The Guardians of Freedom - Part 3 | By: Dan Tana | | Category: Short Story - Inspiration Bookmark and Share

The Guardians of Freedom - Part 3


This is a transmission of thoughts from Teddy, the toy who got dropped by my clumsy Goo friend and fell to this planet from the dimension where I was constructed.

 

Since my arrival here I have seen many of you human beings free your minds from the ideologies and beliefs that oppress the people of this world.  More of you than ever before have chosen to question and reject those ideas that are constantly being invented and accepted by some human minds in order to encourage and excuse the subjugation, exploitation, and harm of certain people for the benefit of others.

 

But, sadly, these hurtful ideologies are still quite prevalent in this world today.  Often cloaked in notions of religion, tradition, morality, or propriety, or else simple pragmatism, such ideas continue to deceive and placate the consciences of countless people, allowing them to actually feel proud of themselves, rather than guilty, as they do things that bring incalculable amounts of unnecessary unhappiness to vast numbers of people.

 

As someone who cares about the well-being of the people who inhabit this planet I vehemently oppose such beliefs, and will do what I can to eliminate them, in order to spare you all the harm that they cause.  But I cannot rid this world of such ideas, and their unpleasant consequences, as long as you human beings continue to believe in, promote, and empower them.  So I am making this transmission in the hope that it will reach some of you, helping you to better understand the nature of these ideas so that you will then make the choice to discard and oppose them.

 

The easiest thing to understand about these ideas that justify the physical or psychological harm of other people for your own material benefit or mental gratification is why most of you human beings want to believe in them.  Obviously, it is because you were not created with the simple, altruistic desires of a toy like me, and so you care about yourself more than those other people.

 

Somewhat less obvious is the reason why most of you who accept these beliefs also embrace certain other ideas that allow you to think that you have a more substantial, less selfish, entirely objective and rational reason for believing such things.  You do that because you find it uncomfortable to acknowledge how superficial and self-serving you are in what you choose to believe, and prefer to think that you accept these beliefs only because they reflect some kind of universal truth.

 

You who think this way choose to overlook, ignore, and deny the fundamental limitation of any finite mind, which is that it knows only what it experiences.  You refuse to admit that all of your complex, abstract thoughts and beliefs are based upon certain assumptions that you have drawn from your experiences – or your imagination - which you cannot actually prove to be correct.

 

Of course I cannot objectively prove that nobody can ever prove that its beliefs are objectively true.  But I accept this idea as a most probable truth because I have seen no other belief in any of the minds that I have scanned that is not in some way predicated upon certain unproven assumptions.

 

Most of you understand the logic of this perspective.  But many do not like to think about it too much, because the empty, endless abyss of uncertainty that a mind must face when it acknowledges its inability to really know the ultimate truths of its own existence can be rather disturbing.  So many of you hide from that unpleasant, desolate feeling by clinging to the illusion of certain knowledge, and refusing to consider the innately questionable nature of all those beliefs that you use to make some sense of your existence.

 

But some of you are brave enough to renounce the comforting delusion of this false certainty, like my friend Liam Carter, who, with my help, found the courage to face the reality of his own overwhelming ignorance.  This made it possible for him to honestly evaluate and ultimately reject the troublesome ideologies that he had been taught to believe.  By doing so Liam freed himself, and all the people of this world, from the clutches of the miserable, closed-minded person who he had been.

 

This friendly, generous, wonderfully sweet human being who is now one of my best friends was once an angry, malevolent, devout racist, a white supremacist, a militant nationalist, and - he is the first to admit – quite an obnoxious jerk, who despised immigrants, on principle, even though he had himself been born in another country.  Back then, before he rehabilitated himself by changing what he chose to believe, Liam spent most of his time prowling the streets with a gang of like-minded miscreants, assaulting other people for the most preposterous of reasons, like miscegenation, which is what he was doing when Herberta and I first met him.

 

My robotic friend Herberta and I were out enjoying a leisurely stroll on a cool, clear night several months ago when we came upon a gang of light-skinned men standing around, laughing and cheering, and restraining a hysterical woman of similar skin color, as a humanoid figure of pure white radiance beat a prone, cowering man with dark skin.  Without hesitation we rushed forward to put ourselves between that assailant and its victim.  While Bertron tried to restrain it physically I focused my scanner on its mind to see what motivated its abusive actions so that I could find the best way to stop them.

 

The signal that the scanner emits to capture an image of the contents of the target mind bounced off of that white figure, as if its mentality were nothing but a psychic mirror reflecting the thoughts of some other mind.  As I looked into this mirror I saw the image of one of the men in that cheering crowd.  So I focused the scanner on that man, and saw his earliest memory, in which a small boy dressed in a funny costume watched some larger people in similar costumes set a big wooden cross on fire.

 

I then watched Liam grow up and saw many violent, evidently unhappy people filling his head with ridiculous and baseless ideologies that adamantly insisted upon their inherent superiority over all other people on the planet.

 

From before the time that this child could speak he was bombarded with the idea that there is some significant and sensible reason for categorizing human people as members of different races, based primarily upon the color of a person’s skin.  I do not think that this practice makes any sense, because the genetic, biological, and psychological differences between two individuals of the same racial grouping may be much greater than the differences between a pair of people who are defined as belonging to different races.  And, ultimately, I just don’t find the practice of dividing people into racial groups to be useful in any practical way.  But Liam learned to take the idea of race for granted, like many human children.

