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Excerpt from Book VIII:  The Books of Life 

Copyright 2019 Octavio Rhodes 

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

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The night drew on and Dixie was having a troubled dream.    He was dreaming he was back at Craig's cozy base and getting bad advice from the young man -- if being sensible was bad advice.   If 'survival of the fittest' really was the ultimate law of nature, then Dixie already knew he had taken a wrong turn.  

   "Even if you make it back alive, to what would you come back to up there beyond the Halo Firmament?" Craig was saying to him. "The old way of life is due for a tune up; why are you fighting nature?"

 "Because this perception of nature is not the same thing as the ideal creation it could be," Dixie could hear himself replying.  "Finjuna was right.  Everything resonates in frequencies.  We just need to destroy the dark Gradient, not the people themselves."

 And then Craig started to laugh.  As Dixie could hear Craig laughing, he could hear accompanying hoarse laughter that sounded like scraping sand.  "Religious argument, eh?" Craig answered in the dream.   "Even if there were but a few people of any faith back home with enough sense to try to show the world how to really keep peace  -- instead, everyone else is declaring some holy war against an entire planet likely due to a big misunderstanding -- even if you were right about some spiritual reckoning behind it all --  they're a lost cause out there!"

 Dixie started to run away in the dream -- west; towards the Elroge.  But no matter where he went, he could hear Craig's reasonable voice rebuke him.  "You know this: you can't reason with the simple, the fanatics, the mentally troubled, the unwise.  All you'll have back home are zombies roaming through purgatory as they’ve always been.  But have it your way: be enemies against the Universe doing its thing.  Try to save the world and activate the machines; I just hope the few reprobates alive that you're trying to save don't still make your life miserable when you get back, but it’s not my problem."

  Dixie woke up and realized many hours must have passed since they had left the bay.  Time had drawn on.  The light of dawn started to appear in the sky, and the waters changed from an oily black to a pinkish red reflected by the sky.  Strange that it wasn't ivory anymore, but there still appeared to be some heavy ionization in the air despite the added saltiness in it now.   The calendar-shaped device at the top of the mast started to change white in color.  Although no one could make out why that was, it appeared that the tiny lump Dixie and the others thought they had seen had grown into a nice sizeable shape resembling an island: in its center was a large mountain encircled by a lush countryside surrounded by water.   Quetzalpalatus. Despite their hopelessness, Dixie and his friends were glad to see it. 

"Hey; I can say we at least tried all the way to the end," he said proudly to Polo as they gave each other a quick man-hug.   Then he shook Peter and Zeke's hands -- who by now had pledged allegiance to his quest.   There was no turning back.   Either their lives had purpose, or none of this mattered anyway, and the Zeke's boss had been right all along.

"Good thing that's not true," said Peter.  After learning everything they could about the physics of the Spirit Leviathan during this voyage, the two Redcoats were more convinced than ever their ex-boss was completely deluded.

"Even if he makes it deeper into the Spirit Leviathan and passes through the Door…well then good riddance!" Zeke laughed gleefully.   "If all else, just knowing that prick is going towards some direction he'll never come out of…I guess I could die today knowing we've helped get rid of a world-wide threat."   

 "That's a good way to look at it," said Polo.   "It's a win-win: save the world ,or at least your master gets the key and he accidentally screws himself over getting lost inside the deeper voids."

 Everyone was feeling reckless.  While Dixie had slept, Tarnunen had given the two Redcoats a lecture about what some Berrebo accounts had said about what lay below the third level of the Spirit Leviathan.   According to the Codexes, the hollow Earths down there were even more weird that this hollow Earth.  Nobody but a Berrebo Zen master had a chance down there.  It was completely a matter of will and detachment of mind to even breath beyond the fourth layer of the hollow Earths it was said.  “Based on these prospects, your old boss might win this fight, but he will find that truth out too late,” Tarnunen said as he tried to cheer them up, “and that is very encouraging.”

 Under Tarnunen's recommendation, each of them gulped down a shot glass of Ahaiku drink; probably some of the last of his personal stash -- and it might have been the circumstances, or some last blast of energy the drink gave due to its high-inducing connection to Balhrrama, but despite the physical troubles surrounding them, everyone on the gondola vessel was in high spirits; defiant even --  and they knew that if there was ever any honor among warriors, their fate this very last day was worthy of legends.

