Gary J McCleary has worked
as a Mathematics teacher since obtaining his Science Degree majoring in
Mathematics and Physics from
He has always had an
interest in works of science fiction and more recently has undertaken research
into spirituality with particular reference to the ‘Near Death Experience’.
Since retiring he has tried to explore both of these themes in his novels
Raised as an Angel, An Angel
in the Making and Millennium’s End.
The book before you now, Journey to a Far Away Place is set in the same universe as the original trilogy but it can be considered as a stand alone book in its own right. In this story the idea of the ‘afterlife’ is explored fully with particular attention given to the lower regions which are sometimes called the Lower Astral Plane or ‘Hell’.
The young soldier, having
changed into civilian clothes, crept silently past the watch tower at the
outskirts of Kalgoorlie Army Base located in the great southern
His family had originally
The first night he made good time, managing to travel at near jogging speed for a good eight hours of darkness along the main highway. He had brought along in his kit bag enough water to last two days and nights and enough army rations to last a fortnight. The only other item that he carried was that which no soldier would ever be without; his rifle and ammunition belt.
During his time at the army
As the first rays of early morning light spread across the landscape Tommy made his way down the familiar dirt track towards the old mine entrance which was five kilometres off the main road. The rough track being overgrown meant that he was well concealed from the air but still he breathed an inward sigh of relief when he stepped into the cool darkness of the interior of what had once been Number One shaft.
When his eyes became accustomed to the darkness he got a glimpse of just how much equipment had had to be abandoned when the mine closed down. There must have been a fortune here in old mining machinery but economically it just hadn’t been viable to try and sell it or ship it back east. Certainly he wasn’t here now looking for anything to do with mining machinery. As a kid he had been instilled with the unwritten first law of survival in the desert which was to always, underline ALWAYS, leave a reserve supply of survival gear and water at any abandoned depot because you never knew when that might be all that stands between you and a lonely outback death.
Six tunnels ran off from the main shaft and Tommy had no trouble identifying the one that he wanted which he knew housed the ten-foot tall iron safe that Edwards had used as an emergency storage locker. The door and the lock were covered in rust after the passage of time but when Tommy punched in the combination to the old lock the door swung open to reveal the contents within. There were several rows of canned food which would probably still be useable but with the army rations that he had with him he knew that these wouldn’t be needed. Behind these was a 44-gallon water drum and when he tapped on its sides he was relieved to find that it was full. At least now he had the means of replenishing his own supplies which bought him a little more time.
There was one more thing
that he hoped to find here in the old mine and he was only too aware that
without it his chances of crossing the desert and making it all the way to
He saw it then on the wall of the old tunnel and he felt his heart leap in his chest at the memories that it invoked. It was a small heart scratched into the timber of one of the supports and inside was the little inscription (‘T’ + ‘V’ forever). She meant everything to him and it had been that way from the very beginning. When he had first come to stay with the Edwards family he had been just 15 years of age and Edwards’ two sons were several years older than that. Their mother had perished in the influenza epidemic a few years before but their little sister had survived.
He could clearly recall her image in his mind’s eye as she had been on the day when he had first seen her when she herself had been only 15. Little Vicky Edwards had still retained some of the gangly immaturity of childhood but the beautiful mature woman that she would become was fast becoming obvious for all to see. Also her newly acquired status as ‘woman’ of the family had accelerated her development towards maturity.
Tommy had fallen in love with her the moment that he laid eyes on her but for her it had taken a little longer; nearly a full hour in fact. They had walked together along a clear bush stream swapping stories of their lives so far. She talked of her life spent in and around the mine where she had been mainly home schooled and he had related to her some of his adventures around the town of Kalgoorlie and what it was like to be the ‘school master’s son’.
Edwards, her father, and to some extent her two brothers as well came over as being fairly old fashioned and paternalistic in their views and they certainly would not have approved of what went on in complete secrecy over the next three years.
They had made passionate love together on that first day, both completely lacking in experience but both completely lost in their desire for each other. The old powder room containing barrels of gun powder and other explosives had served as the backdrop for their lovemaking.
No doubt if Vicky’s mother had still been alive she would have seen through their charade but neither Edwards nor either of his sons ever suspected Vicky of being anything but the shy and naïve ‘good’ girl that she outwardly appeared to be. Certainly she and Tommy were very careful never to show any affection for each other in public.
It came as some surprise then when Vicky, approaching her 18th birthday calmly explained to her father and brothers that she and Tommy intended to get married on her birthday. By now her authority as ‘matriarch’ of the family was well established and no one was about to challenge her. She confidently assigned tasks to each of them in preparation for the big day and she astutely gave detailed instructions to her father as to what role he was to play in the ceremony by formally ‘giving away the bride’ and making the appropriate speeches.
