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Chapter 4
Training Time

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.  Psalms 42:1  NLT

     Sunrise found them still walking. They walked briskly, with little talking. The terrain went from flat and grassy to hills with trees and shrubs. The hills grew steeper. Climbing steadily as they walked, they reached a point where Gerard stopped and pointed.
     "The Center." 
     In the morning light, they saw nestled in the cliffs over them a small edifice recessed into the cliff face so that only one wall with eight windows was visible. The wall was made of brown bricks similar in color to the cliff.
     “It doesn’t look inviting,” Leif remarked, staring up at it.
     “It doesn’t give the Dark Forms much to grasp on to, not that they would show up when I’m here anyway. They know better.”
     Gerard didn’t say any more. Leif looked at his friends. They weren’t smiling.  There appeared to be no access to the Center.
     Gerard resumed walking. As he approached the base of the cliffs, he disappeared into a concealed cave with a stairwell. After a climb of four stories, they found themselves at a heavy wooden door. Gerard unlocked it and ushered them into a large room. They had arrived.
     The large room had a couple of small circular tables with chairs, a sofa and a fireplace. The walls were painted with cheerful colors and some nice pictures hung at intervals. They were a little disappointed for they had envisioned varnished wood paneling and interesting furniture and decorations. It reminded them of a generic office building. Gerard gave them a tour of the place. It was nothing more than the large room they had first entered and a long hall leading to small rooms. One room had chairs, a podium, and a white board. Its plain walls announced it was for learning only. Another room was obviously an office with a desk and filing cabinets. More rooms contained a single-sized bed and a small chest of drawers. Each person was assigned one of these rooms.
     “These are your sleeping quarters,” Gerard said tersely.
     “This place could use some redecorating,” Isabella whispered to Kamiko.
     “You’ll find the chest in your room contains clothes that will fit you,” Gerard said. “And I assume you were commenting on the décor. We don’t want you too comfortable here. My job is for your stay to be as short as possible.”
     One room was locked which Gerard said held equipment used for training. No one asked what kind of training.
     "Are we the only ones here?" Isabella asked.
     "Yes. We only have one team at any time at a Center. But there are other Centers than this one. You’re my team, and your training will begin in the morning, bright and early. I know you’re tired. Try to rest. I’m sure you have questions. I know I would. But be patient. Hopefully most of them will be answered in the next few days. And I look forward to knowing each of you. Again, welcome to the Center. I’m excited for you. You’re in the right place. Until tomorrow." Gerard walked off, leaving the four looking at each other.
     They sat in the gathering room. "Do you still want to find the meaning of life?" Devan quipped, as they relaxed around the fireplace.
     "No one said this would be a picnic," Leif shot back. "I still trust Gerard even if he is a bit gruff. There's something about him that feels right."
     “He seems okay so far,” Isabella commented. “But I have to observe someone for a while before I’m sure.”
     “Well, I agree with Leif,” Kamiko said. “I like him and trust him.”
     “That doesn’t surprise me, Kamiko,” Isabella replied. “I’m just the cautious type.”
     They looked at Devan.
     “He’s okay, I guess.” He didn’t trust his ability to size anyone else up since he didn’t think he even knew himself very well.
     True to his word, Gerard awakened the four early and herded them into the room set up for a class.
     "You must learn the forces at work here. Know them and how to use them."
     He turned and wrote on the board: “the Longing” and “the Pull.”
     "Your Longing and the Source’s Pull are what brought you here. You were in the Land of Back and now you are in the Land of Beyond. Well, the part of you that gets hungry is still in Back, and when and if you go back there you will have to deal with that part of you. Don't ask me to explain what I just said, because I can't. No human can. It can only be explained with Source-logic and not man's logic. I will always choose Source-logic over man's logic because it’s the only thing that answers why things are as they are, what our purpose is, and what happens to us when we die. But enough of that for now. Let's go back to our training."
     Who is the Source? Leif wondered.
     "Everyone is capable of longing for more from life,” Gerard continued, “and capable of sensing and yielding to the Pull, but, sadly, few do. Why? Because for various reasons they don’t want more. Some are afraid to explore beyond the safe life they settle for. Some don’t want to admit there might be more because they think they already have the answers. And that is why I want to pause here and impress upon you how important your Longing is.”
     Gerard looked intently at each of them.
     “Your Longing comes from your innermost being, and often flies in the face of man’s logic, which is why we keep our longings suppressed. We fear letting them come to the surface. Yet your Longing is the catalyst for every force at work in Back and Beyond. Everything I will teach you hinges on keeping your Longing above all else, because when the going becomes hard, you will be tempted to throw it overboard. And when things are going well you tend to neglect it, too. The enemy you will soon face wants nothing more than to kill your Longing. Kill that, and he has you.”
     Gerard’s face softened. “But each of you has let your Longing bring you this far. Good. Let that encourage you. Keep longing, for at the end of the day, that is what will most help you.”
     Gerard paused. Leif timidly raised his hand.
     “What are we to long for?”
     Gerard looked at him and smiled.
     “A good question. The same longing that has brought you this far. You are to always long for more. More of whatever you sense pulling you. More of whoever or whatever is drawing you, no matter the cost, and there are costs.”
     More silence. This time Devan raised a hand.
     “What is the goal?”
     “To find the Source. The Source is who is pulling you. The Source knows the purpose of your life. You have embarked on a journey.”
     Leif wished Gerard would be a bit more loquacious. Not his style, he decided. He tried again:
     “Who or what is the Source?”
     “Another great question. Who. The Source is a who. But I can’t explain who the Source is. No one can. Everything comes from the Source: you, me, the stars, the earth. Who can comprehend that? I can only help you experience the effects the Source has on your mind and heart. Anything more depends on how much you want the Source. If you manage to stay on your journey you will experience more and more of the Source.”
     “Which brings us back to the Longing?” Leif said.
     “Exactly. Now you’re catching on.”
     True to form, Leif and Kamiko were instantly longing for whatever came next. Isabella wasn’t as quick, but soon followed. Devan was last. Gerard looked at them with approval.
     “You each just now, in your own way, allowed your Longing to overcome your doubts and fears. You passed your first test. You are ready for the next part of the training. Congratulations. Break time.”
     Gerard walked out of the room. Leif looked at the other three.
     “Okay, that was interesting.”
     Isabella groaned aloud.
     “You are a master of understatement.”
     Kamiko was excited.
     “I get it!” she exclaimed. “Don’t you see? It must eventually come from some place within us. A place that can bypass the limitations of our mind. Did you see how Gerard sensed our response to what he was saying? That must be something we are now able to do here.”
     The others looked at her with admiration.
     “I’m glad you are with us, Kamiko,” Leif said.

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