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​Chapter 16
The Four Paths & the Cave of Truly Truth

And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist.  1 John 2:22  NLT

     They walked steadily without much talk, wanting to travel as far from the Land of Strongholds as possible. The road began climbing and before long they were breathing heavier. The grassy fields gave way to gray stone. Thankfully it grew cooler as they climbed, bringing relief from the heat. Eventually the road became just a narrow path through large piles of broken rocks. Now it was steep. They were nearly exhausted when Leif, who was in the lead, held up his hand.
     "Hmm, this is something new."
     The others came alongside and saw what he meant. Ahead the path broke into four paths.
     "This has never happened before," Kamiko exclaimed. "What do you think it means?"
     "No problem," answered Devan. "We'll just use our Sensing to detect the Beat. That way we’ll know which path is the correct one."
     They focused on their Sensing.
     "Okay, got it. Onward!" Leif announced.
     He headed up one of the paths but stopped when he realized the others had not followed.
     "What's wrong?"
     "You're on the wrong path," Isabella said, pointing. "It's this one."
     "But I'm sensing this one," Kamiko said, pointing to a different one.
     They looked at Devan. He just pointed to the remaining path.
     "No!" said Isabella, beginning to cry. "The Source can't split us up!" Isabella put her arms around Leif. "I won't leave you."
     Leif felt the same at the thought of leaving Isabella. He put his arms around her and held her while she sobbed. Kamiko and Devan said nothing, but they looked as forlorn as Leif had ever seen them.
     "Let's sleep on it," he finally said. "We’ll camp here for the night."
     In silence everyone unpacked the sleeping bags Agent Lopez had given them. It was a long night. They arose the next morning though none had slept much. Each of the four paths branched off as far as they could see, gradually growing farther and farther apart. By the dawn's light they could see small piles of rocks at the point where the path divided, put there by previous Journeyers. Leaned against some of the piles were flat stones with a person's name scratched on it. Leif wondered where those people were now. Had they finished their journey? It was obvious they would be totally alone if each took the path they sensed the Beat wanted them to go on. Each of them struggled with the thought.
     Isabella sat on a nearby boulder and stared into the distance. Leif went over to her, sat down and put his arm around her. Tears dripped off her cheeks.
     "I don't want to lose you now. You're the kind of man I have been looking for."
     "And you are the kind of woman I have been looking for. We just have to trust the Source. Trust the journey. This is obviously some kind of test."
     "I know, I know. That's one of the things I love about you. You want the best from the Source."
     "And you do, too. That's one of the things I love about you. In fact, it's the main thing."
     They sat close for a long time.
     "I'm ready to go on my path," Devan stated.
     "Me, too," agreed Kamiko. "The sooner the better."
     "Just be careful," Leif warned. "Remember your training. The Source has reasons for this, I'm sure. It's for our good; for the good of the journey."
     They hugged each other. Leif and Isabella had a long kiss. With a wave, each began their separate ways.
     "Until we meet again," Leif said hopefully.
     If we meet again, the others were thinking. As each climbed their separate paths, the others gradually faded away in the distance. They frequently paused climbing to stop and look at the others for a few moments, especially Leif and Isabella. Eventually they could no longer see each other. With each step, they felt more and more alone. The path became even less defined and steeper. Soon they were scrambling in places on flat, shale-like rocks that made them slip and lose ground. As far up the path as they could see was just grey stones and stunted shrubs…no birds or animals…not even any wind, just sameness. At the end of the day they had no idea how far they had come.
     It was that way the next day and the next. It seemed that many days had passed, but they weren’t sure. They made little marks or picked up small stones, except on the days they forgot. They also found they had nothing to do but let their thoughts run wild, which they tended to do. Sometimes it took all their effort to keep from dwelling on negative thoughts. What in the world are we doing? each thought more than once. Doubts and fears wanted to arise.
     Devan especially was prone to negative thoughts. But then he would remember how he had overcome such thoughts in the tower. Kamiko remembered how she had escaped her Constructs. Isabella was comforted by how she was able to part from Leif. She thought it would devastate her, and in some ways, it had. But she also felt stronger for it, although she had times of intense longing for him.
     As for Leif, he was plagued by worry for the others. He knew he had been the leader of the group in a number of ways, and that thought strengthened him now. He had not worked for that position, it just seemed to be. But he saw himself as more of an encourager and exhorter, not one to tell the others what to do. Yet he still had a sense of responsibility for the others. He so wanted the best for them. And his love for Isabella had grown even stronger when she made the decision to go on her separate path. He missed her terribly, but he knew they would be together again. That thought encouraged him, but he, too, had his moments when doubts would assail his mind.
     Leif spotted something new far up the path. A man was looking down at him. Leif found himself ridiculously relieved and happy to see something other than gray stone. He hadn't realized just how much of a strain the past days had been. He waved both arms above his head. The man waved back, motioning him to come. Leif redoubled his climbing.  When he was close enough the man yelled out "Hello!" Leif yelled “hello” back. Before long Leif was there: a cave at a wide place in the path. Banners flew from poles at the entrance.
     Leif noticed several things. The man was thirtyish, exceedingly handsome and well built. Like a model, Leif thought. He wore an expensive suit. The cave’s entrance was lined with various polished stones set into it. “Ornate” came to Leif’s mind. It could even be called exquisite, he decided. Over the opening of the cave, in in-laid letters that looked to be gold, was a sign that read "The Cave of Truly Truth.”
     Truly truth? That’s an odd wording, Leif thought.
     "Welcome," the man said. "Come in and rest for a moment. I need to talk to you."
     Leif activated his Sensing. He sensed he was to go in. Inside, the floor of the cave was polished to a high gloss, with beautiful veins of marble throughout. Decorative lamps set into niches in the walls gave a warm, inviting glow. An ornate desk and two comfortable chairs were positioned on a beautiful rug. Next to the desk was a table piled high with all manner of good things to eat and drink. This was the first time Leif had seen physical food since coming to Beyond.
     "Sit. Have some wine. It’s the best," the man stated, sitting behind the desk. "Why, I don't know, but the Source seems to think you don't need it here.”
     Sitting, Leif realized it did look tasty. He was reaching for some cheese when he realized that for the first time since his training with Gerard, his Sensing wasn’t picking up anything from the Source. The decision to eat would be his alone. Leif’s hand slowed as he was reaching. Time seemed to slow down. Two versions of truth were battling inside him. All the doubts and fears he had been fighting on his lonely path came rushing back.
     "Maybe later," he said, pulling his hand back.

     And with those words, he was free of the force of the man’s temptations. Leif thought he saw a momentary look of annoyance appear on the man's face. But the man quickly smiled again. This guy smiles too much, Leif thought.
     "You’re probably pretty tired. Why can't the Source pick a better route? He tries to make everything so hard, don't you think?"
     "I've never thought about it," Leif replied. "The Source seems to be doing pretty well so far."
     This time there was a definite moment when a look of anger came over the man. Again, he quickly smiled.
     "Look, let me be frank. I'm here to help you. This journey stuff and great truths stuff and purpose of life stuff are all lies. You don’t need the Source for that. You can find that out by yourself. You have it within you to live your own life. You have the power. You don't need help with that. You can't believe what the Source is saying to you. The Source just wants to be the boss of everything, including you. Don't fall for these lies. Let me help you instead. I won't fool you like the Source has."
     At that, Leif got up and began walking back towards the entrance of the cave. The man shouted at his back, "Don't you understand? If you continue on your so-called ‘journey’ the Source will control every part of your life!"
     Leif paused at the entrance and turned back to the man.
     "That's what I'm counting on."
     He began climbing again without looking back once.

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