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The Land of Death
Leif and Isabella were up early. In the kitchen, they discussed their previous day's experiences of going out to their respective assigned areas and talking to people, doing what they could to impart truth to those they talked to, and urging them to long for more from life.
"Why can't they see?" Isabella asked for the umpteenth time.
"I don't know," Leif replied. "I guess we've forgotten how hard it was for us to see."
Leif held Isabella in his arms.
"I don't know what I would do without you," he said softly.
Isabella gave him a peck on the cheek and broke the embrace. Something wasn’t right, but she couldn't pinpoint what. She just knew it bothered her that Leif had become so focused on her, which should have thrilled her but didn't. Her Sensing was sending out alerts, and Isabella knew by now not to ignore those alerts. She saw the hurt in Leif's eyes as she turned away.
"I have to go. See you after work," she said quickly.
She was out the door. Leif stood still for a long moment. His hurt dulled his Sensing, and at that moment the Manforms hit him with flows telling him Isabella no longer loved him and she was going to leave him. Fear hit Leif hard. The enemy's plan was in motion.
After a long while, he dragged himself out the door to begin his day. This was the least enthusiasm for his job he could remember.
The day didn't get much better, at least to Leif's way of thinking. He was at one of the largest Constructs in Back, the Temple of Good, made up of the Constructs of many like-minded people.
"We do good things. We treat all people with respect. That’s our purpose in life," they informed Leif.
"You’re on the wrong path. You must get on the path that leads to the Source. Stop and let yourself feel the Pull," Leif told them.
"But if the Source is good," they asked, "isn't doing good things the same as following the Source?"
"No," Leif answered. "Sometimes things we think are good, aren't, and things we think are bad, are actually good."
"Like what?" they asked.
"Like what I’m doing now. Telling you you are being deceived."
That always went over well. They would become angry, but a few would have this look in their eye that told Leif he had gotten through to them a little. A small shaft of truth penetrated their darkness. Hopefully, they would flash green on the Big Board, and an agent would do follow up visits. But it was tiring work.
Leif took a break at a coffee shop. He was happy he had reached some of those he had talked to, but he couldn't take his thoughts off Isabella. What's wrong? he wondered. He thought everything was going well. Where had things taken a wrong turn? His Sensing was giving him warnings his marriage was becoming a Construct, but he was no longer able to detect it.
Isabella was extremely concerned over her morning with Leif. I love him, but he leans on me too much, she realized. She felt pressured to be a support for Leif she wasn’t intended to be. This in turn made her more apt to become irritated with some of his habits that made him less than the perfect mate in her eyes. Why couldn't he clean up his messes after he fixes something? she wondered. Am I turning into a bitchy wife?
The thought wasn’t a pleasant one as she drank her favorite drink in her car. Is this what the future will hold? A slow slide into more and more bitchiness? And unhappiness? Isabella wanted to cry, not for the first time. She let her Longing reach out to the Source. "Help," she longed.
Little did she know help was already on its way, for the plan of the Source was taking shape in the form of Devan, far away, but not in Beyond, for Devan was no longer in Beyond, as Isabella and Leif and Kamiko had thought.
Devan had initially done well as an agent in Beyond. Here his problem wasn’t to convince people to begin their journey, but to help people who were already on their journey to fight through the Land of Strongholds safely.
Devan loved his job. Since he had almost been stopped here himself, he had a real empathy and understanding of the difficulty of facing the towers and Manforms. He could still remember the horror of being in the control of the Manforms when he was captured. He knew how intimidating it could be to those it was his responsibility to oversee.
Not all succeeded at this critical time in the journey. Some turned back, though not too many. But each time it happened, Devan took it hard-- too hard. Over the years, it had taken its toll.
Then a particularly bad rescue mission sent him into a serious downward spiral. Not only had several of the Journeyers on the mission turned back, but as they left they told Devan he wasn’t a good agent, and it was his fault they were turning back. They didn't know how damaging this was to Devan, but the Pulsing knew. Instantly he had his Manforms flow against Devan. They flowed how right the disgruntled Journeyers were. Devan was a terrible agent. Who did he think he was? He should quit right then and there. And he did.
Devan had walked away without telling the others. He drifted back to Back. In Back the Manforms attacked him more. Devan couldn't withstand their attacks. Very quickly he spiraled down until he found himself in a part of Back no one, especially an agent, ever wanted to find themselves in. It was a place totally under the control of the Pulsing, where even the Pull was hardly detectable. A place of no hope.
It was the Land of Death, for Death was its power. In the Land of Death, one was killed if one even slightly longed to escape. In the Land of Death, Death reigned, for Death gave the Pulsing his power.
Some said Death existed from the beginning. Others said Death appeared when people first turned from the Source and listened to the Pulsing. Whatever the case, they feared Death more than anything. Death’s reach even extended into Back and Beyond, lurking in the shadows, always in the background of everyone's life: man, woman or child.
Agents knew it could control them if they let it. Fear of Death could rise in the middle of the night in the strongest agents. It wasn't just the fear of physically dying, but also the fear of the unknown, of what lay beyond dying. Even the Pulsing didn't know that. The Pulsing didn't know if he could die, but he didn't want to find out. It was rumored the Source knew. That thought worried the Pulsing, and increased his hatred of the Source.
In the Land of Death, Death hung over the land like a dark mist, or fog, wafting through the air bringing dread and fear, waiting until those trapped there gave up, hopeless.
Devan hovered on the edge of that hopelessness, and Death, sensing this, drew closer. Devan could feel its icy touch. In desperation, he cried out to the Source as best he could.
It was all the Source needed.