Vrillassa's Only Priest
Dreamed 2007/2/10 by Jo
At work, I read books on the history of Baha'i, an Abrahamic religion based on the unity of humanity. It inspires me how willing people are to die for it. I have a small crisis of faith: I am a Pagan, my religious heroes are bastards, and my religion is filled with people looking for an easy fix to their life's woes. Modern Pagans are not martyrs; most of the time they're just pretentious. Yet these Baha'is believed in their God enough to endure torture cheerfully.
But I know I could never convert; it is impossible for me to stop being what I am.
I am staring at a map of a world I have always lived on, a world much like Earth in many ways, with one important distinction: there are no borders. My home nation, the Human Democratic Federation, bleeds seamlessly into the Elven populations; it is impossible to say where one state begins and the other ends. A state fades away as you run into less and less of its citizens.
The world has one huge continent, and on the far side of a wide ocean is another, what you would call the "Third World". And like you, our Second World is rather unimpressive: an outcropping of rock between the continents we call Vrillassa. Nothing grows there, so until very recently we never bothered with it. But now there are new colonies on Vrillassa. The island fascinated me so much that the moment I qualified as a priest I applied to work there. The nice thing about being a priest is you can work anywhere. Everyone needs priests.
On the east coast of the Human Federation the island of Vrillassa is visible from the sea, a thing that would be totally impossible without the planet's natural magical distortion fields. I lived for a while with the people on the coast; I had gone to my college nearby, and I met many people involved with colonising Vrillassa. Their stories fascinated me; I spent many happy evenings listening to them.
I like the Federation. No other power in the universe with our level of technology would try to build a bridge across an ocean to a practically uninhabited island. But we did. We always try such things, without even knowing why. So when it comes time for me to set off, I just walk across the bridge to my new home.
My biggest surprise on this journey is that there are small islands along the way. Each is more remote and less inhabited that the last, but there they are. In school we were taught geography as if the world were binary. There's the civilised mainland, the wasteland of Vrillassa, and the Third World. Who would have thought that between these two great poles there were so many shades of grey?
Eventually, I come to the furthest point in the bridge, where construction is still under way. From there I have to take a boat to Vrillassa.
As soon as I land on the island, I'm shown to the hyper-modern university--all part of the Federation's big investment scheme. They let me go everywhere in the university except the library. Of course, I sneak in the first chance I get. It's beautiful, they've spared no expense.
It occurs to me that we could create a system where books were ordered by subject, with borders and boundaries between the subjects. I try to reorder the books this way, but the shelves fall over, and the books fall off. I get bored, give up, and leave, to go do my proper job.
It makes me nervous. I'm a kind of Pagan, kind of Baha'i; but this is a Christian ministry. Of course, there are no borders between religions, not on my world; while Christianity is a big faith, it's in no way the dominant faith. I was the best they could get, so I'll have to do--even if the whole situation seems stupid to me.
The apartment the Church gave me is in a crumbly old concrete building. The place is full of junk, too; the old priest kept a lot of crap I know I'll toss. I find some videos of him, so I get to see who I'm replacing: an old black guy with greying hair and a friendly look in his eyes. I like the guy. In the video he says "Local prophecies state that the next priest will properly establish the Christian community in Vrillassa." This scares me a lot. I'm a young Pagan kid who drinks too often and hates too easily. How am I supposed to build a Christian community?
My first action is to go downstairs, meet the twenty people who considered themselves part of the Christian Community in Vrillassa in a cafe, and ask them to help me collect the old priest's belongings. This is all the plan I've got: start with the community as I find it, and pick up where the last priest left off.
God help me.
But when I go out, I find I'm in the town of Milton Keynes, where I grew up. My parents are there. We notice two poles in the ground, and my parents say "Remember when you were small? You pretended the two poles were two continents of an exotic fantasy world." Instead of being the new minister on Vrillassa, now I'm visiting my family and reading a book on the Baha'i faith (which fascinates me through the remainder of my visit).
We walk together past a Boots Pharmacy. Outside it is a giant bird. Dying. No... dead.
My parents just walk by, but I'm fascinated by the great bird. A man walks out of the shop and explains "That bird is God. He came here looking for healing. He was injured beyond his own ability to help, though he's a healer himself. He flew into the windows. Now he's dead."
Funny that God, who hates borders between states and peoples, was killed by another invisible boundary, this time a glass window.
Suddenly, God raises his head on its broken bird neck and speaks. He tells me "There are no borders, and even though you don't belong to my latest faith, the Baha'i, I still love you and want you to work for me." He adds "One day you'll be a martyr to my cause," and as he says it, there's a touch of a smile on the corners of his bird mouth. It's the same smile I get when I'm lucid dreaming and I know I can kill everyone I meet instantly if I want to. That's okay. There is joy in death. Eventually we will win. We will build a better world. God and me.
I wake up in a hotel room. My friends are staying next door. I get up and go to tell them of my dream-encounter with God, but they're distracted. One of them accidentally deleted a holographic representation of myself at seven years old. We try, but can't fix or retrieve it. But at last I do tell him my dreams, and about God.
And then I wake again.
A few days after the dream, I attended an event run by the local Christian Union. I got judged by evangelical types for a while. They told me "Your problem is you haven't spent enough time seeking God." For the next month I pray every day, trying to discover God outside of cultural confinements while remaining aware of the religious philosophies of all cultures. I don't bother the Christians or the Baha'is or the Pagans too much. They have their own ideas.
I'm not sure we can help each other, with all these borders everywhere.
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