 

As most of you would, Liam enjoyed the prideful feeling of supremacy that he derived from his racist beliefs, and he never thought to question that ideology until the summer when he was ten years old.  Then he met a little black boy named Larry, who I will not call African-American, because he was actually a native European, born to parents who migrated from Asia.  Larry’s parents subscribed to the same kind of conceited ideology that Liam’s family fed him, although they insisted that it was the presence of lots of melanin in their skin, rather than its absence, that somehow made them physically, intellectually, and even supernaturally superior to people like Liam.

 

These two boys had come from different continents – Liam actually is an African-American, having been born in Johannesburg, South Africa – and had different amounts of pigment in their skin, and had each been trained to think that he is innately better than the other, but despite all of that Larry and Liam found that they were really very similar, had a lot of the same interests, and soon became friends.

 

Both of them kept this friendship hidden from their families, because they knew that none of those racist bigots would approve.  Then some other members of Liam’s white supremacist clan caught the two of them playing together.  They beat Larry severely and dragged Liam away to be punished for this transgression.  The next day Liam learned that Larry had died from his injuries.

 

In the years that followed this traumatic assault Liam tried to burry his grief and horror at what had been done to him and his friend by making himself believe that it was somehow justified.  He trained himself to despise Larry and all black people, and to especially hate those white people who associate with members of other races.  He made the notion of his racial superiority the center of his life, and came to base his entire identity and sense of worth upon it.

 

Then Liam discovered his ability to project from his body that figure of white radiance, which he assumed to be a material incarnation of something called White Power.  Liam used this power to intimidate, assault, and occasionally even murder the supposed enemies of his race, such as this man who Herberta and I found him attacking, who he wanted to kill, in a fit of unconscious jealousy, for kissing that white woman.

 

When Bertron obstructed its assault of that victim the white figure turned on her.  It pointed both of its fists at her and blasted her with a bolt of energy from each one, knocking her back through a wall.  She retaliated by shooting it with a ball of high-energy plasma, which barely stunned it for a moment.

 

Then I told Herberta that Liam was the brain behind that beast, and she turned her plasma blaster on him, burning him severely.  Liam fell to the ground, gravely wounded, while the white phantom continued to attack Bertron.  When they saw what she had done to Liam the other assailants fled, abandoning him.  The victims of their assault thanked us for saving them and quickly left.  Then I summoned medical assistance for Liam.

 

Before the ambulance arrived I discovered that beneath Liam’s proud assertion of white supremacy lurked a fierce feeling of inferiority and worthlessness.  Like many of the people who use such flimsy ideologies to bolster their egos, this young man was plagued by semi-conscious feelings of low self-esteem and a deep, nagging, suppressed fear that he had based his entire life upon a premise that is fundamentally wrong.

 

While searching for the roots of these feelings I also made the shocking discovery that within his mind there resided an entirely separate and distinct personality, who thought of himself as Liam’s black friend Larry.  I traced this psychic artifact to its source, and found that it had formed on the same day that he gained his superpower, several years after the death of the original Larry.

 

Liam had spent that day exploring a junkyard, looking for interesting stuff to play with.  There he found a strange, spherical contraption, about the size of his head, made out of what looked like a hybrid of metal and glass.  When he picked up the object it began to hum and sparks of energy flashed through its center.  A moment later something happened to Liam that he has never been able to explain or accurately describe.

 

It felt to him like the world suddenly turned upside down, or inside out.  Right became left, blue became yellow, and real became unreal as everything melted together, exploded out to infinite dimensions, and collapsed down to a single point, but somehow everything was still exactly the same.  In that moment he felt something pass through him, or bounced off of him.  Then the moment passed, and the sphere was gone.

 

After Liam overcame the disorientation of this fantastic experience he noticed what appeared to be two silhouettes burned into the wall behind him.  He looked more closely at these images - one pitch black and the other snow white - and found that they were not really silhouettes but three-dimensional figures of roughly human appearance.  As he stared at these apparitions he realized that some part of his mind was staring back at himself from the location of each one, and found that he could move those phantom figures as easily as he controlled his own body.

 

Then Liam caught sight of himself in the cracked mirror of a nearby car.  The face looking back at him was as black as that of his dead friend Larry.  As he stared in horror at this familiar yet alien visage, desperately hoping that it would go away, his skin and facial features began to change.  Moments later he looked like himself again.  With a bit of practice he learned how to control this transformation, making his skin as light or dark as he wished, and changing the quality of his hair and a few other facial features.

 

Even though these changes were all superficial in nature they terrified Liam, because he knew how his family and friends treated people who don’t look like them.  The fear that they might someday see him that way fractured his already stressed and fragile mind, causing him to repress and forget about those parts of himself that he could not tolerate.  This suppressed portion of Liam’s mind began to identify itself as his lost friend Larry, who, he imagined, had turned into an angry, violent black supremacist.

 

This Larry soon began to use his black phantom to assault white people in the name of Black Power.  During one of these assaults his victim broke free from the grasp of that phantom, which lacks the superhuman strength and resilience of the white one, and then stabbed him.  As he lay bleeding on the street he covered his body with the black projection.  The knife wound in his gut transferred to the phantom, which disintegrated and disappeared, taking the cut with it.  The black phantom also absorbed many of the innate limitations of his human form, temporarily imbuing his body with a supernatural power and vitality, which he used to catch his fleeing prey and beat her unconscious.