 While the two Redcoats continued to ask Polo to share anything that his powerful friends had taught him concerning Balhrrama, Tarnunen went up to the bow of the ship.  Looking through the strange magnifying lens attached there, he scanned the island ahead – brooding, and considering how this was likely to be their very last day ahead of them.  He could see what appeared to be cannon blasts exploding around the base of the western side of the island: over there was a large bay and a city built around it that appeared to serve as a port.   All along its skyline there appeared to be various explosions.   The clouds above the island had formed, and Krakens appeared to be coming down over and over towards the city like fire-breathing dragons; smothering entire sections in a thick wall of fog before ascending back towards the distance. 

 "So close and you still don't see the mistake you've made this whole time," Dixie could hear Craig's voice suddenly say to him in his head as he was leaning over the starboard side of the ship and staring at the water.  "You're fighting the Creator's wish -- the very thing you're trying to befriend."  Dixie knew it wasn't really Craig, but perhaps those wretched devils in this place: the disembodied who were playing tricks on him.  They seemed to know no locality in their existence down here: they were everywhere at the same time; watching his body language, listening to his words -- his thoughts.

"You're fighting the physical Universe -- the Creator you would befriend," said the thought.

"They re not the same things," Dixie struggled to think out loud.  He wished Finjuna was here.  "The Universe, Creator, virtues," Dixie mumbled even louder.  "Don't get your mind scrambled and do something dumb right now!" he warned himself.  Even though his good friends Polo and Tarnunen were here, he truly felt alone.  But he knew he should not give into the temptation of quitting.

 Perhaps a half hour had gone by.  As Tarnunen peered again through the lens, the Kraken attacks appeared to have cleared, but light cannon blasts and the sounds of war could be heard ahead.  The mysterious fleet was still relentlessly pursuing from behind.  As reality started to sink in, Dixie's mind started to panic even more.   He thought of Craig's words once again:  What exactly were they trying to save anyway?  Up until now he hadn't even thought of the cultural and civil wars practically happening everywhere back on his home-planet: the economic misery there due to selfishness, the bio-manipulation going on everywhere, the mass genetic hybridization failures gone wrong, the aliens, the confusion; the delusions.

Dixie blinked as he looked towards the west.  He thought could see the shores of the island now. He had gone this far and couldn't turn back. Hey; everything so far had told him that following through to reach this disaster ahead was the obvious solution.

"It is too late.  Just give up and sink this ship.  Better fate than when the Gamemaster catches you," the thoughts kept telling him.  Whether it was the voice of the disembodied or his own thoughts didn't matter anymore.

"The human race is a lost cause," he could hear Craig's voice saying again even though he technically knew it wasn't his voice.  "Even the 'good people'; the morally righteous compared to the rest of those ‘holier than thou’ never got it right.  They're not worth saving either.  Most of them are walking paradoxes.  Ask around."

  Ignoring the doubts in his mind, Dixie took another shot of Ahaiku and gulped a deep breath.  The breathing exercises calmed him for a bit, but soon the thoughts were back with a vengeance.  "This world is for the intelligent; the strong and powerful.  He was technically right:  anything less than the mighty are just hunted species.  They've given up; they're mediocre...manipulating, easy to be manipulated; thinking they are strong and yet pretty weak!  An embarrassment to the Universe.  They were put on this planet for the prey--  the thrill of the hunt."

 "I refuse to believe that," Dixie argued out loud.

"Some people just can't help it.  They bring out the worst in people," the thought argued back.   "Well just picture the human race doing that to each other all the time...You re going to have to realize someday that for some people, it really boils down to natural selection.  They can't be helped because they don't want to help themselves.  The show must go on, and with or without them nature continues..."

 "I refuse to believe that!" Dixie cried again as he pounded his fist on the rail.

 "Easy!" someone cried from behind.  "We're all on the same boat!"

 "No you re not," the thought went on mischievously.  "Look around; literally...only a few of you have a chance of existence.  That's if you somehow can change your course.  Craig was right though: you’re trying too hard trying to make a futile difference. You've headed too far west."

"I'm not listening!" Dixie cried out loud and stormed up to the bow to hang with Tarnunen.

"How do you do it?" he pleaded with the Berrebo.  "How do you block the thoughts?"

 "Will," Tarnunen answered.  "It’s not easy, and it is draining.  But I will not have those formless scum try to steal my mind just because they have doomed themselves to this wretched existence!"   As Tarnunen stared ahead, the light in his eyes shifted dim but he regained himself.   "Or if rest works -- if our beloved Finjuna was on to something and that gives you an unlimited reservoir of power, then do that: true confidence.   I will not contest such things." All he knew was that the island was ahead…

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