all that?”

 “I came from a family of Mormon missionaries,” he said.  “Too bad I still feel something was still missing from the equation, so I left the family and the farm for fucked up fame and fortune.  But I’m a freaking fool fooling my own mind feeling I’d finally find a fate friendlier by being far from them.”

 “That’s a lot of ‘F’s there,” said Dixie rather dumbly.  “But I think I understand.  Good intentions done by clueless people completely out of their league to do big tasks…” he had to catch his breath since they were both rambling so fast, “…and then end them up hiding near giant towers in the middle of nowhere with monsters roaming the country sides.”

 A following series explosions coming from the tower could be heard.  They weren’t sure, but the sound of many feet all of a sudden coming to life could very faintly be heard radiating out of the high windows of the tower.

 “I think that no matter what happens when you die, I think what matters is you know there was value behind all this,” said Kingston. “I think there is value in things.  Otherwise nothing in life would really matter, because there’s no point feeling any emotions anyways if they’re just chemical processes.  But then if that’s true, then why the fuck am I so scared right now?”

“….” 

“I’m glad depth is real,” Kingston continued. “I’m glad the friends I’ve made that count are deep friendships.  Otherwise, nothing matters, and deep conversations my more shallow friends have about the meaning of life shouldn’t scare them so much.”

  More blasts, battles, guns, screams: everything that was bad about going to war could be heard and seemingly sounding like it was collectively moving towards their direction.  Suddenly the melee sounded like it was changing direction and faded off in the distance.

 “Too hell with my cheesy friends who ghost everyone,” Kingston muttered. “I’ve come to realize the curse is on them; floating from one set of flaky friends to the next: they stay so shallow and simple-minded that they don’t ever end up having any real friends. They wouldn’t take everything as a personal attack.”

“I have real friends!” Dixie defended himself.

“I wasn’t talking about you, was I?” Kingston responded.

Dixie looked at the young man with the giant tricorn hat hiding next to him with wonder.  “When did you ever get so deep?”

“I don’t know; I guess this feels like confession time:  I figured we may be about to die, right?  Figured I’d dig deep and ponder.”    Suddenly something deep inside the tower had sounded like it had been activated.  They couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but it clearly sounded like the faint sounds of explosions could be heard radiating from high up in the tower.   Somewhere in the woods across the other side of the tower they thought they could hear the sound of hundreds of footsteps suddenly running around everywhere and cries of confusion.   Dixie and Kingston closed their eyes in anguish; each one realizing how bad the odds were looking for them to get out of this place…at this rate.

 “Just got to wait till they get back,” Dixie finally managed to muster up with sincerity.  Anything to keep positive.

 “Yeah, I guess I’ve learned some deep stuff about life,” said Kingston.   “For instance, cartoons taught me to stay away from angry women with umbrellas and never trust anyone wearing a giant wool hat on their head during hot weather.”

 “You’re an idiot,” Dixie said with a smile. “Only if they’re protestors I guess.”

 “You know, even if I knew all these profound revelations about the secrets of life, I don’t think it will do me a lick of good,” Kingston admitted.  “I don’t think I’m fit to be a powerful warrior like Laberinto or Abadno, even if they’ve told me anybody could technically train for this Balhrrama ability.  Learning all the practical knowledge about how to develop it won’t change me being able to apply and grow it within me.  Whether being a better person or gaining super-powers; it won’t change all of the chaos of what I am. It’s embedded inside of me too deep: metaphysical inertia – like you say -- working against me making me too lazy.”

 Dixie pondered Kingston’s words, hoping this they didn’t apply to himself either, and hoping fate somehow might give him a second chance to get out of this predicament alive.   Where in the world where their buddies up in that tower?  Not that it probably mattered – there was still the big problem about what was going on back home. 

 “Probably too late to do anything about it,” Dixie’s own thoughts started muttering against him.  This was great: a mountain of adversity – half of it in his own mind – and so much to still be done…that is if Ireu and company lived to be able to carry the cross he was still bearing about this whole Mayan cycle nonsense.

Excerpt from Book IV:  The Doors of Pordula

Copyright 2019 Octavio Rhodes 

"Note the excerpts have been slightly edited and abridged for non spoiler content"

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