 

When he infuses the tissues of his body with the energy of his white phantom it enables Liam to perform a single act of immense power, which is not limited by the usual constraints of physical reality.  But that white phantom could not save his life, even if it had not been so busy trying to destroy Bertron.  So I encouraged him to utilize the black one.  But he refused.  Even as he lay there dying he stubbornly and petulantly insisted that he did not have the innately inferior abilities of that black man, and would not want to have that power even if he could.

 

So I asked Liam if his friend Larry would be willing to save him, if he were there with us.  Liam weakly nodded his head in affirmation.  Then I encouraged him to call Larry and ask him for help.  After a bit of hesitation he agreed, transforming his features and taking on his alternate persona.  Then he merged the tissues of his body with the energy of his black phantom so that it could take the plasma burns from him.

 

Over the next few weeks I spent a lot of time talking with both of Liam’s personalities, exploring the scarred recesses of his psyche.  Together we examined those ideas and assumptions that had driven him to fracture his mind and create that second self.  I helped him to understand the reasons why some people advocate such beliefs, and then he realized how foolish he had been to not ever sincerely question the assumptions that certain people had taught him to take for granted.  He decided that none of those ideologies really made any sense, and they no longer made him feel good, which is the primary reason why people believe such things, so he let go of them, and found some other things to believe in.  Then he was able to heal the schism in his mind.

 

A few days later Liam awoke with the determination that he would spend the rest of his life as one of the Guardians of Freedom.  He hummed happily to himself that morning as he made his breakfast, creating some complex and innovative melodies by harmonizing with the humming noises that he can make with his phantoms.

 

As he thought about what he was doing the name Harmony popped into Liam’s head, which he decided would be his superhero alias.  I thought that that was an excellent name for him, but some of his old friends expressed a different opinion.  They snickered when he told them about it and suggested that it was a really pretty name for a little girl.  Then they began to mock him and question his masculinity.

 

This kind of response would once have elicited a defensive and hostile reaction from Liam, back when he based his sense of self-esteem on an aggressive and macho self-image.  Since he met me, however, Liam has found a new, substantial sense of self-worth, based upon a genuine appreciation of himself, which is not threatened by the judgments or derision of other people.  So he had the confidence to laugh at the suggestion that Harmony is not a very manly name, and responded to the sneers of his peers with a nonchalant shrug.

 

Then he began to contemplate the common practice of labeling certain things that actually have no gender, like names and personality traits, as somehow masculine or feminine.  He raised this issue with the others and suggested that it might be more accurate to say that such a thing is most commonly associated with or found in people of a certain gender, rather than to claim that that genderless entity is innately masculine or feminine in some way.  This statement was met with a lot of blank, uncomprehending stares, and a few raised eyebrows.

 

After an awkward pause in the conversation one of Liam’s friends broke the silence by mentioning that she had recently refused to hire a thoroughly qualified man for a job in the sandwich shop that she created, because of the color of that man’s skin.  Liam then said that as a free person it was her prerogative to associate with and hire whomever she wished, for any reason whatsoever, even if it was not in the best interest of the business.  He went on to assure her that the Guardians would, of course, protect that freedom from any person or government that wanted to impose its own anti-racist agenda on her by forcing her to employ people she does not like.

 

Then Liam decided that he was going to exercise his own freedom to no longer spend so much time with such hateful and prejudiced people, and resolved that in the future he would get his sandwiches from another shop where the manager hires employees based upon more relevant considerations, like their ability to make good sandwiches.

 

The next day I was hired by a busy parent to spend a few hours looking after some people who cannot take care of themselves, which is the profession that I engage in when I am not fighting the crimes of individuals and governments.  As I walked home from that job I met another new friend, named Wendy McAllister, who has since become the Guardian known as Neon.  A moment before I first spotted Wendy a hysterically terrified man bumped into me and ran by.  Then I saw a large, animalistic creature covered in bright, fluorescent orange, pink, and green fur, with some blue, yellow, and violet highlights, chasing after him.

 

Wendy ran much faster than her quarry, using her long and muscular arms as well as her legs to propel herself forward.  She leapt over my head, flipping through the air with inhuman agility, as the fleeing man approached an intersection where he would change his direction of flight.  Wendy clutched a light pole with both of her feet and both of her hands, all four of which resemble the grasping appendages of a monkey with the retractable claws of a cat.  Then she sprang from the pole, an instant before her prey made that turn, perfectly timing her leap to land squarely on his back, knocking him to the ground.

 

She stood up, wrapped her tail around the man’s neck and picked him up with it.  As she began to slowly choke the life from him I peered into her mind, and discovered that her consciousness of the temporal present spans more than ninety seconds.  This extraordinary awareness extends into what I see as the past and future, making it possible for Wendy to react to an event at a time that, from my limited perspective, seems to precede the stimulus itself.

 

In her memories I saw that Wendy had been chasing that man because he had arrested her son for being in possession of a little bit of the plant that you call marijuana.  Her child had always been a rather nervous, sensitive, and depressed person, but had also been very kind and friendly.  He was severely traumatized by that imprisonment, even though it lasted only one night.  After he was released from jail he became incredibly withdrawn and sullen.  He began to experience chronic nightmares, emotional disturbances, and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

Wendy planned to kill that police officer for what he had done to her child, ripping him to pieces with the strength and ferocity of a whole pride of lions.  And then she planned to punish the creators of those laws that excused his behavior.