Once again, if she had been alive, a mother’s keen gaze would probably have noticed that Vicky’s wedding dress was a little too big and loose around the middle but certainly none of her male relatives did.
Now four years later Tommy Wells stood reading their childhood dedication to each other and his eyes filled with tears. She had borne him a wonderful son whom they had named Anthony James Wells. ‘Little Tony’ as they affectionately called him was soon coming up to his fourth birthday and he was the image of his father and a pride and joy to both his parents.
The war which had started in
the northern hemisphere had taken some time to reach
Tommy would never forget the
night they had sat and listened to the announcement on the radio by Prime
Minister Robert Powell as he solemnly declared
Army Command, realising that
they could not defend such a large and sparsely populated area and not wanting
to lose precious soldiers in a battle that could not be won had immediately
drawn a line on the map extending from
Disturbing stories began filtering through from the occupation zone about torture and mass rape. Young children were being torn from their mother’s arms and placed into indoctrination camps with a view to turning them into child soldiers for the enemy. Women of child bearing age were being herded into ghettos where the enemy soldiers regularly forced themselves onto them with a view to making them pregnant to produce still more child soldiers. Older men and women if they were able bodied were being interned in forced labour camps.
One day the thought of his Vicky and their son being treated in this way had become too much for young Tommy and so he had resolved to quit the army and to take matters into his own hands. He knew that the efforts of one man alone would be futile against such huge odds but he had come to the point that he no longer cared about his own life. He only hoped that some opportunity would present itself where he could swap his life for that of Vicky and little Tony.
He saw it then covered in dust and black powder residue leaning against the back wall of the powder room. The old Speedwell bicycle that he and Vicky had played with as children was still intact but the tyres seemed a little the worse for wear. Attached to the front handlebars was the metal carry case that Vicky had ridden in when they had embarked on their many ‘adventures’ together and he was pleased to see that the small hand pump and repair kit was still there.
Carefully he removed both wheels from the frame and then he was able to take the tyres off the rims to reveal the inner tubes inside. Some repairs were needed but after a couple of hours work he was pleased to be able to inflate both tyres and to re attach the wheels to the bike. Now at least he stood a fighting chance of reaching his destination which still lay over four hundred kilometres away to the west and he settled down to get a few hours of sleep before darkness returned outside.
Finally when darkness came
he set off on the ancient Speedwell down the
Once again as dawn approached he found a secluded and shaded spot on the side of the road to wait out the long hot hours of daylight. He repeated this pattern three more times and by dawn of the fifth day he had reached his destination on the outskirts of Bassendean. By now his excitement and sense of anticipation was threatening to overwhelm him.
People in civilian clothing were moving about the streets but a strange and all pervading silence seemed to hang over the place. Indonesian soldiers in their bright red and brown uniforms could be seen patrolling the streets but other than that there were no young people to be seen. Tommy realised that the civilians here were all aged citizens of both sexes and their demeanour as they shuffled about said that they had lost all hope. He knew at once that even with several days of growth on his beard that he would stand out as being very different to the other civilians. If the soldiers caught him he would probably be shot as a spy or sent off to one of the forced labour camps so he decided to stay well out of sight until night fell.
Finally, under the cover of
the eerie red moonlight that passed as darkness these days, he made his way
around to the small rented house in
The whole house was in darkness and no light could be seen from any of the windows or doors which made him think that it must be abandoned. He pulled from his pocket a small key and was about to insert it in the back door lock when he heard a violent scream from a few houses down the road.
It was a woman’s voice and the sheer intensity and pain of it tore at his heart strings. “NO! That’s my baby! You can’t take my baby!”
After that he heard a series of loud thuds as if someone was being punched against a wall and a baby began crying uncontrollably. Then he heard a single gunshot followed by a profound silence until once again the baby started to cry. He saw the soldiers then as they marched away from the house and he heard the harsh sounds of their footsteps on the gravel road. He noticed that one of them was carrying a small bundle rather roughly in his arms. Silently he watched as they approached the next house and it became obvious that they were doing a house to house search.
Tommy quickly inserted the key in the lock and he forced the door open. Inside it was at first total blackness but his eyes soon became adjusted to the very weak light. To his complete amazement they were both there together huddled in the corner of the room. She had the boy cradled in one arm and in the other hand she held a large calibre pistol which she had pointed straight at him!
“Vicky it’s me; Tommy!” He was amazed at how raw his own voice sounded.
“It’s me don’t shoot. What’s going on here?”