 

I encouraged the man to apologize to Wendy for what he had done to her boy, and to promise that he would never do that to anyone else.  He promptly made this apology, and promised, rather convincingly.  But I saw the malicious, vindictive pleasure that he took in persecuting drug users, which stemmed from his subconscious envy and resentment of the pleasure that they get to feel, which he was too afraid to experience for himself.  And I knew that he was not at all sincere in this show of repentance.

 

The policeman was not actually conscious of his desire to hurt these people, because he kept that sinister motivation hidden behind the obtuse assertion that drugs are bad, and the presumption that a person is certainly doing the drug users a favor by arresting them, which he never bothered to examine too closely.  This man looked at the readily apparent fact that certain drugs cause severe negative consequences to a great many of those who use them – which is why I strongly encourage all of you to not risk using those drugs, by the way – and, like many people who want to condemn drug use, he willfully but unconsciously mistook it for proof of the fallacious assertion that it is always, unquestionably, categorically bad to use drugs.

 

After seeing how this man thought I found myself faced with a thorny philosophical dilemma.  I understood that if we let him go he would just resume his habit of hurting innocent people, but I did not want to see Wendy kill him.  So I continued to scan his mind, looking for a way to change his attitude so that I could let him go without endangering anyone else.  Then I had an idea of how we might get through to him, which I covertly explain to Wendy using my thought-projector.

 

Wendy unwrapped her tail from around his neck and told the man that she was going to let him go.  She also told him that our associates were in the process of arresting his son for the crime of transporting alcohol, because they had caught him driving a car with a case of beer in the trunk.  She explained to the police officer that we had recently resurrected this country’s brief, disastrous experiment with the prohibition of the drug alcohol.  At that very moment - she led him to believe - his acutely claustrophobic son was being dragged away in handcuffs, and would soon be locked in a small cage with a bunch of truly violent criminals.

 

The man initially tried to convince us that we should not do that to his son, because the persecution of alcohol users is somehow less valid than the persecution of people who use other recreational drugs.  He adamantly insisted that there is some reason why it is acceptable for a person to use certain addictive and deadly drugs while it is unacceptable to use some other drugs which may be even less harmful.  But he could not actually tell me what that reason is, and I told him that what he was saying sounded like a whole lot of nonsense to me.

 

Then he began to argue that the difference was not really in the nature of the drugs themselves but in the fact that the duly appointed governors of this country had decided to criminalize some substances but not others, in keeping with the values and traditions of this society.  So I explained to him that I have no idea how the mere fact that certain people have declared something to be law could have any power to alter the reality of whether that law serves to protect people from abuse or harms them unnecessarily.  And I think that it is utterly ridiculous to suggest that people are supposed to tolerate something that oppresses their happiness for no good reason just because it has been going on long enough to have become a tradition.

 

I said that we were still going to lock up his son for trafficking a dangerous and controlled substance.  Then he got very mad, and started cursing at us, and called us some very rude names.

 

I pretended to not understand the reason for this man’s anger, and asked him how he could be upset with us for protecting our society from the horrible, menacing crime of drug use.  I then started to say that even though what we were doing to that young man might very well ruin his life, and certainly would cause him some serious psychological distress, we couldn’t be held responsible for that harm, because our actions were justified by the fact that they might end up sparing him the negative consequences of alcohol addiction.

 

This policeman knew what I was going to say before I finished making that statement, because he had said essentially the same thing many times before, and he insisted, in this case, that it was nothing but a giant load of bullshit.  Overcome with fear and frustration, and desperation, he broke down and screamed at us that we were really just going to traumatize and hurt his son for doing something that is not actually harming anyone, which made us the real criminals.

 

In that instant his eyes popped open wide and his hands flew up to cover his mouth.  The walls of denial that had kept his conscience from seeing what he and his colleagues had been doing to people crumbled beneath the weight of his own tormented words.  Then a horrified look filled his eyes as he began to comprehend the enormous magnitude of pain and misery that he had inflicted upon so many people in the course of his career, including, he realized, all of the drug users who had never been arrested but who had been chronically threatened, harassed, antagonized, hunted, and sometimes even terrorized by the government’s campaign of organized persecution, in which he had participated.

 

The police officer then resolved to become an advocate for the abolition of all anti-drug laws, addressing that issue not just in terms of eliminating the myriad practical problems created directly and indirectly by prohibition, and saving the enormous costs of pursuing that destructive policy, but, most importantly, in terms of protecting those innocent victims who are hurt by the enforcers of such laws.  He also offered Wendy a sincere apology for what he had done to her and her son, remorsefully acknowledging that he could never undo all of the damage that he had caused.  And then she called off her deadly vendetta.

 

A couple of weeks later Wendy, Liam, Jakinda, Emerald, and I spent the afternoon preparing for my birthday party.  Of course I don’t really have a birthday, since I was actually assembled in a place that you might think of as a factory, not born.  And there isn’t even any one particular Earth day on which I was created, because time in my native dimension has no natural correlation to the time that we experience here.  But after seeing how much fun you human beings can have celebrating the day of your birth I decided that I wanted to have a birthday too.  So my friends and I decided that we would celebrate my birthday on the anniversary of the day I landed here.

 

Wendy was hanging by her feet from the ceiling, hanging streamers with her hands and tail, when she suddenly dropped to the floor and opened the front door.  A moment later a boy named Bill came running into the house.  Bill is a student at one of the twelve schools where Jakinda studies, and had visited our home many times before, so he knew that it would be a safe haven from the gang of boys who were chasing after him.