“Tommy…” For an instant she was that shy little fifteen-year-old girl again from their childhood but she quickly stifled a sob and regained her composure. “Tommy, they are coming for our son! What are we going to do? What can we possibly do?”
Tommy ran to his family slamming an ammunition cartridge into his service rifle as he did so and he swiftly cocked the action. “I don’t know my darling. These two guns are as nothing against them. We may be able to kill a couple of their soldiers but that’s all.”
It was only seconds later that they heard the unmistakeable crashing sound of their front door being kicked in followed by the loud footsteps of many soldiers in the hallway.
The door of their tiny hideaway burst open and the room was suddenly awash with a harsh white light. In that instant they were like three tiny animals caught in the glare of the hunter’s spotlight. When the soldiers saw that the adults were armed they drew their weapons. The leader issued a harsh command in Indonesian, Bukan anak! And then the soldiers fired their guns at point blank range.
Tommy saw the flashes of light when the rifles discharged but then everything went completely still and silent. It became a moment frozen in time and even the smoke from the discharge of the guns hung motionless in the air.
Slowly and seemingly without effort Tommy stood up from where he had been crouching with his wife and son and as he turned to look back he could clearly see all three including himself, Vicky and little Tony crouched and frozen together in the corner of the room. A single thought crossed his mind. ‘So this is what death is like.’
“You have no idea what death is like but you’re about to find out!” The voice seemed to come from all around him or perhaps it was just in his mind.
“What’s… happening here? I don’t understand… anything!”
Just then a tall figure stepped from the shadows. To Tommy it appeared to be a man dressed immaculately in a black suit wearing a bright red shirt and an even brighter red tie. Something about the man wasn’t right though and Tommy felt a chill run over his whole body.
Once again he clearly heard the words in his mind. “You Mr Wells, would appear to be a man who may be interested in doing a little business. If you are not just say the word and I will leave you to your fate as there are plenty more like you.”
“Who are you and what do you want from me?”
“You are dead Mr Wells; you, your wife and your son!”
Tommy glanced back at the three bodies crouched motionless in the corner of the room but he still struggled to understand what was happening to him. “If I’m dead how come I’m talking to you?”
“I’ve come to offer you a deal Mr Wells, because you have something that I want. Firstly you need to understand that death is not the absolute oblivion that many think it is. Most ‘reasonably good’ people such as you move on after death to other material existences and eventually higher planes of existence. However, that is not true in this world which is actually a duplicate of your original Earth. I control this world; I ALONE! I have erected a psychic barrier around the entire planet which prevents the souls of people escaping after death. Instead people are re-born here in a never ending cycle of life and death in order to fuel the ever intensifying war that I have instigated and which is expanding all over the planet.”
“You are quite MAD of course!”
“Here’s the deal Mr Wells, and I warn you to think fast because I am not a patient individual. In fact I have no patience at all for your kind.”
“What do you want from me?”
“I want your soul Mr Wells, because it is my ticket into one of the higher worlds which has long been denied to me.”
“You want my soul?” Tommy couldn’t believe what he was hearing or saying.
“Yes Mr Wells, I want your immortal soul!”
“And what do I get in return?”
“I will allow the souls of the woman and the child to pass through the psychic barrier. From there they will be able to enter one of the life tunnels and be directed to a new life by The Guardians who rule the higher worlds.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Then the three of you will be continually reborn into this world with no previous memories of each other, time after time. You will be soldiers in a never ending war with each life and death being more ghastly than the one before.”
“So if I accept your deal then Vicky and my son will be safe in an enlightened world?”
“Yes, that is so.”
“What about me? Where will I be without my immortal soul?”
“That’s the interesting part. Now what say you?”
For Tommy there was no choice really. He had come here to try and save his beloved Vicky and their son and compared to them his own life was as nothing. “Alright I accept your offer.”
The dark suited figure immediately pulled from his pocket a small hand-held device. “I will just need you to press your thumb onto the middle of this screen.”
Tommy hesitated briefly but when he looked back at the still forms of his wife and son lying against the wall in the corner of the room he did as instructed. With his own free will he pressed his thumb onto the notepad screen and the deal was sealed.
Tommy found himself standing in thick mud surrounded by almost total darkness but although the lighting was poor he could see that he was also enveloped in a thick fog. There was an eerie stillness about the place but there were small background sounds that he couldn’t quite place but which were frightening on some primordial level. He found that he could walk and move about but every direction seemed to be the same.
Suddenly he became aware of movement off to one side and he heard the high pitched screech of what sounded like a mythical banshee. The creature lunged at him then and its huge beak bit deep into his arm causing extreme pain and confusion. For an instant he stared into its horrible face and deep piercing eyes and for the first time in his memory he experienced absolute terror.