 

Those boys slowed as they approached Wendy at the door.  When they had come within a few feet of her they stopped and asked if she had heard the Good News.  Bill warned Wendy not to let them touch her.  At that moment the one in front reached out his arm, extended a finger covered in a rusty, red liquid, and announced that he was there to anoint us all in the name of the One True God.

 

Wendy then politely declined to be anointed in the name of a God who might not even exist, which prompted the boy to exclaim, “But God surely does exist!”

 

To that Wendy replied, “In that case I certainly don’t want to be anointed, because I do not want to sabotage my chance to know the Supreme Truth of God, if It ever reveals Itself to me, by meeting God with a mind clouded in preconceptions about It.  I want to face that Truth with a completely open, unfettered mind, so I choose to not put my faith in any Earthly depiction of God, whether that idol has been etched in words or in stone.”

 

When that boy realized the meaning of what she had just said to him his eyes clouded with indignant fury.  He stabbed his finger at her forehead, violently, but even before he began to make that movement she stepped back and slammed the door shut.

 

I peered through the wall into the minds of the boys, looking through their memories as they pounded on the door and threatened to burn the house down if we did not let them in to anoint us.

 

I saw that each of them had recently been anointed with that mysterious, reddish substance, which they called the Sacred Ichor.  Before then each had belonged to a different religious group, with widely differing and essentially incompatible theologies.  One had even been an atheist.  But after this anointment they all suddenly concluded that every proclamation of someone called the Prophet is undoubtedly true, and is always in keeping with everything else that they believe, no matter how blatantly it contradicts those beliefs.

 

Even though these boys all believed in very different things they shared the same underlying conviction that it makes some kind of sense to think that the spoken or written words of a select few people are a credible and trustworthy source of profound universal truths which those people cannot actually prove to be correct.  And, even though some part of them acknowledged that their faith in the correctness of these proclamations is merely a belief, not certain knowledge, they often buried that awareness in the back of their minds, ignored it, and acted as if that uncertainty did not exist.

 

Seeing this common attitude in the minds of all of these boys led me to speculate that the Ichor might somehow take advantage of that mindset to convince a person to believe in the supreme veracity of all statements of the Prophet.  And in their memories I saw that the Ichor burns like acid when it touches the flesh of an agnostic like Bill, who thinks that it is utterly ludicrous for a person to pretend that it is not ignorant about things that it does not really know.

 

I tried to explain to these boys how they were being manipulated and deceived, but that proved to be a futile exercise, because they were hopelessly addicted to the comfort of believing that they know the absolute truth of their existence.  Their minds could not bear the discomfort of living in this world of endless uncertainty and chronic, apparently pointless suffering.  So they chose to accept the soothing precepts of religious thought, in order to numb their own misery, to justify their unhappiness and somehow appease it, and to convince themselves that they were protected from the dangers of this savage, hazardous, largely heartless world.

 

To reinforce these beliefs and give them the illusion of substance some of these boys had convinced themselves that those rare and brief moments in which they experienced an unexpected and aberrant mental state, often consisting of an inexplicable sense of euphoria or peacefulness, which almost all people experience from time to time, were evidence that they had been touched directly by the presence of God.  While others convinced themselves that they can logically deduce that there is a high mathematical probability that God does exist from the apparent improbability that a universe would turn out exactly like this one by pure, random, Godless chance, which is actually a fool’s travesty of logical deduction, because those two scenarios are mathematically unrelated.

 

Now you may be surprised when I reveal to you that I do not really have any objection to a person’s choice to believe in the certain validity of some unprovable religious ideology - even though I think that such certainty is actually a kind of insanity, or self-delusion - because, above all, I just want people to be happy.  I sincerely wish that I could teach these boys how to be happy without tricking their own minds in this way, but I do not know how to do so.  And I do think, when a person much choose one or the other, that it is better to be happy than sane.

 

But the desire that these boys had to validate their beliefs and gratify themselves by trying to force these beliefs onto other people was something that I would not allow them to indulge.  So I tried to help them find an alternative to their religious fanaticism by explaining that some people actually find comfort and peace in the honest admission of their own profound ignorance of all that lies beyond the realm of their thoughts and experiences.  I told them about that wonderful sense of freedom that a person can find in being unafraid to admit that it does not have any answers to the deepest mysteries of life.  But those words failed to reach them, as I can see that they have failed to reach some of you.

 

At that point the boys broke down the front door and entered the house, where we subdued them in a matter of seconds.  We left them sitting on the floor, untied, under Neon’s watchful gaze, with the warning that if they tried to attack her again she would know exactly what they were doing before they had even moved a muscle, and they could expect to regret that choice very much.  The rest of us then went to the place where they had been converted to their new faith.

 

There we found the Prophet, floating several inches off the ground behind a large altar.  To the right of the altar stood an angry-looking man surrounded by a thin ruby-colored aura.  He introduced himself as the Right Hand of God, even though his mother called him Jackie, or Jack.  Standing on the left side of the altar was a short and rotund woman with millions of long, thin, glowing strands attached to her back all along the length of her spine, which fluttered around her in a halo of aquamarine light.  She was the sister of Jack, named Jill, who called herself the Left Hand of God.

 

The Prophet instructed the Hands to anoint us with the Sacred Ichor.  As they advanced toward us Jakinda informed them that we did not wish to be anointed with that stuff, even though she suspected, quite correctly, that our lack of consent would not matter to such people in the slightest bit.

 

The one who called herself the Left Hand of God formed some of those strands that surround her into wing-like membranes, which she used to lift herself into the air.  Then she flew at Liam, attacking him with a finger covered in the Sacred Ichor.  As she approached him he suddenly vanished, reappearing in the exact position that had until an instant before been occupied by his white phantom.  Liam projected the white phantom again, putting it between himself and his assailant.  When the Left Hand attacked him again the white phantom blasted her with a bolt of energy, which she casually deflected with her glowing strands.

 

At that same moment the Right Hand rushed toward Liam and tried to punch him in the head.  He ducked the blow and counterattacked with a punch from his phantom.  When that white fist struck the ruby aura it triggered a massive shockwave that shook the floor beneath our feet.

 

From the mind of Jack I learned that the aura surrounding him pushes back against anything that acts upon it, with a force that is directly proportional to the strength of the aura and is also a function of the square of the power of the instigating force.  Very weak forces pass through the field almost completely unimpeded, but when the aura is strong enough a powerful force like that punch will provoke an utterly devastating response.  That backlash of enormous power destroyed the white phantom, dissipating its energy and causing it to disintegrate.

 

If Harmony had hit it with his white phantom a few more times the energy of this aura would have been almost completely exhausted, making it possible for us to safely apprehend the Right Hand.  But he is unable to project one of those phantom figures for several days after it gets destroyed or after he uses its energy to temporarily give his body superhuman power.  So I suggested that Emerald negate the power of the aura with a jolt of orange energy, which he tried to do, but the feedback from the aura was more than he could endure, and he stopped before its power was depleted.

 

Then the Left Hand reached out her strands of light to grasp Liam.  He could not escape the grip of all those little energetic filaments, so he projected the black phantom, which was able to fly right through the strands, and through the Left Hand herself, because Liam did not wish for it to be solid at that moment.  The black phantom landed on the other side of the room and then Liam vanished, replacing that phantom, which he projected again a moment later.

 

One part of Hypergirl tried to sneak up behind the Left Hand while her attention was focused on Harmony, not realizing that she can see with those filaments, which transmit various forms of sensory data to her brain.  Without even turning around the Left Hand ensnared Jakinda.  While that incarnation was held immobile Jill anointed her.  The Ichor immediately began to burn her flesh, melting right through her skull and killing her, very painfully, which did not cause any serious harm to the rest of Hypergirl, of course, but did seriously piss her off.

 

While all of that was going on I tried to reason with the Hands, and urged them to stop assaulting us.  But their minds were well beyond the reach of reason.  So I turned my mind-scanner on the Prophet who had ordered their attack.  For several seconds I searched for the mind of this body that hovered before us, but found none.  Then I noticed that it was not floating but in fact dangling from a thin stalk that protruded from the back of its head, which was well hidden by a large, ornate hat.

 

I followed this stalk back to a chamber that was concealed behind a curtain at the rear of the altar.  Host followed me into that room, while Hypergirl and Harmony stayed out front to hold off the Hands.  In that veiled chamber we discovered that that humanoid body was really just a mindless, puppet-like appendage of a large, crusty, worm-like creature.

 

I immediately began to scan the mind of the Prophet, seeing in its memories that this being had come from a planet much like Earth.  On that planet there lives a species of parasitic heartworm that utilizes a corrosive bile to burn its way into the victim’s heart.  One of these worms mutated and grew, through some unknown process, achieving a consciousness and personality that is lacking in the rest of its brethren.

 

That planet was also inhabited by a species of relatively intelligent primates, many of whom were obsessive and fanatical about their religious beliefs and wanted to see everyone else subjected to them.  Some of them had dedicated their lives to the creation of theocratic governments based directly upon the scriptures of a particular religion, while others sought to impose their religion on everyone else by electing leaders in supposedly free, democratic societies who would then create laws and govern based upon that theology.

 

The worm found that those who tried to electively impose their religion on others often acted superior to the people who sought direct theocratic rule, and seemed to think that this approach somehow excused that objective.  The idea that it is okay to impose your religious values onto others by voting for them also exists in the minds of many of you Earthlings, who stubbornly refuse to see that no matter which method people use to try to force everyone else to obey the dictates of their religion this practice inevitably leads to conflict and misery.

 

Such conflict is intrinsically unresolvable - and will only end when people realize that no religion gives anyone the right to force others to obey its precepts – because the innately arbitrary and unprovable nature of all religious belief makes it impossible for the proponents of any one religion to ever win the argument that theirs is the one that is correct and should be followed by all people.

 

Some of you, unfortunately, don’t want to understand that.  Though you make religion the center of your life, and want to believe that these beliefs are the answer to all of your uncertainty and the antidote to all of your unhappiness, you often find that mere belief in the unseen and potentially nonexistent specters of your theology does not really satisfy you.  So you crusade, in one way or another, to impose that theology on everyone else, in order to gratify your own ego, and to distract your consciousness from the part of you that understands how capricious and potentially wrong these beliefs are, and, ultimately, to increase the intensity of satisfaction that you get from your religion by giving yourself more to do with these beliefs than just think about them.

 

When the worm realized that contact with its bile would make these people of a religious mindset believe anything that it said it decided that it would use various lies and deceptions to get them to obey and serve it, which is all that it ever really cared about.