The pain in his arm was excruciating and when he looked down at his feet he could see pools of his own bright red blood.
Sadly this was just the beginning. It took only moments more before an uncounted number of the creatures surrounded him and at least a dozen of the cruel beaks and long talons dug agonisingly into his flesh. Everywhere his whole body exploded in pain and he was sure that he would pass out from the intensity of it. He tried to beat the creatures away with his hands which were now covered in his own thick red blood but still they came at him. Sheer terror rose within him and he noticed that what little light there was had rapidly faded. Soon he would be lying on the ground in complete darkness with the creatures literally tearing him to bits!
One of the creatures had almost completely bitten through his right arm and with one extreme shake of its head it tore his arm away from his body. Tommy involuntarily bent down to pick up the severed arm but when he did so he curiously noted that he had done it not with his left arm but with his right arm which was bloodied but still firmly attached to his body!
Still the creatures tore into him and while the pain was unbearable and continuously increasing he showed no sign of losing consciousness. He saw other limbs torn off and one of the creatures poked its sharp beak into his eye socket completely rupturing his eye. Still nothing dimmed his senses or muted the pain in any way and he had a sense that his eye which had been stabbed and was extremely painful still remained intact.
Soon the creatures were pulling on his intestines and he could clearly see these scattered in the mud at his feet. He screamed out in his agony and his anguish for help from anyone but there was no one to answer his pleas. Tommy had never been a religious person but he screamed out now to any and every religious figure that he had ever heard of but once again he had the feeling of being totally alone.
Strangely, although his body was being systematically torn apart at the same time it remained intact. Finally it dawned on him that this was ETERNAL punishment. There was no death in this place just continued unabated pain and torture for all of eternity!
Tommy lay down in the mud and tried to curl his body into the foetal position but it did nothing to quell the onslaught from the creatures. A part of his mind began to question why this particular method of torture was being used. Wasn’t ‘Hell’ supposed to be a place of endless fires and endless suffering at the hands of devils with pitch forks forever poking their victims towards the fires? Ironically another part of his mind already had an answer. “Don’t worry that comes later.”
Now the creatures were attempting to drag him to his feet so that they could lead him off to another place. He tried desperately to pull away but it was to no avail. Also he noticed that what light had originally existed was now almost non existent and that he was almost totally consumed by fear.
In his mind’s eye he called up the image of her beautiful face and even though he knew that she could not hear him he gently called her name. His Vicky was everything to him and he took solace in the knowledge that she at least was safe and happy somewhere. In the midst of everything that was happening to him here, he remembered the boundless love that he had for her and little Tony, and the positive emotion began to build in him to the point that he thought his heart would burst.
For some reason his attackers had started to distance themselves from him and the pain that had permeated every part of his body was starting to abate. When he looked about him the environment didn’t look nearly so dark and the fog had cleared almost completely away. He wondered where the light was coming from but when he looked down at his body and his hands understanding slowly came to him.
His own palms shone with a gentle white light as did the rest of his body. It was HIM! He was the source of the light in this place! In that instant he felt sorry that anyone would be forced to exist in a place like this and these feelings even extended to his attackers. Involuntarily he reached out his arm to one of the banshee creatures but to his amazement the creature recoiled in absolute horror as if it had suddenly became afraid of his touch.
This day he had learned a valuable lesson and no doubt there would be many more to come. Love was the key! “Love your enemies as you love your friends and yourself.” Someone very important had once said that and it was a good philosophy to live by in life but in here it would appear to be the law!
Now that he could more clearly see his surroundings he made a point of trying to take in every detail that he could. Everywhere for as far as he could see the land was grey and drab and covered in a layer of thick mud. There were small dead trees with the same dull grey colouring as the landscape and these also extended for as far as he could see in every direction. In the far distance ahead he could just make out the group of creatures that had attacked him and it was clear that they were all keen to distance themselves from him.
Loneliness now became his overriding emotion and a part of him, as ridiculous as it seemed, longed for the return of the banshee creatures. It seemed that the human psyche recognised different types of pain and that the feeling of complete aloneness compared on a par with physical pain. He knew now that he was lost beyond all hope of redemption and that he would be spending the rest of eternity in this place wherever it was. Certainly it fit every description of ‘Hell’ that he had ever imagined or had explained to him by the ministers in church when he had bothered to attend. There was NO WAY out of here, no way at all. If there was a good ‘God’ somewhere then he certainly didn’t reside anywhere around here. This was the domain of the damned and the lost who had committed horrible sins while they had been alive. This was the garbage dump of the universe; the place for the unwanted and the unloved.
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