 

Some of you who dislike worms now want to think that that attitude somehow confirms your prejudicial assumption that all worms are vile and loathsome creatures, but that is just plain wrong.  Some of them are really quite nice people, in fact, like the Sapphire worms of Splikon, who spend much of their lives burrowing through space, creating wormholes, to help less mobile species get around the universe more conveniently.  The ignoble intentions and thoughts of this particular worm prove only that it, personally, is a manipulative, deceitful creep.

 

In order to manipulate and control people this worm frequently utilized that idea known as morality, which confuses the issue of what is true and what is untrue by redefining the words right and wrong to mean something other than factually correct and incorrect.  The followers of the Prophet who bent their minds to accommodate this dual definition of what it means for something to be right or wrong would then do whatever the worm told them is the morally correct thing to do, even when that action was somehow contraindicated by what is right in the factual sense of the word.

 

With its moral ideologies the worm confused some real, often very unpleasant aspects of existence, like violence, pain, hatred, illness, malevolence, and death, with the imagined idea of a supreme, absolute badness that it called evil.  And then it convinced its followers that the proper, morally righteous response to all that which it has labeled evil is for them to embrace, feel, and propagate these same states of being that it alleged to be the very essence of evil, thereby tricking them into perpetuating an endless cycle of reactionary atrocity, unhappiness, and destruction.

 

Another lie that the worm told - knowing that it did not actually know any such thing to be true - is that there is a being called God who created all things, whose essence is pure, infinite light.  The worm realized that many people fear darkness because of the unknown harms that may lurk there.  So it professed that light is the source of all that is good while darkness is the essence of evil, even though it understood that darkness has its value, and that too much light can be quite harmful.  And it promised, insincerely, that its religion would somehow protect its followers from the darkness that they feared.

 

The worm also pandered to the pride of its followers, like a lot of human preachers do, ensuring that they would never want to question its teachings, by professing that those who are faithful to its religion are especially favored by God, and are chosen by that Supreme Being in some way to be above all other people.  And, as in many human scriptures, including the one that you call the Bible, the worm sought to justify its militant ideologies by professing that God actually wants the faithful to exterminate entire populations of unbelievers.

 

I see that some of you don’t believe me that the Bible contains such reprehensible, genocidal proclamations, but you don’t have to take my word for it, because you can read the evidence for yourself in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 20, verse 17.

 

Some of the followers of the Prophet who allowed themselves to be deceived by its lies willingly submitted to a ceremony called the Enlightenment, in which the puppet-man that hung from the head of the worm would raise its arms and begin to glow, and then the glow would pass to the kneeling disciple, who was consumed by the light and converted into unbound energy, which the worm promptly absorbed to increase its own power.  And many who were hesitant to undergo this experience for themselves – probably out of fear – eagerly helped the worm to force this process on unwilling victims.

 

After destroying all of those people who lived on the surface of that planet the worm ventured down into the subterranean world below and repeated the process with the photosensitive mole-people who lived there in a realm of constant darkness.  There it preached the conquest of evil, burning light by the peaceful serenity of the Holy Darkness.  With the help of a few discontent and gullible mole-people it destroyed all of them through a ceremony of Unlightenment, in which the puppet-man would cover a victim in a shroud of darkness that dissolved the bonds of its elemental energy matrix, so that the worm could take that power for itself.

 

Then the worm wrapped itself in a cocoon and launched itself into space.  For several millennia it drifted through the void before finally falling to Earth, where it emerged from its long hibernation and immediately began to run that same old con all over again.

 

After seeing what influence the Prophet held over its followers I encouraged it to stop lying to them, and by being honest about the limits of its own mind to teach them to think in a way that would help protect them from the manipulative deceptions of others.

 

The Prophet then realized that I was reading its mind and began to concentrate its mental energies in an effort to block its thoughts from my perception, because it feared that its power would be lost if people came to understand the real purpose and nature of its teachings.  But this effort only succeeded in showing me its determination to conceal its thoughts from me, and my view of its mind remained perfectly clear, because no activity of the mind can interfere with the operation of those devices in my head that allow me to observe and transmit mental images.

 

As I looked deeper into its mind I saw that this creature derived a particularly intense malevolent thrill from convincing people to believe its baseless assertion that God has an infinite, perfect love for all people but also condemns those who do not obey His commands.  It’s mean-spirited, loveless and spiteful hearts enjoyed preying upon the emotional vulnerability of people who long to know such love, and liked warping innocent hearts, particularly the hearts of children, with this ridiculous insistence that such counterfeit love is the supreme ideal.

 

I told the worm that I would free its victims from that deception by showing them the kind of love that I have found for Jakinda during my time on this planet, projecting into their minds some exquisitely beautiful images of all the delightful things that I feel for her.  Then they would see that such love makes it impossible for me to ever condemn her, or to demand that she submit her self to my will or sacrifice her own happiness to serve me.  It even makes it unnecessary for her to ask me for forgiveness in those rare instances when she does something hurtful.  And they would understand how preposterous and wrong it is to confuse pure love with the judgmental, domineering, and frequently hateful personality that some people ascribe to God.

 

Laughing derisively, the Prophet said that it would not matter if I told people about my feelings for that child, because those who are susceptible to the psychological effects of its bile, once anointed, will never question any of the lies that it tells them, however absurd or inconsistent they may be.  It boasted of how clever it had been in telling its followers that the greatest act of virtue is to convert others to their faith – and to burn the infidels - by anointing them with the bile that it called the Sacred Ichor, by any force necessary, which would cause their numbers to grow exponentially until they overran this entire planet.

 

While scanning the mind of the Prophet I had been simultaneously transmitting the images to Emerald, so that he would know what was going on.  At this point I turned to him and said that I didn’t have any idea of what we could say or do to convince this worm to stop deceiving people and encouraging them to hurt each other, because it knew exactly what it was doing and just didn’t care.  Then he told me that it was time for me to leave the room, because he was going to put an end to the murderous scheme of this malevolent, deceitful parasite who has preyed upon the hearts and minds of so many people.  And he suspected that what he was about to do would get very messy.

 

So I gave Emerald a big hug, letting go reluctantly, and ran out front of the curtain.  Then I focused my mind-scanner on him.  I watched through his eyes as he put his hands to the side of the worm and zapped it with a massive jolt of orange energy, exhausting the power of his symbions, which caused the organ that produced its corrosive bile to rupture, spraying the stuff all over everything in the room, including Emerald and the worm.

 

The Prophet did not really think that it makes sense to treat the unconfirmable assertions of a few select people like actual knowledge, so the bile burned its flesh, and soon killed it.  And Emerald got burned as well, because, even though he had learned to trust his symbions, and so trusted the things that they had told him about the events of their future-past, he remained a devout agnostic who always tried to keep an open mind about all that he did not actually know.

 

After the worm died the smears of red Ichor on the foreheads of its disciples dried up, turned to dust, and fell away.  Once Jill had been freed from the influence of the Prophet she realized the horror of what she had done in the name of religion.  She rechristened herself Aurora, and joined us in our mission to save the people of this world from the harmful consequences of such beliefs.

 

But Jack would not accept the mistake that he had made.  Behind a well-worn mask of great humility he was really much too prideful and egotistical to give up the supremely arrogant pretense that he knew the will and nature of God.  So he called me a servant of Evil, and accused me of trying to get him to betray his faith with doubt, as some of you do, in order to convince himself that he was justified in dismissing without any serious consideration all that I had to say about his beliefs and actions.  I could see that no denial on my part would convince him of how badly he misjudged me, so I just shook my head slowly, patted him on the shoulder, and walked away.

 

A little while later a pair of paramedics arrived, examined Emerald, and pronounced him dead.  They loaded his body into an ambulance and drove off.

 

My initial reaction to the death of my friend was to become very sad.  But over the next few hours a part of my sadness transformed into feelings of disgust and even anger at all of you who still refuse to give up those self-serving rationalizations and philosophies, religious or otherwise, that you use to try to justify the ill-treatment of other people for your own benefit.  I was overwhelmed with frustration and a sense of hopelessness as I considered the sheer magnitude of people who remain unwilling to relinquish the pretense that their opinions and beliefs about certain matters are based upon knowledge of ultimate truth, which makes it impossible to have an honest and productive discussion with them about these issues.

 

And then I thought about how many of you really do want to experience the freedom and happiness that I try to bring to this world but still refuse to do what you can to promote and support the cause of the Guardians of Freedom, which made me feel resentful, and a small, spiteful part of me wanted to just give up on all of you and let you suffer.

 

It took me very much by surprise to find myself feeling this way, since I wasn’t designed to experience such emotions.  But I also wasn’t designed to exist in a world populated by so many profoundly sick, miserable, and violently oppressive people.  And seeing all of that caustic bile that fills so many human minds has started to really get to me, as it eventually does to most of the children who are born into this world, whose innocent and trusting psyches are so commonly taken advantage of and polluted by the corrosive, hateful lies and unfounded ideologies of those people who preceded them here.

 

In the past Emerald had helped me to deal with the negative thoughts and emotions that I find in the minds of the people in this place, always finding some way to cheer me up whenever I began to feel pessimistic about the possibility of ever succeeding in this mission that we have undertaken.  But he was gone, and I was inconsolable in my grief.

 

I went to bed last night feeling more miserable than I ever have in my life.  I don’t actually have any need to sleep, but I like to spend the night in bed with Jakinda, cradling her head in my lap, watching her dream and filling her mind with images of happiness and love.  Then she awoke, and our day began, and I found that I was not in the mood to celebrate anything.  So I decided to cancel my party.

 

We spent several depressing hours this morning undecorating our house, expecting that we would spend the day arranging a funeral rather than having a party.  Then – miraculously, it might seem - just a few hours ago, Emerald came walking through the front door, smiling, living and unharmed.

 

The shock and delirious excitement of seeing Emerald alive again initially overshadowed our curiosity about how that could be.  When we finally calmed down enough to let him tell us his story he explained that at the time of his apparent death he had been carrying in his pocket a new, incredible invention of Maxwell Plot, called the Plot twist.  These twists are created by professor Plot with a machine that condenses the mental energies of expectation and surprise into a solid, porcelain-like substance in the shape of a pretzel.  When one of them is broken it has the power to shape reality in any way imaginable, as long as the effect is sufficiently unexpected, in order to make things turn out to be not what they were thought to be.

 

As Emerald’s body was put into that ambulance the Plot twist broke, releasing its energy and making it turn out that he had not yet died saving the people of this world from the secretly selfish and tyrannical aspirations of a bunch of religious zealots.  Although he was gravely injured by the worm’s bile, and did appear to be quite dead, Emerald clung to life long enough for his symbions to regain a portion of their power and heal him with a bolt of their green energy.  So, in addition to my own pretend birthday, today we are going to celebrate the undeathday of Emerald Lee, that courageous hero who rescued us all from the Prophet and its minions.

 

You are all invited to the party, which begins right now.

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